ASYA ABDUL-HADI, WALTER L. HIXSON
A Palestinian man checks damage caused by an overnight Israeli air strike on Gaza City, on Dec. 26, 2020. (PHOTO BY MAHMUD HAMS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March/April 2021, pp. 34-35
Israel Delivers Deadly and Enduring Christmas Gifts to Sick Gazan Children
By Asya Abdul-Hadi
FATMA EL-DEEB WAS STAYING with her ill 5-year-old, Jood el-Deeb, at Al-Durra Hospital for Children in the Gaza neighborhood of al-Tuffah, when suddenly she heard airstrikes after midnight on Christmas. “I was still up browsing the Internet around 1:00 a.m. on Dec. 26 when I heard the first strike. I didn’t take it very seriously until it was followed by much stronger strikes and I could see fragmentsof the missile hitting the window,” said El-Deeb, who carried her terrified and screaming child and ran out of the room. “Jood was sound asleep and he woke up to the sound of the strikes and ran to me screaming and hugged me,” she added.
Israeli warplanes fired a series of missiles on Saturday, Dec. 26 in the eastern, northwestern and central parts of the Gaza Strip, including open farmland, wounding a six-year-old girl and a young man, according to the Palestinian News Agency, Wafa. The bombing caused heavy damage to the hospital compound, a rehabilitation center, a mosque, homes and a factory. Dozens of sick children and their mothers, who were staying at Al-Durra Hospital for Children, were terrified by the bombing. Palestinian sources reported that the bombing caused a state of panic, hindered the provision of health services, and shattered windows, scattering glass inside the patients’ rooms.
Jood, who was hospitalized for chronic asthma, has been suffering from anxiety and fear since the strikes. “This affected his appetite and since what happened he’s scared to leave the room or sleep with the light off,” said his mother.
Director of Al-Durra Hospital for Children, Dr. Majed Hamada, called on all humanitarian, international and health organizations to put an end to what he described as “barbaric assaults” on Palestinian children.
“The occupation and many international organizations know that this place is a special hospital for children, but the enemy did not take into account any moral or human value,” stated Dr. Hamada.
Mohammad Abu-Assi, a 4-year-old, woke up crying and terrified when he heard the strikes. He was hospitalized for a fever and diarrhea. His grandmother, Hidaya el-Ramlawi, who accompanied him in the hospital, said that his paranoia and fear caused him to have urine incontinence. “He’s scared to leave the room and he keeps saying there’s shooting here and above us,” she said. El-Ramlawi and her grandson, Mohammad, had to leave the hospital against medical advice after the strikes.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health issued a statement condemning the Israeli attacks in the vicinity of the hospital and warned of what it described as the “dangerous psychological repercussions on sick children, who were in the hospital.”
In fact, according to a study conducted by the UNICEF in 2019, more than 25,000 children affected by violence in Gaza need mental health support. In another study done by the Palestinian Statistics Center, around 62 percent of Palestinian children suffered from depression and anxiety in 2020.
Adding to an already stressed social and economic situation with incredible levels of unemployment, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Labor, 35 workers also became jobless as a result of the Dec. 26 Israeli missile attacks on a factory producing nylon and plastic pipes. Those workers are breadwinners for about 250 people.
The director of the media department at Gaza Electrical Company, Muhammad Thabet, stated that the assault destroyed transformers and automatic circuit breakers as well as modern networks installed only two months earlier. The electric company estimated the losses to be $21,740. There was already a severe power crisis, with residents of the enclave receiving only up to six hours of electricity per day.
During the month of December, Israeli attacks targeted three Palestinian hospitals; Al-Durra Hospital for Children in Gaza, the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, and Thabet Thabet Hospital in Tulkarm. Those Israeli attacks in Gaza and the West Bank were launched at a time when Palestinian hospitals face an extreme state of alert and are overwhelmed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Palestinian Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila condemned the raids and described them as “a new Israeli crime that violates all international treaties and Geneva conventions.” She called on the international community to intervene to protect the Palestinian people and put an end to the Israeli violations.
Asya Abdul-Hadi, a Palestinian-American translator and interpreter living in Maryland, was born in Gaza. She worked for Newsweek, Al-Hayat, The Independent and ABC News before becoming a Gaza bureau chief for the Jerusalem Media Communications Center.
Raided and Razed: The Settler Assault on Palestinian Childhood Education
By Walter L. Hixson
Palestinian students attend a class on Oct. 19, 2020 at a school in the Masafer Yatta area in the South Hebron Hills, which Israel has declared “Firing Zone 918.” Dozens of Palestinian families have been living in the area for years, since before Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967. They face the threat of demolition and displacement by the Israeli army, as well as daily harassment by Israeli settlers. (PHOTO BY HAZEM BADER/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)
THE TITLE OF A RECENT WEBINAR—“Raided and Razed: West Bank Education Under Attack”—aptly summarizes an ongoing Israeli assault on childhood education in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
Held on Jan. 11 and sponsored by the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) as well as the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the webinar focused on efforts spearheaded by Zionist settlers to disrupt and frequently to demolish schools and community facilities, especially in Area C, which comprises more than 60 percent of the occupied Palestinian West Bank.
Led by Sarah Anne Minkin of the FMEP, the webinar analyzed a recent NRC study that detailed scores of raids on schools, arrests of students, school demolitions, and attacks on buildings, buses and other facilities from 2018 to 2020. The worst of these assaults centered on Hebron, but they also took place in and around East Jerusalem, Nablus and other areas of the West Bank.
The outmoded Oslo occupation framework, which was established in the early 1990s as a step in the comprehensive “peace process,” has instead enabled an ongoing and illegal occupation. The occupation, in turn, has allowed the Zionist settlers, backed by the Israeli government, to “maximize control of the land and minimize responsibility for the people,” explained Khaled Elgindy, an author and analyst at the Middle East Institute. Palestinians in the West Bank and especially Area C, more than half of which is under settler control, are forced to exist under “mob rule” rather than under the rule of law, he said.
Settlers often follow, block the path, verbally assault and threaten students, fire weapons near school grounds, and vandalize facilities, among other actions, noted Priscilla Wathington, the author of the NRC study. In an incident near Nablus in Oct. 2018, to cite but one example, a settler mob backed by Israeli military forces shattered the windows of a school while classes were in session, injuring several students in the process.
Settlers sabotage Palestinian construction projects in the OPT, including European Union-funded schools, which are targeted and sometimes destroyed. The assault on education is particularly hard on Bedouin communities, about a third of which have no schooling at all, with the remainder attempting to learn under completely deficient conditions.
Pervasive Israeli government and settler hostility creates an extremely challenging environment for teachers, who are often held up at checkpoints and “discouraged in every way” from doing their jobs, Wathington said. At the same time, they suffer the psychological impact of witnessing what is being done to the children. “My heart really goes out” not only to the students but “to the teachers continuing to work in this climate,” she declared.
In addition to educating students, schools double as Palestinian community centers, thus attacks on school facilities undermine the ability of entire communities to function. “The threat is ongoing,” noted Netta Amar-Shiff, a human rights attorney.
All of the discussants emphasized that the egregious assault on childhood education carried out under the illegal occupation will continue absent concerted international pressure to reassert the rule of law and basic human rights. The international community, Wathington emphasized, has an “obligation to hold Israel responsible for acts that are violating international law and humanitarian law.”
Contributing editor Walter L. Hixson is the author of Israel’s Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generation of the Palestine Conflict (available from Middle East Books and More), along with several other books and journal articles. He has been a professor of history for 36 years, achieving the rank of distinguished professor.