Last week a friend of mine told me that she’d been invited to a debate at her University about the “Palestinian Mickey Mouse” Farfour, which is a Hamas-created children’s show that was broadcast on the Al-Quds TV in Gaza. The show was accused of conveying messages of hate by Israel, the US and a number of European countries. I never saw the show, but I remember the storm that was created because of it on a number of American and European networks. I remember also reading that there was some sort of mistranslation of what was being said on the show, which in a way had lead to the misinterpretations, and that none of these networks attacking the show “bothered to get independent verification of the translation“(1). This reminded me of the several occasions where I was confronted with questions about the Palestinian textbooks, and that they were breeding and spreading hate and Anti-Semitism. When the second Intifada began in 2000, I was already in Germany to start my higher studies there. I remember one evening when a German friend of mine called and said she had a shocking article to show me. As far as I remember, the article was published by the New York Times. It talked about Palestinian children being pushed by their parents to go out to the streets and to the checkpoints and throw stones at the IOF, so that they get shot at and killed, and subsequently the family gets money for their dead child. I remember distinctly reading something about the parents giving their children a few Shekels to take the bus and reach the checkpoint. I was of course outraged, as was my German friend, who had lived a number of years in Palestine and saw the realities of Palestinian suffering by the hands of the “peace-loving” Israelis. It is a common enough thing to place the whole blame on the Palestinians for everything has gone wrong in the Middle East, and to ignore Israel’s State Terrorism. Zionist propaganda has been brain-washing American and European minds since so long, that even people with a bit of common sense would just take whatever lies and nonsense Israel is feeding them as undoubted facts. It only takes a click of a mouse to find an independent and honest website and read about the suffering of Palestinian children under the brutal Israeli military occupation.
Palestinian children don’t need “Farfour“ or any other show to tell them how to feel about the Zionists. I myself, someone who was born und grew up knowing nothing other than the brutal Israeli occupation, never heard one single word of hate or racism whether at home or at school. It was us children, seeing what was going on around us, the killing, the checkpoints, the nightly arrests, the beating of our relatives, the destruction of our neighbours’ houses, this all helped formulate our idea abut the Israeli occupier. Do the Israelis expect me to forget the night when they forced themselves into my grandparents’ house looking for one of my uncles? Do they expect me to forget how after turning the house upside down and finding no one there except my grandmother, my uncle’s wife, my sister and I, they started beating us, and then when my grandmother started shouting and calling for help, they started beating her brutally. When we tried to stop them, some of the soldiers held us back while the rest of the patrol continued beating her, an old woman, in front of us, right before us little kids. Do they expect us to forget her cries and the brutality in which these soldiers were beating an unarmed OLD Woman?!
After one horrific nightly attack of the Jewish fanatic settlers of Kiryat Arba near Hebron on Dheisheh refugee camp, I remember the next day when the refugee camp was full with journalists from all over the world, how one European-looking journalist approached me and asked me how I was feeling. She then told my aunt that she had a daughter my age. I just kept looking at her, wondering how this nice-looking person could be in any way related to the monstrous settlers of the night before, or to the brutal Israeli soldiers who helped the settlers, and instead of stopping them from shooting at an unarmed population, were assisting them in their attack. To me, and maybe to many others like me, the IOF, being the Israeli army, and the Jewish settlers, being the Israeli civilians, were one and the same: both armed to the teeth, brutal and with one goal: to kill Palestinians or throw them out of their lands. So to me, military or civilian, it was all the same, the same mentality for killing Palestinians. Palestinian children who only see the killing and the destruction carried out by the IOF and the fanatic settlers are not to be blamed for how they feel. In the end, we are humans, and it is a human trait to like those who respect you and treat you in a good way and hate those who treat you badly and injustly. So why are we attacked and criticized for the way we feel towards those who have taken everything from us and treat us as lesser-humans? I have read of many Israelis and Jews who refuse, 60 years after the Holocaust, to forget or forgive today’s Germany. So, what is a Palestinian child to think while hiding in a corner, covering his ears with his hands in a useless effort to keep the sounds of Israeli shelling away, and praying it would all end soon?
Wanting to know more, I asked my parents about their memories and their education, about how they first perceived the word “Israeli“. My mother, coming from a refugee family, was born in 1948. She didn’t personally know her original village Jrash which was completely despoiled and its inhabitants ethnically cleansed by the 6th Battalion of the Ha’el Brigade. She said: we didn’t need our parents to tell us what the Israelis were to us, i.e., a brutal military occupation. Even as little children we saw with our own eyes what they were doing in the surrounding areas. We lived in small rooms provided by the UNRWA, and we used to ask our parents why we didn’t have normal houses like other people outside the refugee camp. We used to get food portions from the UNRWA and we had to stand in lines to receive them, which was humiliating to say the least, because we felt like beggers. We used to ask ourselves and others around us: “why do we have to stand here? Why don’t we have homes like the other kids? Why don’t we have gardens with trees to play in them?” My father on the other hand, from Arab Il Sawahreh, a village at the outskirts of Jerusalem, said that during the Nakba of 1948 he was in first grade. He described how the IOF troops used to cross the truce line and attack Jabal Al Mukaber and the areas surrounding it. How one time the IOF launched an attack on Al Mukaber and fierce fighting began between the IOF and the Palestinians quartered at the UN High Commissioner’s House. The men of Sawahreh gathered themselves and went to assist the Palestinian fighters, and the old women prayed for their safe and victorious return and said that the “Al Khader Il Akhdar“ was seen fighting the Zionists. He remembered the various sounds of machinery being used during the clashes with the IOF and added that 3 or 4 men from Sawahreh died defending the Mukaber that day. They both agreed that as kids they had witnessed various Israeli raids on areas close to the truce-line.
My mother then related the incident of Husan and how one unforgettable night the Israelis attacked the police station there. She described how she as a third grader stood in fear with the rest of the children watching the fire, the shelling and hearing the gunshots. And how that evening my grandmother had prepaired tea for two Palestinian policemen who were passing by on their way to Husan, but upon hearing the gunfire, they hurried to help their comrades. My mother recalled that Husan police station was stationed on a high hill, with open and clear view of the truce line, the No-Man’s-Land and the areas behind it. IOF comandos had come under cover of the darkness and killed the Palestinian men stationed in the barricades surrounding the police station. She said that the story at the time was that the Israelis killed one Palestinian policeman and left the next and then killed the third and so on, so as not to draw attention to their presence. When the guard above in the two-story police station saw some suspicious movements, he tried contacting other stations and calling for assistance, but found that all communication lines had been cut. It was then that the policemen and the IOF engaged in a fierce armed clash. Soon after, the whole area was filled with Israeli helicopters and tanks that were shelling the whole area. The police station was brought to the ground on the heads of those inside it. My mother remembered that there was fear everywhere and that everyone was preparing to flee the area. She said that the streets of Dheisheh RC, which isn’t that far away from Husan, were filled with people who were fleeing Husan, Batir, Wad Foukin and Al-Khader. Whole families were taking with them what little of their possessions they could carry. The IOF had entered way beyond the truce line and reached the gate of Al-Khader. Resistance came from nearby areas. But the Israeli helicopters were observing the whole area underneath and whenever a Palestinian police vehicle came close, the helicopter would roam above it and the tanks would shell the Palestinian vehicles. My mother’s uncle and his comrades, who were in one of the vehicles going to resist the IOF, were only spared death that night when the vehicle before them was shelled by the tanks and they had time to turn around and take another route. The fighting continued the whole night and in the morning the Israelis had left the area after accomplishing their goal: spreading fear and destroying the Palestinian police station that was in such a strategic place which allowed the Palestinian policemen to notice the movements of the IOF and warn the people. The residents of these areas returned to their homes the next day and the police station was never rebuilt. Till today a pile of rubble stands as a reminder of that night.
My mother added that incidents such as these, i.e., attacks by the IOF on Palestinian towns and villages close to the truce line, were frequent, and took place long before the 1967 war. My father commented that they had witnessed the same in their area and it was a way of spreading fear so people would leave their homes and go to Jordan, thus making it easy for the IOF to take over abandoned towns and villags. He rememberd how his family and the other inhabitants of Sawahreh wanted to cross the Jordan after a number of such incidents, but some men prevented the families from leaving which actually saved them from becoming refugees. My mother then added that her uncle, whom I remember had one eye missing, had lost that eye during one such incident. Israeli soldiers would appear all of a sudden, shoot at Palestinians and then flee, and in one such incident her uncle was herding the goats and they came and shot at him, and he was lucky enough to lose only one eye and not his life. Another friend of hers lost her father who went herding his goats and never came back. They all thought he was kidnapped by the Israelis and hoped that he might be imprisoned by them. But after the 1967 war, they went looking for him everywhere and he was never found, which confirmed what they had feared from the beginning: that he had been killed by the IOF and buried somewhere in the hills.
As I further explained what I was writing about, my mother asked: “what do you expect from a child who grows up knowing his family lost everything because of the Israelis? That the reason for his misery and the terrible conditions in which he lives in are the Israelis? We were refugees who lost everything. You would sit and hear people taking about the house they left behind, or the land they had just harvested, or the fruit fields they so much loved and cherished, or worse, the stories of their beloved ones killed by the Jewish terrorist groups raiding Palestinian towns and villages. They used to sit and talk about their daily life there and we children would sit and listen to their stories and their pain. It was also our pain. They talked so often of their daily life there, what they did and what they had, and then you would look around you and see what had become of these proud people, where they had ended, and you knew who is responsible for it.“ She added that every now and then they used to hear talk about the fighting and the raids that were going on, and about people being killed. “What mostly affected us where the stories about civilians, women and children, some we knew, who had been killed by such IOF raids for no reason other than being Palestinians. Palestinian children see the Israeli occupier and what occupation is doing to them, they see a military occupation that has taken everything from them and gave them nothing but suffering and humiliation.“
Palestinians have been accused, unjustly, of all sorts of incitement, whether through textbooks or media. These accusations were based on the lies and fabrications of the Israeli and US governments with the help of Centers and Organizations producing false documents and propaganda-style studies. An example is the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), which launched a war against the Palestinian textbooks. CMIP is a “Jewish organization with links to extremist and racist Israeli groups that advocate settlement activities in the Palestinian territories, expulsion (transfer) of Palestinians from their homeland, and claims that Palestinians are all “terrorists” and that peace with them is not possible.”(2) The European Union, whose members funded the new textbooks, asserted that “While many of the quotations attributed to the new textbooks by the most recent CMIP report of November 2001 could be confirmed, these have been found to be often badly translated or quoted out of context, thus suggesting an anti-Jewish incitement that the books do not contain… Therefore, allegations against the new textbooks funded by EU members have proven unfounded.”(3)
Education experts, Dr. Roger Avenstrup and Dr Patti Swarts concluded in “A Study of the Impact of the Palestinian Curriculum”: ” What is of great concern to students, teachers and parents alike is that although they wish it, students find it difficult to accept peace and conflict resolution as a solution to the conflict, and teachers find it difficult to teach, while soldiers and settlers are shooting in the streets and in schools and checkpoints have to be braved every day. It would seem that the occupation is the biggest constraint to the realization of these values in the Palestinian curriculum.” (4) Targeting Palestinian children is not new to the IOF. As a child, the first time I comprehended the meaning of occupation was when during clashes between the armed IOF and unarmed school children who were only chanting slogans against the occupation and throwing stones, a Palestinian school boy was shot in the back. During the First Intifada (1987-1993) 241 Palestinian children under the age of 17 were killed by the IOF, in addition to 13 other killed by Israeli civilians (5). In addition to thousands injured, disabled for life, imprisoned and not to forget those who got their bones broken for throwing stones. “In 1989, a bulletin from the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, entitled ‘Deliberate Murder’, reported the targeting of Palestinian children in leadership roles. Israeli army and snipers from “special units” had “carefully chosen” the children who were shot in the head or heart and died instantaneously. Other evidence, from Israeli human rights groups and the Israeli press, point to extensive use of torture, such as severe beating and electric shocks, against detainees including children .“(6) According to a study done by “Save the Children“: “The average age of the victims was ten years old; the majority of those shot were not even participating in stone throwing. In 80% ofthe cases where children were shot, the Israeli army prevented the victims from receiving medical attention. The report concluded that more than 50,000 children required medical attention for injuries including gunshot wounds, tear gas inhalation and multiple fractures.“(7)
While Palestinian textbooks are often under fire and wrongly accused of this and that, only few bothered to look into Israeli textbooks and investigate their contents as to their attitude towards Arabs and Palestinians. The Israeli culture of hate is to be found in school textbooks, children’s books and in Israeli literature. This culture is state-approved and state-funded. It is not an issue of one political party or one organization airing a program or printing a book with disputable content. These are school textbooks that are part of the Jewish school curricula, adopted by the Israeli government, as guidelines for Israeli children.
Racism, hate and lies are policy when it comes to describing Arabs and Palestinians. Journalist Maureen Meehan says in a report titled “Israeli Textbooks and Children’s Literature Promote Racism and Hatred toward Palestinians and Arabs” that “Israeli school textbooks as well as children’s storybooks, portray Palestinians and Arabs as ‘murderers,’ ‘rioters,’ ‘suspicious’, and generally backward and unproductive. Direct delegitimization and negative stereotyping of Palestinians and Arabs are the rule rather than the exception in Israeli schoolbooks.”(8) In another study, Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University, who reviewed 124 Israeli textbooks, concluded that “the majority of [Israeli school] books stereotype Arabs negatively.”(9) … “by the use of blatant negative stereotyping which featured Arabs as: `unenlightened, inferior, fatalistic, unproductive and apathetic.` Further, according to the textbooks, the Arabs were `tribal, vengeful, exotic, poor, sick, dirty, noisy, colored` and `they burn, murder, destroy, and are easily inflamed.`“(10) According to Egyptian researcher Safa Abdel-Aal, “Israel’s educational curricula incite the new generation for war and racism against the Arabs”. In her book “Racist Education in the Israeli Curricula” Abdel-Aal “thought that these books deliberately paint distorted pictures of the Arabs, giving them such derogatory descriptions as “Arab thieves” or “embezzlers”, and referring to Arabs as “bastards, thirsty for Jewish blood” or that they are “underdeveloped Bedouins” and “vagrant highway robbers,” and using phrases like “house of Arab reptiles”.(11)
This culture of hate, distortion of facts and racism extends also to children’s extracurricular activities. In an educational event for second-grade students at an Israeli local elementary school in 2001 “The performance began; the children went up on stage as a group … representing the different nations, recreating the legend of how Israel received the Torah. The student who played the angel held a Torah and walked among the various nations, offering each one the Torah and the Ten Commandments. The only two groups of people wearing representative costumes were the group of Arabs, who were wearing keffiyehs, and the Jews, who were wearing yarmulkes. During the performance, the “angel” met the “Arab people” who asked, like all the other peoples: “What is written in the Torah?” The angel replied: “Thou shalt not kill.” The children answered in a chorus: “No, we don’t want it because we are used to killing,” and they made way for the next group, the “Jewish people.” The “Jewish people” asked no questions; they simply answered [with a verse from the bible], “We will do, and we will listen”.(12)
In addition to that, Palestinians either don’t exist in Israeli textbook or they are delegitimized, they are ‘robbers’ and the land isn’t theirs. History and geography are presented from the viewpoint of Zionism, where there is no place for a “Palestine“ or “Palestinians“ in the “Land of Israel“. Dr. Nurit Elhanan of the Hebrew University, revealed in a study entitled “The attitude towards Palestinians in Israeli textbooks” that “the Palestinians are absent from all textbooks, The Occupation is never mentioned, and the area where Palestinians live is presented in the maps either as an empty space referred to as ‘an area without data’ (Man and Space maps) or it is incorporated into the state of Israel (The Geography of the land of Israel maps). In both cases use of the term ‘occupation’ is out of the question, since you cannot occupy illegally what is yours anyway and you cannot occupy illegally an empty space.”…. “In Israel today there is already a second generation of children who don’t know there are occupation, illegal domination and illegal settlements.”(13) “Generally speaking, the land itself has no history of its own, and the history of the land is presented as the history of the Jewish myth about it. The whole period, between the second temple and the Zionist settlement is not taught at all. But more precisely, the Israeli student has no idea whatsoever about the settlement of the country before ’48, that is to say, has no idea about the history of the expelled themselves and of their lives before the expulsion. And so the mythical image of the country was created as ‘the Promised Land of the Jews’ and not as a cultural-geographical entity in which the [Jewish] colonization took place.”(14) Nothing is mentioned in these textbooks about the suffering and the dispossession of the Palestinians “and instead attributed the motivating forces for Arab violence to their ‘anti-Semitism’ and hatred of Jews”(15).
Oren Ben-Dor, a former-Israeli academic, described his education as “one sided, treating the other as the enemy, the murderers, the rioters, the terrorists … without alluding, in any way, to their pains and longings. For my teachers and, as a result, for me also, for many years, Zionism was beyond reproach; it was a return to the promised land as a result of persecution, it was draining the swamps, it was building a state based on Jewish genius.”(16) Daniel Banvolegyi, a 17-year-old Israeli pupil comments: “Our books basically tell us that everything the Jews do is fine and legitimate and Arabs are wrong and violent and are trying to exterminate us,” then adding that “One kid told me he was angry because of something he read or discussed in school and that he felt like punching the first Arab he saw.“(17)In his book “An Ugly Face in the Mirror“, Israeli writer Adir Cohen investigated the results of a survey taken of a group of 4th to 6th grade Jewish students at a school in Haifa. “The pupils were asked five questions about their attitude toward Arabs, how they recognize them and how they relate to them“. The results being that “75% of the children described the `Arab` as a murderer, one who kidnaps children, a criminal, and a terrorist. 80% said they saw the Arab as someone dirty with a terrifying face. 90% of the students stated they believe that Palestinians have no rights whatsoever to the land in Israel or Palestine.“(18)
Israeli education is not only racist and full of hate, but encourages militarism. According to an Israeli report entitled “Child Recruitment” Israeli textbooks “reflect the militaristic attitudes inherent in the Israeli educational system, all the way from kindergarten to the last years of high school, where there is a mandatory programme for all Jewish state-run schools called “preparation for the IDF” that in most cases includes actual military training. Glorification of the military and military conquest, and negative or skewed representation of Palestinians, are to be found in many Israeli textbooks.” … “In a country where various kinds of weaponry are permanently displayed in public places and the status of the military is used to promote anything from cheese to political candidates, militarised education comes natural. One absorbs militarism at home and on the street. The military is physically present in schools and school activities. Soldiers in uniform are stationed in schools, many of them are actually teaching classes. Other teachers, and especially principals, are recently retired career officers, without proper teacher training”.(19)
The Israeli culture of hate and racism is also visible in Israeli literature, including children’s books, media and exhibitions. Israelis protest when Palestinians carry photos of their dead children, saying that Palestinians use their children as forms of propaganda. But brainwashing Israeli children, filling their heads with racist ideas and feeding them on hate is acceptable by Israeli standards. There are many examples, such the photos of Israeli children happily writing `greetings` on artillery shells fired into Lebanon, e.g. `May You Die`, `I`ve Waited So Long For This`.(20) More recent examples are a number of photos of Israeli children holding guns with the title: ‘Israelis take their children to an arms fair in Rishon leZion, Israel’. One photo shows a child examining a sniper rifle.(21) During the Israeli Invasion of the West Bank in 2002, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot published a letter by Israeli school children titled “Dear Soldiers, Please Kill a Lot of Arabs”, adding that dozens of such letters were sent to Israeli soldiers serving in the Tulkarm area. “The letters encouraged soldiers to disregard rules and regulations and to kill as many Arabs as possible.”(22)
Cohen and El-Asmar investigated 1,700 Israeli children`s books. There was a similar pattern found in almost all of the stories: “the violent, dirty, cruel, and ignorant Arabs wanting to harm the Jews.”(23) 520 of the books contained humiliating and negative descriptions of the Palestinians and there was widespread delegitimization and dehumanization of Arabs. Arabs were “thieves, murderers, robbers, spies, arsonists, violent mobsters, terrorists, kidnappers, and the “cruel enemy”. They were also “characterized with labels related to violence, primitivism, inferiority and backwardness”. “66% of the 520 books refer to Arabs as violent; 52% as evil; 37% as liars; 31% as greedy; 28% as two-faced; 27% as traitors.“ … “Cohen points out that the authors of these children`s books effectively instill hatred toward Arabs by means of stripping them of their human nature and classifying them in another category. In a sampling of 86 books, Cohen counted the following descriptions used to dehumanize Arabs: Murderer was used 21 times; snake, 6 times; dirty, 9 times; vicious animal, 17 times; bloodthirsty, 21 times; warmonger, 17 times; killer, 13 times; believer in myths, 9 times; and a camel`s hump, 2 times.“ Other de-legitimizing labels included “inhuman, war lovers, monsters, dogs, wolves of prey, and vipers.”(24)
While the international community is busy listening to Israeli propaganda and accusing Palestinians of teaching their children hate, Palestinian children continue to be targeted by the IOF. The Palestinian Council for Human Rights (PCHR) in its report entitled “Blood on their Hands, Child killings by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in the Gaza Strip“ states that between June 2007 and June 2008 80 Palestinian children have been killed by the IOF, 68 in the Gaza Strip and 12 in the West Bank. According to the same report, the IOF have killed 859 Palestinian children in the period from September 2000 until 30 June 2008. The causes of death being either shot dead by the IOF, or killed by tank shells, missiles, or other IOF infliced injuries. According to the report, Israel has “consistently bombed either inside or extremely close to densely populated residential areas, including schools and areas in close proximity to schools.” And that its investigations have shown that the IOF “deliberately target unarmed civilians, including children, as part of their policy of collective punishment of the entire Palestinian civilian population.”(25)
We Palestinians are a generous, peaceful and loving people. We welcome those whom we know and those whom we don’t know into our homes, we share with them our food and shelter and protect them as we protect our families. But above all, we are a people with dignity, and we cherish our land and our freedom, so don’t expect us to sit still while our land and our freedom is taken away from us, and don’t expect us to love our murderers.