Israel and the Strange War on Children

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A decade ago, the West Bank would have seemed a dark and unfriendly place to visit. Food and water would have often been scarce, and the electricity would regularly have been cut for long periods. It would have been one year into the Second Intifada, a bloody episode that would eventually drag on for four more terrible years.

During the Second Intifada, a minority of desperate Palestinians carried out atrocious acts of terrorism, leaving many Israeli families devastated at their losses. In turn, the I.D.F. (Israel Defence Forces) would ruthlessly crush the slightest sign of resistance, leaving heaped rubble and broken homes in its wake.

Since the end of the intifada, largely due to increased international support, the infrastructure of the West Bank has improved greatly. The electricity generally stays on and there is food in the shops; houses have been rebuilt and many children go to school. Terrorist attacks by Palestinians are rare, and a naïve tourist in the comparatively liberal Bethlehem could almost be forgiven for believing that the atrocities committed by members of both sides were a thing of the past.

However, this fantasy would easily be shattered by a casual stroll through the bustling streets of Hebron. Residing directly in the centre of the Palestinian city, approximately five hundred radically illiberal Orthodox settlers are permanently accompanied by an even greater number of I.D.F. soldiers. The (hereditary, U.N.-recognised) owners of the land have illegally been driven out, and those few that remain regularly have stones, rubbish, and acid thrown at them by hostile settlers. Even the children are armed in these settlements, and anti-Arab slogans are sprayed on the walls.

Young settlers such as these are often brought up to believe that they are superior to other races and that they have a divine right to the land that they occupy. Despite it being illegal, they are allowed, even encouraged, to throw stones at Palestinian civilians. Moreover, the I.D.F. rarely interferes in the stone throwing unless the Palestinians react angrily, in which case they are sometimes imprisoned and occasionally shot.

Whilst the settlers are free to throw stones at Arab women and children, it is considered a crime for Palestinian youths to throw stones themselves. Israel regularly imprisons Palestinian children as young as twelve on charges of “Stone Throwing”, seemingly indifferent to its blatant hypocrisy. Because it is illegal in Israel to charge or imprison anyone under the age of fourteen in civilian courts, military courts are often been used instead.

A recent study published by the Israel-based organisation Btselem  shows that over eight-hundred minors from the West Bank were tried for Stone Throwing between 2005 and 2010. Twelve-year-old children have routinely been imprisoned for up to two months, and there have been further reports of even younger children being taken, many of them simply for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Amnesty International reports that in such cases, confessions ‘obtained under duress were accepted as evidence in Israeli military and civilian courts’, casting the guilt of these youths into further doubt.

Israel is fighting a psychological war on children, on two fronts. To the east, it imprisons the Arab youth of Palestine, generating hatred and resentment on a huge scale. Even those who are not imprisoned are damaged; seeing their neighbours’ houses raided and their friends taken at random inevitably leads to deep psychological strain, scarring them for life in a land where they cannot get the treatment they need.

Closer to home, Israel is waging a different kind of psychological warfare against its own children. Bombarding them with propaganda and perversions of religious doctrines from birth, many Israeli children are brainwashed into believing that they have a divine licence to destroy Palestine entirely if that is what it takes to reclaim the land promised by God. Israel’s youth are eventually deprived of all innocence due to the systematic conscription into the I.D.F. which forces them to choose between prison and actively participating in the atrocities themselves.

If it is not stopped, Israel’s institutionalised war on children will have even more terrible consequences. The horrific treatment of Palestinian children will breed a new generation of martyrs and fuel further distrust of Israel throughout the world. Simultaneously, the brainwashing of its own youth will make them less liberal and more suspicious; a generation of paranoid religious extremists with access to a huge defence budget still bizarrely supplied by the U.S.A.

There is perhaps still time to change the self-destructive policies that allow this strange war on children to continue, and I would look to the secular Jews worldwide and the liberals of Israel to help stop their far-right brethren’s vicious campaign. It can no longer be ignored that, despite its liberal portrayal in the corporate-media, Israel’s elite is showing little sign of wanting to embrace the liberal values that many of its founding fathers upheld.

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Discussion20 Comments

  1. avatar

    Malarky! The Palestinians in Judea and Samaria are far better off than they were under Jordanian, British, or Turkish rule. They need to renounce terrorism, recognize Israel, and make peace, period.

    Rafi
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    Right on!

  2. avatar

    Yeah sure :http://www.theworld.org/2011/07/palestinian-baby-lives-after-surgery-in-israel/

    Fred
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    Have a watch of this : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGYxLWUKwWo&feature=share

    Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon explains the historical facts relating to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The video explains where the terms “West Bank”, “occupied territories” and “67 Borders”

    Rafi
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    A must see vid. Thx for mentioning.

  3. avatar

    Avi and Fred – What is the relevance of your claims with regards to the article’s content?

    Fred
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    You claim that the Palestinians are a UN recognized hereditary owners of the land however there is no resolution as such declaring this.

    The reference to broken homes I am guessing is the Israeli policy of house demolition of the suicide bombers.

    The electricity supplied to the West Bank is actually Israeli, so to is the electricity supplied to Gaza which is generated from Ashkelon, the standard target for Gaza rockets.

    “. Despite it being illegal, they are allowed, even encouraged, to throw stones at Palestinian civilians” this statement is farcical. Where is your proof that this happens? In fact that whole paragraph is vague.

    Settlers are not free to throw stones at Arab women and children. The recent spat of attacks was in response to the killings of settlers at Itamar. Both are deplorable.

    Your argument focuses on Israeli children and their syllabus, what of Arab media? How does that motivate the rest of the Arab world against Israeli children?

    How about this : “The growing trend of anti-Semitism on Arab TV shows has been vigorously picking up momentum the last few years. Anti-Semitic-themed shows have become common on many of the 300-plus Arab satellite networks, including TV Channels and media outlets owned by theoretically pro-Western Arab governments are no exception — crossing the line from anti-Semitism to open support for terrorism.” http://www.hudson-ny.org/1821/anti-semitism-arab-regimes

    Israeli has freedom of press. Yes there are right wing papers that dislike the Palestinians but at the moment Israeli are demonstrating against land prices not the fact the Palestinians are next door. Surely if they were brainwashed they would be protesting against that? Also if there were brainwashed how come there are many Arabs living in Israeli cities that are not constantly attacked nor are separated on buses?

    You concluding arguments implies that Israel’s raison d’etre is to be perpetual warfare with Palestinians. How can this be when negogiations have been ongoing for decades and that it was Arafat not Israel who left the negotiating table when a deal was so close. How is that the recognition of the state of Israel is a taboo subject in the West Bank and Gaza so much so the smallest mention that a leader may be involved in such that mass demonstrations ensue?

    Further more Israel’s GDP is $217.1 billion. Of its $55.6 billion imports in 2010 which ranks it 46 in the world only 12.3% is from the US with 7.4% China followed by 7.1% and 6.9% from Germany and Switzerland, hardly under the yoke of the US. Of it’s $54.31 billion exports (the UK is less productive with the US at -$50 billion) 35% is TOO the US with 6% Hong Kong next. Yes, Israel is the biggest recipient of foreign aid in the region but of the total aid given by the US in 2008 it accounted for less than 10%. The next biggest recipient in that region is Eygpt at $2bn (1% of GDP!) vs Israel at $3bn (1% of GDP) . So I guess the US is propping up Eygpt too!.

    Here are my sources:

    GDP
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/is.html

    Gov Aid
    http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2011/tables/11s1296.pdf

    Misc
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Israel (shit wikipedia!)

    I’ve shown you mine now show me yours.

  4. avatar

    DISGUSTING ARTICLE. You talk of Israeli children being brain washed whilst it is the Palestinians that are taught in their schools to hate Jews. You say Israeli Children are taught that they have the right to destroy Palestine, it is the exact reverse of this. Only 30% of Palestinians see a 2 state solution as a final agreement the rest see it as a temporary step before a single Palestinian state. You use language to make minimize and act carried out by Palestinians (and refer to a society run by a terrorist group as a minority of desperate people) whilst maximizing those carried out by Israel. You then LIE and say that settlers kick Palestinians out of their houses, yes the whole settler thing is controversial but you decided to take it one step further and rather then the truth which is they build or buy houses, you say they steal them. Go on come up with a solution for kids throwing rocks? Instead you call it Israels war on Children. If a Kid threw a rock at you in the street would you say oh its only a kid or would you expect the police to do something? You then go on to say that settlers routinely throw acid at Palestinians where as in actual fact any attacks by settlers let alone with acid are rarer than those committed by Palestinians. You decided to give the impression of the reverse. Your article is a disgrace. This isn’t news its a hate campaign filled with many lies. I would love to see your sources for “houses raided and their friends taken at random “. In fact i’m being very sincere now I insist on seeing your sources or I will be making an official complaint because this is such a shoddy piece of, dare i call it journalism that I might expect to see in some extremist news paper. I’m being very serious, I do want to see your sources. You should publish them here for all to see ASAP.

  5. avatar
    Robert James

    Hello Fred, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I’m very happy to declare my sources.

    Firstly, however, I’d like to clear up what I meant by “U.N.-recognised”. I meant that Palestinian individuals own deeds to particular plots of land, and that these deeds are considered to be legitimate. This is nothing to do with the fact that Palestine is not officially recognised as a state. Apologies for the confusion here, it was a vague term.

    I would also like to make clear that this article is about the West Bank rather than the Gaza Strip, and that I in no way condone attacks carried out by Hamas (although these things are obvious anyway, given the articles content).

    The Btselem study can be found here: http://www.btselem.org/download/201107_no_minor_matter_eng.pdf

    This recent report by Amnesty International covers the freedom of expression in Israel, and also mentions the treatment of children:
    http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/israel-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-2011#section-67-9
    Whilst researching for this article I read many of their more in depth reports, which I would advise looking through. They can be accessed here:
    http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report_abstract and here: http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/israel-and-occupied-territories

    Regarding my claim that settlers throw stones at Palestinians, and are sometimes encouraged to do so, I recently travelled to Hebron and heard many accounts first-hand. The people I met there accepted that this practice was not unusual, but rather the norm. It was these accounts that inspired me to write this article. However, there are countless published anecdotal accounts, as can be seen by this Google search: http://www.google.co.uk/search?rlz=1C1RNNN_enGB359GB359&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=settlers+throw+stones+at+palestinians#sclient=psy&hl=en&rlz=1C1RNNN_enGB359GB359&source=hp&q=settlers+throw+stones+in+hebron&pbx=1&oq=settlers+throw+stones+in+hebron&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_sm=e&gs_upl=86160l89908l0l90078l24l14l0l0l0l5l1156l10934l6-8.3l11l0&fp=1&biw=1366&bih=604&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&cad=b

    If you want recent examples of of settlers throwing stones at Palestinian children in Hebron, and the soldiers allowing it to continue, look here:http://palsolidarity.org/2011/06/19142/ and again here: http://palsolidarity.org/2011/06/18686/

    Articles regarding the psychological effects of this treatment on Palestinian children: http://electronicintifada.net/content/trauma-palestinian-children-increasing-say-health-groups/10212 and http://www.child-soldier.org/palestine

    Regarding your other points, such as the fact that there is also a lot of unhelpful propaganda in the Arab world, I would agree. However, these things are not relevant to my thesis that this treatment of children will fuel the conflict rather than stop it.

    Atrocities committed by Arabs are routinely publicised in the corporate-media, whilst Israel continues to portray itself as being mature, reasonable and democratic. The failings of Arafat and other Arab leaders are well known, so here I have chosen to highlight Israel’s shortcomings also.

    Regards,

    Robert.

    EDIT: this was published after my article, but it is worth reading as a recent example to strengthen my argument regarding the brainwashing of Israeli children: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/07/israeli-school-racism-claim

    Fred
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    Your sources are not subjective, none are based on these is somewhat tenuous. See:

    HRW : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Human_Rights_Watch#Allegations_of_anti-Israel_bias

    Amnesty: http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/amnesty_in_anti_israel_obsession_continues_to_undermine_moral_principles

    You have not backed up your claim that Israeli children are being brainwashed, the sweeping statement that is. Which is especially insulting since I know many Israelis, who do not going around telling me about the evils of the Palestinians. I recall the grandfather of victims of a murder at Itarmar, by two Palestinians he is someone you would consider as “brainwashed (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/142886#.Tj1E5IK3Kdk):

    Interviewer: “Where do you have the strength and restraint that you can talk now and strengthen us, without anger and without calling for vengeance – that is not in your voice? Where is the strength from?”

    Grandfather: “I have worked in education many years, and as an educator, I try to strengthen and teach people faith. I understand that I cannot be satisfied with words and that I also must implement the same principles on which I have educated others. This is a test of my faith, and therefore I agreed to be interviewed.”

    I appreciate that you have heard anecdotal reports about stone throwing but what of the education of the Israelis? I do not know about the teacher in the Amnesty report but Vanunu signed the official Israeli secrets act and was working on classified work, without cohersion. The fact that he broke domestic law and released secrets means that he is a criminal and a traitor and should be treated as such. A top classified researcher who did the same anywhere else would be treated the same.

    Also the reference to Operation Cast Lead on the Amnesty website out of date since Goldstone has previously retracted his findings (http://justjournalism.com/the-wire/richard-goldstone-retracts-key-conclusion-of-gaza-war-report/).

    The atrocities of Arab states was not publicised before the Arab spring. The majority of press prior to the Arab spring focused on Israel, the masses of articles on this see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_coverage_of_the_Arab%E2%80%93Israeli_conflict.

    Whilst we can debate all of the above endlessly. I would like a retraction of the following paragraphs:

    Closer to home, Israel is waging a different kind of psychological warfare against its own children. Bombarding them with propaganda and perversions of religious doctrines from birth, many Israeli children are brainwashed into believing that they have a divine licence to destroy Palestine entirely if that is what it takes to reclaim the land promised by God. Israel’s youth are eventually deprived of all innocence due to the systematic conscription into the I.D.F. which forces them to choose between prison and actively participating in the atrocities themselves.

    If it is not stopped, Israel’s institutionalised war on children will have even more terrible consequences. The horrific treatment of Palestinian children will breed a new generation of martyrs and fuel further distrust of Israel throughout the world. Simultaneously, the brainwashing of its own youth will make them less liberal and more suspicious; a generation of paranoid religious extremists with access to a huge defence budget still bizarrely supplied by the U.S.A.

    Fred
    avatar

    PS This is a good report to read

    http://onevoicemovement.org/programs/documents/OneVoiceIrwinReport.pdf

    See page 3 , Page 4 Interesting that 47% of a sample of Israelis don’t want greater Israel.

  6. avatar
    Emily Sheldrake

    My first response to this article is that once again the Wessex Scene is publishing an emotive and highly spurious article that seems to follow its apparent left leaning anti Israel stance. A few months ago there was a ‘discussion’ about the issue, however these articles seem to appear more and more often. Having lived abroad, it’s quite obvious that the British Press has an obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, despite most of the population (and many journalists) having no knowledge about the complex issues of the Middle East and Israel’s turbulent history. This article is no exception.
    This article first of all is missing sources. ‘Facts’ are immersed in emotive language, totally unsuited to professional journalism.

    “Terrorist attacks by Palestinians are rare”. There are regular rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinians, (896 rockets in 2007, averaging on 2-3 a day) (http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/terror_07e.pdf) something which is considered an act of terrorism by the UN, EU and as war crimes by Amnesty International (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_rocket_attacks_on_Israel). I wonder how long the UK would put up with rockets being fired in by Wales. In fact we invaded Iraq before even being attacked. So maybe we shouldn’t get too self righteous about that one. Earlier this year an anti tank missile was fired at a school bus, aimed at killing innocent children. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/07/israeli-school-bus-gaza-missile) Is this not a terror attack?

    In response also to your response to Fred’s post, yes, children always suffer in times like these. However, your article makes no mention of the Israeli children that suffer psychological problems as a result of rocket attacks “In 2008, Natal, the Israel Center for Victims of Terror and War, conducted a study on the city of Sderot based on representative sampling. The study found that between 75 percent and 94 percent of Sderot children aged 4–18 exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress. 28 percent of adults and 30 percent of children had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)” (http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=76438, http://www.haaretz.com/news/study-most-sderot-kids-exhibit-post-traumatic-stress-symptoms-1.237438) If you indeed care for the welfare of children (something to be commended) then please at the very least make this a balanced piece that looks at the victims of both sides, instead of writing an emotive, biased and factually shaky opinion piece.

    These are only some of the things I picked up in the article which quite frankly disgusted me. You may have indeed been to Hebron, but I have also visited the bomb shelters in Israel and I can tell you, the people of Ashkelon etc live in daily fear.

    Worth adding also, the UN also criticised the Palestinian education system for indoctrinating Palestinian children to hate Israel (http://www.palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=122) So again, you presented only one side of the argument, without at least discussing the fallacies of the education system in Gaza and the West Bank. (Worth perhaps also reading the full report available on the website.)

    Give this a view too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN5XCi07YGc and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjbJnZUJTYU&feature=related

    Karl
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    ‘I wonder how long the UK would put up with rockets being fired in by Wales.’

    Not a sensible analogy I fear. If the UK (which, it must be stressed, includes Wales) suffered continual rocket attacks from a militant group from behind the Welsh border – a group which had not accepted the general ceasefire implicit in the union – I am not convinced London would hold Cardiff responsible for those attacks. Moreover, I doubt London would then respond with air strikes, resulting in civilian casualties. The opposite can be said for Israel, which hold the Hamas responsible for all such attacks coming from within Gaza and, in the words of Prime Minister Netanyahu, vow to ‘respond with even more force.’

    Perhaps it would have made more sense to use the better-suited (though still ill-fitting) analogy of the Northern Ireland Troubles and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Even then, however, I feel it would amount to little more than clutching at straws.

  7. avatar

    Talking about educating children, have you paid attention how the school books, under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, promote violence in the minds of children as young as 3-years old?

  8. avatar
    Robert James

    Emily,

    Thanks for your contribution (although not for the emotive language and insults!). It’s good to hear a different side of the story. Please note that I have in fact listed my sources in an earlier comment, as they were requested by another poster.

    However, I leave it up to the reader to decide whether or not my sources are reliable and my thesis is sound.

    Regards,

    Robert.

  9. avatar

    I’ve read about this stuff going on before, I just didn’t realise it was such a regular thing.

    Its odd that nobody commenting seems outraged or disgusted at this treatment of children. the general response kind of backs up the article just as much as the sources do, in its own way. Anyway, I am going to Israel and (hopefully) Palestine next year so I will see for myself!

    Roy
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    You think that people opposing and disproving the nonfactual basis of this article in someway backs up the article? And you call yourself a historian?

    Actually I’m glad you say that it backs it up as much as the sources do because the sources do not back it up. Iv’e not read every single link the author posted but from what I did read it takes a massive leap of the imagination to get from what is said in the sources to what is said in the article.

  10. avatar

    The one who is bullied often becomes a bulley. It is tragically ironic that Israeli Jews, so many of whose fathers suffered under Hitler, now visit such inhumanity on their Asab neighbours.

    American support for Israel is a very large factor in the Muslim world’s deep hatred of US policy.

    Bob
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    An ignorant comment that shows no knowledge of the formation of the state of Israel nor the context within which the current situation has arisen.

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