WHAT WAR CHILD IS DOING
War Child helps many different local organisations in the region. War Child supports these organisations financially, but also contributes to the development of the organisations’ projects, by training staff and methodology and knowledge transfer.
Young Artist Forum (YAF)
Young Artist Forum is a organization from Ramallah that aims at advancing the psychological well-being of Palestinian children and youth through practicing art, sports and other recreational and creative activities. YAF implements projects in ten public schools close to the separation fence. The project that War Child supports is implemented in the Palestinian village of Bil’in which is located close to the Israeli separation barrier. The barrier separates ca. 50% of the village's surrounding land from its owners and weekly demonstrations frequently end in violent assaults between protestors and the Israeli army. Children in this area are in need of continuous activities which target their psychological health because of their constant fears and external security threats. These children deal with the conflict on a daily basis. The project will provide 65 workshops on drama, painting, fine arts, sport and music to 250 children aged 10-16. A psychologist will visit the children weekly to ensure the effectiveness of the workshops for the most affected and traumatized children.
Windows Magazine (Windows)
Windows Magazine is one of the few Israeli - Palestinian organizations operating in the region. The project consists of co-producing a Hebrew-Arabic magazine which will enable Palestinian and Jewish children and youth to interact with each other. This magazine reflects the lives, thoughts, and feelings of youngsters in the region and reaches a large audience of Jews and Palestinians. 20,000 copies, which are read by approximately 50,000 people, is a great success in local terms. The objectives of the program are to promote - among Jewish and Palestinian youth - a deep mutual understanding of one another and the conflict and to teach the participants relevant skills and help them cope with the complexity of the reality in the region. The target audience are Palestinian and Jewish children, ages 12-15 (junior high school students), as well as their parents, siblings and teachers.
Theatre Day productions (TDP)
Theatre Day Productions focuses on the Hebron region with a series of drama activities for youth in Hebron and in the nearby Fuwwar Refugee Camp. The team will organize, implement, and carry out two plays with kids for kids. They also organize, implement, and supervise a festival of short plays that will be presented in the form of a drama and theatre festival in the Fuwwar Camp.
The aims of these activities are to improve the children’s and youth psychosocial and emotional well-being and provide them with a space to deal with the ongoing conflict. The target groups for the Kids for Kids plays will come from two Hebron schools, clubs or other organizations. The target groups for the drama and theatre festival in Fuwwar will be youth of 12-15 years old in that camp.
Dalal Institution for Culture and Arts (Dalal)
Dalal focuses on providing children in the Bethlehem area with a safe environment to play and live their childhood in a healthy manner. Dalal’s overall objective is to secure the psychological health of children and youth in Bethlehem who struggle with the hard social and economic conditions of the conflict which hinders them from living their childhood in a healthy manner. For this purpose, Dalal provides children and youth with the opportunity to participate in music, art and cultural workshops within a frame which protects them from the surrounding tension and where they can develop their personalities within an atmosphere appropriate for children. Psychosocial problems can be detected during the activities. The project further aims at raising the parents' awareness for the importance of playing for the balanced development of their children. The target group is 60 children from Bethlehem and the surrounding refugee camps aged 7-14.
Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (CCRR)
CCRR focuses on changing the approach of conflict resolution within the Palestinian community and among the people of the region. War Child Holland supports the Young Negotiators program. The objective of the project is to contribute to peace in Palestine. The specific aim of the ‘Young Negotiators Project’ (YNP) is to provide Palestinian youth and their educators with values of peace, non-violence, human rights, democracy and tools for non-violent conflict resolution. At the same time, the project aims to provide a safe environment for open discussions on subjects concerning the educator-student, educator-educator, educator-principal, and student-student relations. The target group is Palestinian youth and their educators throughout the West Bank.
Peace Child Israel teaches coexistence through the use of theatre and arts. They educate democratic values, tolerance and mutual respect between Arab and Jewish Israeli youth. Hereby they bring these groups closer together through drama related activities (20% of the Israeli people is Arabic). Arab and Jewish teens work with counterparts from around the country to create original dramas about coexistence. The project purpose is to provide a mechanism for interaction for Arab and Jewish populations in Israel that will result in improved relations between the two.
Neighbouring schools, Arab and Jewish, are the partners in the project. Each pair of the Arab and Jewish schools produces a bilingual theatre play with teens between the ages of 13 and 16. Through the performances of the original-bilingual play educators, family members and the public at-large and also the student body audiences from ages 12-15 are influenced.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO THE CONFLICT
1948 - The Creation of the State of Israel and the First Arab-Israeli War
When the territory of the Ottoman Empire was split after World War I, the British obtained the mandate power over Palestine, which was to comprise modern-day Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Yet, Palestine was divided for the first time in 1921, granting the area east of the Jordan River to Abdallah, who later established the Kingdom of Jordan on his territory.
In November 1947, in the aftermath of World War II and the subsequent refugee issue of Jews from Europe, the United Nations adopted a plan which called for the partition of the territory west of the Jordan River into a Jewish and an Arab state with Jerusalem as an international zone; the British mandate power withdrew on May 14th, 1948 and the same day, the State of Israel was declared. Already in the preceding years, Palestinian Arabs had fought against the Zionist immigration and they accused the British of holding a pro-Zionist stance, favouring Zionism over Arab nationalism and giving conflicting promises to the two sides
The Arab leaders considered the partition plan an obtrusion of Western interests in the region and rejected it plainly Thus, they responded to the Israeli declaration of independence with war, and besides the Palestinians, the neighbouring countries fought against the creation of the new state. The fighting ended however with the defeat of the Arab armies and the signing of armistice agreements with Israel. The Jewish state held now more territory than assigned by the partition plan, including West Jerusalem. The remaining parts of mandate Palestine came under the rule of its neighbours: Until the 1967 War, the Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt and the West Bank including East Jerusalem was formally annexed by Jordan in 1950.
What has become the Independence Day for Israeli Jews, marks at the same time the anniversary of the Nakba or 'Catastrophe' for Palestinians: Following the creation of the State of Israel and the subsequent war, close to one million Palestinians fled their lands and became refugees in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Syria or Jordan. Those who chose to remain represent 20% of the Israeli population today. Others were spread throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Whereas Arabs inside Israel acquired Israeli citizenship, many Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and the neighbouring Arab states live in overcrowded refugee camps. Nowadays there are over 4.4 million registered Palestinian refugees; unlike in the case of other displaced peoples, the refugee status is passed on to the younger generation of Palestinians. Although the United Nations called for the return of the refugees who had been expelled during the war of 1948 (resolution 194), their right of return has never been fulfilled and is until today one of the most disputed aspects in peace negotiations.
1967 – The consequences of the June War
After Egypt had expelled UN personnel from Sinai, closed the Straits of Tiran, amassed troops at the Israeli border and called for a joint Arab assault against the Jewish state in order to reverse the 'Catastrophe' of 1948’, Israel launched what it called a 'pre-emptive strike' against Egypt's air force on June 5, 1967. Jordan and Syria joined the war and within six days of hostilities, the Arab states lost the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Golan Heights to Israel.
Since June 28, 1967, East Jerusalem has been under the law, jurisdiction, and administration of the State of Israel. This de facto annexation is not recognized by the international community, and was deemed invalid in a subsequent non-binding United Nations General Assembly resolution. In the 1980 "Jerusalem Law", Israel formally declared Jerusalem "whole and united", to be "the eternal capital of Israel". In response, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted the non-binding Resolution 478, declaring the law to be a violation of international law. In 1988, Jordan, while rejecting Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem, withdrew all its claims to the West Bank.
Since 1967, regional tensions and conflicts between Israel and neighbouring countries have marked the course of history in the Middle East. Aiming at the containment of Palestinian guerrilla activities under the umbrella of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation), Israel imposed a system of military orders on the oPt that consolidated a tight control over these areas and that have frequently been criticized for the violation of the international humanitarian law and the human rights of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza. At the same time, Israeli governments ( both left and right wing parties) have invested resources in establishing and expanding the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, granting financial advantages to settlers. As a result, around 400,000 Israelis live today on occupied territory. Besides a certain figure of political and religious extremists, a large number consists of apolitical Israelis, (many of them new immigrants) who take advantage of the government subsidies and affordable housing.
1987 - First Intifada
1987 saw a new form of Palestinian resistance against the occupation with the beginning of the first Intifada, a series of uprisings in the occupied territory that included demonstrations, strikes, and rock-throwing attacks on Israeli soldiers. With more frequency during the nineties and the beginning of the new century, suicide attacks by radical Islamic militants in Israeli cities and towns have killed hundreds of civilians.
1993 – The Oslo Agreements
In 1993 Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat signed a historic peace agreement. For the first time, the PLO publicly acknowledged Israel's right to exist and a Palestinian Authority with responsibility for the administration of the territory under its control was established. The agreements also called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from parts of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This arrangement was supposed to last for a five year interim period during which a permanent agreement would be negotiated, including core issues of the conflict such as the status of Jerusalem, the return of the refugees, Israeli settlements in the area, security and final borders.
2000 – The Second Intifada
Especially due to the resistance against the implementation of the Oslo agreement by radical forces on both sides, the two sides hardly experienced any lasting positive outcome; in the five years after Oslo, ca. 400 Palestinians and ca. 250 Israelis were killed in mutual hostilities. In accordance with Oslo, large parts of the oPt remained under Israeli military control. Disappointment and frustration grew especially after the failure of the "final status" negotiations at Camp David in July 2000; both sides blamed the other for the failure of the peace process. In September 2000, a new uprising against the occupation was launched causing the dead of numerous civilians. Whereas Israeli army incursions and bombardment of towns led to a high number of Palestinian casualties, Palestinian suicide bombings in busses, restaurants and shopping centres claimed the lives of many Israelis. Until September 2007, ca. 700 Israeli civilians and ca. 300 Israeli armed forces have been killed by Palestinians. At the same time, ca. 4,300 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces. However, ca. 950 of the Palestinian and ca. 120 Israeli victims were minors below the age of 18.
In June 2002 the deployment of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) in the oPt, the curfews, the closures and other movement restrictions started having even severer consequences on Palestinian lives. Due to the growing amount of Palestinian suicide attacks against Israeli civilians, the aim of achieving "peace" was replaced with the concern for "security" on the Israeli stage and consequently, the government gained a high degree of popular support for its operations against Palestinian militants, and larger number of disillusioned Israelis willing to ignore the increase of civilian losses among Palestinians.
2002 - The Wall
Following the Israeli concern for security, popular support also grew for the construction of a separation barrier, which had already been suggested by Yitzhak Rabin in 1992, following the killing of a Jewish girl in Jerusalem. The barrier consists of a network of fences with vehicle-barrier trenches surrounded by an on average 60 meters wide exclusion area (ca. 90%) and up to 8 meters high concrete walls (ca. 10%). Since however these 10% affect the urbanized areas, the barrier is usually referred to as the "Wall". It confiscates and encircles Palestinian lands, diverging up to 20km from the pre-1967 line in order to include Israeli West Bank settlements. Only 20% of the Wall is constructed on the Green Line
The West Bank Wall is part of a broader policy of closure of the oPt which is having a devastating humanitarian impact on the Palestinian population. It has confiscated basic water resources and natural areas of expansion for Palestinian villages, cut off communities and families from each other and made access to educational, health and other basic services increasingly difficult
Following the numerous terror attacks in Israel, the Israeli government has intensified its regime of control and restriction of movement of Palestinian resources, people and products within the West Bank, to Israel and to the outside world. This has led to a siege of the Palestinian economy, making it impossible or extremely difficult for a growing part of the population to access work and productive resources. The oPt have been de facto fragmented by a complex network of checkpoints, roads for settler-only use and the restriction of access to certain areas inside the West Bank. In this deteriorating economic context the poverty rate of Palestinian families all over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is alarmingly stepping up.
On July 9th, 2004, the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its advisory opinion declaring the illegality of the Wall built by Israel in the oPt, including East Jerusalem. The ICJ ruled that the Wall is illegal according to international human rights and humanitarian law, and required Israel to halt its construction inside the West Bank, to dismantle the sections already constructed and to repair the damage caused by it. However, three years after the ICJ’s ruling, the Wall continues to be built.
2005 - Settler evacuation from Gaza
In summer 2005, Israel vacated all Jewish settlers (about 8,000) from Gaza, as well as from two West Bank settlements, as part of Ariel Sharon's plan of "unilateral disengagement"; yet, Israel continues to control the coastline, airspace, borders, and population registry. Israeli army attacks and targeted assassinations against Palestinian militants have been frequent; at the same time, more than 1,000 Qassam rockets have been fired from the Strip into the Sderot area. Further, Palestinian gunmen have attempted to infiltrate the border region, targeting Israeli soldiers and civilians.
2006 - Financial restriction of the PA
The humanitarian situation has been worsening since April 2006 due to the financial restrictions imposed on the Palestinian Authority by international donors on the one hand, and by the freeze of taxes due by the Israeli Government on the other, following Hamas’ victory in the January 2006 elections. With the current international and Israeli support to the Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, some of the international aid and taxes due by Israel have been released. The European Commission has by-passed the Hamas government with its Temporary International Mechanism (TIM), securing the flow of financial support to NGOs not affiliated with Hamas.
2006/2007 – Inner-Palestinian fighting
After Hamas was democratically elected in January 2006, not only the international community and Israel expressed their displeasure, but also tensions with the rival Fatah faction increased, soon growing into violent clashes. Only in February 2007 could the fighting be halted and a government of unity, sharing the power between the party involved, was established. Yet, the fragile agreement broke down in June 2007, when Hams militants forcefully took over the power in Gaza, executing Fatah officials and attempting to kill its leaders, most of whom could flee to the West Bank. Ca. 540 Palestinians have been killed during these violent clashes. The West and Israel continue to support Mahmoud Abbas' government and initiatives for peace negotiations have been presented