How Israel’s Apartheid and Persecution Target Palestinian Women and Children

Israel’s Crimes Against Humanity

Israel is committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against millions of Palestinians, according to Human Rights Watch and other international human rights groups This means that Israel has an overarching policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), and that it carries out grave abuses against Palestinians living in the OPT, including East JerusalemThese abuses include unlawful attacks, unjustified use of lethal force, detention, mistreatment, and abuse of children, movement restrictions, land expropriation, and forcible displacement.

Many of these abuses disproportionately affect women and children, who make up the majority of the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank For example, in 2021, Israeli forces and settlers killed 78 Palestinian children in the OPT, most during May hostilities in Gaza, and in 2022, as of November 16, Israeli forces or settlers had killed 32 Palestinian children in the West Bank, often in circumstances where the child posed no imminent threat to life Many of these children were killed amid heightened Israeli military operations in the West Bank beginning in April 2022, following several attacks by Palestinians on civilians inside Israel in March. In April, then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett declared that there would be “no restrictions” on Israeli forces’ actions

Israel’s Unlawful Blockade of Gaza

Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since 2007, severely restricting the movement of people and goods in and out of the coastal enclave. The blockade has created a humanitarian crisis, affecting every aspect of life for the two million Palestinians living in Gaza, especially women and children The blockade violates Israel’s obligations as an occupying power to ensure the welfare of the population under its control, and amounts to collective punishment, a war crime.

How Israel’s Apartheid and Persecution Target Palestinian Women and Children

The blockade has had devastating consequences for the health, education, and livelihoods of women and children in Gaza. According to the UN, only 10 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water, and electricity is available for only a few hours a day. The blockade has also hindered the delivery of essential medical supplies and equipment, and damaged health facilities, especially during periods of intense Israeli airstrikes, such as in May 2021 and October 2023 The estimated 50,000 pregnant women and girls in Gaza risk missing ante-natal care and giving birth without electricity or medical supplies. A UN rapid gender analysis of the situation echoes these concerns. The crisis will likely result in increased maternal and infant mortality and morbidity, undermining health gains previously made in Palestine

The blockade has also affected the education and development of children in Gaza, who face overcrowded classrooms, lack of learning materials, and psychological trauma. According to the UN, more than half of the children in Gaza require mental health and psychosocial support, and one in four children is at risk of dropping out of school. The blockade has also limited the opportunities for women and girls to pursue higher education, vocational training, and employment, increasing their vulnerability and dependence

Israel’s Reproductive Violence Against Palestinian Women

Israel’s policies and practices in the OPT also amount to reproductive violence against Palestinian women, according to a UN expert. Reproductive violence is defined as “any form of gender-based violence that interferes with the reproductive health, autonomy and rights of individuals and communities”. The UN expert found that Israel, despite its obligations as an Occupying Power, deprives Palestinians and their children of their basic human rights as part of its efforts to impede the development of Palestinian society and to permanently frustrate the Palestinians’ right to self-determination

The UN expert highlighted several examples of Israel’s reproductive violence against Palestinian women, such as:

  • Denying or delaying access to maternal health care, resulting in preventable deaths and injuries of pregnant women and newborns
  • Imposing restrictions on family reunification, separating spouses and children across borders and checkpoints
  • Demolishing homes and displacing families, exposing women and children to violence, poverty, and homelessness
  • Detaining and torturing women and girls, subjecting them to sexual violence, humiliation, and forced pregnancy tests
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the Palestinian group, such as sterilizing or coercing women to undergo abortions, denying access to contraception and family planning services, and promoting Jewish immigration and settlement expansion

The UN expert warned that the reproductive violence inflicted by Israel on Palestinian women, newborn babies, infants, and children could be qualified as violations of the human right to life under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and as acts of genocide under Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide, several articles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and Article 6 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, including “imposing measures intended to prevent births within a group”.

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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