Disturbing photos show militarization of Israeli children

An Israeli boy wearing a military vest throws a mock grenade during a traditional military weapon display to mark the 66th anniversary of Israel’s “independence” at the occupied West Bank settlement of Efrat on 6 May 2014.

Gali Tibbongali AFP

On 6 May, Israelis celebrated their “independence day,” which they mark according to the Jewish lunar calendar.

Traditionally Israeli Jews hold public celebrations and picnics, especially in “national parks” typically built over the ruins of ethnically cleansed and destroyed Palestinian villages.

Meanwhile, with broad support from the Israeli Jewish public, Palestinian public commemorations of the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of Palestine – can be punished by law.

Many of the Israeli festivities are celebrations of the so-called “Israel Defense Forces,” better known to Palestinians as the army that occupies them, arrests and kills their children with impunity and helps settlers to steal their land.

An Israeli child holds a rocket launcher as another holds her doll during a traditional military weapon display to mark the 66th anniversary of Israel’s “independence” at the occupied West Bank settlement of Efrat on 6 May 2014.

Gali Tibbongali AFP

Some of these disturbing images of Israeli children being put through military-style training displays at Efrat, an illegal Israeli colony in the occupied West Bank, have been circulating widely online and were published in Haaretz and other media.

A repeated theme of pro-Israeli, anti-Palestinian propaganda is to circulate images of Palestinian children taking part in such militarized displays in order to advance the belief that Palestinian culture is inherently violent and “teaches children hate” and that therefore Israeli violence is a justified defensive response.

But these pictures are remarkable because they reveal the extent to which Israeli culture has been militarized and how Israeli children are not immune to this – a key theme in Max Blumenthal’s book Goliath.

There is no doubt that both Israeli and Palestinian children have been subjected to this kind of brutalization by adults. It is horrifying whenever children are given guns and encouraged to imagine themselves as killers.

Such activities are arguably in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that member countries “shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen years into their armed forces.”

As I wrote on a previous occasion when such disturbing images of Israeli children appeared:

Children live with the consequences of Israel’s violent occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people, whether it is Israeli children indoctrinated to continue this oppression as adults, or Palestinian children brutalized and traumatized by the organized violence of occupation, colonialism and apartheid that pervades their lives.

This is never a reflection on the children, but on the adults who subject them to such ugliness.

An Israeli boy wearing a military vest crawls on the sand during a traditional military weapon display to mark the 66th anniversary of Israel’s “independence” at the occupied West Bank settlement of Efrat on 6 May 2014.

Gali Tibbongali AFP
An Israeli man shows his son how to work a machine-gun during a traditional military weapon display to mark the 66th anniversary of Israel’s “independence” at the occupied West Bank settlement of Efrat on 6 May 2014.  Gali Tibbongali AFP

Indoctrinating children

Rela Mazali is the founder of New Profile (newprofile.org), an Israeli organization that supports conscientious objection and advocates for individual refusers.

In this video with The Real NewsLia Tarachansky, she explains how Israeli culture normalizes military conscription so that people do not even regard militarization as a policy choice but rather as a natural feature of life. The report also includes an interview with refuser Alex Cohn who discusses how Israeli Jewish children are indoctrinated through popular media to look forward to their conscription into the army and to disparage skepticism and refusal.

Mazali also discusses sexual violence in the Israeli military and how the culture has managed to make sexual harassment and assault invisible to its victims.




What's also infuriating about this is that even according to Israel's own civilian laws, the "IDF's" military code and any measure of common sensical safety regulations, handing live ammunition to untrained individuals, let alone minors, is unheard of, illegal, and a grave offense. The "IDF" major shown in one of the photos above should be identified and court-martialed for endangering the life of a minor and who knows how many other violations.

This -- in addition to all the ugliness that Ali so very correctly points to in the article.

All this in the only LIBERAL WESTERN DEMOCRACY in the Middle East.


To 'Uri Horesh', I don't see a single picture or mention within the article that they gave ammunition to the civilians, all I'm seeing is a parade of guns...
...Which, really IS sick. What were they thinking? I know kids may think that guns are cool and whatnot, but such open presentation of those topics is incredibly retarded and within bad taste not only from the angle of political-ramifications (you'd expect such activities from insane extremists, not from incorporated sane people), but indeed from the educational and mental consequence of instilling such a reality with open arms.
Verily, it reflects upon the adults who subject such topics upon the children rather vice-versa.


If they were tabs they would have been called "Terrorists"....
They should teach their kids what they couldn't do themselves: PEACE.
Where is the US and the UN now?


You can use any picture and give it your own words of observation. The truth is, that since the creation of this country and way before that our people were and still are in danger, and it's no because we took a country from some palstinian non-sense, but because we are Jewish (see Nazis).
One of the Israeli state's goal is to protect all Jewish people in the world (not only in Israel) and obviously the ones in Israe the most. One of the ways to do that is to have an army, yes!!! every country in the world has an army to protect it self.
Now imagine you are sitting in France of world war 2 and you are in the last house in Paris yet to be captured, you have 3 men, 2 women and 3 children. You also have 5 grenades a rifle and a machine gun.


Typical comment from just another dehumanised, brainwashed product of the Israeli education system


How may times were you shot at? my guess is zero. Well that is not true about myself..
If i'm brainwashed what are you a brainwasher?? you are not smarter than reality get over it and stick your nose in your own pot.


Get over what exactly? I suggest you get some real education and grow up!


What makes your education real and mine not? Did you ever study any Israeli or Jewish history? Because if you insist in sticking your head into my pot whole than you should.. There's a lot to know before making any assumptions


you are both right... but just to make this whole argument short, arabs and jews lived in Palestine PEACEFULLY before 1948... history doesn't matter now... the simple fact that guns are being given to children (no matter where they are from) is wrong! Let go of your past and "fears" already and start working on a new future.. just like the times both cultures had once. when jews also spoke arabic.


I agree with you that no child anywhere should be exposed to this, again adults using children for their own ends, so cowardly and irresponsible. Concerning your "but",every means imaginable has been removed from the Palestinian people to defend themselves and those who have the courage to resist, in the face of the most powerful and brutal military machine in the world, are often shot dead and the lives of their families destroyed. Those people are an example to us all. The struggle for justice must continue.


A true analogy is the occupation of Paris by Germany during WWII and Israel's 47 year belligerent/illegal/brutal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem and its illegally extended boundaries.

To quote the esteemed Jewish Israeli journalist, Bradley Burston:

"Occupation is Slavery"

"In the name of occupation, generation after generation of Palestinians have been treated as property. They can be moved at will, shackled at will, tortured at will, have their families separated at will. They can be denied the right to vote, to own property, to meet or speak to family and friends. They can be hounded or even shot dead by their masters, who claim their position by biblical right, and also use them to build and work on the plantations the toilers cannot themselves ever hope to own. The masters dehumanize them, call them by the names of beasts." (Ha'aretz, 26 February 2013)


I have accumulated a list of about fifteen hasbara points used against Palestinians. Some are false and some might be true as would be the militarization of (some) Palestinian children. But they are actually all true realities of Israel. In fact any time a charge is made against Palestinians, the first thing to check is how true it is about the Israelis.


I'm astonished by this kind of gratification to children in Israel. I tend not to buy toy guns to my children who watch too much G.I.Joe cartoons, and lecture them about how they feel if they hurt someone as a consequence. But handing children real guns, that is a crime against humanity. And for a country that owns one of the largest nuclear arsenals, why does it need to arm children. Are there any hidden agendas? Poor Israeli kids, they don't know the damage that they are receiving.


please show the Arab children dressed as a soldiers we need balance.


Oh that balance that simply eludes not only Jewish and Israeli media, but mainstream media?


Hitler Jugend, oder?


The history of modern Palestine in a nutshell:
1) Political Zionism 1917-1948
2) Gun Zionism 1948-the present


Though i am aware that the sites title is electronic intifada, nevetheless i try to make a point here. From the viewpoint of a europian, the article is ridiculusly propaganda.
These photos are of a military open day, right? Whats is so revolting about children looking at (nonfunctional) military equipment at an open day? Its exactly the same as the firefighter's open day, for example.
Here in hungary our military too has an open day. We have some nice arsenals parks too, where nonfunctional weapons are at display (like tanks, armored personal carriers and like), these are basically open air wepons museums. Children enjoy those, too. It doesn't militarize children. (just as an example: until 10 years ago, we had mandatory conscription, and i can tell you, no sane young man ever wanted to be conscripted here, it was hugely hated be almost everyone). So militarizing children takes a little bit more than showing them the soldiers equipment.

Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.