Israeli abuse of children: Labour must speak up for Palestine


“We need to be clear that the situation facing the people of Palestine is desperate, and the reality is that the international community is doing nowhere near enough to help change it.”

By Matt Willgress, Labour & Palestine

This month marks two international dates of great significance for the Palestinian people and international campaigns for their rights.

Tomorrow sees the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and November 20 was World Children’s Day.

On the latter, the Palestinian Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs (CDA) published shocking figures that not only show how the illegal Israeli occupation abuses Palestinian children’s human rights, but also starkly illustrate the horrific nature of life for people in the occupied territories, including under-siege Gaza.

The CDA information shows that Israel has detained over 50,000 children in the last 45 years since 1967 when Israel commenced its illegal occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem — and 160 children are currently being detained.

The death of Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli state forces is also a disturbingly regular occurrence, as illustrated by recent press reports concerning the tragic death of 18-year-old Mahmoud al-Saadi, who Palestinians say was killed by the Israeli army on his way to school near the Jenin refugee camp on November 21.

A report in late October showed Israeli occupation forces have killed 29 Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem since the start of 2022.

A further report from Save the Children released on November 23 showed that the number of children killed by Israeli security forces and illegal settlers in the occupied West Bank has doubled this year to 34.

The broader picture is that all the fundamental injustices which make international solidarity vital remain — the Palestinian people are being oppressed by an illegal occupation and denied their fundamental rights as outlined by international law.

In terms of 2022 alone, in August, millions of people protested around the world, including many here in Britain, against the Israeli government’s attacks on Gaza which killed 44 Palestinians, including 15 children, and was described by the UN special rapporteur as an act contrary to international law.

This year has also seen the Israeli army’s killing of the Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the beating of her coffin bearers by Israeli police, alongside the outlawing of seven NGOs, including Addameer, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and Defence for Children International – Palestine.

These developments are clearly in line with the conclusions drawn by leading human rights organisations in recent years — including B’tselem, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International — that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people.

We need to be clear that the situation facing the people of Palestine is desperate, and the reality is that the international community is doing nowhere near enough to help change it.

Gaza has been under siege for 14 years. For 54 years Gaza, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has been illegally occupied by Israel.

And the decades-long land grab through illegal settlements continues — and this looks set to accelerate in light of hard-right gains in the Israeli elections.

The overwhelming might and firepower of Israel, its military, police and armed citizens, mean that this is not “a conflict” — it is the systematic oppression of the Palestinians. We must stand with the oppressed against the oppressor.

Yet the Labour front bench barely speaks out at all on these injustices, let alone builds support for justice and human rights based on the motions passed overwhelmingly by Labour’s annual conferences in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

Part of the Labour leadership’s attempts to show they are a “safe pair of hands” for government seems to be abandoning securing justice for the Palestinian people as any kind of priority in terms of international policy, which would be a key element of any genuinely ethical foreign policy and is supported by both a majority of Labour members and the voting public.

Those of us who stand in solidarity with Palestine must not stop speaking out against the illegal occupation of Palestine and for the Palestinian people’s rights — and must seek to get Labour Party bodies such as branches and CLPs to join trade unions in regularly speaking up for Palestine.

Featured image: PSC placard Free Palestine End Israeli Occupation. Photo credit: Palestine Solidarity Campaign

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