Whilst literature on Israel’s state violence against Palestinian children is nothing new, there are apparent limitations on the current discourse which tends not to extend beyond theories of childhood trauma in conflict zones; nor do they form part of a critique of the ideologies underpinning Israel as a settler-colonial state. More often than not, the violent and personal experiences of the children themselves are overlooked within existing frameworks.
It is through the framing of the settler-colonial invasion of Palestinian childhood itself in Incarcerated Childhood and the Politics of Unchilding that author Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian attempts to construct and examine the idea of Palestinian children as political capital by presenting the concept of what she describes as “unchilding”.
According to Shalhoub-Kevorkian, this is the outcome of racialised, gendered and colonial policies in addition to “securitised theology” which attacks the children’s bodies, lives and futures physically and symbolically through the use of force. It is through the politics of unchilding that Israel manages to reinvent and re-territorialise itself while dispossessing the Palestinians and their disrupting family structure. Unchilding and the targeting of Palestinian children is facilitated by the settler-colonial state, it is argued, from two ideologies: one treats the children and their families as inferior and in need of “civilising” by the benevolent state trying to save the “native” children from their own communities; the other refuses to acknowledge them as children, seeing them instead as a demonised and dehumanised Other — “born terrorists”.
This book is on the shortlist for the Palestine Book Awards 2020, please click here to read the full review on the Palestine book awards site.