Universal Children’s Day: Gisha calls on Israel to end its closure on Gaza, and discontinue its systematic violations of children’s rights

Drawing from the Exhibition "Childhood Under Fire". Photo by Gisha

Drawing from the Exhibition “Childhood Under Fire”. Photo by Gisha

November 20, 2018. Universal Children’s Day is marked today around the world. In Gaza, children under the age of 18 account for around half of the total population; about a million children were born and raised in the shadow cast by the closure, tightened by Israel in 2007. Most of them have never set foot outside the Strip, not even to travel to other part of the Palestinian territory; nor have they had the option of visiting relatives, receiving adequate medical care, or attending educational enrichment programs. Even the seemingly straightforward possibility of living with both parents is sometimes denied under Israel’s permit regime.

Childhood in Gaza is not only shaped by the Israeli-imposed closure and its impact on countless aspects of life in the Strip, but also by recurring escalations of violence and military incursions into Gaza, the internal Palestinian rift, the irregular opening of the Rafah Crossing to Egypt, and the inconsistent supply of electricity and potable water. According to estimates by international organizations, more than 300,000 children in Gaza suffer from psychological distress as a result of ongoing trauma and post-trauma. Over the years, rounds of fighting have claimed hundreds of children’s lives in Gaza, left thousands more injured or orphaned, and tens of thousands without a roof over their heads.

In conflict areas around the world, children are considered to be the most vulnerable segment of the population and in need of special protection. According to international law, the best interest of the child takes precedence over other rights and interests, and should be used as a guiding principle in all actions or decisions affecting minors, in order to ensure that they are able to lead normal lives. Though Israel is a signatory to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, the rights of children in Gaza are disregarded daily and their great potential is encumbered by severe restrictions on access to and from the Strip.

Gisha calls on Israel to end its failed policy of closure on Gaza, and discontinue its systematic violations of children’s fundamental human rights.