'All Children Are All Our Children', by Costa Constanti*
The war between Israel and Palestine has ‘spilled over’ to Cyprus. Not the military war, but rather the propaganda war. Take a drive along any Cypriot highway and you’re confronted with billboard images of Israeli women and children kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on 7 October. On that day over 200 Israelis were kidnapped and taken hostage into Gaza. On that day, around 1,200 people were killed, the majority innocent civilians, during Hamas’ reign of terror. The billboards show photos of innocent civilians smiling and posing during happier times. Today, they are held underground whilst a horrific, relentless bombardment and invasion led by Israel in retaliation to annihilate Hamas is underway meters above their heads. It’s been over 40 days now. It’s against international law to hold innocent civilians hostage. International law dictates that prisoners of war, a title usually reserved for captured soldiers, are treated with dignity and respect. They need to be well looked after and their injuries tended to. And with the recent news of two hostages found dead by the IDF in Gaza, I am reminded of these billboards.
What mother, father or guardian would tolerate a child’s suffering? On anyone for that matter. How dare one assume we tolerate this evil, and in turn allude that our kids would be next?
One particular billboard has ruffled feathers and caused upset in Cyprus. Picturing dozens of innocent children held hostage. It is the statement, however, which is of concern. It reads ‘If you tolerate this, then your children will be next’. I’ve discussed this with many friends. On the intention of the billboard we all agree, it’s to garner support for the release of the hostages safely. There’s no decent human among us who wouldn’t support this. Each and every hostage needs to be released immediately, especially the children. They need to be treated humanely. What has caused upset among us all, and indeed offense, is the assumption of tolerance for this act of kidnapping and holding them hostage. What mother, father or guardian would tolerate a child’s suffering? Who would tolerate inflicting horror and fear on a child? On anyone for that matter. But, how can we help release them? How dare one assume we tolerate this evil, and in turn allude that our kids would be next?
All children are our children. And that includes not just Israeli child hostages, but Palestinian children in Gaza and the West Bank. It includes the children in Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Ukraine, Afghanistan and across all corners of our planet. In Gaza today, after more than 40 days of indiscriminate bombings said to be targeting Hamas terrorists, almost 5,500 children have been killed. That’s half a percent of the total population under 18 years old. One in 230 children have been killed. It would be like 2,220 children killed within six weeks in Cyprus or 1.1 million across the EU. It would relate to over 24,000 in Israel. Thousands more Gazan children are missing or injured. Hundreds of thousands are living in squalor. They have limited water, food, healthcare, electricity and shelter. International NGOs, UN agencies and the wider international community are pleading for urgent humanitarian aid and a ceasefire. At a minimum, there are calls for a pause to the invasion and bombing to allow humanitarian aid to flow and for innocent civilians to find safe shelter. One might ask if you tolerate the above, could we be next? For Hamas, parents and loved ones reeling in grief, communities torn apart and enraged victims are all fodder for radicalization.
All children are our children. This must be said clearly and loudly. We expect internationally legitimized States to act within the confines of international and humanitarian law. Within the confines of morality. We know, however, that terrorists do not. We don’t tolerate a single child being kidnapped, held hostage, used as a human shield, starved, left untreated with injuries and illnesses, blocked from healthcare, kept out of school, barred from security and shelter or bombed. We do not tolerate any of this, as indeed, ours could be next. But, we don’t differentiate between children. ALL children are all our children.
*Costa Constanti is a Political and Social Analyst