Fuelling the Cycle of Hate

War is teaching the children of Israel and Gaza that the other side is a bloodthirsty monster, and destroying any desire for peace

Israeli soccer matches were suspended during the assault on Gaza. When the games resumed last week, the fans had come up with a new chant: “Why have the schools in Gaza been shut down?” sang the crowd. “Because all the children were gunned down!” came the answer.

Aside from its sheer barbarism, this chant reflects the widespread belief among Israeli Jews that Israel scored an impressive victory in Gaza — a victory measured, not least, by the death toll.

Israeli pilots and tank commanders could not really discriminate between the adults and the children who hid in their homes or huddled in the UNRWA shelters, and yet they chose to press the trigger. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that the lethal onslaught left 1,314 Palestinians dead, of which 412 — or nearly one third of all of the casualties — were children.

This latest assault underscores that Israel, not unlike Hamas, readily resorts to violence and does not distinguish between civilians and combatants (only the weapons at Israel’s disposal are much more lethal). No matter how many times the Israeli government tries to blame Hamas for the latest Palestinian civilian deaths it simply cannot explain away the body count, especially that of the children. In addition to the dead, 1,855 Palestinian children were wounded, and tens of thousands of others have likely been traumatized, many of them for life.

Every child has a story. A Bedouin friend recently called to tell us about his relatives in Gaza. One cousin allowed her five-year-old daughter to walk to the adjacent house to see whether the neighbors had something left to eat. The girl had been crying from hunger. The moment she began crossing the street a missile exploded nearby and the flying shrapnel killed her. The mother has since been bedridden, weeping and screaming, “I have let my girl die hungry.”

As if the bloody incursion was not enough, the Israeli security forces seem to be keen on spreading the flames of hatred among the Arab population within Israel. Hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel have been arrested for protesting at the Israeli assault and more than 200 of them are still in custody. One incident is enough to illustrate the psychological effect these arrests will likely have on hundreds more children.

A few days after the ceasefire, several men wearing black ski masks stormed the home of Muhammad Abu Humus. They came to arrest him for protesting against the killings in Gaza. It was four in the morning and the whole family was asleep when the men banged on the door. After entering the house, they made Abu Humus’s wife Wafa and their four children Erfat (12), Shahd (9), Anas (6) and Majd (3) stand in a corner as they searched the house, throwing all the clothes, sheets, toys, and kitchenware on the floor. With tears in their eyes, the children watched as the armed men then took their father away and left.

Chance would have it that Abu Humus, a long-time peace activist and member of the Fatah party, is a personal friend of ours. In 2001, he joined Ta’ayush Arab-Jewish Partnership, and since then has selflessly organized countless peace rallies and other joint activities. During the past eight years, we have spent many hours at each other’s homes and our children have grown up respecting and liking one other. It is hard to believe that just one month ago he attended the Bar Mitzvah of Yigal’s son in a Jerusalem synagogue.

Muhammad and Wafa Abu Humus have tried over the years to instill in their children a love and desire for peace, and while the security forces may not have destroyed this, the hatred they have generated in one night cannot be underestimated. Indeed, what, one might ask, will his children think of their Jewish neighbors? What feelings will they harbor? And what can we expect from those children in Gaza who have witnessed the killing of their parents, siblings, friends and neighbors?

We emphasize the Palestinian children because so many of them have been killed and terrorized in the past month. Yet it is clear that Israeli children are suffering as well, particularly those who have spent long periods in shelters for fear of being hit by rockets.

The one message that is being conveyed to children on both sides of this fray is that the other side is a bloodthirsty monster. In Israel, this was instantly translated into gains for the hate-mongering Yisrael Beytenu party headed by the xenophobic Avigdor Lieberman, who is now the front-runner in mock polls being held in many Jewish high schools, with the hawkish Binyamin Netanyahu coming in second.

Hatred, in other words, is the great winner of this war. It has helped mobilize racist mobs, and as the soccer chant indicates it has left absolutely no place for the other, undermining even basic empathy for innocent children. Israel’s masters of war must be happy: the seeds of the next wars have certainly been sown.

Neve Gordon teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University, Israel and can be reached at nevegordon@gmail.com. Yigal Bronner teaches in the South Asian Department at the University of Chicago, USA and can be reached at ybronner@uchicago.edu. Read other articles by Neve Gordon and, or visit Neve Gordon and's website.

27 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. bozh said on January 28th, 2009 at 10:14am #

    it wld be more accurate to say that pal’n children are suffering by far more than israeli children. also that a few hundred israeli and mns of pal’n children are suffering.
    to put it mathematically, a pal’n child suffering cld be represented at 100C and an isr’i child’s at 1C.
    the total nuber of suffering children cld be expressed by a ratio 100 to 1 in favor of isr’i children.

    hatred of the two peoples’ are about even, let’s say, 99C. and mea culpas at 100C for isr’is and 2C for pal’ns. thnx

  2. MERC said on January 28th, 2009 at 2:13pm #

    Time to revive nullified (1991 – after a 15 yr Zionist campaign) UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 of 1975 equating Zionism with racism.

  3. kahar said on January 28th, 2009 at 3:05pm #

    “War is teaching the children of Israel …that the other side is a bloodthirsty monster, and destroying any desire for peace”

    Uhh.. NO the war isn’t doing that, Israel is doing that, so stop f***ng lying!

    From the cradle Israeli and zio families in the west are taught to HATE every minute and day of their life. I know because i have seen it!

    As for your claim that Hamas rockets are making israeli little monsters suffer in their shelters oh boof***g hoo! Your israeli “government” has rejected the use of the phalanx anti-missile system, a cheap system that’s proven itself, yet your defence minister doesn’t want to stop the pathetic little fireworks from Hamas, Israel needs those fireworks. and btw Sderot is a Palestinian village that was stolen, no isreali has a right to be there, so why dont you take your evil little monsters that you’ve taught from birth to look down and hate everyone else, go back to where came from and stop occupying what’s not yours!!

  4. kahar said on January 28th, 2009 at 3:11pm #

    And btw, Israelis have the luxury and freedom of movement, which the Palestinians do not! Time for the Israeli to f*** off back to their second homes in Europe and the US.

  5. Anon said on January 28th, 2009 at 3:17pm #

    Kahar, with a name like yours, it is understandable why you would make such incompetent remarks. Palestinians should stop smuggling weapons and use the tunnels as their underground railroad and get out of Gaza. Their lives will only be better.

  6. kahar said on January 28th, 2009 at 3:20pm #

    The authors of this article are truly living in lala land. Do they know anything of reality? It doesn’t appear so at all. Maybe this from Ramzy Baroud will help them ( but I doubt it, they seem to not have a brain let alone a heart or conscience):

    “I paused as I reached a horrifying photo in the slideshow of a young boy and his sister huddled on a single hospital trolley waiting to be identified and buried. Their faces were darkened as if they were charcoal and their lifeless eyes were still widened with the horror that they experienced as they were burned slowly by a white phosphorus shell.

    It was just then that Sammy walked into my room snooping around for a missing toy. “What is this, daddy?” he inquired.

    I rushed to click past the horrific image, only to find myself introducing a no less shocking one. Fretfully, I turned the monitor off, then turned to my son as he stood puzzled. His eyes sparkled inquisitively as he tried to make sense of what he had just seen.

    He needed to know about these kids whose little bodies had been burned beyond recognition.

    “Where are their mummies and daddies? Why are they all so smoky all the time?”

    I explained to him that they are Palestinians, that they were hurting “just a little” and that their “mummies and daddies will be right back.”

    The reality is that these children and thousands like them in Gaza have experienced the most profound pain, a pain that we may never in our lives comprehend.

    “I think that Gaza is now being used as a test laboratory for new weapons,” Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who had recently returned from Gaza told reporters in Oslo.

    “This is a new generation of very powerful small explosives that detonates with extreme power and dissipates its power within a range of five to 10 meters

    “We have not seen the casualties affected directly by the bomb, because they are normally torn to pieces and do not survive, but we have seen a number of very brutal amputations.”

    The dreadful weapons are known as dense inert metal explosives (DIME), “an experimental kind of explosive” but only one of several new weapons that Israel has been using in Gaza, the world’s most densely populated regions.”

  7. kahar said on January 28th, 2009 at 3:37pm #

    A quote from Baroud for these israeli sponsored authors:
    “As long as there are no witnesses to the war crimes committed in Gaza, Israel is confident that it can sell a fabricated story to the world that it is, as always, the victim, one that has been terrorized and, strangely enough, demonized as well.”
    And at every level you will have the israeli press gatekeepers telling us with various degrees of “sympathy” for the Palestinians that the Israeli theiving occupiers are suffering too.

  8. MERC said on January 28th, 2009 at 7:27pm #

    Anon, so touching your concern for the betterment of Palestinians. Is this the Zionist ‘soul’ in action?

  9. kahar said on January 29th, 2009 at 5:37am #

    MERC, anon is one of the authors I suspect for his remark makes as much sense as the article.
    Anon, what does my name mean to you? And which remarks are incompetent? The truth is you don’t know what the hell you yourself mean!

  10. kahar said on January 29th, 2009 at 5:42am #

    Anon, there is no such thing as an “incompetent remark”.

  11. Putri Bungsu said on January 29th, 2009 at 8:49am #

    Yes, Palestinian should should stop smuggling weapon to Gaza. The Arab world should unite and send them the weapons they need just like US keep sending ammunition to the Zionist.

  12. Brandy Baker said on January 29th, 2009 at 1:15pm #

    “The one message that is being conveyed to children on both sides of this fray is that the other side is a bloodthirsty monster.”

    Those who are chanting: “Why have the schools in Gaza been shut down/ Because all the children were gunned down!” ARE bloodthirsty monsters as are the people in NYC who were cheering Israel on and saying “wipe Gaza off the map” and “don’t screw with the Jews.”

    These people ARE bloodthirsty monsters.

  13. Thomas said on January 29th, 2009 at 3:33pm #

    Hi,

    I’m Thomas, I’m from Belgium. This article gmave me a lot of insight, and I’d like to thank the autor for writing this. And this is MY solution to your problem:

    First of all: I’d like to quote someone:

    “When there is a problem between 2 parties and you find an idea that both parties don’t like, then you know you’ve found a solution. You only need to make both parties like the idea.”

    And the idea that nobody will like is this: Instead of a 2 state solution, a 1 state solution(I know it sounds crazy) with a confederal state(a bit like Belgium).
    1 governement that consists out of democraticly chosen Israelis and Palestinians for things like foreign affairs, finances, etc. And then 1 governement for the Jews and 1 for the palestinians to decide about cultural things etc.

    I know this sounds crazy, but if Israël makes Palestine part of its country, police can patrol and you can’t publicly move kassan rockets accross the street anymore.
    These police forces should consist out of palestines and Jews combined so they can’t be accused of racism. I know this must sound like something verry difficult for Jews: you are supposed to be protected by your former enemy. But this is why (at least the first few decades, maybe more than a century) I think the Israëli army should stay in function. So, in case that the armed palestinin police might want to grab power or abuse theirs.
    Furthermore I think that treating the palestinians equally compared to Israëli citizens will give them a better feeling psychologicly. But also better oppurtunity for work and (most important to me) more the feeling that they have something to lose(If you’re in a bad situation you are more likely to get violent).

    To convince Jews: Now already 20% of the population in Israël is arab. And trying to get all the arabs leave the land will only work if you do naughty things. So it will never work (I hope)

    To convince arabs: Grab this possibility to create a better future for your children.

    It’s late now, and I’m tired. I hope I wrote everything down as it should be. If you have any questions or remarks. Tell me, or mail me at moc.liamgnull@sneppovt

    I hope from the bottom of my heart that this solution(or anything else that can stop violence and hatred) doesn’t come too late. This article makes me afraid and pleases me at the same time: The soccer fans are terrible, but the fact that this neutral article is written by an Israeli gives me hope.

    I hope somebody reads this,
    Many thanks for doing so,
    Thomas.

    ps: sorry for the lousy English.

  14. Peacemaker said on January 29th, 2009 at 4:44pm #

    The problem here in my eyes lies in the governments. Hamas governs the Palestinians and like previous Palestininan governments, isn’t very peaceful to say the least. Both Israel and Palestinian governments are using forms of propaganda to appear as victims in some way.

    I honestly think that if Israelis walked around the refugee camps of Palestinians, there wouldn’t be any hatred towards a people like that, but instead sympathy. I can’t hate a person wanting a better life when I see him live under a tent.

    At the same time, if Palestinians would see that the Israeli civilians want to remain civilians and just go about their daily lives like they have been, they would probably see that Israelis themselves are peaceful people.

    The citizens of Israel don’t kill anyone, their hatred stems from the episodes of Israelis being attacked. If that fire isn’t fueled, it will burn out and there will be no more hate.

    I think the majority of Israelis and Palestinians have common sense, and I believe that both of them are willing to accept one another as neighbors. Humane conditions and peace of mind is what’s most important for peace to happen. Both sides need to know that the other will not get in their way of prosperity. Right now both sides assume, and have causes for those assumptions, that the other side is trying to prevent them from living in peace.

    Fact is, citizens are too passive and lazy to go fight people, only the radicals are insane enough to actually take action. If there is no reason to fight, when peace of mind and prosperity are realities, there will be no fuel for fighting, no need for hate.

    To get to that point will require a third party to negotiate a cease fire. Leaders of both sides need to be strong and not break any of the conditions for peace. Hamas needs to be taken out of power, they would not be needed if there was peace as a dictator like regime are only useful in times of crisis. If there is no crisis then democracy prevails.

  15. bozh said on January 30th, 2009 at 9:11am #

    one needs to remember just one fact and start viewing history from a given point to understand the euro-shemitic conflict.

    the point in time is 1917 when the socalled partition of palestine started.
    and the fact that one needs to remember/digest is that ‘partion’ (read: land theft) is still going on.
    that’s all folks!

  16. bozh said on January 30th, 2009 at 9:11am #

    one needs to remember just one fact and start viewing history from a given point to understand the euro-shemitic conflict.

    the point in time is 1917 when the socalled partition of palestine started.
    and the fact that one needs to remember/digest is that ‘partion’ (read: land theft) is still going on.
    that’s all folks!

  17. Smokin Joe said on January 30th, 2009 at 6:44pm #

    Peacemaker,

    You are making many generalities without facts to support what you are saying, indicating that you really do not know what you are talking about, this is typical of American liberals in regards to Israel/Palestine, they want to tsk-tsk both sides for not being pacifist but the liberals are stupid when it comes to the facts:

    You say: “Hamas governs the Palestinians and like previous Palestininan governments, isn’t very peaceful to say the least. Both Israel and Palestinian governments are using forms of propaganda to appear as victims in some way.”

    Hamas has been very concilitory, wanting to talk to Israel, but when the US and Israel refuse to recognize the democratically elected government of the Palestinians, and recognize the US/Israeli puppet Mahmoud Abbas as leader, you are not going to have peace. Hamas was ever arresting those they thought were planning violence against Israel before the ceasfire was broken.

    Also, according to Israel’s own website, it was Israel that broke the ceasefire, going into Gaza and killing Palestinians.

    Israel has committed war crimes in Gaza, but there are still people like you that want to say that both sides are at fault.

    Do not forget the settlements: there are 290,000 settlers on the West Bank, Israel is only offering to remove 60,000 of them. Many of the settlers are there exactly because they do not want Palestine to have their own state, and they will tell you that, just like they will tell you that Palestinians are lower than dogs. They continue to build roads that the settlers can only travel on.

    I really want to know why you think that, “Both Israel and Palestinian governments are using forms of propaganda to appear as victims in some way.” Yes, Israel does this, through the organ that is called the American mainstream media.

  18. Smokin Joe said on January 30th, 2009 at 6:45pm #

    .but how does Paletine do it? Please support your sweeping generalizations with facts.

  19. Gideon said on January 30th, 2009 at 11:19pm #

    Does it mean that the latest Hamas executions of Fatah members in Gaza are destroying any possibility for reconciliation in Palestinian society?

    Anybody has a story to share about one of these execution events?

    Al-Jazeera TV, January 22, 2009: “Today, Hamas Gangs Are Unleashed Like Packs of Animals on the Streets of Gaza Against Fatah Members”

    January 28, 2009 No. 2217
    PLO Executive Committee Secretary Yasser Abd Rabbo Accuses Hamas of New Atrocities Against Fatah Members in Gaza
    Following are excerpts from speeches delivered by PLO Executive Committee secretary Yasser Abd Rabbo, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on January 22, 2009 and on Al-Arabiya TV on January 16, 2009.

    Yasser Abd Rabbo: “Yesterday, we heard Khaled Mash’al talking from Damascus about new, additional preconditions for national reconciliation – the only goal of which is to hinder the achievement of reconciliation.

    [...]

    “Today, Hamas gangs are unleashed like packs of animals on the streets of Gaza against Fatah members. Because the military bases and the prisons have been destroyed, they have turned Gaza schools, Al-Nasser Hospital, the radiology department at Shifa’ Hospital, Al-Aqsa University, and other places, including mosques, into centers for the detention, interrogation, and torture of Fatah members and members of other national Palestinian factions.

    [...]

    “Dozens of people have been shot in the leg, been beaten savagely, and had their bones broken, because they are members of the Fatah movement, which took to the streets of Gaza to confront the occupation, leaving all disagreements [with Hamas] behind, during the battle against the invasion by the Israeli occupation. This is what is happening today in Gaza.

    [...]

    “This reminds me of the ‘glorious exploits’ of Chemical Ali in southern Iraq after the 1991 ‘Mother of All Wars.’ When the smoke of battle cleared, he turned his gangs and his fire against the Iraqis in southern Iraq, and the massacre that ensued is known to all. Who is the ‘Chemical’ today in Gaza, who wants to turn Gaza into the venue of a new massacre?

    [...]

    “I heard that Abu Marzouq is sanctioning the killing of Palestinians, in an interview with the Qatari Al-Sharq newspaper the day before yesterday. He said that they have [captured] collaborators, and they have already executed some, while others await their turn. What collaborators are you talking about, Mr. Abu Marzouq? Of course he has expanded the list, saying that anyone who criticizes the policy of Hamas a traitor and a collaborator, and that it is okay to kill him. Is this the promised Islamic rule, or is it a blood-soaked lie about Islam?

    [...]

    “Who plunders the trucks bringing aid to the Gaza Strip, and distributes it only among the follows of its party and movement, while the children of Gaza are starving? Who is stealing the land of Gaza, dividing it into lots, and giving them to the cronies of Hamas members of the Shura Council?” [...]

  20. Smokin Joe said on January 31st, 2009 at 3:27pm #

    Yes, that is deplorable, but ALL of the violence stems from the occupation.

  21. Thomas said on February 8th, 2009 at 10:57am #

    Instead of discussing who’s the bad guy, try figuring out a solution. Because that’s the only thing that helps!

  22. Deadbeat said on February 8th, 2009 at 11:57am #

    Thomas writes…

    Instead of discussing who’s the bad guy, try figuring out a solution. Because that’s the only thing that helps!

    It is important to understand the basis for the what going on. The “Liberals” tend to want to water down that kind of analysis but in the end it doesn’t solve problems because if to don’t do the proper analysis you cannot get to the root of the problem. Zionism is the root of the problem and it needs to be confronted. Unfortunately Zionism’s influence is quite powerful within the U.S. Zionism is so powerful that it has even influence the Left to such a degree as to demobilize the anti-war movement and to hold up a “leftist” icon/guru (Noam Chomsky) who tells the left NOT to boycott Israel and that there is no Zionist influence of U.S. foreign policy. Thus having the net effect of allowing Zionism to go unconfronted and to flourish.

    Liberal Zionism is much worst than what come from the Likudniks because it maintains the status quo by giving the appearance of resolution and caring. It is false and a huge fallacy.

  23. Thomas said on February 8th, 2009 at 1:17pm #

    @Deadbeat

    I do agree that that is the reason why we have difficulty coming to a solution. We need to find the root of the prolems and solve them. But I don’t think we need a lot of discussion to see the reasons for action from both sides. Further discussion on why actions take place is hardly needed in my opinion. I prefere to discuss why solutions will or won’t work(for example would the idea that I posted here a week ago work? And -most important- why?). And only at that point is the information on the root of the problem interesting. I prefere discussions that lead to things, creating ideas. Not spitting out your opinion because that is less likely to help. It’s less likely to make people think.

    Off course, the reason why the US has difficulty to react is (I think) the zionist lobby. And the stupid thing is that the rest of the world sits and waits till the US does something.
    And even if they act, how can you expect palestinians to step into negotiations that are lead by a governement who’s influenced by such a powerfull loby?

  24. Smokin Joe said on February 8th, 2009 at 1:19pm #

    Thomas,

    Palestine is NOT occupying Israel, Israel is occupying Palestine.

    I cannot imagine that you would say such a thing about Black Americans who were enslaved or black South Africans who lived under aparteid.

    Same thing with Palestine.

  25. Smokin Joe said on February 8th, 2009 at 1:23pm #

    PS Further discussion on actions that are taken do need to be discussed because we have people who want to frame this matter as the problem coming from “both sides” this is not right nor appropriate and adds the US Left to the long list of people, entities that are screwing the Palestinians.

  26. Thomas said on February 11th, 2009 at 2:04pm #

    huh?

    when did I say palestine is occupying Israel? I do agree that the Israelis are occupying Israel. That’s totally true, and I also think that palestinians are being treated unjustly. But I refuse to pick sides.
    And the problem is coming from both sides is true and not true I believe. It’s not true, because the actions of the Palestinians are fueled by the actions of Israel(bordercontrol, wall, occupation, etc.) And therefor you might state that the problem is coming from Israel. But we can’t send the Zionists back where they came from, wan we? And I think there will (in all possible solutions) be a group of extremist palestinians that will plot assaults on Jews. I try to look at both sides: I know(/believe) it would be more just and right if the palestians could return to their homes and the Zionists would return to where they came from or would live between the palestinians without occupying or harrassing(=is this spelled correctly?) them. But unfortunatly Israel will never accept a solution like that.
    I’m trying to find a solution that’s not based on the past or on promises by God or wathever. But a solution that’s based on the current situation, a solution that gives everyone the opportunity for a decent life.

  27. bozh said on February 11th, 2009 at 4:37pm #

    thomas,
    solutions, broadly, are obtained btw two equals or near equals.
    in case of judeo-christian world against even all muslim world, the former is diplo-econo-militarily dozens if not hundreds of times stronger side.
    this means that there will never be justice for pals unless they and its allies obtain parity with their enemies, the west.
    or, does one expect change of heart by judeo-christian allliance? well, i don’t!
    in fact the west is so certain of the outcome (whatever it may be) that they are in the least worried about the world opinion or deaths of civilians.
    actually, west may welcome even more carnage. the end solution can only be inferred. i suggest that the west is waitnig for a propitious time to oust all pals form expalestine.
    alas, it seems, it cannot permit ‘jews’ to do that yet. and i think west is worried about probable revolutions in arab lands and possibly shutting down the pipes.
    and, of course, arab kings, satraps, emirs, despots, princes ar emighty afraid of toppling dwn.
    so US/Eur must take into account what arab leadership thinks and their safety/continuous undemocartic rule.
    one correction about least bit worried. criticism does prick! thnx