Gaza children train in weapons-use at a Hamas summer camp in June 2021.
In May, as Israel defended itself from yet another onslaught of missiles fired from Gaza, thousands of academics wrote and signed statements of solidarity with Palestinians.
Along with the usual professions of contempt for the "colonial-settler" Jewish state came another staple of anti-Israel propaganda – claims that Israel deliberately targets Palestinian children.
The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) condemned collateral damage to schools during the Israeli campaign in Gaza as a clear "violation of Palestinians' right to education," while faculty at the University of California, Davis used the term "edu-cide" to describe Israel's "assault on the education of Palestinian youth." The Feminist Studies department at UC, Santa Cruz declared that "31 Palestinian children have been murdered" by Israel.
Palestinian children deserve statements of solidarity that accurately highlight the causes of their suffering.
Such claims are nonsense, of course. Given the fact that Hamas deliberately positions rocket launchers and other military sites in civilian areas and half the population of Gaza is under the age of 18, it's inevitable that children will suffer in any conflict between Israel and its militant Islamist adversary, despite extraordinary measures Israel takes to avoid harming civilians.
But Palestinian children do deserve our sympathies. Instead of cynically weaponizing their suffering to attack Jews, those who genuinely care about Palestinian children should sign statements of solidarity that accurately highlight both the suffering they have endured and the causes of their suffering. Since there are no such statements around, I wrote one:
In Solidarity with Palestinian Children
We, the signatories below, decry and denounce the cynical and systemic abuse of Palestinian children by the adults who have turned them into soldiers in their war against the state of Israel. We say enough of this child abuse.
We mourn that Palestinian children have for decades been groomed to perform as warriors by their elders: sent out to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers in the first Intifada, recruited as suicide bombers in the second Intifada, and forced to dig tunnels from Gaza into Israel today. Hamas officials admit that 160 children died recently doing the grisly work.
Some estimates suggest that over 20% of Palestinian children are malnourished today, this in spite of untold billions of dollars given to Palestinian leaders since 1948, a number that grew substantially after the Oslo Accords.
We know that Hamas diverts millions of dollars of Gaza's aid every year to building tunnels and rockets, and the PA spends millions on salaries for imprisoned terrorists and pensions for the families of suicide bombers.
As we welcome back our own children from the safety of our summer camps, we are haunted by images of Palestinian Arab children conscripted to Hamas and Islamic Jihad campswhere they learn to shoot Kalashnikov rifles and are encouraged to "butcher the Jews."
We understand that religious fanatics are not the only abusers of Palestinian Arab children, that the quasi-secular Palestinian Authority (PA) operates an education system designed to inculcate in them a xenophobic hatred for the Jewish "Other."
Yasser Arafat boasted in 2002 that dead children are "the greatest message to the world," and in 2020, Fatah party leader Jibril Rajoub declared, "We are prepared to sacrifice our children."
We remember how the Palestinian cultural leaders used children's entertainment to instill hatred, like the infamous Tomorrow's Pioneers program with Farfour, the Jew-hating version of Mickey Mouse. We recoiled in horror as the curriculum of hatred became more elaborate throughout the 21st century, and we shuddered as text books, comic books, cartoons, and music videos were used to twist young minds.
We know too that this barbaric indoctrination continues today, even in the United Nations schools which Hamas uses to store weapons. Therefore, we unequivocally condemn every educator who participates in the brainwashing of Palestinian children, be they Hamas teachers, Fatah teachers, or U.N. teachers. As a song from another era put it: "Hey teachers, leave them kids alone!"
Finally, we condemn militant anti-Zionists in the West who exploit Palestinian Arab children to demonize the Jewish state. Among the worst such offenders is the New York Times which on May 26, used images of dead Palestinian children to sell papers, even though many of those kids were killed by some of the 680 errant Hamas rockets that fell into Gaza.
And so we stand in solidarity with all Palestinian children as they struggle to live normal lives guided by some of the most atrocious role models on Earth. We affirm their right to reject the fantasy forced upon them of a "Palestine from the river to the sea."
The petition is available here at Change.org, where anyone can sign it, even anonymously. Wouldn't it be something if the thousands of academics who condemned Israel also condemned the real abusers of Palestinian children?
A.J. Caschetta is a principal lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a fellow at Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, where he is also a Ginsburg-Milstein fellow.