Some Israeli parents are outraged that their children were exposed to a police demonstration of “how to kill a terrorist.” The demonstration is part of annual Community Police Day events. Captured on video, police are shown firing at a “terrorist,” who appears to be laying on the ground and injured. The Israeli National Parents Association said “children are not supposed to be exposed to showcases of killing and terror.” However, Israel Police Spokeswoman Merav Lapidot stood behind the event and said the children’s clapping indicates “they were very happy.”
This kind of display of state-controlled violence is nothing new in Israel. After all, the logic underpinning these events stems from a string of weighty occasions that coincide with a surge of nationalist sentiments, which begin with Holocaust Day through Remembrance Day and finally Independence Day, all of which expose deeply ingrained institutional violence.
INSTITUTIONALIZING FEAR AND HATE TO PRODUCE VIOLENCE
Just over two weeks ago, for instance, the Israeli occupation forces marked Independence Day across the occupied Palestinian territories by showing fake amputated bodies to children as young as five years-old at the illegal settlement of Tekoa. This sickening display by the Etzion Brigade was part of the occupation forces’ annual community events during Israel’s independence celebrations. Soldiers also painted realistic wounds on children using techniques they are trained to perform in reality. According to a statement issued by the IDF, the events included displays of “vehicles, surveillance and communications equipment, [as well as] a display of the Medical Corps in which treatment methods were illustrated.” Despite the questionable exposure of children to such displays, the statement insisted that “the day went well, and it’s clear that many families enjoyed it.”
Such events have come under fire in recent years for their possible negative effects on children, particularly because they are deeply embedded in Israeli education, beginning at age three in preschool. In one instance, some parents were appalled when their children returned from preschool one day wearing yellow stars in 2015. Fearing the indoctrination and radicalization of their children, some families decided to keep their children at home this year during such events. According to one family, “because of the decision other people made about when and how it is appropriate for our child to learn about genocide, we chose to keep her at home.”
The growing dissent against a politicized version of Holocaust and Israeli history education is gaining momentum. As one mother put it: “this system serves the government and a militaristic outlook.” She doesn’t want her girls “to be exposed to nationalist worldviews – to the racism that exists in the school system, to the exclusivity of Judaism in the school system.”
This system is aimed at inculcating an acceptance of state-controlled violence on the part of future soldiers. Israel has a mandatory conscription service, which depends on preparing its citizens for combat and warfare at an early age. However, “this politicization is [in]appropriate for children in elementary school or preschool,” according to Zimra Vigoda, a mother of two boys aged 16 and 17, and one girl in third grade whom she kept away from the events in question. As far as her boys are concerned, “the indoctrination has already been completed,” she said.
THE INEVITABLE RESULT
Though the conversation surrounding such events is warranted, it remains limited. Little attention is paid to a far more immediate reality: those Israeli children who grow up primed and accustomed to violence will serve in the occupied Palestinian territories – only a few miles away from where they are being indoctrinated. For instance, the illegal settlement of Tekoa is just about one hour drive away from the occupied Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
In spite of this proximity, the police demonstration tells us that Israelis are far removed from the reality their occupation imposes on Palestinians. After all, the police fake demonstration of killing a “terrorist” has been very real for Palestinians of all ages. Just four days ago, on May 7, Israeli soldiers performed the similar act in Jerusalem, actually killing a human being. Her name was Fatima Afif Abd al-Rahman Hjeiji. She has now joined at least 250 Palestinians who have been killed in a similar manner since October, 2015.
The same can be said about the IDF’s use of fake amputated bodies. Hundreds of real Palestinians now live with amputated limbs as the ultimate result of Israel’s indoctrination of its own citizens. According to a report by Physicians for Human Rights, in 2014 alone, nearly one hundred Palestinians in Gaza became amputees during Israel’s offensive of that year, known as Operation Protective Edge. The majority of these amputees are under thirty years-old, and the include 14 women, and 10 children, one of whom was 1 year-old at the time of amputation.
MEANWHILE IN PALESTINE
There is no shortage of Israeli allegations that Palestinians teach their children hate. President Donald Trump reiterated this view during the separate press briefings he held with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Similarly, pro-Israel apologists constantly repeat this allegation. Perhaps the most relevant example is an October 2015 article by Wall Street Journal editorial board member (now an op-ed writer for the New York Times), Bret Stephens, entitled “Palestine: The Psychotic Stage – The truth about why Palestinians have been seized by their present blood lust.” His answer to the frequent outbursts of violence is simple: Palestinian incitement is causing “a communal psychosis in which plunging knives into the necks of Jewish women, children, soldiers and civilians is seen as a religious and patriotic duty, a moral fulfillment;” and his prescription is even simpler: “it’s time to give hatred its due,” by which he meant that it is time to recognize that Palestinian hate is comparable to the sort of hate we learn about from the history “of American slavery, or the Holocaust.” The Palestinians, for Stephens, are unalterably evil, and must be dealt with accordingly.
While the exposure of Palestinian children to violent indoctrination is indeed a concern, there are distinct differences that demand serious attention, which Stephens misses. First, it is Palestine that is under a 50-year Israeli military occupation, not vice versa. Secondly, unlike Israel, the Palestinians do not have a state monopoly on violence, not least because Palestine, being under Israeli occupation and stripped of even a modicum of sovereignty, does not have formal institutions such as a military or independent policing institutions. The indoctrination of non-state actors like Hamas or other Palestinian resistance groups has nothing like the pervasive impact of that of powerful state institutions like the Israeli military or police. In the absence of statehood and complete sovereignty, it is impossible to achieve the degree of regulation that Israel is demanding. This could only be achieved by Israel ending its occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands, and halting its massive violence against the Palestinians, for which the indoctrination of its own citizens is meant to prepare them.