The internationally agreed definition for a child associated with an armed force or armed group (child soldier) is any person below 18 years of age who is, or who has been, recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, spies or for sexual purposes. It does not only refer to a child who is taking or has taken a direct part in hostilities.
(Paris Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups, 2007.)
In the last decade, the world has turned it’s attention, rightfully to the plight of child soldiers all over the world. A quick google search will show you tales of child soldiers in many parts of the world and a multitude of originizations working to help and protect these children. Researchers say that almost every conflict in the world today uses child soldiers in one way or another.
The use of child soldiers by state or non-state groups is a violation of so many international laws it is kinda hard to list them all. The following treaties, international laws and UN Security Council resolutions all explicitly outlaw the use of child soldiers:
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
UN Security Council Resolutions 1261 (1999), 1314 (2000), 1379 (2001), 1460 (2003), 1539 (2004) 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009) and 1998 (2011)
Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict
International Labour Organization (ILO) Minimum Age Convention 138
International Labour Organization (ILO) Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention 182
The Paris Commitments and Principles (2007)
And there are more. I could spend this entire post listing all of the laws, treaties and resolutions that ban the use of child soldiers from around the world and I still probably wouldn’t get them all. This is one of the most universal evils. It is roundly condemned by the civilized world, and most of the uncivilized world, everywhere it rears its evil head. There is only one place in the world where there is no talk about child soldiers. There are only a few regimes that are not called out from all corners of the map when they use child soldiers. Unfortunately for Israel, Israelis and most of all, Palestinian children, the regimes that are not condemned for this are The Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and the place is Palestine.
For some reason, we never hear any discussion of child soldiers in Palestine, but we all very clearly know they exist and that it is nothing new. The PLO, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have for decades used children as fodder to throw rocks, fireworks and explosives at soldiers, as bombers, as lookouts and couriers. Hamas has been even more brazen, publicizing its recruitment of an army of child soldiers. In the current wave of terrorism in Israel and Palestine, we have seen attackers as young as 13 years old. These child soldiers have been called to action by Abu Mazen, The PA, and Hamas who then glorify them to encourage more children to commit attacks.
The undeniable fact is that child soldiers are used by both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in contravention of more international laws than can be reasonably counted. All of this done without a word of international condemnation. Everything you hear is about Israeli violations of international law and then there is an argument back and forth. People give statutes and interpretations of international law on both sides. But here we have a clear and unambiguous violation of international human rights, labor, war and child rights laws and we don’t hear word one from the international community.
The use of child soldiers is an unquestionable evil. This is because when child soldiers are used not only can’t their be any winners, but it makes any kind of real peace that much harder to attain. There is a line that is attributed to Golda Meir, “We can forgive them for killing our children, but we cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.” No sane person wants to kill children, it is abhorrent to us, against our very nature and biology. The use of child soldiers is designed to either kill the enemy or force the enemy to become a child killer, with all of the vast psychological damage that would do to someone. It’s a double attack, a physical attack, but much more harmfully, it is a vicious psychological attack. I can’t imagine the heartache I would feel if I had to make the choice of killing a child or letting that child kill me or others. How can anyone be expected to remain whole after being forced to make that choice? The damage is so much worse than loss, I would expect that it would damage a person’s soul. Beyond that, this strategy destroys or poisons an entire generation of Palestinian children, and the Palestinians have already lost too many generations children, both as soldiers and civilians. This strategy literally kills the future of the Palestinian people.
How can this sort of atrocity be ignored by the world? Why don’t we hear anything from the press about this? While I see reports and resolutions about child soldiers all over the world, why don’t we see anything about it here? Why is this allowed to continue without comment. We Israelis don’t even talk about it. We cower at the idea of the International Criminal Court, but the case against the PA and Hamas is much stronger and getting stronger everyday as both of these governments blatantly, publicly and admittedly continue to use child soldiers.
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is probably the most highly politicized and publicized conflict in the world, everyone has a position no matter where you live in the world. But this is something that everyone should be able to come together on. Palestinian children are being used to make war, as pawns to be thrown away as a strategy. This should concern everyone, those who care for Palestine and want to see Palestinian children safe, prosperous and psychologically whole. It should concern those who care for Israel and want to see Israeli children safe, prosperous and psychologically whole. This should concern those of us like myself who care for both Israel and Palestine and want the best for both of our peoples. This should concern everyone, no matter what your view is of who is right and who is wrong. This is an evil that we should all work to stop for the sake of all of our children.