British mega pop star Robbie Williams, a UK Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) since 2001 , signed on last month to front a new campaign launched by UNICEF UK Children in Danger, which “aims to protect children from violence, disease, hunger and the chaos of war and disaster.”
Less than a week later Williams announced on his website he’s booked a gig at Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv on May 2, 2015, as part of his Let Me Entertain You Tour.
As documented in UNICEF’s report titled Children in Israeli Military Detention, Observations and Recommendations (pdf) Israel engages in “widespread, systematic and institutionalized” abuse of Palestinian children held in Israeli military custody. UNICEF’s report came out before Israel was busted for torturing Palestinian children by caging them in outdoor holding pens during a freezing snowstorm last winter or the slaughter in Gaza last summer commonly referenced as a genocide against Palestinians living in Gaza.
It seems strange that Williams, while fronting a campaign to end violence against children, could even entertain the idea of performing for a society whose government slaughters, abducts and tortures children.
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales interview Pernille Ironside, chief of UNICEF’s Gaza field office for A War on Gaza’s Future? Israeli Assault Leaves 500 Kids Dead, 3,000 Injured, 373,000 Traumatized.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the situation there. You were there through the entire assault until now.
PERNILLE IRONSIDE: Yes. Today, the future of Palestinian children in Gaza is extraordinarily bleak. The entire population has experienced a deep form of trauma, and there isn’t a single family in Gaza who hasn’t experienced personally death, injury, the loss of their home, extensive damage, displacement. The psychological toll that has on a people, it just cannot be overestimated, and especially on children. I’ve met children who have experienced extraordinary wounds, who have watched as family members were dismembered before their eyes, obliterated. You know, shortly after that terrible incident on the beach, the following day I met with the surviving three—
AMY GOODMAN: The beach being?
PERNILLE IRONSIDE: The Gaza City beach in Gaza.
AMY GOODMAN: Where?
PERNILLE IRONSIDE: Across from the al-Deira Hotel and where four children were killed. And I met with the surviving three boys, who had watched and who had just barely escaped with their lives. They were in a deep state of trauma. I mean, the impact and the type of weaponry that’s being used is literally shredding and obliterating people, and particularly children, who are so small and vulnerable. You know, and all of this is coming on top of an already deep—deep wounds from two previous conflicts. So, a seven-year-old child has already had to live through that and is now exposed to having all of these fears and frustrations and anger and emotions and reliving loss, on top of what’s happening now.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And this sense that in Gaza there is no place that is safe anymore, not even under the auspices of the United Nations? Could you talk about some of the attacks that have come on schools or shelters that are being run by the United Nations?
PERNILLE IRONSIDE: You know, there appears to be a rollback in terms of the compliance with the norms of international humanitarian law that dictate civilians and civilian objects, including shelters that are run for relief purposes, are protected spaces at all times. There have been six attacks and strikes on U.N. facilities to which people have sought safety. And these are people who received notifications to clear out of their neighborhoods because they were going to become military zones of operation. They fled, seeking safety, believing that the United Nations and these designated shelters, that had been fully coordinated with the Israeli officials, would provide them that safety—and instead, multiple cases of fatalities and injuries, including entire families in the middle of the night were impacted. So not even the sanctity of the U.N. flag right now is being respected in Gaza.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And how many United Nations personnel died in these attacks?
PERNILLE IRONSIDE: There have been 11 United Nations colleagues who have been killed, tragically, in the last few weeks.
AMY GOODMAN: There are 1.8 residents, something like that—1.8 million residents of Gaza. Again, how many of them are children?
PERNILLE IRONSIDE: Over half of the population of Gaza is in fact children. It’s a million children. And that’s children below the age of 18. When you look at individuals who are below 30, the youth, that is the majority of Gaza. So the conditions right now that are being allowed to perpetuate in Gaza, and are in fact being gravely exacerbated, really are dictating the future for these children. And it’s extraordinarily bleak. How is a child going to cope with and have any kind of sense of optimism or sense of a future possibility and the value of continuing with their studies under the conditions of the occupation and with this third cycle of violence? It’s our duty as the international community to put an end to this and to provide a reason to live for these children.
I’m sensing some disconnect here. Unicef UK’s press release announcing Williams, along with soccer legend David Beckham, fronting their new campaign to protect children, in part, from “violence and chaos of war” also announced their “ground-breaking” new report was also released that week; “Children in Danger: Act to End Violence against Children”(pdf). Interestingly, Israel was only mentioned once in the report:
Maybe Robbie Williams doesn’t know Israel slaughters and tortures children because UK UNICEF didn’t tell him? Maybe he’d think twice about playing
Sun City Tel Aviv if his fans informed him of the violent acts committed by Israel against Palestinian children.
(Newry for Palestine contributed to this report)