The Israeli-Palestinian Balance of Brutality

Neither side wants to know how many children from the other side it has killed since 2000. The following is a reminder.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

From the beginning of the second intifada, which broke out on September 29, 2000, through April 30, 2013, Israel, the occupying power in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, killed 1,373 Palestinian children up to age 18. How many soldiers, commanders, pilots, drone operators, high-tech geniuses, Shin Bet agents and makers and sellers of weapons – government and private – were needed to kill 1,373 children?

Human rights group B’Tselem doesn't provide this figure. But all the figures and analyses below are taken from the meticulous website of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

First a comment on the word “children.” I'm not talking about the somewhat clinical definition of a minor , and certainly not about the distinction the Israeli language makes between child and youth when tallying the Palestinian dead and wounded. Here the inspiration is the Israeli discourse that sees a child as a child until the day he or she passes through the gates of the IDF Induction Center, and even after.

Over the past 13 years the Israel Defense Forces has killed 1,045 Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip. Yes, this includes 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura. He was the first child killed in Gaza during the second intifada, on September 30, 2000.

But no one remembers the first child the IDF killed in the West Bank – on the same day: Nizar al-Aydeh, 16 years old. He wasn't taking part in the hostilities. (“Participants in the fighting” are people B’Tselem says have fired rockets, shot guns, set off explosive belts among civilians or were on their way to carry out such activities – or people who have exchanged fire with soldiers. B’Tselem also has a category for “subjects of a targeted killing,” people whose killing by the army is based on confidential intelligence that B'Tselem cannot substantiate or refute.)

Out of 427 children 13 and younger, two are listed as having taken part in the fighting in Gaza, and for one it's unknown if he took part. The remaining 424 were not taking part in the fighting when infantry soldiers, pilots, drone operators or tankers killed them.

The number of Gaza children age 14 to 18 that the IDF – commissioned by the citizens of Israel – killed during the same period was 618. Ninety-nine were taking part in the fighting, while for 22 it's unknown. Two were the subjects of targeted killings, and 495 children between 14 and 18 that the IDF killed were not taking part in the hostilities.

The view from the West Bank

Meanwhile, the IDF killed 328 children in the West Bank during those 13 years. Of the 84 children through age 13, one “was taking part in the hostilities,” 81 were not, and for two it's unknown. For children 14 to 18, 244 were killed: 29 were taking part in the fighting, for 26 it's unknown, and 178 were not taking part.

Another 11 children age 14 to 18 have been killed – since May 2012. In May 2012, B’Tselem stopped classifying Palestinian fatalities in the West Bank based on whether they were taking part in the fighting; the organization concluded that it was no longer possible to call the situation “incidents of hostilities.” B’Tselem says it had objected to the definition “armed conflict” to describe the situation even before it officially changed its definitions in 2012.

The lynching Palestinians committed against two Israeli soldiers on October 12, 2000 is considered a turning point and crime that must be reiterated because it teaches us about the enemy. What Israelis prefer to forget and don't include in the balance of brutality is that until October 12, Israeli soldiers killed 17 Palestinian children, and none were “taking part in the fighting.”

This is 17 children out of the 73 Palestinians the IDF killed in those two weeks. Five of the adults killed were taking part in the hostilities, though B’Tselem doesn't know whether 44 of them were taking part. For seven it's clear they were not taking part.

In the last 13 years, armed Palestinians have killed 129 Israeli children up to the age of 18 – in suicide bombings, shootings, rocket fire and stabbings. Fifty-one of the children were under 13. The collective Palestinian memory avoids writing down the large number of unarmed Israeli civilians and Palestinian child militants killed by various means.

On January 17, 2001, the first Israeli child was killed during the second intifada: Palestinians shot 16-year-old Ofir Rahum from up close. The story of how he was lured to Ramallah is burned into the memories of most Israelis. But what they love not to know is that until the end of December 2000, Israeli soldiers killed 86 Palestinian children.

Until the end of December 2000 the Palestinians built 276 houses of mourning – for children and adults. Twenty of these houses were for people taking part in the fighting, nine were for subjects of targeted killings, 134 were for people who were not taking part in the hostilities, and 113 were for those who B’Tselem could not determine whether they were taking part.

Regarding the Palestinians who killed the 129 Israeli children, their names and the names of those who sent them are public knowledge, and most of them have been killed – in suicide attacks or by the IDF. Or they are serving life sentences in Israeli prisons. The soldiers who killed 1,373 Palestinian children remain nameless. They – like those who sent them – continue to live among us as free citizens who have fulfilled their national duty.

Palestinians carry the bodies of three toddlers Ahmed, Mohamed, and Issa Samouni, who according to Palestinian medical sources were killed in an Israeli strike, during their funeral in Gaza City.Credit: AP

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