1,426 children are dead in Palestine since September 2000. These children were caught in the middle of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict. Since 1948, there have been about 171 Jewish settlements built in the occupied Palestinian territories, more than 8,500 Palestinians have died, and a 25-foot wall that encloses them into a small densely packed territory has been put up. This by definition is apartheid because the sole reason of their separation is because they are Palestinians.
However, we often get caught up in the numbers of war and oppression, whether it is the number of civilians that have died, soldiers that died or the number of political prisoners. All of these numbers are extremely important to depict the horrors of war, but in the end these are just numbers that can be seen and analyzed apathetically. The occupation in Palestine can and is debated historically, religiously and secularly, but we cannot limit our intellect to numbers because bringing a face to the occupation makes this debate more complex and relatable.
“Collateral damage” is a euphemism used by the Israeli defense when describing civilian deaths caused by white phosphorus bombs in places such as Gaza. These numbers are children: a 9-year-old boy that lost his father in the rubble of the bombs. A 9-year-old child was awoken in the middle of the night because of a white phosphorus bomb. His concrete house collapsed. He was trapped by the smoke, fire and despair, and in the mix, he lost his parent. He fell asleep with a family and woke up as a Palestinian orphan, categorized into a statistic. Every time that boy would remember how his father would ask him after school, “Son, how was your day today,” his eyes welled up in tears in the realization that no one would ever ask him that question again, but this boy is just a number to us. His story is lost in the millions of children that become orphans because of the occupation.
Children — the future generation; we depend on them to bring change, to bring a revolution, to bring new life. The children of Gaza are not given the chance because they are shot in the chest, because they are seen as a threat to the existence of Israel. A 3-year-old child is a threat to one of the top 10 militaries in the world, Israel.
Does a child’s birthplace determine his or her right to a future? By limiting their struggle to numbers and figures, we strangle their voices, their narrative and the ability to put a story to the occupation.
A 14-year-old girl lived in Gaza in a joint family system in house with 28 people, and this allowed her to always be surrounded by her family. Then one day, her entire family was rounded into one room and a drone strike bombed her house and with a blink of an eye she was completely alone. She show the remnants of her family’s’ bodies under the debris; she belonged to no one, and no one cared for her; she was trapped in a war torn country with only the support of her Lord. These are the children that are deemed terrorists, the children that are always thirsty because the water is continuously cut off, the children that cannot seek refuge in their parents because they are orphans, they are helpless but viewed as the “enemy.”
To these children, the war is not religious or political because they do not care about the end result, all they want is to be left alone, they want their mother back, they want their siblings back, they want their sanity back, they want their homes back. Israel has completely broken these Palestinian children because they do not care about the outcome of the occupation, all they want is the safety of their family.
Children are dying every day in Palestine, but it is just easier to put them as numbers because it removes the guilt of being passive. “Collateral damage” is the excuse of the deaths of 1,476 children. The images of children being pulled out from under the concrete of a building, the sound of the screams of the children when they are burned by the Israeli bombs, and the pain of every teardrop the Palestinian boy sheds at night in the memory of his father is what each and every number means. Each of the 1,476 has a different account of how they died, and the same reason why: because they were Palestinian children.
Erum Siddiqui is a second-year undecided/undeclared major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.