Compiled and edited, brief comment by Carolyn Bennett
If the crime of war or “war crime” (these being separate categories of crime) is prosecutable before the International Criminal Court in The Hague when committed by or alleged against Sudanese, Libyans, Serbians but not French, British, United States heads of state, can we say, truthfully, that law exists? Should we not instead describe reality as a state of lawlessness, impunity the right of “might,” wherein coalesced, a nuclear-armed cartel hauls others before the court, international or domestic tribunal, while the cartel “gets away” with murder?
Every aspect of conflict, UNICEF says, has detrimental and disproportionate impact on children. UNICEF was talking about a particular nation of people but it does not matter which children or whose children. Conflict and war harm children; and together, the future. “Conflict affects their physical and mental well-being, exposes them to extreme life-threatening situations, displacement and food insecurity and leaves them without health care, education and protection from violence, abuse and exploitation.”
OCCUPIED and DESPISED
In the context of continuing conflict in the Middle East and a continuing failure of leadership outside that region, Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad reflected in an opinion piece last week in Al Jazeera.
“What is it about Jewish and Arab children that privileges [favors] the first and spurns the second in the speeches of President Barack Obama — let alone in the Western media more generally? Are Jewish children smarter, prettier, whiter? Are they deserving of sympathy and solidarity, denied to Arab children, because they [Jewish children] are innocent, unsullied by the guilt of their parents who are often referred to as ‘the children of Israel’? Is it rather that Arab children are dangerous, threatening, guilty, even dark and ugly, a situation that can only lead to … Western fear of Arab children? ...
“Innocence and childhood are common themes in Western political discourse, official and unofficial. … The only Western sympathy manifest is to Jewish children as symbols of Zionist and Israeli innocence; this Western sympathy denounces Arab guilt, including the guilt of Arab children.…
“The story of Arab children, and especially Palestinian ones, is not only tragic in the context of Israeli violence, but one that also remains ignored, deliberately marginalized, and purposely suppressed in the U.S. and Western media — and in Western political discourse....
“Palestinian children were murdered along with adults in April 1948 in the Deir Yassin massacre, to name the most well known slaughter of 1948. This would continue not only during Israel’s wars against Arabs in 1956, 1967, 1973, 1978, 1982, 1996, 2006, and 2008, when thousands of children fell victim to indiscriminate Israeli bombardment, but also in more outright massacres: in Qibya in 1953 where even the school was not spared Israel’s destruction. In Kafr Kassem in 1956 the Israeli army massacred 46 unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel, 23 of whom were children. This trend would continue. In April 1970, during the War of Attrition with Egypt, Israel bombed an Egyptian elementary school in Bahr al-Baqar. Of the 130 schoolchildren in attendance, 46 died and more than 50 suffered wounds, many of them maimed for life. The school was completely demolished. The first Israeli massacre at Qana in Lebanon in 1996 spared no child or adult, and the second massacre in the same village in 2006 did the same — adults aside — 16 children died that year.
“The number of Palestinian children killed by Israeli soldiers in the first intifada (1987-1993) was 213, not counting the hundreds of induced miscarriages from tear gas grenades thrown inside closed areas targeting pregnant women and aside from the number of the injured. The Swedish branch of Save the Children estimated that ‘23,600 to 29,900 children required medical treatment for their injuries in the first two years of the intifada,’ one third of whom were children under the age of ten. In the same period, Palestinian attacks resulted in the death of five Israeli children. In the second intifada (2000-2004), Israeli soldiers killed more than 500 children with at least 10,000 injured, and 2,200 children arrested. The televised murder of the Palestinian child Muhammad al-Durra shook the world — but not Israeli Jews, whose government concocted the most outrageous and criminal of stories to exonerate Israel. In the Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008, 1,400 Palestinians died — 313 were children.
OCCUPIED TERRITORIES/North Africa
After last month’s highly publicized opening of its border to people of Gaza, Egypt today closed its border crossing with Gaza. Palestinians angered by this action stormed the gates in protest.
Three buses filled with 180 passengers, according to Palestinian border officials, had waited several hours to cross the border at Rafah. Press reports said officials gave no reason for closing the crossing.
Seventy people have died in demonstrations in Syria. “This week’s toll in the ongoing Government crackdown against protesters calling for reform brings the number of casualties to more than 1,000 since mid-March, with many more injured and thousands arrested,” according to the UN. Earlier in the week, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said it had received, but could not independently confirm, information that the use of live ammunition against demonstrators has reportedly left at least 30 children dead.
HORN OF AFRICA — SOMALIA
Forty children below the age of fifteen, in May alone, have died in the latest wave of fighting in Mogadishu. UNICEF is expressing concern about these deaths and about children who escape armed groups but have no safe house, and other children captured in the line of combat and detained for reasons related to the armed conflict. Children in central south Somalia face never-ending suffering in an extreme, indiscriminate, and one of the most complex conflicts in today’s world.
“Children under the age of 5 accounted for 46 percent of all weapon-related injuries in Mogadishu in May 2011,” according to the World Health Organization, “compared to 3.5 percent in January.”
Somali children are the most affected by the unrelenting violence in which they risk being killed, maimed or injured when caught in crossfire or after being unlawfully recruited and used on the front lines by all parties to the conflict. Thousands of Somali children reportedly are directly involved in the fighting.
Seventy-five percent of acutely malnourished children (at least 180,000) are in Somalia’s southern regions. Only 30 percent of the population has access to safe water. School enrollment is amongst the lowest in the world at only 22 percent in the Central South.
... At the end of 2010, an estimated 16.6 million children lost one or both parents to AIDS. This estimate includes 14.9 million children of sub-Saharan Africa.
AFGHANSITAN – PAKISTAN
AFGHANISTAN — At least 220 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan in 2011, 57 in May when the Taliban began a spring offensive.
Increased fighting increases suffering in the new ‘fighting season’ in Afghanistan putting “renewed hardship on children.” The conflict affects “every aspect of children’s lives,” UNCEF said this week. An airstrike in Helmand reportedly killed women and children and armed opposition groups are stepping up their efforts to recruit and use children as suicide bombers.
Four soldiers in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) died today when a roadside bomb exploded in eastern Afghanistan. Most of the ISAF troops operating near the border with Pakistan are reportedly from the United States.
This year an estimated 220 foreign troops have died in Afghanistan. Fifty-seven died in May “when the Taliban began a spring offensive.” May was “the deadliest month of the year for foreign troops.” Reuters and the independent monitor www.icasualties.org’s figures show 711 foreign troops died in Afghanistan last year, the deadliest year of the war. June of that year was “the bloodiest single month of the war for foreign troops; 103 died. The first four days of June this year at least seven have died.
PAKISTAN — An estimated 24 Pakistani security forces and 3 civilians died during fighting in northwest Pakistan. At least 200 had crossed from Afghanistan and attacked a security checkpoint. Twenty-four hours of gun battles Thursday in a village in the Dir region left around 40 fighters dead.
French and British officials announced last month that their countries would be sending attack helicopters for use by NATO against Libya and its government.
Reports today said the town of Brega in eastern Libya, site of important oil facilities, had been hit for the first time by British Apache helicopters.
At least 150 people have drowned and scores of others are missing, according to a report yesterday by the United Nations refugee agency, after a boat leaving Libya capsized off the Tunisian coast on Wednesday. The boat capsized as desperate passengers rushed to one side, seeking rescue by the Tunisian coast guard and fishing boats that had approached the vessel.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative Adrian Edwards told reporters, this tragedy “appears to be one of the worst and the deadliest incidents in the Mediterranean so far this year.”
Since the February onset of a Libyan conflict later joined by a foreign invasion, boats loaded with migrants fleeing the ongoing conflict in Libya have been fleeing to Italy and Malta, “sometimes with tragic consequences.” Last month, “hundreds died as a vessel carrying about 600 people broke up shortly after departing Tripoli.”
That Saturday and Sunday May 7 and 8 five boats carrying almost 2,400 people, including many women and children, arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa. The sub-Saharan Africa representative for UNHCR, Melissa Fleming, said, “All five boats needed rescuing by the Italian coastguard and maritime police, with one boat running aground close to the Lampedusa shore.” Later three bodies thought to have been passengers washed ashore.
Since the start of the crisis, an estimated 12,360 have arrived in Italy and Malta from Libya. Hundreds of people are simply missing. More than 665,000 people have fled Libya among them are 39,000 who have crossed into Tunisia.
Invading foreign forces in Libya have roundly ignored calls from the UN last month for a ceasefire in Libya.
UN Special Envoy Abdel Elah al-Khatib told the Security Council, “The main difficulty at this stage is getting all sides to agree on the essential elements of a political process that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people.… For Libyan authorities, a ceasefire must be accompanied by an end to the attacks by NATO in order to pave the road for national dialogue.”
He said, “They have told me that if NATO attacks stop, the Libyan Government would be in a position to hold discussions about elections, democracy and constitutional reform.”
Despite protests, President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen is “still in Yemen and ‘he has no intention of leaving.’” An anonymous source close to the Saudi royal family told Reuters today following a media report that the president had sought treatment in Saudi Arabia.
Al Jazeera is reporting today — “There are conflicting reports about the whereabouts of Yemen’s president, a day after he was injured in an attack on his compound. Some reports suggested President Ali Abdullah Saleh was on his way to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment on Saturday evening but sources told Al Jazeera that the president was being treated for face burns at a hospital in Sanaa,” Yemen's capital.
Sources and notes
“Are Palestinian children less worthy? — Although Palestinian children endure lives of suffering, Obama’s love for their Israeli counterparts knows no limit” (OPINION, Joseph Massad), May 30, 2011, http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/05/201152911579533291.html
Joseph Massad is Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University and author of The Persistence of the Palestinian Question (2006).
“Palestinians storm shut Egypt crossing-witnesses” (Nidal al-Mughrabi), June 4, 2011, http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/palestinians-storm-shut-egypt-crossing-witnesses/
“UN chief voices alarm at escalation of violence in Syria,” June 3, 2011, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38606&Cr=syria&Cr1=
HORN OF AFRICA — SOMALIA
“Children face multiple threats to life in ongoing conflict which no longer is at the forefront of world attention— Statement UNICEF shocked at new reports of increase in child casualties in Somalia, June 2, 2011, http://www.unicef.org/media/media_58727.html
“Fifth Global Partners Forum focuses on care, protection and support for children affected by HIV and AIDS— Crucial time to turn commitments into action,” June 3, 2011, http://www.unicef.org/media/media_58745.html
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. UNICEF is the world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries; it supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF receives funding from individuals, businesses, foundations and governments, www.unicef.org
AFGHANISTAN - PAKISTAN
“UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan, on the Occasion of International Children’s Day — ‘On a day that is marked by many countries as International Children’s Day and dedicated to celebrating childhood, Afghanistan continues to be plagued by conflict and remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child,’ according to UNICEF Afghanistan” (KABUL, Statement by Peter Crowley), June 1, 2011, http://www.unicef.org/media/media_58732.html
“Four NATO troops killed by bomb in eastern Afghanistan” (Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Robert Birsel), June 4, 2011, http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/four-nato-troops-killed-by-bomb-in-eastern-afghanistan/
“At least 220 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan in 2011, 57 in May when the Taliban began a spring offensive” (Paul Tait, KABUL, June 4, Reuters), June 4, 2011, http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news
“Dozens killed in raid on Pakistan troops — At least 24 Pakistani troops, 40 fighters dead after cross-border ambush on security checkpoint near Afghan border,” June 2, 2011, http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2011/06/20116254420120922.html
“NATO uses helicopters to strike Libya targets,” June 4, 2011, http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/nato-uses-helicopters-to-strike-libya-targets/
“At least 150 dead as boat carrying migrants from Libya capsizes — one of the deadliest incidents in the Mediterranean Sea so far this year” (UN agency), June 3, 2011, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38598&Cr=Libya&Cr1=
“As hundreds feared drowned off Libya, UN agency urges better rescue methods,” May 10, 2011, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38331&Cr=libya&Cr1=
“UN envoy highlights need to work out details of ceasefire to end Libyan conflict,” May 3, 2011, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38262&Cr=libya&Cr1=
“Yemen’s Saleh still in Yemen, not Saudi Arabia – Saudi” ((Reporting by Amena Bakr; Writing by Amran Abocar; Editing by Myra MacDonald, Reuters), June 4, 2011, http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/yemens-saleh-still-in-yemen-not-saudi-arabia-saudi/
“Yemeni president ‘on way to Saudi Arabia’ — Ali Abdullah Saleh has reportedly flown to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, a day after his compound is attacked,” June 4, 2011,
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