FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Confessions of a Summer Camp Terror Tot

by Jacob Levich

The Israel Defense Forces this week cynically capitalized on an earlier public relations coup, releasing yet another snapshot of a Palestinian toddler posed with weapons. The photograph, purportedly seized during a military operation in Hebron, is reminiscent of last month’s notorious “Terror in Diapers” photo, which showed a Gaza child decked out as a suicide bomber.

The latest picture is of course a boon to pro-Israel flacks, who had been so desperate to keep the kiddie terrorist story alive that they resorted to recycling year-old snaps of a militaristic kindergarten pageant in Gaza, falsely implying that the stale images were fresh. (See, for example, “Palestinian Kindergartners Being Schooled in Hate,” an Anti-Defamation League press release dated June 27, 2002, or “Gaza Toddlers Taught Hatred, Martyrdom and Jihad,” a June 28, 2002 story in <Israelinsider.com>, where weasel words are used to sell the old news as a hot item about a “recent” ceremony. A little digging revealed the same information and identical photos, clearly dated May 27, 2001, on the Israeli Prime Minister’s web site.)

Whatever their provenance, all of these alarming images were widely circulated in print and electronic media, where they were offered as evidence that Palestinians are heartless monsters who would snatch their own kids from the cradle and train them in terror.

But as I watched Zionist spinmeisters drawing ugly conclusions on CNN, I couldn’t help flashing back to fond memories of dear old Camp Milldale, where — to borrow a phrase from the ADL — I myself was “schooled in hate” during the summer of 1967.

Milldale is a suburban day camp located some miles outside of Baltimore, Md., birthplace of its sponsoring organization, the Jewish Community Center Association (JCC). Originally an educational and civic institution for poor Jewish immigrants, the JCC redirected its energies toward middle-class “schuls with pools” following WWII, and began aggressively promoting Zionism in the aftermath of the Six-Day War.

Which is why, as a seven-year-old camper, I found myself manufacturing cardboard daggers and machine guns during arts-and-crafts period. These were to be used as props for Camp Milldale’s end-of-summer pageant, which featured a highly stylized re-enactment of episodes from Israeli history, interspersed with songs from Fiddler on the Roof. Emmis.

We first-graders were entrusted with recreating 1948. Some of us got to play Jewish militia; others — probably not the counselors’ favorites — had to be Arabs. We took to the stage bristling with toy weapons. Pint-sized Irgunists raised the Israeli flag, declared independence, and were immediately attacked by shrieking hordes of simulated Palestinians. After a brief melee, the Arabs all clutched their chests and fell down. Then everyone stood and sang “Hatikvah.” Curtain; wild applause.

You could look at this perversely funny little performance as a harmless assertion of solidarity with Israel. Or you might see it as a callous exploitation of innocent minds. Either way, my fellow campers and I were certainly not being trained as terrorists. Nor, I suppose, were we literally being “schooled in hate,” except in the abstract sense in which all such nationalist rituals are aimed at turning children into unthinking chauvinists.

Yet somewhere in Baltimore there’s undoubtedly an album filled with lurid snapshots of Milldale’s 1967 summer pageant, and it would be simple enough to deploy them on a web page or press release with the headline: “At Jewish Summer Camp, Kids are Taught to Re-Enact Deir Yassin Massacre.” The resulting story would be close to literal truth, but its implications would be essentially false.

My point? Context is everything. Those photos of Palestinian “terror tots” might look very different if they were juxtaposed with shots of Jewish settlers training their children to handle Uzis. (You can find some of these on the web if you look hard enough; needless to say, they never appear on CNN.) The baby bomber pics might even teach us something important about the brutalizing effects of an endless colonial war — but only if they were presented in the context of daily life in occupied Palestine, where violence, humiliation, and poverty are an inescapable part of growing up.

Plucked out of context, however, these photos teach nothing but hatred. They are intended to elicit rage and horror while stifling thought and compassion. The obvious message is that Palestinians are incorrigibly criminal, and therefore deserve nothing better than lifelong confinement in the gigantic prison camps that Israel has made of Gaza and the West Bank. The deeper implication is that all Palestinian children are actual or potential terrorists, making them legitimate targets of Israeli military operations.

Just as I wouldn’t excuse a parent who dresses up an innocent kid as a suicide bomber, I can’t forgive a propagandist so reckless as to encourage violence against children. Preying on the weak is a sin. Ironically, that’s one of the things I was taught at Camp Milldale.

Jacob Levich is a writer and editor living in Queens, N.Y. He can be reached at: jlevich@earthlink.net

 

Jacob Levich is a university administrator and independent researcher who tweets as @cordeliers.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail