Two horrific tragedies have occurred recently because of young men handling firearms. A 17 year old boy was killed in Hebron for waiving a fake handgun at a soldier, and 26 people were murdered in cold blood in Connecticut by a 20 year old assailant. There is nothing comparable about the scope or magnitude of these two tragedies. Yet they both accentuate the fact that loss of life could have been avoided if firearms, fake or real, had not have been placed into the hands of kids.
These recent tragedies bring to mind the death of another young man, Jamie Gonzalez, who was killed by police in January this year after pointing a toy handgun at a classmate during a fight. The Police who were called to the scene shot and killed Jamie with three rounds, exactly like the three bullets which killed the boy from Hebron last week. In Texas, however, the event did not spark violent demonstrations of the Hispanic community against the local police force.
No one doubts the fact that the Texas Police acted lawfully in response to a perceived threat. Most parents would feel reassured knowing that if someone aims a handgun at one of their children, there are law enforcement officers around who are trained to defuse the threat with minimal collateral damage.
The public dialogue in Texas, following the killing of Jamie Gonzalez, was focused on whether or not life-like toy firearms should be sold to children. I assume that whoever bought the toy gun for Jamie was unaware that it would ultimately cost him his life.
It is a shame that a similar discussion was not at the center of public dialogue in the Palestinian Authority recently. I was extremely saddened to see the video clips showing Palestinian children no more than 10 years old, practicing firing Kassam rockets from Gaza into Israel. It was also difficult to ignore the toddler who appeared on stage next to Ismael Haniyah and Khaled Mashaal, at the Hamas celebration last; a child no more than 4 years old dressed in military uniform, waving a toy rifle and calling for the destruction of Israel.
Every sovereign nation not only has the right, but the responsibility to protect its citizens from violent crimes, including terrorism, which is considered by many jurists today to be a crime against humanity. The “responsibility to protect” is a basic principle established firmly in the international legal framework.
There was no reason to demonstrate in the streets of Hebron last week against Israel. Surely those who view Hebron as part of the “State of Palestine”, which was recently promoted to a new status in the UN, cannot claim that the existence of police manned border crossings into Israel are illegal or unnecessary. Every nation has the right and the responsibility to protect its borders from the infiltration of dangerous individuals.
The death of the young man at the border crossing in Hebron was a terrible tragedy; a futile tragedy which could have been avoided. As a person who holds human rights dear to his heart, I urgently call upon the Palestinian Authority to place the wellbeing of its children at the top of its agenda, to prevent the arming of children (with real or fake guns), and to stop encouraging children to provoke IDF soldiers at our checkpoints into taking action.