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Palestinian children take part in a rally in front of the Red Cross headquarters in Gaza City marking Palestinian Prisoners Day..(Photo by: REUTERS)
Israeli and Palestinian youth, Summer 2016: What is the future?
The youth play an important role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. For the Palestinians, they serve as an effective arm in the war against Israel.
Last week, the UN Security Council held a meeting which focused on children in armed conflicts, and in which Israel was criticized for committing violations against Palestinian children.

Throughout this meeting, there was no mention (with the exception of the Israeli delegate) of the Palestinian exploitation of children, or of the need to protect Israeli children who live in constant fear.

Each year on August 12, the world celebrates “International Youth Day.” The objective is the importance of and need for greater involvement in the efforts to achieve the UN 2030 agenda on sustainable development, with a focus on youth. Regrettably, the agenda – as well as the reality lived by youth in the Middle East –is more about war and terrorism, and less about sustainable development.

This is the case particularly in war-torn Syria, Iraq and in other Arab countries, where thousands of youths fall victim to Muslims killing Muslims, and Muslims killing Christians.

The youth play an important role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. For the Palestinians, they serve as an effective arm in the war against Israel.

In Gaza, Hamas (like Hezbollah) has transformed towns and villages into terrorist outposts. They place rocket launchers next to kindergartens, and store missiles under civilian homes and schools.

Palestinian children are used by Hamas to dig tunnels, and use children as human shields.

Each summer, Hamas organizes military camps for children where, instead of learning how to swim or play, the children of Gaza are taught how to assemble automatic weapons and operate shoulder- fired missiles.

The latest “attraction” for the children of Gaza, is to visit the tunnels, in which they are allowed to crawl, and where the can admire Hamas leaders.

Teaching hatred and inciting against Jews is an integral and official part of the education system both in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority.

It was no surprise therefore, that during the most recent wave of terrorism, Palestinian youths took the lead and were supported by Palestinian leaders, including the religious leadership, their media and their parents.

Israeli youths were one of the principal targets of the “knife intifada.”

On the Israeli side, most of the youths enjoy an education based on democratic principles.

Teaching coexistence, tolerance and peace is part of Israeli school curriculum. Yes, it is a fact that a few Israelis committed outrageous acts of terrorism against Palestinians, but these are exceptional cases. These acts were strongly condemned by most Israelis, which is in direct contrast to the glorification of Palestinian terrorists by their leaders and their society.

Israeli youngsters are proud to live in a democratic country where they can advance and thrive personally, and develop their country. Many of these youths, as well as their parents, would like to see an end to the conflict with their Palestinian neighbors, a peace as exists with Jordan and Egypt.

Next year, Israelis and Palestinians will mark, in various different ways, the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War.

The Palestinians will commemorate the Nakba, while Israelis will celebrate the UN vote on the establishment of their state, in addition to the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

We can only hope that the political and diplomatic battles will not be accompanied by war and Palestinian terrorism.

The author is a former Israeli ambassador. This article, written on the occasion of International Youth Day, is dedicated to the memory of one of the most recent victims of Palestinian terrorism directed against Israeli children, Hallel Yaffa Ariel, the 13-yearold girl who was murdered in her bedroom by a 17-year-old Palestinian.
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