Saturday, June 09, 2007

Remembering the Children of 40 years of Occupation

A few nights ago, I read out loud 7 or 8 pages of names, names like Khaled Adli Bassem al-Bazyan and Sara Abdul-Azim Abdul-Haq Hasan, and names like Shalhevet Tehiya Pass and Naftali Lanzkorn. These children were among the 943 Palestinian and 118 Israeli children who have been killed since 2000.

Khaled was 14 and lived in Nablus. He was killed when an Israeli soldier shot him in the abdomen during a demonstration on the Nablus-Ramallah road. He died in September of 2000. Sara was 18 months old. She lived near Salfit, in the same area where I used to live. She was killed by an Israeli settler who shot her in head while she was riding in the car with her father.

Shalevet Tehiya Pass, was 10 months old and lived in the Avraham Avinu settlement. Shalevet was shot by a Palestinian sniper while playing on the playground. Naftali was killed by a Palestinian sucide bomber near Kfar Saba. She was 13 years old. Both Naftali and Shalevet died in March 2001.

On Wednesday, we read all 1,063 names of Israeli and Palestinian children killed since 2000 outside of the Northwest Convergence, a conference featuring members of the Likkud party who strongly advocate the continuance of the Israeli occupation. While former Prime Minister Netenyahu spoke about Israel's glorious fight against terrorism, we read names. It took us an hour and a half to finish.

It's was easy to lose myself in the complex task of sounding out names like Shalevet and Khaled. It took all of my concentration to stumble my way through unfamiliar sounds and multisyllabic surnames. But then I would come across a name I knew well - Fadi, Jamil, Bassem, Huda, Mohamed, Rachel. I can't help but picture other children I know with those names and wonder if they're still okay.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip. Our congress has chosen to mark this week by congratulating Israel on its military might. I wish that they had instead read out the names of 40 children killed in this conflict or listened to the testimonies of 40 families whose homes have been demolished or looked at pictures of 40 olive trees uprooted or 40 lines at checkpoints.

How many more years? How many more children?

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