Donna Rachel Edmunds
Donna Rachel Edmunds
All I am saying is give peace a chance

Why the silence on Palestinian Child Soldiers?

Picture: Hosny salah / Pixabay
Picture: Hosny salah / Pixabay

On the day Faris Ouda died in combat, he placed a picture of himself in his room and laid a wreath around it with the words: “The brave Martyr Faris ‎Ouda.” As he left his house, he told his ‎mother, “Don’t worry, mother, martyrdom is sweet.”

These are not the words or actions of an adult partisan fighting for an ideology. They are the words and actions of a child who wanted what most children want: recognition and acclaim. Ouda was just 14 years old when he set out that day into an area where Palestinian terrorists were actively fighting Israeli soldiers, hoping to be a heroic Palestinian Martyr. Tragically, he got his wish.

He also got the acclaim he sought. In a speech given to children, Yasser Arafat later said of him: “We are saluting the spirit of our hero Martyr, Faris Ouda! Faris Ouda! Faris Ouda! We are proud of you [youth] who represent the steadfastness and the sacrifice of your companion, the hero Martyr, Faris Ouda! Oh, children of Palestine! The peers, friends, brothers and sisters of Faris Ouda.”

Ouda was one of many Palestinian children who have lost their lives in this way. All were victims of an ideology that teaches, in the words of a poem by a young girl, Ru’a Tamimi, posted by Fatah posted on its Facebook page: “Our weapon is our Islam, and our ammunition is our children.”

This is no mere rhetorical flourish. The PA have a long-standing policy of using children as ammunition, such as in the so-called “knife intifada” of 2015 – 2016, which was driven by Palestinian youth.

On high school matriculation day in 2016, the official PA news agency WAFA made special mention of the sixteen 12th grade terrorists who died attacking Israelis. However, instead of condemning them or mourning the wasted lives, the PA honored and glorified these child soldiers specifically because they had died.

WAFA reported: “The day of the publication of high school matriculation exam results is known as a day of long expectation… However, the families of the Martyrs and their relatives find themselves proud of the Martyrdom that their children achieved with the Creator and in the homeland… Sixteen [students] succeeded [in achieving] the Martyrdom… for death as a Martyr is the path to excellence and greatness, and the path of those who know how to reach the great victory.”

The PA did not say that the students who studied well and achieved good grades had chosen “excellence” “greatness” or the path to “great victory.” Those tributes went to the PA’s child soldiers who died in action.

Recently the UN marked International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, as it does every year.

In recognition, EU High Representative Josep Borrell and the UN’s Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba de Potgieter, released a statement condemning the use of child soldiers:

“No one has the right to steal children´s dreams or their innocence. The EU and the UN stand together to make sure that all children, wherever they are, experience a childhood free from violence and with access to education.”

These are worthy words, yet the UN remains guilty of ignoring the use of child soldiers by the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinian terror groups.

For example, a report on ‘Children and armed conflict’ submitted by the secretary general to the UN last June found: “No incidents of the recruitment and use of children were verified” in its review of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

It did note: “Of concern, in Gaza, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades and Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades organized weeklong “summer camps” for adults and children as young as 14, exposing them to military content and activities.” No mention was made, however, of the constant stream of recruitment Palestinian children in the West Bank are subjected to through glorification of past terrorists, cartoons, songs, poems on official PA TV children’s shows. Songs played repeatedly on Palestinian television that include the lyrics: “Strap on the explosive belt … Strap on the Molotov cocktails, and the AK-47 bullets … detonate it in front of the enemies, How sweet is the taste of Martyrdom,” and many others like it.

Glory for terrorist child-soldiers are etched into the consciousness of Palestinian youth by the PA. A PA high school for girls in Bethlehem recently placed a stone monument at the entrance honoring the youngest Palestinian female suicide bomber, 17 year-old “Martyr Ayyat Al-Akhras.” Every day the teens enter school they are greeted by the PA message: a girl your age who was a suicide bomber is your role model.

It was messages like these that taught Ouda and others like him to aspire to death at such a young age. Where are the United Nations? Where are the other international bodies?

Faris Ouda would have been 35 this year had he not seen himself as merely ammunition to achieve heroic Martyrdom. Since his unnecessary self-sacrifice, a steady stream of Palestinian teenagers have succumbed to Palestinian recruitment of child soldiers, some attacking and killing Israelis, and others dying in the attempt. Only last month, 17-year-old Atallah Muhammad Rayyan was inspired to be a soldier for the PA and attempted to murder an Israeli. He chose to attack a female Israeli soldier but her partner saved her life by shooting and killing Rayyan.

How many more years must Palestinian children wait as the PA recruits them into the ranks of child soldiers, until their plight is recognized by the international community?

About the Author
Donna Rachel Edmunds is a former political advisor at the European Parliament, and journalist. She is now Director of Press and Public Affairs at Palestinian Media Watch.
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