Theater of Cruelty

The Gaza children do not play like others

A seven-year-old in today's Gaza has experienced three brutal wars. But bleak prospects also create violence among Gaza's children.


Basem's armed group eventually succeeds in capturing the opponents, forcing them to surrender with their hands over their heads. They push the prisoners hard in the back with plastic Kalashnikovs, after hunting them for a few minutes. We are in a refugee camp in Gaza, and the camp's kids have fighting games as their favorite pastime when they gather after school. Then they imitate the Palestinian resistance fighters who capture Israeli soldiers, by arming themselves with models of Kalashnikovs, machine guns, RPG rocket launchers and serrated wooden knives. "I feel very strong – stronger than my friends when we play fighting games," said heavily armed 14-year-old Basem Abu Muhsin, who has reinforced both of his flanks with Uzi submachine guns. The intoxication of victory is strong when the opponents have to surrender after a violent exchange of shots, he says. "We like to buy such war toys when we want to have a little fun. As you can see, there are no gardens or woods in our camp, so we prefer to play resistance fighters and Israeli occupation soldiers, "says Basim to Ny Tid while he cabins with his plastic weapon. Basim and his family live in the camp by the beach in the western part of Gaza, a city that covers one square kilometer. It is one of the poorest and most densely populated cities in the world, with 104 people crammed together. For the children, there are no playgrounds, nor any institutions with activities where they can develop their abilities. Rania Abu Muhsin, mother of Basem and his six brothers, says that “they spend all their time in the neighborhood, and not a day goes by without fights with friends and neighbors. Sometimes they hurt each other. " 000-year-old Rania believes that the children are very influenced by what they see in the streets – for example, masked men who march with weapons in hand to demonstrate their power. Child Recruitment. The Hamas al-Qassam brigades used to organize biannual training camps for children, where they learned about security measures, various forms of martial arts, and picking apart and putting together weapons. Hamas recently organized a camp under the name "The Liberation Foreword", which lasted for two weeks. It attracted 17 children between the ages of 000 and 9. Instructor Ibrahim Qanan believes that the reason the camps mobilize their parents is because the kids themselves encourage them to join the resistance fight and at least repair weapons while the fighting is going on. Hamas has provided information on places to register – first and foremost in the mosques, the main streets and outside the school yards. Resistance fighters in Gaza believe Palestinian youths tend to choose resistance fights as the path to liberation, as attempts at political solutions have failed. Violent demonstrations, which the children themselves want or are forced to attend, leave clues in the way they think and express themselves. Although seven months have passed since the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, there are still missiles and rockets that sound in the children's ears, as the sight of dead and injured dominates their performances and pursues them day and night.

"Occasionally we would like the kids to draw nature and beaches, but they are constantly blending black helicopters or tanks among the butterflies and flowers." Mandi Serdah

Bad motives. Drawings of destruction, fire, missiles, rockets, houses in ruins and evacuees hang in droves on the walls of the Arfaluna Center for Deaf Children in Gaza. "The children here always insist on drawing scenes from the last three wars Israel has waged," said Mandi Serdah, head of the center. It is remarkable that seven-year-old children have experienced three wars – in 2008, 2012 and 2014. The last lasted 50 days, and over 2 people were killed, one third of whom were children. Nour Al-Madhoun, a 200-year-old student, says via deaf interpreter – after completing a drawing of fleeing people between smoke and missiles: “I remember my family running from one house to another, but I did not know what that happened, so I did just like them: ran without hearing anything. " 12-year-old Maison Radi, who is also deaf, has drawn rabbits in line in front of a grass shop: "During the war, I saw my mother standing in line in front of a bakery to buy dry cakes after the fresh bread was sold out." "Sometimes we like the kids to draw nature and beaches, but they constantly mix in black helicopters or tanks among the butterflies and flowers. It seems as if the children's performances are full of such violence, "Serdah tells Ny Tid.

"We like to buy such war games when we are having a little fun. As you can see, there are no gardens or woods in our camp, so we prefer to play resistance fighters and Israeli occupation soldiers. ” Basem Abu Muhsin (14)

Traumas. The children are the ones who have suffered most from the violence that has again occurred between Gaza and Israel, according to statements by UNICEF leader Anthony Lake after the war last summer. The violence has deep psychological effects and causes nightmares and mental disorders, Lake states. Thousands of children in Gaza have seen with their own eyes parents and friends being killed or mutilated, and blood pools and corpses in the streets. On the other side of the border, Israeli schools that risk being hit by Palestinian rockets had to close during the last war. The Israeli government claims that 300 students were affected. The adverse effects of violence on children are perhaps the only things the two parties to the conflict can agree on. Psychiatrist Amr Abu Khalil says the violence against Gaza's children creates shock and post-traumatic stress disorders. Nightmares and extreme wakefulness associated with flashbacks of all kinds of war scenes are the result. Nail biting, lack of appetite, poor communication with others and the use of violence to get through their demands are also typical. "This is how violence is brought about by violence," Abu Khalil points out. "Memories of war can have long-lasting, negative effects until well into adulthood, if they are not processed during or shortly after the war." Drawing and playing plays and music are among the activities that bring out the child's emotions in a positive way, as opposed to helping to clean up the ruins of one's own home or school, he adds. The latter can all too easily bring back the memories of the violence scenes. No, no and no. Adnan Abu Amer is a political analyst and commentator who believes that the children who threw stones at the Israeli forces in the first uprising in 1987 are driven by the trauma they received and became suicide bombers ten years later. He believes that the Israeli Likud party's victory in the March elections represents a new triumph for racists and those behind the persistent occupation and settlement policy. This victory for the party led by Benjamin Netanyahu creates pessimism among the Palestinians. Netanyahu waged the last two wars against Gaza, thus destroying the hope of peace in the time to come. Abu Amer declares: "The three 'nays' were what won the most right-wing party to win: no to a Palestinian state, no to a divided Jerusalem and no to halt the development of settlements in the occupied territories." This officially states that Netanyahu does not want peace with the Palestinians, because Palestinian leaders will not give up on basic Palestinian principles such as conditions for peace and an end to the conflict. "In addition to the armed resistance, an independent, viable and geographically connected Palestinian state within the 1967 borders is the key to peace and stability in the Middle East. There is Palestinian, Arab and European agreement that the two-state solution is the only path to peace and stability in this troubled part of the world, ”Amer adds. Basem, Nour, Maison and thousands of other children in Gaza believe the hope for a political solution is shrinking after more than 60 years of conflict, blockade, suffering and murder, saying: "The future will not be bright after today."

Alkabariti is the correspondent in Gaza for New Time.

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