The Guardian • Issue #2087


Gaza Unchilding


Israeli crimes in Gaza are bringing some unpleasant new words into our vocabularies. Two are “unchilding” and “domicide.”

The victimisation by Israel of Palestinian children is so profound that Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkain, a Hebrew University of Jerusalem law professor, has described it as “unchilding” – to “eliminate the next generation of Palestinians, Israel treats Palestinian children as both nobodies who are unworthy of global children’s rights and as dangerous and killable bodies needing to be caged and dismembered, physically and mentally”.

The most extreme ‘unchilding’ of Palestinian children is taking place in Gaza right now. Thousands killed, many thousand injured, physically and psychologically scarred for life. The majority (90 per cent) of Gazans, of which half at least are children, are displaced – living in atrocious and catastrophic conditions, starving, little or no shelter, wet, freezing as winter sets in, exposed to diseases that can easily kill them.

According to the Palestinian health ministry, Israeli attacks have so far killed more than 11,500 children.

Well over 1000 Gazan children have lost a limb, either one or two legs and or an arm since 7 October – an average of 10 per day – and that number is growing daily.

The World Health Organisation reports that many child amputations are “done without anaesthetic, with the healthcare system in Gaza crippled by the conflict, and major shortages of doctors and nurses, and medical supplies like anaesthesia and antibiotics.”

Many of these child amputees will have to have repeated surgery because they are not getting adequate post operative care. They also face the high risk of infection living on the street, or in tents if they are lucky.

Following painful and brutal surgery children require pain relief and adequate nutrition but these are not available. Reports indicate that 90 per cent of Gazans are getting one meal if any per day and the whole population is on the verge of starvation.

Without sufficient nutritious food, children quickly become malnourished and child wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition in children, increases.

UNICEF says it is particularly worried about the nutrition of pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, as well as children under two, given their specific nutrition needs and vulnerability.

Children are starving but many also have diarrhoea, respiratory illness, hepatitis and other illnesses, further reducing their chances of survival.

UNICEF estimates that at least 17,000 children in Gaza have now been left unaccompanied or separated from their families.

“Each [child] has a heartbreaking story of loss and grief,” Jonathan Crickx, UNICEF’s chief of communication for the occupied Palestinian territories, has said.

Crickx also said the mental health of children is being severely affected by the Israeli onslaught and that a million children in Gaza require mental health support.

Children in Gaza “present symptoms like extremely high levels of persistent anxiety, loss of appetite, they can’t sleep, they have emotional outbursts or panic every time they hear the bombings,” Crickx said.

UNICEF points out that even before Israel’s assault, more than 500,000 children in Gaza were identified as needing mental health and psychosocial support.

Today, every child has been exposed to deeply distressing events and trauma, marked by widespread destruction and displacement. Meanwhile, parents and caregivers are themselves under intense mental strain.

However, children in Gaza are cut off from psychosocial care.

“Children don’t have anything to do with this conflict. Yet they are suffering like no child should ever suffer,” said Crickx.

The Australian government has condemned attacks by the Houthi on international shipping but has failed to condemn Israel for its wholesale slaughter of Palestinian children or its open policy of unchilding.

While hundreds of thousands of people in Australia and millions overseas are regularly on the streets expressing their outrage, our government contemptibly follows the morally corrupt, brutal US empire while failing in its moral duty to us and to the rules of the United Nations.

We will discuss “domicide” in the next Peace News.

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