Westminster meeting focuses on Israel's brutal treatment of Palestinian children

A daily scene in West Bank

A daily scene in West Bank

The daily life of children in the Holy Land under occupation by the Israeli military forces in Israel was shown in a moving film at an event on Tuesday given by Westminster and Bayswater Group of Amnesty International.

The plight of one little boy, Saleh, illustrated the trauma of a whole generation of youngsters in fear of imprisonment and harassment, when he declared: "I feel nothing."

Victoria Brittain, of Action 4 Children in Palestine, was joined by Sir Geoffrey Bindman, QC, from Independent Jewish Voices, and Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi to describe their work with the children and the legal background to their situation.

"Saleh's numbness in the face of such brutalisation is the most harrowing reaction he could have," Victoria said. "Parents have told me that their children are arrested, taken off in the back of military vehicles, kicked and beaten under interrogation, and when they come back they are not the same children. The trauma makes them unrecognisable."

She works with Defense for Children International - Palestine, which found that 85 per cent of children are brutalised at the time of arrest. One boy described how he was arrested for playing with snowballs, which soldiers said were stones. Another, who was playing with a friend in Gaza near the border, when the Israeli army started chasing him. Terrified, he ran away, so they shot him in the groin, almost killing him, and emasculating him by damaging his testicles. Now he will never be able to have a family.

Victoria told the group, which included parishoners from local C of E Churches, St Peter's Eaton Square, hosting the evening, St James's Piccadilly, St Paul's Knightsbridge, and from Holy Apostles Catholic Church, Pimlico, that her group's mission was to promote and protect the human rights of Palestinian Children. She deplored a new Israeli law allowing children as young as 12 to be jailed.

Sir Geoffrey Bindman, QC, explained the legal framework which led to the abuses against children, and described measures which could be taken to alleviate the suffering of the children, including pressuring the UK Government to recognise Palestine as a State.

Pat Gaffney described the work of Pax Christi, particularly in this World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel, which ends on Saturday. She urged people to write to their MPs, expressing concern at the forced displacement of hundreds of Palestinians, including children, due to illegal demolition of their homes. Everyone was urged to keep up the pressure for justice, through letters, pressure groups like Defence for Children International-Palestine, Amnesty International, or Pax Christi, and sharing in Palestinian Cultural events.