For the last few years I’ve had the privilege and tremendous responsibility of working in civic education. Teaching involves more than just facts or formulas, but an effort to shape the intellect and work to better the soul of one’s students. My goal was never to foist my views, but to challenge students on their understanding of the very foundations of the United States and to introduce them to concepts they may never have heard before.
August of 2012 saw a horrific attack on a young Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem that resulted in the boy being hospitalized with a coma. As an educator I, along with others from around the globe, was outraged at the atrocity. While it is tragic that circumstances have reached such a culmination, Israeli politicians and citizens took this as an opportunity to seriously examine the violence in their society and the attitudes held by Israeli youth towards Palestinians. This is the sort of deep consideration that does and should occur in free societies: Israeli society must confront the fact that there is noticeable shift in attitudes contrary to the principles that society holds. Israel values respect and dignity for human life, the rule of law, and a civil society without violent racism or religious persecution. While the need for a reflective response to this tragic and criminal act is needed to stem violence among youth, it is disturbing that Hamas and Hezbollah take the opposite tack and intentionally target their youth for an education in hate and violence towards Israelis.
Last summer, Hezbollah finished construction and opened a museum dedicated to glorifying martyrdom against Israel. This twisted attraction features machine guns, destroyed Israeli tanks, rocket propelled grenades, barbed wire, and other weapons of war. One of the more disturbing and disrespectful displays features Israeli gravestones turned on their sides. The intended message here is clear; the death of Israelis is to be celebrated and those who do the killing are to be lauded heroes. This is not a museum of military history, but rather a source of propaganda for a worldview that precludes the existence of a Jewish state or the adoption of the ideals both America and Israel share. That such an attraction targets children highlights that Hezbollah does not seek peace rather that they seek to pass their conflict on to new generations.
Hamas lacks such a museum, but instead, opts for more direct approaches of targeting children in spoon-feeding them hatred and the glorification of. Opposition to Israel is evident in textbooks that have been used in classrooms. An example of the sentiment can be found in an assignment in Our Arabic Language for Fifth Grade, “Know, my son, that Palestine is your country . . . that its pure soil is drenched with the blood of Martyrs. . . . Answer this: Why must we fight the Jews and drive them out of our land?” To this end Hamas schools have begun teaching Hebrew—not to facilitate understanding, but to facilitate infiltration and murder. This goes beyond the classroom. Gaza has a children’s television show “Tomorrow’s Pioneers” which contained a Mickey Mouse look-a-like named Farfour. Farfour espoused radical views and was eventually depicted being murdered by an Israeli that wanted to steal his land. Farfour was replaced by a giant talking bee, then a Bugs Bunny clone, both of whom had deaths attributed to Israel.
Those who watched Farfour as children should be heading into their teenage years about now.
This all has a tremendous bearing on the behavior of young people both among Israelis and Palestinians. A recent study from the University of Michigan links exposure to violence as likely to increase the potential for both Jewish and Arab Israeli children, and Palestinian children, to grow up to be more aggressive and violent. Hamas and Hezbollah need to follow this model of inward reflection over violent acts; until this happens there will be no shortage of violence and no future for their children.