Palestinian children in the crosshairs of apartheid

75 years have passed since the start of the Nakba and a fourth generation of Palestinians is being born into the struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

With every generation Israeli policies targeting Palestinian children and childhood are worsening. They come in many different forms and are no side effects but a necessary component of Israel’s settler colonial project and apartheid regime. 

It is overdue for us to develop a clear understanding of this horrific aspect of Israeli policy and build an effective response to it.  

From January to August 2023 Israel has killed at least 38 Palestinian children, injured almost 1000, and 160 are lingering in Israeli jails. 2280 Palestinian children have been killed since January 2000. 

Beyond the shocking numbers and the painful stories behind each case, there is an evident pattern in Israeli policies.

The settlers’ quest for sustainable oppression

Settler colonialism is by definition a long term project of conquest of territory that substitutes the Indigenous population with a settler population. For this effort to be enduring over time, it is fundamental for the colonizer to eliminate the Indigenous population or at least their resistance – or, as Israeli politicians and ideologues repeat, to destroy their hope to achieve justice. 

Patrick Wolfe calls it a ‘logic of elimination’, a central element of settler-colonial societies across the world. It includes the physical, genocidal elimination of the people as much as their expulsion from the land and a plethora of strategies aimed at destructuring, fragmenting and debilitating the Indigenous society so that at least the next generation will not resist any longer the dispossession and oppression, and surrenders the claims to their rights. 

Native American women such as the Women of All Red Nations have highlighted that colonial politics are necessarily reproductive politics. As settler colonialism seeks to undercut the ability of a society to reproduce itself, its policies act in a continuum of attacks ranging from biological to social reproduction. With every generation of insurgent Indigenous people, the focus by the colonial powers on the destruction and/or control of education, childhood and even childbirth grows.

The imposition of a regime of apartheid as an attempt to create a sustainable colonial regime becomes crucial when physical, genocidal elimination is impossible or not sought after. It eliminates the Indigenous people from certain spaces, excludes them from the field of (full) citizens and justifies continued repression of any claims and struggle of the oppressed. 

Decision makers of South Africa’s form of apartheid initially thought that repression of the adults it exploited in the mines and industry, and control over the curriculum of the non-white children and youth was sufficient to stop resistance and create a docile, easily exploitable underclass of people. 

Yet, the non-White youth rose up in mass protests and the regime turned to brutal repression. When in 1976 up to ten thousand students mobilized against the racially discriminatory and repressive education system, the apartheid forces killed between 400 to 600 students. Between 1984 and 1986 an estimated 11000 children, some as young as nine years old, were detained without trial, ill-treated and tortured in South African dungeons. 

Israeli policies follow similar logic. 

Israel’s logic of elimination

Zionist ideologues and politicians have always known that a strategy of elimination was necessary in order to create the state of Israel on Palestinian land, despite the Palestinian people. 

Almost inevitably, over the last two decades, the genocidal statements and slogans of political leaders as well as street protests promoting the killing of Palestinian children have increased and become commonplace. 

Whether liberal or right-wing Zionists, if they want to continue to sustain their apartheid regime over the Palestinian people in the future, they will have to, as Golda Meir understood, continue to kill Palestinian children.

Israel’s policies of elimination

Israeli policies of physical elimination

The most basic form of elimination is the killing of children. Israeli apartheid also employs various forms of detention.

Israel’s attempts to eliminate the hope and capacity to resist 

The denial of the right to education is an essential part of Israel’s efforts to eliminate the Palestinian people.

We defy….

A Palestinian pedagogy of liberation

Palestinians have developed forms of resilience even against these socio-cidal effects of Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.

What can you do?

We cannot simply ignore what is happening as this means invisibilizing an important part of the Palestinian suffering and struggle.

We defy

Sing our songs

Sweep the sick streets with our angry dances

Saturate the prisons with dignity and pride

Keep on making children

One revolutionary generation

After another

As though we were twenty impossibilities

In Lydda, Ramla, and Galilee!

(Tawfiq Zayyad)


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