Happy Childhoods Snatched Away
I live on a lovely, quiet street in the Old Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem. The street is busiest on Shabbat afternoons when, before October 7, 2023, happy, yelling children “owned” my street as families walked to and from either of the two synagogues a few dozen meters from my place. These include the 4 adorable children of my neighbors, a family of 6 whose kids ranging from 12 to a year and half.
At 7:40 AM, October 7, 2023, when the first sirens wailed in our area, I sat with my neighbors in the building shelter, actually a few times (I lost track how many). The older children remained calm but the 5-year-old boy, Ari, panicked and cried while his father tried in vain to calm him and comfort him. I can only imagine the turmoil his older sisters must have been feeling but did not display. Yet Ari and his sisters have been lucky. Since that first day, there have been very few sirens in our area compared to many other places in the country, both parents are either not working or working from home. No one very near to him has been hurt, at least as far as I know. Many Israeli children are far less fortunate.
I can’t begin to imagine how many other 4, 5, 6, 7 year olds were forced to run to their family’s “Mamad” (fortified rooms) or shelters, like ours, in most Israeli towns and cities. Few, if any, have been spared at least one “Color Red” alert. Tens of thousands of little boys and girls like Ari crowded into a “protected space” as its called. How many of them were as frightened or panicky as Ari was?
And then there are the children of Otef ‘Aza (The Gaza Envelop) . . . The Israeli reader knows too well what happened to many of these children, no need to elaborate here.
The Invisible Children
But what about people outside of Israel? Who, outside of Israeli and the Israeli/Jewish diaspora communities, knows how the children of Israel have been suffering since then, not just those impacted the hardest but just about every girl and boy in this country? From the wounded to the orphaned to the displaced, and those whose lives were otherwise upended, the toll is devastating.
If someone did care enough to want to know, they would find very little information, if any, on the websites of major humanitarian organizations, such as Unicef, The International Rescue Committee (IRC) or Save the Children (STC) to name but three examples.
Open up the website for Unicef, whose motto stated at the top of the page is “For Every Child”, and you’ll see a big banner photo of a child standing in front of ruins with large text written across it “Children in Gaza Need Life-Saving Support-read more”. This text is repeated twice. Below the banner photo are 8 portals, 2 of which are also dedicated to Gaza. Others are dedicated to children in Africa and Asia. One portal is titled “13 emergencies that need more attention and support in 2024.” Open this link and find a blurb on the crisis in the “State of Palestine.”(!) And Israel? Virtually nothing. If one knows to find it in a Boolean search there is a statement from the executive director that makes a passing reference to Israeli children, that seems to be about it.
The websites for IRC and STC are no better, in fact IRC, despite being run by David Miliband a prominent British Jew who once served as the UK’s Foreign Secretary, does not even include the pittance regarding Israel that appears in the other 2 websites but does include an extremely partisan and highly inaccurate anti-Israel history.
Why are so many major charitable organizations decrying very real suffering of Palestinian children in Gaza but completely ignoring the equally real suffering of Israeli children? These groups seem either oblivious or completely unconcerned about the fact that, during the October 7, 2023 (hereafter “710”) at least 38 children were brutally murdered (the actual number may never be known), approximately 700-800 were treated for wounds, 21 were orphaned of both their parents, and 96 lost 1 parent, approximately 40 children were kidnapped and of these, at least 8 are still being held captive in Gaza—or worse. But the suffering of Israeli children does not end there. While in is unknown how many Israelis have fled their homes and become internal refugees, anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 Israelis from both the South and the North are currently living away from there homes or are actually homeless. While I could not find specific numbers describing how many children these numbers include, if one takes into account that approximately 30% of al Israelis are 18 or younger, that would mean anywhere from 75,000 to 150,000 children are living in temporary shelters or lodging.
Finally, there are the number of Israeli children who have suffered significant trauma or other mental stresses associated with the war. This number is huge- as of December 10, 83%.
You won’t find any of these statistics on Unicef, IRC or STC websites-or on any website of any Non-Israeli/Jewish organization that I could locate. Worse, in researching for this article, if put in search terms into google such as “suffering Israeli children Hamas” most of the hits were about suffering Palestinian children. This was true even if the search terms were entered in Hebrew. Clearly, Google is taking a position on this war also and does not seem to care about Israeli children.
To Unicef, IRC, STC and I suspect most supposedly neutral international humanitarian organizations, Israeli children are simply invisible.
Where is the outrage?
No doubt officials of these groups, or others, if they were to be confronted with the accusation that the suffering of Israeli children seems to be of no concern to them, would respond that the suffering of the children of Gaza is far greater, so many more Gazan children have been killed, injured and rendered homeless.
The implication would be that, since the Israeli military is inflicting massive harm to Palestinian children in Gaza, there is no need to care about the massive harm inflicted on Israeli children. There are a lot of problems with this cynical diminution of the very humanity of Israeli children (many of whom are themselves Palestinian Arabs, caught up in the war as Israelis). First, this approach completely ignores the naked military aggression committed by the Palestinian Terror Army—AKA Hamas, Islamic Jihad etc. (hereafter “PTA”) against the Nation of Israel coupled with the some of worst crimes against humanity committed by any modern armed force in recent times with the possible exception of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Even without the rapes and murders of hundreds of unarmed Israelis and the intentional butchering of Israeli children, the PTA committed the ultimate war crime-starting a war to begin with, put another way, the crime of aggression, recognized in international law as the most serious of all war crimes. When an aggressor starts a war, it “owns” all of the concomitant consequences, even the harm the defender inflicts on the aggressor’s side.
For example, Americans have debated fiercely whether America was morally justified in dropping nuclear bombs on not one but two large Japanese cities (indiscriminate bombing, if ever there was such a thing!) but can anybody seriously disagree with the proposition that Hideki Tojo and his junta were ultimately the most responsible for the suffering of Japanese people during and after the final stages of the war? That the blood of not only the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers but the blood of 2.5 million Japanese soldiers and civilians were on their hands?
The blood of every Palestinian killed in Gaza is largely on the PTA, whose horrific crimes left the Israeli nation literally no choice but fight back. Many governments and prominent figures in the media and experts in international law around the world have recognized this essential truth even if some have been critical of the IDF’s specific tactics in prosecuting the war resulting in what the critics claim is “too high” of a civilian death toll (much of the criticism is flat out wrong, but addressing the extensive measures the IDF takes to minimize noncombatant casualties is a topic for another time).
Second, the PTA is not just ultimately responsible as the aggressor for the large number of child casualties, it is also directly responsible for many of these unnecessary and tragic deaths-the PTA does everything possible to prevent the noncombatant Gazans from fleeing the urban battle zones, and has even resorted to killing fleeing refugees-A video went viral showing slain Palestinians along the main highway leading out of Gaza city-the victims had been clearly shot at relatively close range and there were no IDF ground troops anywhere near the scene, leaving only one possible conclusion. Finally, Israeli soldiers report encountering Palestinian children cynically used by the PTA as “lookouts” and “runners”, placing them in positions where the likelihood of being shot by either side is very high.
Where’s the outrage regarding this mistreatment of Palestinian children? I saw nothing in any of the three websites I examined, I’ve seen, heard and read nothing in any non-Israeli media outlet about this horrific abuse of Palestinian children by their own leaders. It seems these organizations bleed for the suffering children of Gaza only if the IDF can be blamed.
Third, even if one buys into the Pro-Palestinian/Anti-Israel false narratives regarding Gaza, so how does that render the suffering of Israeli children irrelevant? I believe most Israelis are deeply pained by the suffering of Gaza’s children as well as our own, in fact Israelis see on the news nightly numerous stories of Israeli soldiers helping Palestinian children when they are encountered in the battle zones. Where’s the anguish in these countries, so hyper focused on Gaza, for the suffering of Israeli children as well as the suffering of Palestinian children?
Suffer the children
The war will end, hopefully soon. As I posited in my previous article published in this journal, it can end tomorrow if the PTA surrenders unconditionally and immediately releases the surviving hostages and returns the bodies of those they murdered. If the PTA keeps attacking IDF troops and keeps firing rockets into Israeli towns (which really is indiscriminate bombing of civilians-add that war crime to the very long list) then I expect the war will grind on but the ultimate outcome is near certain as long as the Israeli people remain committed to the mission—and the children on both sides will continue to suffer.
And Israelis will remember how these organizations stood aloof and scornful in the face of the tremendous injustices visited upon this country, never mind those that engaged in unabashed Israel-hatred and sometimes good old fashioned jew hatred to boot. Indeed, I wonder how many naïve and foolish American college kids understand how their pro-Palestinian terrorism advocacy actually is contributing to the deaths and suffering of Palestinian children, by giving the PTA the illusion that world stands with it against Israel? Every outrageous, Jew-hatred laced demonstration, road-blocking, defacement of Jewish property, intimidation of Jewish student’s, etc. encourages the PTA to keep attacking Israelis. And as long as it does, the IDF will fight back and, tragically, more children will suffer.
As I argued in my previous article, many governments and organizations criticizing or outright attacking Israel—especially stable Arab governments-can do more to exert pressure where it should be exerted-on the PTA, and on Mahmoud Abbas’s PA which until now has been a more or less passive(?) supporter of the terror war against Israel, to end this war now.
The organizations that claim to have solely a humanitarian, rather than a political, interest in the war can also help bring it to end by exposing the PTA rather than inadvertently(?) giving it cover and encouraging to keep the war going. How about it Unicef, you claim to be for “every child.” How about being for Israeli children, for a change?