CFI Honorary President Lord Polak CBE, and fellow Conservatives Rt. Hon. Lord Hamilton, and Lord Sterling of Plaistow GCVO CBE, expressed concerns about the radicalisation of Palestinian children, in a House of Lords debate on children in the Palestinian Territories on Thursday.
Lord Polak asserted: “we must not continue to profess Israel’s sole responsibility for the health and well-being of Palestinian children. By doing so, we continue to prolong the conflict by condemning the Palestinians themselves to perpetual helplessness”.
He said that “the suffering of Palestinian children is a tragic consequence of the extremist ideology that has been allowed to flourish in the Palestinian territories; we must recognise this in order to better the conditions in which they live”.
CFI’s Honorary President underlined that the terror group Hamas, which governs Gaza, “must take prime responsibility for the ongoing suffering of Gazan children”. He continued: “under the rule of Hamas at least 160 Palestinians have been killed while digging Hamas terror tunnels into Israel—including nine children, according to the Journal of Palestine Studies. Those Peers in this House who follow social media may see the latest Hamas video of excited children being taken on tunnel tours; I saw it this morning. I ask noble Lords: no incitement? Everyone is clear that the sole purpose of Hamas’s tunnels into Israel is to kill Israeli civilians. Do they really hate Israelis more than they care about the well-being of their own children?”
Lord Polak asserted: “instead of building houses, schools and hospitals” to benefit Palestinian children, “Hamas has built a sophisticated infrastructure of terror”.
Referring to Hamas’s actions during the Operation Protective Edge conflict in the summer of 2014, Lord Polak said: “We should remember that, in the 2014 war, Hamas put Palestinian children in danger. In many cases, the rockets launched by Hamas fell short of their intended target—Israeli kindergartens—and instead landed in Gaza, killing Palestinian children. From firing rockets near hospitals to storing rocket in schools, Palestinian children were used as human shields throughout the conflict, defined as targets by the very people who should have protected them. I wish that there were no rockets; I wish that there were no tunnels, and as a result I know that there would be no retaliation”.
Lord Polak argued that it was “shameful” to overlook the radicalisation of children by the PA in the West Bank: “In the West Bank, it is the Palestinian Authority that must stop polluting the minds of youngsters through its campaign of radicalisation. Any leadership that encourages children to take a knife and to kill another child purely because of their religion or race would be deemed despicable. Why is it viewed differently in the Palestinian territories, where the glorification of terror continues unabated? To dismiss this incitement as irrelevant is quite shameful”.
In his speech, Lord Polak also gave examples of UK-backed Palestinian NGOs that promoted violence against Israelis on its social media pages, including the Ibdaa Cultural Center, which receives £5,602 from the Government, but has repeatedly glorified Palestinians that have committed terror against Israelis. He emphasised: “this brainwashing of Palestinian children to hatred and violence is a form of child abuse. The Palestinians must be condemned for denying their own children a better future”.
Lord Polak said: “Surely UK aid to such NGOs, which in the vast majority of cases undoubtedly carry out good and important work, must be made conditional on the renouncement of all violence and incitement. In addition, DfID should monitor far more closely the social media presence and activism of NGOs funded by our taxpayers’ money and immediately address any concerning material that is found, so that we can safely reassure the public here that Britain is being a help to the Middle East peace process, not a hindrance”.
He called on the UK Government to support coexistence projects between Palestinian and Israeli children: “The only way that future generations of Palestinian children will enjoy good health and well-being is for Palestinians and Israelis to recognise each other’s right to live within safe and secure borders. Yet less than 13% of DfID’s £1.17 million funding of Israeli and Palestinian NGOs goes towards projects that promote and foster peaceful co-existence. This amount is a mere 0.2% of the £72 million that we give in total, including our general budgetary support for the PA, despite its continued misuse. Our aid strategy has been flawed by its lack of support for projects bringing Israelis and Palestinians together”.
Lord Polak referred to the Israeli NGO, which provides life-saving cardiac treatment to children from the Palestinian Territories and developing countries, and the Equalizer project which brings Jewish and Arab Israeli children together through football.
He concluded by asking the Minister: “Can the Minister update the House on the progress of DfID’s search for projects bringing together Palestinians and Israelis? Does she agree with me that the institutionalised radicalisation in the Palestinian territories sustains the conflict, and thus the suffering of Palestinian children? This suffering is, as I stated earlier, a tragic consequence of extremist ideology that has been allowed to flourish. We must recognise this and we must defeat it—if we do, the lives of so many children in the area will be improved enormously”.
Lord Hamilton said that the radicalisation of Palestinian children “comes via the schools of the West Bank, where the rhetoric is a nasty form of anti-Semitism, the sort of thing that we associate with Nazi Germany. They accuse Jews of being unworthy of playing any role in the world and liken them to vermin, as the Nazis used to do in Germany”.
Referring to the spate of stabbing, shooting, and car-ramming terror attacks, primarily committed by Palestinian youths against against Israelis, Lord Hamilton said: “the result of this radicalisation is that a number of young Palestinians have found their way into Israel proper and have murdered Israelis on the streets. When we were there, we found out that 18 Israelis had been killed in the preceding few months. The number of atrocities has dropped, but there was an incident in which an Israeli was murdered just the other day. That is pretty awful”.
Lord Sterling said: “Hamas believes in one thing only and wants to wipe out Israel. In case anybody thinks that Israel wants to wipe anybody else out, this is a very different situation and obviously has a massive effect on the Israeli population. When you think of how the Israelis are considered, it is unbelievable that the Israel Defense Forces would ever use women and children as human shields”.
Lord Sterling referred to the St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital in east Jerusalem as a source of hope for peace. He said that the hospital, which serves Palestinian children, is supported by Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center, which “has for decades been training people and lending people and kit, right the way through”.
Click here to read the speeches and debate in full.