A closer look at the real losers in the war between Palestine and Israel.
| You are on your way to school. It's a nice morning, if a little hot, as you and a few of your friends walk along the street to the bus stop in the early morning. You arrive to the usual crowd minus a few, and spend your time in idle chatter about who did this and what happened where. Eventually, the bus pulls up, an old, beaten thing, whose windows aren’t supposed to open and which would not open if they were. You get on the bus, take a seat and begin the morning ritual. As you make stop after stop, you count. One. Three. Four. Two. You watch carefully, yet mindlessly, to see who will get on the bus today. By the time you get to school you are missing two people. Fred and Maria didn't make it.
In the year 2016, 32 Palestinian children under 18 were killed during Israeli military raids in the West Bank territory occupied by Israel (Tahhan). On February 14th, 2016 a two Palestinian teenagers were shot dead by Israel Defense Force soldiers after these teens used rifles to open fire on said soldiers (Judah Ari Gross). Maria didn't make it not because she was sick or skipping, but because she's dead, killed while doing something as normal as going to school. Fred is dead because he made a decision to fight and he lost. This is reality for many children and teens across the world, this is reality for the children and teens of Palestine.
In a country where the war is on your doorstep and in your streets, this is reality; in fact, reality is often harsher than this. In the United States we bemoan school, and curse our luck that we have to go; in Palestine, they're just happy they made it. Why is there such conflict and violence from a sociological standpoint? What sort of effect does that have on the Palestinian children and teens? What kind of children does a society torn by war raise, and why? In this paper, we will seek to answer these questions.
There are countless theories and ideas as to why there is war, not the least of them being sociological ones. Although there are many answers, some simpler than others, we will simply focus on two broader and more well-known sociological theories. The two that will be addressed here are functionalism and conflict theory.
From the standpoint of the functionalist war is the result of something, but rather the cause, a necessity to society. Functionalists claim that wars are useful to the structure of society because they because they create an enemy for a society to unite against (University of Minnesota). Basically, wars at a base level are useful because they create an "us and them" situation which can stimulate societies and promote unity. A good example of this is the World Wars in the United States, although there was violence against groups like the chicanos, overal there was a sense of "togetherness." Furthermore, on certain cases a functionalist would also argue that certain wars preserve or create a given society literally because of what is fought for such as freedom.
The conflict theory, rather than thinking about society as a whole, claims that war is useful only for certain groups; namely those in charge. The conflict theory in general is all about constant change and seeming chaos among society, a power struggle that never ends and is never truly won. When it comes to war, the general consensus of conflict theorists is that it benefits the powerful and no one else. Which group of powerful are benefited, however, is where the dissention really comes in.
Some groups argue that that the powerful military are the ones to profit, gaining authority and riches through war. Others argue that war is an example of imperialism, the desire for more power in the ruling body or government, choosing to see the military as an extension of this group rather than an entity in itself (University of Minnesota). Another view is simply that it benefits the powerful and takes from the little guy the precious resources they need. Discussion of who benefits and who loses aside, however, a conflict theorist basically believes that war happens because it is the way society works. Better said, to a conflict theorist, society is constantly at war.
It seems highly unlikely that either the conflict or the functionalist views of war are entirely accurate; both have their strengths and weaknesses. The functionalist perspective offers valid insight into what a war can do for a society, but does little to acknowledge what it truly does to a society and how it affects the people within it on a micro level. The conflict perspective, on the other hand, focuses so much on what it believes about human nature that it oversimplifies it into "humans fight, the end."
All that being said, I am more inclined to put stock in the conflict theory as the reason for war. I do not believe that war is essential for society, though I do see that it can and does play important roles in the creation, development and maintaining of any society. The conflict theory, though perhaps too focused on cause and not effect, is the crux of the issue in my mind. Humans struggle within their societies. We are born struggling, live struggling and die struggling; why should our societies interact any differently?
Putting the cause aside, however, how does this phenomenon called war affect the children and adolescents of the world? How does it, in this case, affect the Palestinian children and adolescents? Think for a moment of the grittiest book or film featuring war you know. Villages burn, bombs are dropped, people scream in the streets. If it's a really gutsy work, perhaps there will be a screaming child calling for their mother. But the world is not made up of adults, it isn't just the parents in those collapsed buildings or fleeing the oncoming tide of bullets. We remember the two adults who died; we forget the five children who died beside them.
According to Caitlin Thompson in her article The Psychological Effects of War on Children, it effects them far more than one might think with "nearly half of civilian casualties being children in any conflict." And it is estimated by the Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA) that every three days a Palestinian child is killed by an Israeli. From September 2000 to April 2013, they go on to say, 1,518 children were killed. These are the outright deaths, how many more children have starved, died from illness or brutality from breakdown of order?
Of course, it would be impossible to discuss children dying in war without mentioning child soldiers. As this is something not openly done in Palestine, however, it will not be addressed in this paper. Suffice to say, war may be instigated by adults, but it kills everyone.
However, the trauma a child/adolescent faces during wartime is not only that of losing their life, though that is a very real one, often it is that of losing their parents. One of the most traumatic things that a child can experience is the loss of a parent. Obviously, for young enough children, this is little more than a death sentence. But for those who will survive, they have just lost the defining figure or figures which will shape their development. We grow into our parents for a reason, so what does a child grow into if there is no parent to emulate, learn from, receive discipline and love from?
Both of these traumas however, are specific to death in of self or loved ones, not all children in warring countries experience this. What every child in places such as Palestine do experience, however, is death and destruction; because when war is on your doorstep you sometimes look out the window. This in itself is horribly traumatic to see, all the more for a child or adolescent who is still developing and doesn't have full use of their mental and emotional capabilities yet. These traumas can cause major depressive disorder, suicide or suicidal thoughts, inability to form healthy relationships, and of course Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Purwar, Dhabal and Chakravarty).
The problem is the war in which Palestinian children and adolescents are facing all of the situations and many, many more right now and have been for years. The effects of these traumas, if they survive them, last not only during the war but for the rest of their life, severely hampering their ability to develop properly and thus disabling their entire lives. So, what is the solution?
To summarize all I will say: there is no solution to war while we live on the earth. Is there an answer to the war between Israel and Palestine? Yes. Make peace. However the process, implementation and clean up of this fix are simply impractical to focus on in this paper. There is no "fix" to this problem for you or I to implement. Humans fight; we are fundamentally flawed, greedy, apathetic creatures. But that is not all we are. We are also resourceful, caring, and generous. And it is in this side of our nature that, while not a fix, a "patch" can be found for the war in Palestine and its effects on the children and adolescents there.
The most obvious of these patches is relief efforts by charitable organizations. A few of these include: Child Development Programme, Saïd Foundation, Children of Peace and of course organizations like the Peace Corps. These organizations all hope to relieve children through programs and/or support and can easily be donated to. This is what we can do to contribute, however, it is not a true fix.
There are many programs which allieviate the immediate stress placed on people in traumatic situations such as warzones. However, this immediate relief, says an article published by Harv Rev Psychiatry, is not enough. Although these immediate and mid-term efforts address concerns such as feeling secure, providing community and giving hope they fail to address long term mental problems the child will likely face. I came across no organizations that truly addressed this, in either short term psychological first aide or in long term treatment. This, in all likelihood, is not an issue that can be addressed by you or I; however, it exists and it does need to be addressed.
In the end, the war between Palestine and Israel is not one that will be fixed quickly or easily. War is something, according to sociology, which is in the fabric of a society whether because of our nature, as conflict theorists believe, or because of necessity, as a functionalist might argue. Regardless of the cause, war causes severe trauma to those involved, especially children; who, if they live through it, are likely to have severe mental illnesses and conditions as a result. This is a paper for me, and lecture for you, for the children and adolescents of Palestine, this is simply reality.
Betancourt, Theresa S, et al. "Interventions for Children Affected by War: An Ecological Perspective on Psychosocial Support and Mental Health Care." Scientific Study. 2013. Web.
Judah Ari Gross, Tamar Pileggi. "2 Palestinian teens killed as IDF soldiers come under fire." The Times of Israel (2016): 1. Web.
Middle East Children's Alliance. One Palestinian child killed every 3 days by Israel for 13 years: statistics. 2017. Web. 3 May 2017.
Purwar, Anirudh, Arnab Dhabal and Diptarka Chakravarty. "Psychological Effects of War and Terrorism on Children." n.d. University of Maryland. Web. 3 May 2017.
Tahhan, Zena. "2016 'deadliest year' for West Bank children in decade." Aljazeera (2017): 1. Web.
Thompson, Caitlin. "The Psychological Effects of War on Children." Borgen Magazine (2014): 1. Web.
University of Minnesota. 16.1 Sociological Perspectives on War and Terrorism. 2012. Web. 3 May 2017.