How did it feel to imagine killing Arabs? “I felt happy” one girl answers.
She was one of several children who spoke about committing acts of violence in this video shot at the Israeli army museum by Israeli satirical filmmaker Itamar Rose.
But the children’s answers – in Hebrew and subtitled in English – are serious. As they climb all over tanks, sit at machine-guns positions, or explain how to use a hand-grenade, Rose asks them their views.
Without hesitation, the children express their readiness to kill. Asked what he imagined when he was sitting in a tank, one boy answers, “I picture a dead Arab.”
Of course, these children are no more ready to kill than any other children, nor can they be any more capable of understanding the import of their words, at least not yet.
The children in Rose’s film bring to mind the notorious image of Israeli schoogirls writing messages on artillery shells about to be fired into Lebanon during Israel’s 2006 assault that killed more than 1,200 Lebanese civilians and devastated much of the country.
All these children are victims of Israel’s militaristic, settler-colonial culture. As Nurit Peled-Elhanan documents in her important new book Palestine in Israeli School Books, recently reviewed by The Electronic Intifada, Israeli schoolchildren are indoctrinated with negative stereotypes and outright hatred of Palestinians and Arabs from an early age.
Moreover, according to Peled-Elhanan, Israeli textbooks, “present Israeli-Jewish culture as superior to the Arab-Palestinian one, Israeli-Jewish concepts of progress as superior to Palestinian-Arab way of life and Israeli-Jewish behavior as aligning with universal values.”
Education is only one aspect; Israeli children grow up in a highly militarized settler-colonial culture where most know they are destined for the army where they will be ordered to occupy and kill. Indoctrination at an early age must be an important part of ensuring that only very few will refuse to undertake such tasks.
Palestinian children in Israeli propaganda
Pro-Israel propaganda sites often revel in images of Palestinian children posing with weapons, as if such images prove that Palestinian children are indeed uniquely vicious, or deserve no sympathy or justice when killed.
This type of propaganda reflects what Joseph Massad has called Arabopaedophobia – the Israeli and Western fear, hatred and dehumanization of Arab children.
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.