Cal Tzedek: Indoctrination

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Here is my response to a letter to the Daily Cal by the head of the Israel Action Committee. He discussed incitement by the P.A. and its effects on the peace process. There are several points on which I disagree with him, and I hope the Daily Cal prints my response, although I would not count on it:

J.K.’s letter (“Teach Kids Peace,” April 19) did not appear to be in response to anything which the Daily Cal has actually printed recently. Thus, I can only assume that it is one of those periodical recitations of the standard truisms: Israelis love, Palestinians hate. Israelis are instinctively democratic, Palestinians are not. Israel has always sought peace, the Palestinians have always responded with war.

These Golda Meir Era clichés are quite soothing for those of us with something to lose in Israel (such as a sister) who might otherwise get that uncomfortable feeling that perhaps Palestinian youth have been “brainwashed” not exclusively by the PA, but by the “institutionalized and systemic” policies of Israel toward them, their families, and their property. Hasbara never fails to leave me with that warm and fuzzy feeling that those who have been so radicalized as to want to hurt my sister have undergone that process only in the last twelve years, and only because of what they have seen on television or read in a book.

It’s really quite an empowering way of looking at things! Consider the inexplicably popular FaceBook group “Responsible Parenting,” of which Mr. K. is a member. By “wondering what kind of parent allows their child to go and throw rocks at tanks,” we can take comfort in the fact that Palestinian parents don’t really care about their children’s well-being, meaning that if those children were to die it would mean less to them (and should mean less to us) than if our children were to die. Plus, we get to ignore the question of why people in tanks feel the need to fire back at children throwing rocks! It’s the best of both worlds, and the feeling of moral absolution is heavenly!

But ultimately, it reeks of the arrogance and ignorance which those who have power allow themselves to exhibit toward those who do not. Israel’s government presumes to be able to read the collective Palestinian mind, as if there were such a thing, and for rather self-serving reasons. Of Sharon’s infamous 14 Reservations to the Road Map for Peace, often described as being-security related, only the first two really deal with the violence and incitement (and the first reservation even presents Israel’s demand that “the road map will not state that Israel must cease violence and incitement against the Palestinians.”) The other twelve essentially exist to preserve Israel’s advantage in negotiations, on issues such as the settlements, right of return, and Jerusalem.

This is not to belittle Mr. K’s point that incitement, terrorism, and “child soldiers” are immoral phenomena, but he should look more carefully before claiming that “human rights organizations” do not condemn these things. B’Tselem has an entire section dedicated to Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians which it condemns in the strongest possible terms, along with the PA’s rather broad application of the death penalty. Amnesty International has called suicide bombings a “crime against humanity.” Human Rights Watch, in response to the horrific November bombing that Mr. K. described, states, “Palestinian armed groups should immediately end all use of children in military attacks.” If these groups focus more on Israeli policies, perhaps that’s because Israeli policies play a greater role in the conflict.


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