The #DismantleTheGhetto campaign in Hebron receives huge international support, Israel responds with aggression and threats
Al-Khalil, more commonly known as Hebron, is one of the oldest cities in the world and has been inhabited by Palestinians for many centuries. Today it is a divided city.
In Hebron, Israeli settlers started their illegal colonial project in 1968... (read more)
Our report aims to focus on the supporting acts and advocacy work that can be exercised regarding how children can defend and protect themselves in their daily life during political violence. It is a well known fact that many Palestinian children suffer from different types of trauma related psychological disorders due to the occupation. Especially revealing is the number in areas close to the settlement were research show that almost everybody, 100%, of the children show some type of PTSD (Qouta & Odeh 2005). But this report does not aim to declare the numbers of children suffering from stress related symptoms due to their safety situation within Palestine. Nor will it include facts and statistics about what kind of violations that occur and to what extent. As stated above, our focus is upon the protective activities in which the children can be involved.
School & Education
Studies shows that the school represents a physical setting where children engage in the activities of learning, playing, and socializing, and ultimately, symbolizes hope for a positive individual and collective future for children and their families in Palestine. Yet the understandings of school as a safe place is challenged by the everyday realities and complexities presented by the ongoing occupation and protracted political violence. Therefore, the meaning of the place of school also represents a place of violence and risk. In other words, there is a clear tension between education as a place of hope versus school as a place of violence.
Accessing school can be a dangerous activity for children, with children being arrested and detained by Israeli soldiers or facing harassment from settlers during their school journey (as previously reported by DCIP). Even within school, children face threats such as flying checkpoints, school demolition orders, as well as intra-Palestinian violence. In fact, this research indicated that the potential for violence that Palestinian children face when accessing or within school is a major barrier for some children's attendance. Children do not want to attend school because of the potential for violence. In these ways, school represents a place of both violence and hope for Palestinian children.
Despite the multiple challenges posed by the occupation, children still make great efforts to attend school. Education has a major potential as resistance advocacy for children. In this way, education represents a means by which children and families can resist the occupation in their everyday lives in a non-violent way, and gain control over their futures. In addition, and this is of highest importance, for children who face the everyday uncertainty of political violence, education can also be a place of routine in the midst of daily violence and oppression.
A major question then is, how can Palestinian families address this tension? Education is not protective in and of itself. The tension of school as a place of both violence and hope points to the need to recognize the complexities of providing education to children affected by political violence.
Agency & psychology
Research further shows that the agency of the children themselves is largely ignored. Many of the major humanitarian aid organizations do either overlook children’s own agency or frame the quantitative study in a way that doesn’t focus on what would benefit the children the most, but rather what their donors want to hear. It is necessary to examine the conceptual and institutional framework within which organizations are dedicated to protection operate. There has been extended work within the academia and in the field to raise a new generation of child protection professional, but these studies seem limited. In fact, the approach has served to deflect attention away from the root causes. Because at the very bottom, the major players in the international community have a pathetic approach to the conflict and situation in Palestine (Hart & Lo Forte, 2013).
Although it is of the highest relevance to mention that many children and their families benefit from the various kinds of such work done by these organizations towards mental and emotional well-being. Yet it is equally clear that, to a large extent, psychosocial programming is ameliorative in nature, failing to address the causes of stress and trauma experienced by the young. Moreover, these causes are continuing if not increasing in severity in the form of forcible displacement, detention, settler violence, and constraints on mobility. There is no inherent contradiction between the response and prevention aspects of child protection work. Prevention, though, is likely to prove much harder not only in practical respects but also politically.
Hart & Lo Forte (2013) criticize the manner in which the object of concern—the Palestinian child—is constructed. Engagement in psychosocial programming is predicated on, and validated by, the assumption that young Palestinians are passive and vulnerable, in dire need of psychological and emotional support. Owing to this construction an organization can claim publicly that it is ‘a lifeline for children at risk’ even while they are subjected to blockade and occupation. The children are never engaged in their own primary protection needs. Starting from a different construction of Palestinians children—as social actors engaged in thinking seriously about and acting on their abject circumstances—would likely lead to a different kind of enquiry and produce a different picture of needs. Our approach is described in the conclusion of the paper.
Family & el Hamula
First, family and parent-child attachment are considered important in providing a protective shield for children’s psychological well-being in dangerous conditions (Garbarino et al., 1991; Freud & Burlingham, 1943). Second, children and youths have played a very active role in the national struggle. They were, and continue to be, an essential element in the initiation, planning, and organization of demonstrations against and confrontations with Israeli soldiers (Kuttab, 1998). We argue that even if the children are not actively fighting on the streets they still experience the national struggle on an emotional level. That is why, one can argue to focus the discourse in an open and honest dialogue at home, in school, and after school activities that the children participate in where the children feel free to talk and to ask questions about the occupation. According to Healing Across the Divides, strengthening the community is beneficial for the community as a whole and it trickles down to individual level. The organization also emphasizes the communication of knowledge as a frame work for supporting children in these difficult situations.
Children employ various defenses and coping strategies against stressors to protect their psychological and emotional well-being. Scientists suggest there is a variation in resilience; the likelihood of problems developing is related to psycho-social coping factors. (Folkman et al, 1986). Broadly, some of the protective factors that have been identified are the following:
- The child’s capacity to recognize and avoid dangers,
- The child’s ability to use adults for care-taking activities,
- The child’s capacity to manage anxiety,
- The child’s ability to devote him/her self to a cause and to find meaning in the experience.
Other factors include the degree of social, community, and family cohesiveness and perceived social, as well as, shared values and belief systems with children and those around them. (https://www.esciencecentral.org/journals/psychological-effects-of-war-and-violence-on-children-jpab-S1-e001.php?aid=68333#13)
In Gaza, a study surveyed a sample of school-age children four years after the war and concluded that most of the children continued to live in impoverished communities. This compromised social infrastructure represented an ongoing stressor manifested by dangerous and unhealthy conditions such as overcrowded conditions, unsafe playgrounds without access to sports fields. The vast majority of children felt unsafe in the streets, experienced school problems, and were frequently ill. Nevertheless, somehow the children were seen as adopting healthy strategies to cope with stressful events in their lives (Baráth, 2002). Research found that the 40% of children in the Gaza strip who had been initially met criteria for current probable PTSD decreased about 10% in PTSD symptoms one year later with the onset of the peace process (Thabet and Vostanis, 2012).
A fundamental question is whether such events inevitably lead to deterioration in mental health or whether some forms of resilience and coping emerge. For example, a hopeful conceptualization is that children may develop resilience and adapt in one way or another to stressful events because of the continual exposure to such events. However, one should not surrender to a complete view of children as being able to form a “psychological immunization”!
The study suggested that the psychological effects of war and violence on children depend on a range of factors such as the pre-war scenario, atrocities to which the child is subjected during the war, and post-war conditions. The collection of data from war-like situations for further research is difficult and by no means at all times applicable to the situation of occupation in the West Bank. But there is no research available explicitly concerning the supporting pediatric psychological care for children in occupied areas.
On the basis of the above mentioned arguments and research, DCIP wants to promote and emphasize our Child Data Collection as a framework to build further proaction work. This framework will emphasize the children's own agency. From their own knowledge about their life and living condition in the grown up world, children can build protection programs suitable for their needs. Diverse place-based research methods including drawing, mapmaking, neighborhood walks, etc encourage children's participation and decrease the risk of grown ups talking in their place. We also emphasize our advocacy work to strengthen the self image of the children and to build strong adults who will keep on fighting the very root of the problem, the occupation.
Protective Activities for Children Facing the Occupation in their Everyday Life
Creating Resilency in Youth Living Under Occupation
Freedom Now For Tel Rumeida and Shuhada Street
Dismantle the Ghetto--Take the Settlers Out of Hebron
Study & Report from DCIP