LOS ANGELES, May 8 (JTA) – In a move prompted by televised pictures of Palestinian children clashing with Israeli soldiers, the American Academy of Pediatrics has condemned governments, clergy and parents who encourage children to participate in violence in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
In a resolution adopted by more than 60,000 pediatricians, the group called the use of child soldiers the most virulent form of child abuse.
The resolution was initiated earlier this year by some 200 pediatricians who formed Doctors Opposed to Child Sacrifice.
One of DOCS’ founders, Dr. Pejman Salimpour, said he formed the group after watching nightly television footage of Palestinian-Israeli clashes in the West Bank and in Gaza.
“These children are being used as forced foot soldiers in a war directed by their elders,” said Salimpour, clinical chief of pediatrics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
“They are often placed as human shields for gunmen, who shoot over their heads at Israeli positions. Dozens and dozens of young children have been killed, their innocence and souls snuffed out, all as a result of parents and community members who abuse them by encouraging and allowing their involvement in the violence.”
In support of the resolution, Dr. Charles Johnson, director of child abuse at the Columbus, Ohio, Children’s Hospital, appealed to offending governments “to halt the outrageous use of young bodies for political ends.”
While the proliferation of youthful Palestinian “martyrs” represents the most visible case of child abuse, countries such as Sierra Leone, Angola, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia and Afghanistan are also culpable, Salimpour said.
Amnesty International estimates that currently more than 300,000 child soldiers under 16 are fighting in conflicts in more than 30 countries.