Palestinian children stand amid the rubble of their partially rebuilt house, on May 11, 2015, which was destroyed during the 2014 war in Gaza. (AFP/Thomas Coex, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat slammed on Thursday recent comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Palestinian children, calling it another example of Israel’s “propaganda machine” to justify its “racist narrative” against Palestinians.
In a video released online on Tuesday
, Netanyahu said he was shaken “to the core of (his) being” after seeing footage of a Palestinian father telling Israeli soldiers “Shoot this little boy, after all you always do that to small children” while holding his son at a demonstration in the occupied West Bank village of Nilin.
In his video statement, Netanyahu called the Palestinian father’s actions “inhumane,” and claimed it showed a broader disregard for children in Palestinian society.
“Once again, Israel and its propaganda machine attempt to defend its prolonged and belligerent occupation of Palestine,” Erekat said. “Through seconds in a video, Netanyahu justifies the racist narrative that Palestinians are to blame, rather than Israel’s military machine and armed settlers that exercise violence and oppression against the land and people of Palestine.”
Erekat expressed particular outrage over Netanyahu’s instrumentalization of Palestinian children.
“His public relations tactics won’t change the reality of the daily theft of land and natural resources, the oppression and humiliation that our children suffer on a daily basis, nor will it make us forget that 578 Palestinian children killed in Gaza during the summer of 2014,” Erekat said, in a pointed rebuke to Netanyahu saying in the video that "children are not cannon fodder, they are the most precious things in the world."
“Blaming the Palestinians, and pretending to care about our children, is not only cheap but disingenuous coming from the same government that continues to use every opportunity to violate the rights of Palestinian children, including their fundamental right to a dignified life,” Erekat added, mentioning a recent law passed by the Israeli Knesset allowing the imprisonment of East Jerusalem Palestinian children under the age of 14
“If Mr. Netanyahu truly cares about the future of Palestinian children, he should adopt a culture of peace and justice, rather than his current political program of occupation, colonization, and apartheid.”
The PLO statement identified the Palestinian man in the video as Ayoub Sroor, a resident of Nilin and father of five, and released a video interview of the man describing the impact of the Israeli occupation on him and his family
. Both Sroor and two of his young sons have been severely injured by Israeli forces in the past.
In the interview, Sroor said that he and his three-year-old son Muhammad were attending a demonstration to commemorate the one-year anniversary of an Israeli settler arson attack in the Palestinian village of Duma, in which a toddler and his parents were killed, leaving then-five-year-old Ahmad Dawabsha as the sole survivor
“It was a moment of helplessness,” Sroor said of the demonstration. “I saw the army’s guns pointed at the little children, and I told them: ‘You want to kill little children, here’s the boy.’”
Sroor accused Netanyahu of misrepresenting the situation by failing to show what happened before he made these comments.
“Mr. Sroor’s helpless reaction shows the desperation a life under occupation creates. Netanyahu and his extremist government are the ones responsible for killing the hope in the minds and hearts of millions of Palestinians,” Erekat said.
According to Ma’an data, 54 Palestinian minors have been killed by Israelis since a wave of unrest swept across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October.
In March, children's rights group Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP) accused Israel of "improper use of crowd control weapons"
against Palestinian children during the same time period, citing UN figures, which said that between October and January, Israeli forces injured at least 2,177 Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, prisoners rights group estimated that 414 Palestinian minors were held in Israeli prisons as of May, including 104 under the age of 16.