Opinion

Gazans Aren’t Abandoning Their Children at the Border; They’re Earning a Living

Army brass reprimands Palestinians who choose to stay outside Gaza without permits and let their children return home alone following medical treatment. But what if that’s the only way the parents can find work?

File photo: A Palestinian family arrives at Erez crossing through which they leave Gaza to participate in Christmas celebrations in the West Bank, in the northern Gaza Strip, December 23, 2018.
Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Now it’s time to add another negative trait to the numerous shortcomings of the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. They’re also heartless toward their sick children! They’re not only naïve people being manipulated by Hamas, people who riot on the Israeli border, lazy people who don’t know themselves that, if they just bothered working, their situation would improve.

All the above shows how stupid they are, and ungrateful for all our benevolence towards them. Just imagine — now they’re also abandoning their sick children at the Erez checkpoint. So go expect something positive from such dubious characters!

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Abandoning children is a real phenomenon, the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon, warned about a week ago in a post on his Arabic Facebook page. The post was accompanied by a photograph of a barefoot boy (his face blurred) in a carriage, wearing a brown track suit. The translation of the post was also sent to us journalists, in Hebrew.

“This Tuesday (February 5) a 4-year-old boy abandoned by his father arrived at the Erez Crossing,” Abu Rukon wrote. “The boy had received medical treatment in Israel and when the time came for him to return to his home in the Strip, his father abandoned him with a stranger and chose to remain in Israel as an illegal resident. Illegal residency is against the law.”

He went on to state: “This is not the first case. To our regret, several times a month, we find children at the gates of the crossing who have been abandoned by their parents after entering Israel to receive medical treatment. The parent, who was supposed to accompany his child and make him feel secure, decided to remain in Israel as an illegal resident and to send his son or daughter back to the Strip alone, without anyone familiar who could bring him home.”

Col. Iyad Sarhan, who reports to Abu Rokon and heads Israel’s Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza, added a reprimand of his own to the natives: “As a father, I don’t understand how a parent abandons his child and leaves him with strangers without concern for his welfare or safety …. As a human being and a father, I hope this unacceptable phenomenon will come to an end and Gaza residents will put their children first.”

File photo: A Palestinian boy sleeps as he waits with his family for a travel permit to leave Gaza through Rafah border crossing with Egypt, February 4, 2019.
Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Let’s translate this into civilians’ language:

1. Phenomenon: The coordinator doesn’t tell us when it started, and doesn’t reveal the precise number of “abandoned” children to date. But we won’t be picky or expect him to comply with conditions of a scientific study. Even if only 10 fathers (or parents) left little children at the Erez Crossing – after taking them for medical treatment that is unavailable in the Gaza Strip – these are heartbreaking and shocking cases.

2. Treatment in Israel: Maybe the child in the carriage really was taken for treatment in Israel, but it’s very likely that many other children, who according to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories were abandoned, were actually treated at a Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem or the West Bank. In any event, when it comes to Israeli hospitals, the Palestinian Authority covers all of the medical expenses.

3. Abandoned him with a stranger: It’s good to know that a high-ranking senior representative of the military understands that leaving a sick child with a stranger is shocking, because every month the system which he is responsible for prevents parents from accompanying their sick children. As a result, they get medical treatment in the company of strangers or relatives whom they don’t really know. We should hope that as a result of these expressions of concern, the phenomenon of sending Palestinian children for medical treatments all alone, or accompanied by a stranger with whom they are unfamiliar, will end.

4. Abandoned: If the father remained outside the Strip, it wasn’t to play golf at a country club, but to make a living. At least those are the cases that I’m familiar with of fathers who have left their families in Gaza and work in Ramallah or Bethlehem (not in Israel, mind you) to support them, even though they miss them terribly. That’s being responsible, not abandonment.

5. Illegal residents: There are no illegal people. There is an inhumane policy that causes people to take a risk and to stay in a specific place without the required documents.

6. A sense of security: The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories intended to denounce and finds himself denounced. Who is responsible for the fact that there’s no work in the Gaza Strip, if not the policy designed to sever the residents of the Strip from the rest of the Palestinian population — and officers like Abu Rokon who faithfully implement it?

Who caused the situation of the residents of the Strip to deteriorate to the point at which they become desperate, unemployed beggars, to the point at which there are also some people who disappear and whose families don’t know where they are? Who if not Israeli governments and officers such as Abu Rokon, and his predecessors, Yoav Mordechai, Eitan Dangot and Amos Gilad, who follow or followed orders, to enforce a policy of isolation and blockade of Gaza with unalloyed enthusiasm?

7. And to Iyad Sarhan, I ask, as a father, wouldn’t you fly over the wall and cut the barbed wire with your own hands if that were the only way to obtain work to support your children?