Children of Gaza: scarred, trapped, vengeful

(h/t to Ann El Khoury at Pulse.)

The Independent previewed “Children of Gaza” which aired on Channel 4 in the UK on March 14:

Omsyatte adjusts her green school uniform and climbs gingerly on to a desk at the front of the classroom. The shy 12-year-old holds up a brightly coloured picture and begins to explain to her classmates what she has drawn. It is a scene played out in schools all over the world, but for one striking difference: Omsyatte’s picture does not illustrate a recent family holiday, or jolly school outing, but the day an Israeli military offensive killed her nine-year-old brother and destroyed her home.

“Here is where they shot my brother Ibrahim, God bless his soul. And here is the F16 plane that threw rockets into the house and trees, and here is the tank that started to shoot,” she says, to a round of applause from the other children. The exercise is designed to help the pupils at the school come to terms with the warfare that has dominated their short lives; particularly the horrors of the 2008 Israeli military offensive Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,400 Palestinians, and destroyed one in eight homes.

Like hundreds of displaced Gazans, Omsyatte’s family have spent more than a year living in a tent on a site near their home. Little rebuilding work has been done during this time – with supplies unable to pass into Gaza because of the ongoing blockade imposed by Israel in 2007 – and groups of children now pick their way through piles of rubble, kicking footballs around the bombsites which used to be local landmarks.

Homelessness is just one of the issues facing the 780,000 Gazan children in the aftermath of the conflict, problems that are explored in a revealing new documentary Dispatches: Children of Gaza, to be screened tomorrow at 8pm on Channel 4. Perhaps the most disturbing of these is the emotional scars borne by children who have survived the conflict; the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme reports that the majority of children show signs of anxiety, depression and behavioural problems.

Small boys build toy rockets out of drinks bottles, and talk about the fake guns they are going to buy with their pocket money. While boys the world over are preoccupied with fighting and weapons, this takes on a more sinister significance when the game isn’t Cowboys vs Indians, but Jews vs Arabs, and the children’s make-believe warfare is chillingly realistic.

To find out how to help the children of Gaza visit the Children of Gaza Fund website.

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4 thoughts on “Children of Gaza: scarred, trapped, vengeful

  1. La vérité

    I watched this documentary a few days. It is heartbreaking and shocking at times. We, Americans are all responsible for what has happened and is happening to these children as we have allowed our elected officials to let Israel act with impunity and get away with destroying these children’s lives.

  2. Ian Arbuckle

    I would like those 300 congressmen/women who signed the letter addressed to Clinton to “reaffirm our commitment to the unbreakable bond that exists between our country and the State of Israel” to see this film.

    I would like them to go to bed tonight, over Easter, and every night knowing that the shrapnel in the little girl’s head or the bullets that killed the boy’s father or brother were made in the USA as is every other aspect of this policy towards the people of Gaza which is made with a shared commitment and responsibility with the apartheid racists regime in Israel. The USA has an equal reponsibility for every aspect of these crimes:

    “The United States and Israel are close allies whose people share a deep and abiding friendship based on a shared commitment to core values including democracy, human rights and freedom of the press and religion…”

    This is the reality of your shameful commitment to human rights!
    To those 300 congressmen/women, you disgust me!

  3. Elihu

    The effect of war on children is particularlytragic. The tragedy is compounded when others exploit suffering to win political points and to perpetuate the violence. When uncles incite young nephews to become suicide bombers, mothers articulate the urge to wreak revenge and teachers (obstensibly teaching about ‘human rights’) foster a revenge mentality, more trouble is on the way. When the “resistance” launches missiles near houses and schoolyards, this is bound to end in tragedy. Now, Israel is not perfect and soldiering in urban theatres is not an exact science in any event – but the blame for the tragedy here should hardly be laid exclusively at Israel’s doorstep – or cast solely on “the Jews” … Indeed, anyone paying close attention to this documentary will learn that the wounded Palestinian children are treated in Israeli hospitals, sponsored by Israeli charities, but that Egypt has effectively sealed its border to Gazans. We see Palestinians complaining about the looting that takes place by other Palestinian Arabs. Disturbingly, there is only one Palestinian counselor pictured in the documentary that seems to provide any alternative to actual violence. Throughout the documentary the value of violent revenge – against “the Jews” and Israelis is reinforced. There is not one single explicit reference to the fact that before Operation Cast Lead Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians over the prior eight years. Israel uprooted thousands of Jews from their homes and removed its soldiers, providing 17 million dollars worth of green houses and infrastructure so that the Gazans could start building – . However, the Gazans looted the infrastructure and Hamas turned that real estate into a launching pad. Clearly, the children interviewed in the documentary are unaware of this history, or have been coached to ignore it -or their comments about it have been edited out. Some of the children shown here articulate that Israeli children are not to blame for the violence, but are given to understand that (all) Israeli adults are – There are only oblique references about the differences between Hamas and Fatah – and an observation that further Palestinian attacks on Israel will bring even greater destruction. One can only hope that Hamas’ incitement to murder Jews and destroy Israel will be reversed by some sane leadership (so that over time Israel will feel safe to relax its border restrictions), that in the interim Egypt will open its borders to their Arab bretheren, that someone will explain to these children that they were not cynically attacked out of the clear blue – and that people will stop exploiting the suffering of these children to score political points.

  4. shahid

    israel est raciste et meurtrier de genocide depuis 60ans soutenue par les USA du temps de la prémeditation du vole de la palestine jusque maintenant et le dernier meurtre est de 1400 morts en grande partie des enfants et mere!!!et sa continue merci M obama pour votre sois disant paix avec les musulmans!marionet et sioniste a la fois.

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