EPF PIN member Maurine Tobin of Maine writes about Breaking A Generation – The Israeli Occupation: Its Damage to Palestinian Children, Its Cost to Israeli Children
Sponsored by Friends of Sabeel North America and Tree of Life Educational Fund, this powerful conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 1 addressed from many angles the trauma inflicted on children by the ongoing occupation and conflict in Palestine/Israel. With opening prayers by Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clergy, the conference also featured Palestinian musicians, offering songs at intervals through the day. Artwork by children of Gaza depicting the reality of their lives filled the walls.
The lead off speaker, Ivan Karakashian of Defence for Children International-Palestine, shared chilling documentaries revealing the widespread night raids, detention and torture of Palestinians age 10 -16 and sometimes younger, many of whom are held without charge and without access to family or legal counsel. His presentation was followed by two panels, one focusing on the long-terms effects of such trauma on Palestinian children, and one focusing on the growing movement of Israeli youth refusing to serve in the IDF, many of whom pay a high price of imprisonment and ostracization because they take a moral stance against the militarization of Israeli society and the resulting harm inflicted on Palestinians.
Perhaps the most compelling speaker of the day was Dr. Mads Gilbert, whose program “Eyes in Gaza–Summer 2014: Darkness at Noon,” recounted his experiences during the most recent assault on Gaza and the terrible toll of 500 child deaths and countless injuries, including widespread malnutrition and post-traumatic stress syndrome.
After hearing of such rampant devastation to children and families, it was heartening that the conference concluded with a powerful addresses by Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement and Caroline Hunter of the South Africa boycott movement, highlighting ways to use BDS to achieve change. They were followed by a dozen local activists sharing their strategies for advancing boycott and divestment during a panel moderated by Don Wagner of FOSNA. Their powerful message of commitment and the power of social action reminded participants that we are not helpless in the face of injustice and called upon each of us to renew our own efforts to work strategically in our communities to effect change.