Ever since the first Palestinian uprisings against the massive emigration of Jews to Palestine and the creation of the State of Israel after violent fighting in 1948, Palestinian civilians have been paying a heavy price. From then on, each generation has had to face particularly difficult living conditions, without respite for those living in refugee camps, and during recurring crises for all those living in occupied Palestine,
Then have followed successive periods during which Palestinian children suffered either from acute trauma, especially during the
Not only is their right to life compromised, but also their right to health: because of the roadblocks restricting movement, Palestinian children face difficulties in getting medical care, and they also have difficulty receiving proper nourishment, particularly in a context where, in 2011, 38 percent of Gaza families and 18 percent of
Palestinian children in the occupied territories have little sense of security. Residency restrictions enforced by Israeli measures frequently make it impossible for husbands and wives to live together as a family, and so children must adapt to the stress of not seeing a parent. Family members can be arbitrarily imprisoned for indefinite terms without trial.
Home demolitions are unfortunately all too common an experience for Palestinian children, whether by bombardment, as in the Gaza Strip, by demolition for lacking the correct (often impossible to secure) building permits, or as collective punishment for a family member’s resistance. Some 26,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the occupied territories since 1967. East Jerusalem
, Gaza, the
The consequences this has had for the mental health of families, in particular of children, have been described for the West Bank and Gaza (withdrawal, anxiety, somatic symptoms, problems of attention, violent behavior); and one can imagine only too well what the consequences must be for the children in the
The right to education is also threatened with the demolition of schools, Israeli army attacks against educational establishments, and the difficulties in accessing centers of learning. The annual report of 2013 by European Union
diplomats posted in the West Bank mentions that every day more than 2,000 school children and 250 teachers of East Jerusalem have to get past Israeli army roadblocks to get to school. For the children of
Finally, the imprisonment of Palestinian children by the Israeli army is documented every month. Most of the time they are suspected of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers or settlers, for which they can go to prison for months or even years. Over half (53 percent) of the children are arrested at home between midnight and 5 a.m.; they are systematically mistreated during the first forty-eight hours after their arrest. They have no access to a lawyer before their interrogation and are judged by military tribunal. Over the last decade, the Israeli army has arrested and brought to court some 7,000 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 18 years. At the end of March 2014, 181 Palestinian children were being held in military prisons or detention centers, most often in Israel where their families cannot visit them.
The living conditions of the Palestinian children in the West Bank, in Gaza, and in the various countries where they have gone as refugees constitute an accumulation of risk factors likely to compromise their cognitive and emotional development. Some of these children, who have suffered severe trauma, might develop serious psychological problems that require psychiatric care; others often display an increased frequency of behavioral disorders (hyperactivity, aggressiveness, irritability), emotional disorders (insomnia, anxiety, different types of fear, depression, psychosomatic problems), and learning disorders (difficulties with concentration, school failure). These are normal reactions to an abnormal situation. In addition to the concerned ministries in Palestine, the large international NGOs, and UN agencies, the local NGOs have been the most active on the ground in providing appropriate support: the
Defence for Children International Palestine. “How Was 2014 for Palestinian Children?” 31 December 2014, at dci-palestine.org, accessed 25 February 2015.
Defence for Children International Palestine. “Palestinian Children Victims of Israeli Abuse Designed to Coerce Confessions.” 10 February 2015, at dci-palestine.org, accessed 25 February 2015.
Mansour, Sylvie. “A Week in Jenin: Assessing Mental Health Needs Amid the Ruins.” Journal of Palestine Studies 31, no.4 (Summer 2002): 35-43.
Palestinian Counselling Centre, Save the Children-UK, and Welfare Association. Broken Homes: Addressing the Impact of House Demolitions on Palestinian Children & Families. Jerusalem: Authors, 2009, at savethechildren.org.uk, accessed 10 February 2015.
UNICEF, State of Palestine. Children Affected by Armed Conflict (CAAC) Reports. Various years, at unicef.org, accessed 10 February 2015.
UNICEF. The Situation of Palestinian Children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon: An Assessment Based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Amman, Jordan: Author, 2011, at unicef.org, accessed February 10, 2015.
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Occupied Palestinian Territories. Fragmented Lives: Humanitarian Overview 2013. Jerusalem: Author, March 2014, at ochaopt.org, accessed February 10, 2015.
Zureik, Elia, Jim Graff, and Farid Ohan. “Two Years of the Intifada: A Statistical Profile of Palestinian Victims.” Third World Quarterly 12, no.3-4 (1990): 97–123.