Sami Al Jundi, a Palestinian former militant-turned-peacemaker whose story I chronicle in The Hour of Sunlight, once boiled down for me his vision of a peaceful future in the Middle East: Israeli children will only know safety and security when Palestinian children’s rights and needs are secured; and Palestinian children will only know safety and security when Israeli children’s rights and needs are secured.
Today, it is children who are paying the highest price of the current horrifying violence. A report released on July 22 by OCHA, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, states that in the two previous days, one child was killed in Gaza every two hours—and that there have been more children killed in Gaza than militants killed.
On July 28, at least eight children in Gaza were killed when a playground was shelled. Entire extended families—children included—have been literally wiped out. According to Save the Children, one-third of those injured in Gaza are children and tens of thousands more have been displaced from their homes, or have lost homes that were damaged or destroyed. Children in Israel know fear and insecurity as rockets are fired from Gaza. Rockets, however crude and ineffective they may be, are nonetheless indiscriminately targeting population centers.
In the midst of this terrifying escalation, what hope is there that Sami’s vision will ever come to fruition? Who on the ground in Israel and Palestine is doing the work to dismantle the structures of violence, injustice, and oppression and replace them with structures of true equality; structures where every human life is accorded equal value and every child’s rights and needs and fears are given equal weight? It is only under those circumstances that we can begin to talk about a just and durable peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
The reality has never been so grim. And yet, in the midst of this darkness, there are Israelis and Palestinians who are working tirelessly for an end to bloodshed, and to all forms of violence—including the structural violence of the occupation/siege.
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