Steven Balkin
Inspired by Martin Buber and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Kindertransport for At Risk Gazan Children

Caption: Kindertransport-rescuing children-on the brink of war. Jewish Kindertransport children arriving in London in February 1939. (Photo by Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Caption: Kindertransport-rescuing children-on the brink of war. Jewish Kindertransport children arriving in London in February 1939. (Photo by Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

The war in Gaza is a needless tragedy brought about by those who believe acquisition to a particular piece of land is more important than the lives of people who live on that land.  Hamas initiated this war and can end it by surrendering its weapons, formerly agreeing to stop attacks on Israelis and Palestinians, eliminating parts of 13 Articles of its 36 Article 1988 Covenant, and returning all the remaining Israeli hostages.  In defending the people of Israel, I believe that the government of Israel and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had no choice but, in light of Hamas intransigence, to try to militarily eliminate Hamas from Gaza.  But in that process, there have been too many civilian deaths, especially too many deaths of children.  A policy of Kindertransport (German for Children’s Transport) is a way to reduce the deaths and harm to Gazan children and hopefully change the direction of the needle, now pointed strongly in the direction of expanded war.

Kindertransport was an effort, from 1938 to 1940, just prior to the start of WW2, to rescue 10,000 Jewish children from Germany and recently annexed German territories.  At that time, most countries would not let sizable amounts of Jews immigrate into their countries.  After the November pogroms in 1938 Germany, called Kristalnact, British, Jewish and Quaker leaders appealed to the Prime Minster of the United Kingdom, Neville Chamberlin, to allow unaccompanied Jewish children, under the age of 17, to enter as refugees without a visa. Volunteer organizers worked 24/7 to generate priority lists of those most at risk.  The first migration of these children entered London three weeks after Kristalnact, and they did this without computers, cell phones, or data base programs.

The children went to live in foster homes, hostels, schools, and farms.  Every child was to have a guarantee of £50 to finance their eventual re-emigration.  Jewish and non-Jewish organizations funded this.  The BBC radio made an appeal for volunteer foster families.  Potential foster families were visited and evaluated but it was not required that they be Jewish.  The parents of filmmaker and actor Richard Attenborough became a foster family to two Jewish girls. He has touchingly written about that as a memorable and important positive addition to his life.  It was expected that these stays were to be only temporary.  Almost all of the children never saw their parents again as they were eventually murdered by the Nazis.  The start of WW2 ended this project.  While separation from their parents was traumatic for most of these children, Wikipedia lists 58 people who became prominent public figures, including two Nobel Prize winners, who were saved by the Kindertransport project.

The scale of this Gazan war is new to Hamas, Israel, Palestinian civilians, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  All are on a learning curve.  The errors are not just costly in material resources but also in the large number of lives unintentionally lost.

I am suggesting that Palestinians in Gaza voluntary and temporarily place their children (15 or younger) out of Gaza with Arab families in Israel and the West Bank and in Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and with Muslim families in Cyprus and Albania, and even with Jewish, Christian, and secular families inside Israel.  If possible, this project should be extended to include the Gazan mothers of these children, and disabled, sick, and elderly Gazans. Of course, the movement of these individuals has to well documented so they can return back to Gaza after the war has ended.  Gazans will have to be screened to make sure they have no Hamas or Jihadist affiliations or inclinations to push on or harm their foster families. Foster families will have to also be screened and evaluated to reduce the possibility for abuse and impressment into forced work activity or recruitment as combatants.  The foster families will also have to agree to no converting or proselyting activity. Peace and familial love, yes.  Conversion, no!  Middle East Schindlers, please reveal yourselves!!  We need you now.

Of course, a trajectory of peace with a full flow of aid and reconstruction, along with keeping the children in Gaza together with their families or guardians, is better.  But that is not the dystopian case of things now.   Gaza is in a state of extreme tragedy where children need a way of escape until tranquility prevails.

People on the ground will be best able to decide who is best to implement this Kindertransport project. Sooner and slightly sub-optimal is better than later and perfect.   I suggest the following non-profit organizations form a consortium to do this.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which have resources, access to technical expertise, and a mission statement that says: “Stepping in where governments and business leave gaps.”  Helping them can be: Standing Together, the largest Jewish-Arab collaborative organization in Israel; and the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund which was created in the USA and their mission statement says: “To provide medical and humanitarian relief collectively and individually to children throughout the Levant, regardless of their nationality or religion.”

This is being proposed for humanitarian reasons but it will have advantages for Israel and the IDF.  Reducing the harm that the most vulnerable Gazan civilians face will: improve Israel’s global public image and relationships with its allies and with protestors who live in those ally countries, make it easier and less hazardous for Gazan civilians to be fed, and better facilitate the IDF to search for and attack Hamas military forces.  Hopefully, Hamas military and political leaders will appreciate (or fear) this gesture, and in return release the remaining hostages, agree to a ceasefire without rearmament, and eliminate anti-Israel and anti-Semitic language in 13 of its Covenant articles.  Likewise, if this occurs, in a positive reciprocal feedback loop, Israel may feel safe enough to provide a conditional pathway towards a confederation with a Singaporean-like Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.


About the Author
Dr. Steven Balkin is a Professor Emeritus at Roosevelt University in Chicago where he teaches courses in economics, social justice, and criminal justice. His PhD. is from Wayne State University in Detroit. He is the author of many articles and a book: Self-Employment for Low Income People. His research focus is on violence prevention, international development, entrepreneurship, and cultural preservation. He is a member of the Chicago Political Economy Group.
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