Suffer the little children

An interesting insight into the terrible psychological damage the Palestinian-Israeli conflicting is having on the children who are growing up in the region. It is a well-known truth that the first casualty of war is truth. But there is always the human casualty, the innocent, the innocent children. Since the foundation of the Zionist state of Israel the children on both sides of what Dr Jacob Bronowsky (himself a Jewish survivor of the holocaust) called in his TV series The Birth of Man a "real-estate war", have been and are still the ongoing victims of this tragedy.

I can only speak from my perception living in Israel. But in the thirty-two years I have spent here it has become very apparent to me how the conflict between the two sides, Arab and Jew, is turning the children in Israel into permanent psychotic cases.

Several years ago I used to teach English on a private basis at home. No I had not become a capitalist, but due to a work injury I had to find some money from somewhere till I was granted a pension. I was struck almost in horror at how traumatized these young kids were, both boys and girls of between eight and twelve - never a smile, unhappy frightened children who once or twice a year see their fathers or brothers go off to do their annual reserve duty in the army, witnessing the anguish on their mother’s faces as to whether their husbands will return alive and in one piece.

Slowly this trauma has developed into such a state that Israeli schools have become amongst the most violent in the western world. Can this be a wonder as every day they are faced with violence either perpetrated against them, or by succeeding Israeli governments of both the right and left in their name against Palestinian children?

One sees these children running around the streets shouting and screaming at each other or even at a fifty nine-year-old grandfather like myself, or just screaming uncontrollably as if to release some terrible pain within themselves. Reminding me of the famous painting The Scream by Eduard Munch.

These are not only the children of poor low-income families; these traumatized kids can be found at ALL levels of Israeli society. Yet whenever Israel retaliates to an attack from Palestinian suicide bombers who are invariably just kids themselves, the ubiquitous Israeli government spokesman will say "We are doing it to protect our children, it is for our children’s future". Some future!

I even heard once on the BBC a spokesman say "WE love our children" inferring that the other lot do not. The interviewer was so dumfounded he asked for the statement to be repeated. Israel loves its children SO much that for the sake of land it does not need (half of Israel proper, the Negev, is under populated), for the sake of a few fanatical ultra religious settlers, it conscripts all its eighteen-year-olds into the army. Every Israeli male knows that is his fate, and there is a very real chance he will not see his nineteenth birthday. That surely would drive any kid crazy!

As I said I can only comment from the Israeli side of this sad catastrophe. But I have often asked myself the question: if this ongoing madness produces such children, who on the whole live quite well, that is they have enough to eat, schooling and the better off have all the new electronic gadgets, what must it be like for the Palestinian children, who lack basic everyday things such as enough food, sanitation, electricity, etc, and above all HOPE? The answer must be sheer HELL!

Israel, June 18, 2003

A footnote:

My youngest son who serves as a non-conscripted soldier in the IDF told me that recently his base was visited by some German soldiers, both high ranking and lower ranks. They told him that in Germany it is not a good thing to be seen in uniform. Germans don’t like to see soldiers. Whereas in jingoistic Israel it is inculcated into the youth that they should be proud be in uniform. But what were German soldiers of all people doing at a Jewish army base? These German soldiers had come to learn to fight! All the terrible military traditions of the German past seem to have been lost, and they have to come to Israel to learn a few lessons. Oh how the wheel of history has turned full circle!