Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Report Condemns Israeli Violence Save the Children Findings Show Little Correspondence with Official Army Statements. PALESTINIAN CHILDREN UNDER OCCUPATION

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Report Condemns Israeli Violence Save the Children Findings Show Little Correspondence with Official Army Statements. PALESTINIAN CHILDREN UNDER OCCUPATION

Article excerpt

THE date: Aug. 13, 1988, 6:15 p.m. The place: the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Four Palestinian youths encounter a foot patrol of three Israeli soldiers near the entrance to the camp. They jeer and curse at the soldiers, who order them home. One of the youths, 12-year-old Yousef Damaj, then lifts his foot and says, "My dirty old shoes are cleaner than your face." One of the soldiers responds by firing a rifle shot into Yousef's chest. An hour later, Yousef is dead.

The incident, recounted in a massive report issued May 17 by a Swedish child-advocacy group, is one of hundreds of case studies that document the grim toll the 29-month Palestinian intifadah (uprising) against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has taken on children.

During the first two years of the intifadah, 159 children under the age of 16 were killed, mostly by gunshot wounds and teargas, says the three-volume report entitled, "The Status of Palestinian Children During the Uprising in the Occupied Territories." Another 50,000 to 63,000 youngsters received injuries requiring medical treatment, more than half from beatings inflicted by Israeli soldiers, the report says.

The effects of a random and indiscriminate use of force by Israeli soldiers has been compounded by the failure of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF or Army) thoroughly to investigate alleged rights abuses and infractions of Army shooting orders, concludes the report, prepared by the Swedish branch of Save the Children and funded in part by the Ford Foundation.

"The numbers are staggering in terms of what they have meant to the (Palestinian) community," says Anne Nixon, author of the study.

Swedish Save the Children, which dispenses nutrition and health-care services to children in Gaza and the West Bank, is affiliated with the 21-member International Save the Children Alliance.

A chronicle of what it describes as "state-sponsored violence" against children, the report is also a case study in the wide disparity that often exists between official and private assessments of the Army's performance in quelling the Palestinian revolt.

One difference is statistical. According to Israeli Army figures, 79 children (under the age of 14) have been killed in 29 months. The higher Save the Children figure includes 32 deaths by teargas, which the Army considers nonlethal, plus deaths inflicted by Israeli intelligence agents, settlers, and Border Police.

More basic is the different context in which the Army and Save the Children have evaluated casualties among children.

Children are an integral part of the culture of violence produced by the intifadah, says a military source. Citing Palestinian sources, he notes that youngsters often have been specifically assigned intifadah "tasks" ranging from erecting roadblocks to stoning Israeli targets.

"Every child must carry the stone and throw it at the occupier," admonishes a 1989 leaflet issued by the intifadah leadership.

Participation has been reinforced by the cult of martyrdom that has led many youngsters into dangerous confrontations with soldiers.

"Children are sent out into the streets to attack soldiers with rocks and firebombs and then (human rights groups) hurl accusations at us about why these children are being injured," complains the military source.

"The intifadah has exploited children by placing them in harm's way," adds a report issued last year by Israeli's Justice Ministry. "Thus it is the inciters and not the IDF who must ultimately be held responsible for the injury and death of rioting children. …

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