Mail sent on January 20 th2004 to London – based “ Coalition to stop the Use of Child Soldiers”

A year ago, we expressed to you our concern that the recruitment of Palestinian children and their encitement to martyrdom and self-sacrifice had been left out from UN Report on children and armed conflicts. In your answer, you informed us of research work being undertaken “to provide concrete data on the recruitment and use of children in Israel and the occupied territories”. Your newly-released report, ahead of the UN Security Council’s 4th open debate on children and armed conflict, has drawn all our attention. We believe protection of children from armed conflicts and the ban on the recruitment of child-soldiers is one of the world’ s most important issues. Interesting and extensive as it is and although we agree with most of your conclusions concerning the plight of African children, we find it extremely understated with regards with the situation of Palestinian children. {{Concerning education we have witnessed worrying facts which are not mentioned in your report, making it deficient :}} We have witnessed parades of military-uniformed children many of them under 13 and sometimes as young as 8. We have seen some very young children equipped with mock explosive belts in such parades. We have seen posters inside and around schools praising suicide bombers as martyrs. We have heard politicians, teachers and educators expressing their pride in the high national awareness of pupils from the age of 8 onwards. We have witnessed several educational and leisure events such as football tournaments, prize-winning competitions, summer camps organized in honour to “martyrs”. We have viewed several Palestinian Television youth programmes publicizing “Shahada” (martyrdom). In one video clip, a child actor played the part of young Mohamed Al Durah, supposedly in a wonderful Paradise , the clip ending with the words “Follow me”. {{It is our belief that all these facts should lead to explicit recommendations to the Palestinian Authority, unfortunately missing from your report. Concerning the direct recruitment of under-18 teenagers as fighters, suicide bombers and in military operations, your report unfortunately also leaves out several facts.}}Official denials issued by armed groups are irrelevant, only facts count : in the year 2003, very young Palestinians have been repeatedly sent on life-endangering actions and test missions or have been used to convey weapons. The report does not mention their cases. Also the youngest suicide bomber was not 17 as the report states but 14 ( Rishon Lezion 22 May 2002 ) It is most important for NGOs to be accurate on such facts in their reports. The year 2004 has but started and already a 17 year-old Palestinian youth has died when his bomb belt exploded prematurely. Palestinian voices have begun to question such actions like Hasan Badtil in “Al-Ayam” (“If society does not have the courage to speak out on this issue, we could see 10-year-olds and pregnant women blowing themselves up”. ) Certainly world NGO should have the courage to support such voices and avoid any kind of self-censorship in their reports. We believe the future is at stake and consider suicide bombing, spreading worldwide, a crime against humanity and the greatest danger to World Peace.