by Jan Benvie
During the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr (the festival of fast breaking), marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, children receive Eid gifts: new clothes, toys and sweets.
A common Eid gift for boys is a toy gun. Some are water pistols; some shoot little plastic pellets; some look ominously like the real thing.
Palestinian children do not need to watch television or play violent video games to become attracted to guns. Here in Hebron, armed Israeli soldiers patrol the streets throughout the day and night. Palestinian children pass armed soldiers at checkpoints every day traveling to and from school. They regularly see armed settlers in the streets between the settlements and the synagogue.
For the Israeli military, it appears that real guns in the hands of Israelis are acceptable, but toy guns in the hands of Palestinian children are unacceptable.
CPTers have seen heavily-armed Israeli soldiers ordering Palestinian shopkeepers to remove toy guns from their shops. Palestinians have reported instances of Israeli soldiers taking toy guns from children. I recently watched in amazement as an Israeli soldier snatched a small toy gun from the hands of a Palestinian child. When I attempted to photograph the incident, another soldier tried to stop me.
He told me, “It is against the law for a Palestinian to have a gun or anything that looks like a gun, or that sounds like a gun, like fire crackers. It is dangerous. The children point them at us. If we shoot them, that is their fault.”
When I suggested to him that it would be even less dangerous if he were not walking in a Palestinian area with a real gun, he replied, “We have to protect our civilians.”
I don’t like guns, real or toy. I worry when I see young Palestinian children hiding in alleyways, jumping out and “firing” their toy guns at passersby.
I worry even more when I see heavily-armed Israeli soldiers and settlers on the streets of Hebron.