Thursday evening, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at John Jay College will host a campus lecture concerning the situation of Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The invitation advertises that guest speaker Brad Parker will discuss “issues involving detention, ill-treatment and torture of child detainees within the Israeli military detention system.”
If we’re going to talk about the situation of Palestinian children in Gaza and the West Bank, then let’s at least have an honest conversation about the situation of Palestinian children in Gaza and the West Bank.
Let’s talk about how Hamas holds training camps to teach Palestinian children how to fire AK-47 assault rifles and build improvised explosive devices (IEDs) for future use against Israel. According to the Washington Post, Hamas “camps were designed to boost the Palestinian resistance and to give Gaza’s frustrated and unemployed youths a way to blow off steam – and shoot some guns.” The New York Post reported last year that children as young as five years old attend these camps. Whatever their age, there are more productive ways for youth to “blow off steam” than learning how to blow up Israelis.
Let’s talk about how Hamas uses children as human shields when firing deadly rockets into Israel. Earlier this year, a UN report found that “Hamas stored mortars and other weapons in at least three UN schools during last summer’s war and fired rockets at Israel from two of them.” Hiding behind Palestinian civilians to fire rockets at Israeli civilians is a double war crime. Palestinian militants are committing war crimes against their own children by firing rockets from civilian centers and storing weapons in schools.
Let’s talk about how just last month, two Palestinian boys—aged 13 and 15—went on a stabbing spree in Jerusalem, and instead of condemning the attacks, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas described the incident as the “summary execution of our children in cold blood (CBS News).” Not only did Abbas fail to mention that the 13-year-old had stabbed multiple Israelis, including a boy his own age, but he had the audacity to claim that the assailant was killed by Israelis. Within hours, footage of the very-much-alive Palestinian teenager was released – he was recovering in the same Israeli hospital as the 13-year-old Israeli he had tried to kill.
But these are not things you’ll learn when you attend Brad Parker’s event. Despite breaches of international law and the brazen mistreatment of children, these stories will not be addressed in SJP’s lecture on the plight of Palestinian children.
I can only assume the lecture will also fail to address the great efforts Israel has made to treat Palestinian children with respect and restraint, even as they inflict violence against the Israeli people. Earlier this week, a dovish Israeli academic who has even called for military restraint against civilians at the risk of personal injury was shouted down during a lecture at the University of Minnesota Law School by members of the local Students for Justice in Palestine chapter.
Nor will attendees hear about all of the good Israelis do to help Palestinian children.
Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) is an Israeli humanitarian organization dedicated to helping children in developing countries who cannot get adequate medical care at home. SACH operates on dozens of Palestinian children every year, saving countless lives. In addition, SACH holds an open cardiology clinic every Tuesday exclusively for Palestinian children from the West Bank and Gaza, so that they can get the care they need.
SJP won’t talk about SACH because it doesn’t fit their one-sided narrative. They won’t talk about another Israeli organization—the Peres Center for Peace—because it seeks “to promote lasting peace and advancement in the Middle East by fostering tolerance, economic and technological development, innovation, cooperation and well-being.” Cooperation and communication, indeed, go against SJP’s stated goals.
It is important to recognize organizations like SACH and the Peres Center when speaking about the situation of Palestinian children. It is important because the Peres Center alone has facilitated life-saving medical treatment for over 11,000 Palestinian children and trained over 200 Palestinian doctors in Israeli hospitals over the last decade.
Students who attend the SJP event on November 12th will not hear any of this. SJP doesn’t want to address the true issues facing Palestinian children. If they did, and if they were completely honest with themselves, they would be arguing against their own cause. The fact is that we, students at John Jay, must work on using our energy to end tensions on our campus and work on coexistence events, events that could unite us all and have the potential to contribute to securing a lasting peace, both on our campus, and around the world. Hosting one-sided events like these, which vilify Israel and Israelis, simply pushes the prospect of peace further away.