Voices from the Arab press: The loss of Palestinian childhood

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

IDF SOLDIERS detain a Palestinian during clashes at a protest in Hebron in February (photo credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)
IDF SOLDIERS detain a Palestinian during clashes at a protest in Hebron in February
Al-Ayyam, Ramallah, April 4
Photos of young Palestinian teens detained and arrested by the Israeli occupation forces have, sadly enough, become too commonplace in our everyday lives – we see them on television, social media and in newspapers.
What is less known, however, is what happens to these children once they are thrown in jail. There, in the dark recesses of solitary confinement, these young Palestinian boys and girls are stripped of their basic rights and subjected to manipulation and torture, until they reluctantly plead guilty.
Indeed, a recent study on Palestinian minors held in Israeli prisons revealed that over 90% of them end up being convicted for their alleged crimes – an incredibly high rate that raises serious doubts about the objectivity of Israeli courts. This is, in part, because many child detainees, some of whom have barely completed middle school, are pressured into accepting dubious plea bargains just to avoid ongoing detention. To make matters worse, only a handful of them are allowed to inform their families as to their whereabouts, let alone consult with a lawyer before being taken to court.
This is a truly horrifying reality that we have preferred to ignore. Young boys and girls exercising their basic right to protest the unjust Israeli occupation are being harassed in interrogation centers and military courts, until a verdict is thrown their way. Meanwhile, Israel continues to censor these practices through the use of ambiguous legal jargon and lengthy court orders.
In the rare instances in which children actually return home, their childhoods have already been lost.
– Muhammad Hammadi
Al-Hayat, London, April 6
As an international conference to generate investment in Lebanon convenes in Paris this week, some of us here, in Lebanon, have renewed hope for our country.
Representatives from over 50 nations have already committed to attending the summit, which has been organized at the behest of French President Emmanuel Macron, one of Lebanon’s closest international allies.
This first-of-its-kind event is not a classic donor conference aimed at raising aid for Lebanon. Rather, its goal is to encourage investment across a wide range of sectors – from improving waste management practices to building new roads to developing clean energy – in order to enhance the country’s development.
By sponsoring the conference, Macron has reaffirmed his commitment to the Lebanese people and, most notably, to Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun. The reciprocal visits and meetings between these leaders in recent months are a testament to the close relationship between Paris and Beirut.
But not everything about this conference is encouraging.
When asked about it, the vast majority of Lebanese people expressed a negative outlook. With the recent political deadlock in the country and the upcoming presidential elections, most citizens have grown tired of their reality. They are fed up with corruption and crony politics, which have plagued Lebanon over the past few decades. They have little, if any, faith that things will actually change for the better.
Thus, while the Paris conference is a step forward, it is not enough. International investments in the Lebanese economy, no matter how large, can never make up for a lagging civil society and the absence of a desire to change the status quo. The Lebanese government has failed to reform a single element of the economy, and, despite the country’s high level of literacy, has failed to transform the education system. Despite the international support Lebanon receives, the level of corruption in government is matched only by countries such as Botswana and Rwanda.
Yes, Hariri’s friendship with Macron is admirable; so, too, is the latter’s willingness to host this event. Yet change must also come from within. Otherwise, no amount of international backing will help us build a better future.
– Ranya Takya al-Din
Okaz, Saudi Arabia, April 6
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week hosted in Ankara his Russian and Iranian counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani, respectively, to discuss a way forward in Syria. The photo released at the end of the summit depicting the three leaders shaking hands with emotionless expressions was almost as gloomy as the current state of affairs in the Middle East.
A statement that soon followed noted that the three leaders “worked closely” to bring about a “lasting peace in Syria.” How ludicrous! As Russian warplanes indiscriminately bomb civilian targets in Syria, leading to hundreds of deaths and thousands of wounded, Moscow claims it is working “for peace.”
Similarly, Iranian-backed militias, who are fighting against legitimate Syrian opposition forces, have taken over Syria and displaced millions of citizens from their homes – this, as Tehran suggests it is “foster[ing] peace.”
It is clear to any outside observer that these countries lack any legitimacy to speak about peace and security in Syria. In fact, they are part of the problem, not the solution.
One cannot help but wonder, therefore, where the Arab world is in all of this. How can three non-Arab countries claim to represent regional interests? Why have Gulf leaders not been included in these talks? Russia, Turkey and Iran can claim all they want to have the authority to end the Syrian war; however, in reality they represent the voices of tyrants, not of the people. They are those who created such a grave situation on the ground. They have excluded the most important regional players from their talks. Their efforts are farcical and doomed to fail.
– Mishary al-Zaidi
Asharq al-Awsat, London, April 5
There is growing chatter about the prospect of an upcoming visit to Iraq by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. These rumors spread so quickly that they even solicited a response from Iran, which condemned the possible trip as an “act of provocation,” thereby revealing the deep significance of any such eventuality.
Unfortunately, the Saudi Foreign Ministry has since denied any plans for an official visit to Baghdad, which would have made Muhammad the first Saudi leader to travel to Iraq since the early 1990s. Sadly, regional leaders have abandoned the Iraqi government by failing to support the country, both in word and deed. A state visit by the crown prince would have bolstered Iraq’s standing and reaffirmed Baghdad’s sovereignty. It also would have strengthened Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is working assiduously to free his country from the grip of Iran.
After years of American occupation, coupled with the troubling legacy left by his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, Abadi is investing immense resources into eradicating terrorist infrastructure in Iraq in a bid to stabilize the nation in the near future. He has demonstrated his commitment to this goal by fighting, and subsequently defeating, armed militias seeking to topple his regime. He has rejected separatist movements and worked to rid his government of those accused of corruption or bribery.
In order to help Abadi in this relentless effort to modernize Iraq in the aftermath of war, the Arab world would be wise to provide him with any necessary aid. This would not only reinforce Abadi’s long-standing friendship with Gulf leaders, but also help to curb Iran’s growing interference in other countries’ affairs.
If a trip by Muhammad was canceled due to mounting pressure, it would be in Saudi Arabia’s best interest to move forward with the original plan. If the rumors were incorrect, then Riyadh should schedule such a trip in order to help Baghdad get back on a path toward prosperity.
– Abdulrahman al-Rashed