-GAZA’S CHILDREN: It’s only a game, isn’t?

EDITORIAL COMMENT

“A good or bad future of a nation can be determined by its children. . .”

OCTOBER 30, 2007 –   “A good or bad future of a nation can be determined by its children, who will lead the nation in the future.” – Palestinian Sociologist Ghassan Zoqan

Chinaview, the online new service of Xinhuah News Agency, published today a special report relating to how deeply divided the children of Gaza have become. One is either for Hamas or Fatah. No longer are their war games conducted between Palestine and Israel, at least not for the moment.

Here’s what Chinaview had to say:

In this northern Gaza Strip city, Raed Wahidi, 11-year-old boy in black uniform, was using his plastic pistol on Tuesday morning to fire at his friend, dressed in dark brown, who was also carrying a plastic rifle. What Wahidi and his friend did was part of a popular game that Palestinian children often play in the Hamas-ruled Strip.

But since mid-June when Hamas routed Fatah and seized control of the coastal Strip, political factor has began to change game playing — Wahidi represents Hamas and his friend, Ayman Muhssen, also 11 years old, acts as a member of Fatah.

“I’m Lieutenant Raed,  from the Executive Forces (of Hamas),” the boy identified himself, referring to Hamas’ paramilitary security forces which administrate the Gaza Strip since mid-June.

Muhssen broke in: “I’m Captain Ayman, from the Preventive Security Forces, which will return to Gaza stronger than ever and will crush you.”

The Preventive Security Forces was made up of Palestinian militants loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, which suffered a fiasco in June during a bloody battle against Hamas’ Executive Forces.

Hamas’ Executive Forces and the Preventive Security Forces have been the symbolic parts of the infighting that ended with Hamas taking over Gaza.

As a result, the geographically-divided Palestinian territories have been politically split into two parts — with Hamas controlling Gaza and Fatah holding the West Bank.

Wahidi and Muhssen seemed to be addicted to their games, and it was very difficult to keep talking to them, particularly as their mates were calling them to continue the game.

“We have to blow up these bombs in the coup-maker group. They did the same with us yesterday but we could not respond because we have had no money to buy the bombs,” Muhssen said as he ran quickly to join his team.

He was referring to Hamas militants as the coup-makers, as it was what Abbas and his Fatah movement has repeatedly branded Hamas men.

Without blood and tears, the two game teams clashed as if it was a real battle. Muhssen’s firework bombs have forced Wahidi’s team back until they surrendered to Muhssen’s Fatah players. Though being tied up by the Fatah team, Wahidi was smiling and seemed not to be sad at all.

“It is only a game. And in fact, Hamas is the dominant here,” he explained why he was not sad.

Before June’s bitter infighting between Hamas and Fatah, children in the Gaza Strip also played the same game, but differently, all the players were divided into Arab and Jews instead of Hamas and Fatah.

Bayan al-Hellou, 43, a grocer keeper who was sitting in front of his shop and watching the game, was not happy with what he saw. “I think the Israelis have never dreamt that this heritage game would not disturb them anymore … thanks to our feuding factions,” said al-Hellou, sighing.

 Sociologist Ghassan Zoqan said the children “demonstrate their own conception of life through the games and this is a normal issue.”

He, however, warned that continuing to see Hamas and Fatah fighters as enemy will increase the Palestinian social division in the future.

“A good or bad future of a nation can be determined by its children, who will lead the nation in the future,” he added.

Statistics over the impact of continuous infighting on Palestinian children show that 28 children have died in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in the period between January and August this year. Some 177 children aged under 18 were also wounded in this period.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) also said education in 75 schools has been interrupted between October 2006 and August 2007 due to the clashes between Hamas and Fatah.

According to the PCBS, there have been six incidents that saw Gaza gunmen storming schools and bombs were used in three cases.

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