by Khaled Abu Toameh
The exploitation of children in the fight against Israel has attracted little attention from the international community and the media. Human rights groups and the UN have chosen to turn a blind eye to this human rights abuse. Instead of condemning it, these groups are busy denouncing Israel for targeting minors.
This strategy works out well for Hamas and Fatah, who can always blame Israel for "deliberately targeting" Palestinian children — an allegation the media in the West often endorses without asking questions.
Even more worrying is that the Palestinian groups often reward the families, who then become less motivated to stop their children from risking their lives.
Adult activists who encourage and send children to take part in violence should be held accountable, not only by Israel but by their own people. If these adults want an intifada, they should be the first to go out and confront Israeli policemen and soldiers.
Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian groups are using children from east Jerusalem and the West Bank in what appears to be a new intifada against Israel.
Nearly half of the Palestinians arrested by Jerusalem Police over the past few months are minors. Some of them are as young as nine.
These children are being sent to throw stones and firebombs, and launch fireworks at policemen and IDF soldiers, as well as at Israeli civilians and vehicles, including buses and the light rail in Jerusalem.
Masked Palestinian youths hurl rocks at a Jewish kindergarten near the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Sept. 2014.
Instead of condemning those who exploit the children and dispatch them to confront policemen and soldiers, these groups and institutions are busy denouncing Israel for targeting minors.
Most of the children's attacks occur after school, so they are not deprived of education. But sadly, some of the Palestinian minors get killed or wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces.
Orwa Hammad, a 14-year-old Palestinian-American boy from the village of Silwad near Ramallah, was shot dead by IDF soldiers last week. The IDF says he was spotted preparing to hurl a firebomb at Israeli vehicles.
Earlier, 13-year-old Bahaa Bader was shot dead by IDF soldiers in the village of Beit Likya, also in the Ramallah area. An IDF spokesman said soldiers responded with live fire when residents threw firebombs at them as they were exiting the village.
Last month, 16-year-old Mohammed Sinokort from the Wadi al-Joz neighborhood of Jerusalem was killed during a stone-throwing incident.
This is not the first time that Palestinian groups use children in the struggle against Israel. During the first intifada, which erupted in 1987, children and women were often at the forefront in clashes with Israeli security personnel.
This strategy works out well for Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Fatah. At the end of the day, they can always blame Israel for "deliberately" targeting Palestinian children and women -- an allegation that the mainstream media in the West often endorses without asking questions.
Moreover, the Palestinian groups know that the children who are being sent to confront Israeli soldiers and policemen will not be held accountable.
Most of the minors detained by the Jerusalem Police for their involvement in the violence are released to house arrest. In cases where the children are aged nine to 13, they are referred to social welfare authorities without being detained.
The majority of these children are going out to throw stones and firebombs at Israelis because they are come from poor families or are lacking in good education and other economic and social privileges. But many of them come from middle-class families and do not live in refugee camps.
These children are victims of a campaign of indoctrination and incitement that is being waged by various Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Fatah. It is a campaign that is being waged through the media, mosques, educational institutions and the fiery rhetoric of leaders and activists.
What is even more worrying is that the Palestinian groups often reward the families of the children by hiring lawyers and paying fines imposed on them by Israeli courts. As a result, the families are less motivated to stop their children from risking their lives.
There are also reports that Fatah and Hamas activists in Jerusalem have been paying children small sums of money to throw stones and firebombs at Israelis and block roads in several Arab neighborhoods.
Hamas and Fatah had long discovered that children are one of the most effective tools in the fight against Israel -- especially because of the damage Israel sustains in the court of international public opinion.
Thus far, it appears that the Palestinian groups have been successful in their effort to depict Israel as a country that deliberately targets Palestinian minors whose only crime is that they "resisted occupation."
Dressing children in military uniforms and allowing them to carry rifles and pistols during rallies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is one way of encouraging them to put their lives at risk. But of course Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian factions do not see anything wrong with this practice.
The adult activists who send and encourage children to take part in violence should be held accountable, not only by Israeli authorities, but also by their own people and international human rights organizations. If these adults want an intifada, they should be the first to go out and confront Israeli policemen and soldiers.
The time has come for the international community and media to pay attention to their disturbing conduct and demand that Palestinian groups stop hiding behind children.
Khaled Abu Toameh
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.