Israel is erasing Palestinian children from their land

Prosecutions and public outcry in Israel are reserved not for trigger-happy soldiers but Palestinian children

Palestinian children trace lines in sand on the pavement at the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza strip on February 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB
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On Saturday, Ahmad Abu Obeid became the ninth Palestinian to be killed by Israel's armed forces this year. He was 19 and his killing raises the number of Palestinian deaths at the hands of Israeli soldiers so far in 2018 to nearly two per week. Abu Obeid had committed the "crime" of participating in a protest against heavily armed Israeli forces who, as is their wont, had invaded his West Bank village of Burqin to cart away suspects in the shooting of a rabbi from a nearby settlement – yet another illegal Israeli colonial outpost erected by devouring Palestinian land. Abu Obeid had the temerity to stand firm with protesters – and this, in the grossly asymmetrical contest between the nuclear-armed Israelis and the dispossessed Palestinians, took the form of hurling stones at the Israeli soldiers who descended on his village to degrade and humiliate his people and being met with gunfire.

Nothing is more offensive or dangerous in Israel's eyes than Palestinians defying its imperial authority. So Abu Obeid was shot dead to strike terror in the hearts of his fellow Palestinians. Although Israel never tires of touting itself as a nation of laws, it would be a miracle if his killer is ever punished. Hundreds of Palestinian children and teenagers have been killed over the years. In 2016 alone, 105 Palestinian children were killed by the Israeli army; the youngest among the dead was 10, the oldest 17. How many of their killers, draped in the uniform of the Israeli army, have been prosecuted? How many protests have taken place against the killings? Such is the climate of impunity in Israel that even those behind the killings of foreign supporters of the Palestinian cause, such as the American human rights activist Rachel Corrie and the British filmmaker James Miller, have not been punished.

Prosecutions and public outcry in Israel are reserved not for trigger-happy soldiers but Palestinian children. Ahed Al Tamimi, arrested in December for slapping an Israeli soldier and denied bail by a military court, turned 17 inside prison. Nothing quite exposes the moral bankruptcy of Israel like the ritual of parading children before military courts while feting the remorseless killers of Palestinians as heroes. And when Palestinian children are not being shot, they are being cleansed from their land, like Ghada, the 14-year-old epileptic girl arrested in Jerusalem in January for travelling without a permit. The Israeli authorities deported her to Gaza, even though she had never been there. After decades of swallowing Palestinian land, Israel is graduating to the next phase of its exclusionary nationalism: treating its youngest inhabitants in this horrifying manner.

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