Refugee camps and the military
Here the refugee camps are not what you may think a refugee camp looks like. At one time, they were tents but as the years went on, shelters were built and now the camp appears like a town. There are schools, clinics, funded by aid agencies, and some shops.
Why are they called refugee camps then? The people living there are refugees driven from their homes in 1948 following the Nakba (Day of the Catastrophe). Some people to this day still have keys to their homes in the hope of returning to their land. These keys are passed on to the next generation as a way of keeping their narrative alive even though the homes may not exist anymore.The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is in charge of supervising the camps since they are refugee camps.
The Israeli military conducts many night raids and arrests in the camps. According to one former Israeli soldier who spoke to us, they will use the camps for military training. If they want to teach a new group of soldiers how to secure a home or town, they will pick a Palestinian home or town and it is usually a refugee camp. They learn how to arrest people by breaking downs doors in the middle of the night and arrest a young person saying that they threw stones at a military vehicle.
Young people do throw stones. It is the only weapon they have and they want to protect their homes and families. But when the military comes in the middle of the night to make arrests rather than at the time the stones were thrown is suspicious. These raids are clear provocation.
There are many children in Israeli jails. Some for as long as three or four years which is the sentence for the third offense of stone throwing. When the children are released, they find their friends have moved on and they are behind in school. Many then suffer further from isolation and depression.
The military sometimes shots at stone throwers and children are killed. As in Fawwar Camp in August when a 12-year-old was shot in the back. He was returning from buying bread and was near the entrance to his home when the military came through. Recently, a 21-year-old student at Qalandiya Refugee Camp was shot, the fourth person at Qalandiya RC this year. He was unarmed and standing on the roof of his home. It is the military who come into the camps with all their weapons and vehicles and break into people’s homes.
When an Israeli is killed, we learn all about them. For example, if an Israeli young person is killed, we learn their name and hear about their family, that he was good in violin, had a sense of humour, etc. When a Palestinian is killed, he/she is just a number. They remain nameless and faceless in the world press.
Here are pictures of just four of the children killed this year. I know it is graphic but these children too had dreams and families and special talents.
None of the soldiers involved has been held to account.