Mourning the Lost Children of Gaza

David R. Adler
4 min readMay 6, 2024
Hamas Chief Yahya Sinwar w. fellow criminal abusers of Gaza’s children. CREDIT: SOPA Images/LightRocket

In my piece about the Israel/Palestine “para-conflict,” I discuss the Marxian view that our ideas are shaped by historical and material conditions that are largely beyond our control. Viewing humanity through this Marxian lens, I suggest, helps us build understanding, across cultures and time periods, turning away from blame and toward reconciliation.

If we accept this, then we must also consider the historical and material conditions prevailing among Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, and how their ideas were shaped by those conditions. I remember reading years ago that the majority of Gaza’s young have never encountered an Israeli civilian. Not one. Their only contact with Israel is with its military. They have no knowledge of or exposure to Israeli society whatsoever. That so many have died in the current war, at the hands of an Israeli military that claims to spare civilians even when this is demonstrably not the case, is something that should be protested, vigorously. On that, and that alone, I am with the protesters, and the position I have held my entire adult life has not changed.

We are all shaped not only by our material conditions, but by the adults and institutional forces that surround us. The main institutional force in Gaza is the Islamic Resistance Movement, Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya, known by the acronym Hamas. It seized power in a violent coup against the Palestinian Authority in 2007 and has served as Gaza’s government and dominant military faction ever since. It recruits child soldiers and subjects them to an indoctrination process that is all but inescapable. Try to imagine the level of exploitation. The ideas these children emerge with were on full display on October 7, 2023.

Gaza, Summer 2021. Getting ready.

To say that Hamas fighters on that day were “just fighting back,” that they did “what anyone would do” under the circumstances, that what they did was inevitable, is to erase from the picture everything that I’ve stated above. The murderers did not do “what anyone would do,” they did what a highly adept military force trained them and hacked into their souls to do. National Students for Justice in Palestine, now accused in a major civil suit of having direct Hamas ties, took the side not of the children of Gaza, but of their adult abusers. So did Cornel West, who has called October 7 “a counter-terror response” (he’ll be holding forth in Edinburgh this week on the meaning of John Coltrane, to rapt audiences no doubt). Now the protest movement mourns a new generation of Gazan children who have died at Israel’s hands, deliberately steered into the path of destruction by the very Palestinian leadership NSJP is cheering on. The moral rot of it is astonishing.

Jewish Voice for Peace, in its coldhearted, deplorable post-attack statement, went out of its way not to acknowledge Hamas’s existence, and I’ve imagined the thought process as something like this: If JVP did mention Hamas, it would have to recognise that the “Palestinian fighters” it spoke of were groomed by an institutional force, a government, an army. And once you’ve done that, especially if you claim to be a Jewish group, you have two choices: condemn Hamas unreservedly, or support them like your partners in Students for Justice in Palestine. So JVP made a third choice, an unthinkably cowardly one that surprised even me: it didn’t mention Hamas at all, effectively removing the actual lived history and experience of young Gazans from moral view. This is the Jewish group that pro-Palestine activists deem a worthy ally, uncontaminated by Zionism.

Beyond any question of historical wrongs or current injustice, Palestinians do not lack agency and the capacity to make moral choices. They are neither angels nor devils, they are humans. Like all humans throughout our history, they face their material reality and develop ideas and strategies in response to get through life. It is a tragedy of horrific proportions that in Gaza, those historical and developmental processes have been arrested, and steered, as ruthlessly as can be imagined, by the likes of Yahya Sinwar and his movement: the one that Jewish Voice for Peace declined to name, the one that National Students for Justice in Palestine not only embraced, but now stands credibly accused of working for.

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David R. Adler

Writer, guitarist and music educator based in Wakefield, United Kingdom.