When Gaza Children Are No Longer Children

The Washington Post’s August 23 edition  features an article about recent fatalities in Gaza (“18 alleged informers executed in Gaza” by William Booth and Ruth Eglash,” page A9).

The article reports that Hamas mortar fire killed a 4-year-old Israeli boy, and then elaborates that “Daniel Tregerman was the first Israeli child killed in six weeks of fighting between Hamas and Israel.  At last count, 469 children have been killed in Gaza by Israeli bombardment during the six-week war, according to UNICEF.”

Your reporters thus seek to draw a sharp contrast between the death of a lone Israeli child and 469 kids supposedly killed on the Palestinian side.

What the article, however, fails to recognize is that while the Israeli fatality is clearly a child (4 years of age), the 469 children fatalities on the Palestinian side are a grossly exaggerated total.

What it comes down to is “what is a child” on either side of the conflict.  An Israeli 4-year-old obviously is a child.  But since UNICEF is the source for the 469 total on the Palestinian side,  most of these fatalities are highly questionable as “children.”

Why?  Because UNICEF defines children as anyone under the age of 18.  Thus, most teens under UNICEF’S definition are assumed to be children.  But this fails to take into account that in Gaza, under Hamas rule, children are trained to become fighters (terrorists?) at a very young age.  They are groomed to become killers not only in their early teens, but even in their sub-teens.  Terrorist training in Gaza starts as a very young age.  Post reporters might do well to drop in on Hamas summer camps, which have become terrorist training grounds.

Since Booth and Eglash apparently were eager to contrast fatalities among children on both sides, it would have behooved them to find out whether, in Gaza,  the “children” label fits trained combatants in their sub-teens – with ages as low as in the single digits.

It’s just plain ridiculous to put a 4-year-old boy on a comparable scale with a 17-year-old Hamas- combatant.  The former is a child.  The latter is not.

To recover some journalistic integrity, the Post might ask Booth and Eglash to re-examine the 469 fatalities number for Gaza “children” by asking UNICEF to break down this total, one year at a time.  How many were 17-year-olds, 16-year-olds, 15-year-olds, and down the line to 8-, 9-, and 10-year-olds?  There is plenty of history and evidence to the effect that, while the Israeli 4-year-old clearly was an innocent, the supposed children on the Palestinian side sadly were stripped of their childhood and converted into combatants.

The comparison drawn by Booth and Eglash is baseless.  Four hundred and sixty-nine Gaza “children” were not killed. 

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.

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