When the family of kidnapped and lynched Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir recently grieved together with the family of abducted and murdered Israeli teen Naftali Fraenkel, we were reminded that the loss of a child is both painful and universal. All mothers mourn in the same way, and no child's death is any less tragic than another.
The recent events in Gaza and in Israel also serve to caution us of the consequences of policies that emanate not from a place that regards the interests of all children, but from a toxic space laden with tribalism, hate, greed and hubris. Coldhearted and coldblooded decisions are made by hotheads. What if the purveyors of policy would treat all children, particularly "other" people's children as their own?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his backers have waged another war on the civilian population of Gaza--an open air prison where people cannot escape--in an operation which is killing for the sake of it. As of publication, nearly 200 people, all Palestinians, have been killed by Operation Protective Edge, and thousands injured. Of these fatalities, 80 percent are civilians according to the UN, including over 30 children.
Israel's purported target is Hamas, and while Hamas is no innocent bystander, control of the oil and natural gas reserves discovered in the Occupied Territories is a more plausible backstory to the recent assault. After all, Operation Cast Lead did not eliminate Hamas in late 2008 and early 2009, but according to the human rights group B'TSelem it did take the lives of 1,387 Palestinians, 773 of whom were civilians, including 320 children and 107 women over the age of 18. Meanwhile, three Israeli civilians and six soldiers were killed, while four soldiers were victims of friendly fire.
Time and time again, these operations are a lesson in disproportionality. After all, Israel is a first rate military power thanks to American largesse and the F-16 jet fighters that are bombing Palestinian homes in densely populated urban areas.
Ultimately, the Occupation is the elephant in the room, a policy which deprives the occupied of their dignity and right to self-determination, and denies the occupiers their humanity and robs them of the opportunity to become a truly democratic state. In the end, both Palestinians and Israelis are imprisoned. And the Israeli government is attempting to do the untenable, which is pulling off colonization--against a soon-to-be Arab majority-- in a post-colonial era, all while painting itself through propaganda as a defenseless victim, or a humanitarian who bends over backwards to spare innocent lives.
The Occupation cannot succeed without the dehumanization of the other. The nationalist extremists, settlers and theocrats among Netanyahu's base believe in a Greater Israel extending from Egypt to Iraq, and an open Jim Crow system where Palestinians are disenfranchised. Netanyahu recently said himself that Israel can never unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank. Meanwhile, characterizing the Palestinian people as terrorists, including children, or even worse as animals that should be killed, the Israeli right justifies all of the violence and human rights violations visited upon Palestinians, whether by mob or by military. Separation walls, travel restrictions, the displacement created by the bulldozing of homes, encroaching settlements, and vengeance killings are all a reality of an unjust occupation.
"My mom told me that it feels and looks like a tsunami has hit the neighborhood. I thought if it was a tsunami; maybe the International community would have acted fast to save innocent lives," said Safa' Abdel Rahman-Madi, a Palestinian woman originally from Gaza who now lives in Ramallah.
"I do not understand how Israel is defending itself by killing entire families and children. If Israel has a right to defend itself as an occupier, why we are denied the very same right as the occupied," the mother of three girls wrote in conjunction with an open letter campaign by U.S.-based Jewish Voice for Peace. Safa' said the root of the recent attack is the notion that Jewish lives matter more than Palestinian lives. Further, she believed things will not change until the U.S. takes a strong stand against Israel's human rights violations.
If you want to judge a policy and the intent of those who promote it, observe its impact on the children. We must strive for a world where we protect all children as if they were our own.