FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Explaining Gaza to My Granddaughter

by

“Grandpa, why are they killing kids in Gaza?”

A deep breath to compose my thoughts.

“You said most people were good, but I think only bad people could drop bombs on little kids. There was a boy crying on TV. He lost his whole family.”

“Most people are good but sometimes they do bad things,” I answered.

Back came the inevitable: “Why?”

“Because of greed and bad ideas. Those are the two main reasons people do bad stuff.”

Her expectant stare caused a moment of panic. She needed an explanation. She needed the truth. But the dilemma in explaining war to a seven year old is that simple answers — “these are the good guys and those are the bad guys” — are part of the problem. Simple answers limit critical thinking and enable those who profit from war to manipulate people.  How could I explain a complicated subject in a simple enough manner that helped my granddaughter learn to think for herself? I had to try.

“You know what Israel is?”

“It’s a country. My friend Sarah went there for a holiday.”

“It’s a country that was started with some bad ideas that seemed like good ideas at the time. It’s a country the greediest people in the world give bombs, airplanes and other weapons to, because these greedy people have the bad idea that they’ll make lots of money and keep their power by doing it.”

The look on her face proved this was far too complicated. Start over.

“Do you know what religion is?”

“It’s like when people believe in god and go to church and stuff.”

“Yes. One religion is called Judaism and the people who belong to it are called Jews. It’s very old and a little bit different from other religions because some people still call themselves Jews even if they don’t believe in god or follow any of the Jewish rules. Through most of their history Jews have lived in places where there was another, more powerful religion and many times the bigger religion picked on Jews. You know, like kids picking on someone just because they’re different.”

“I know. Papa explained that to me.”

“Well in Europe picking on Jews grew and grew until a very bad man named Hitler took over in Germany and during a war his armies killed millions of Jews, including mommas, papas, grandmas, grandpas and little kids. That was called the Holocaust.”

“Millions?”

“Yes. It was very horrible and after the war the world felt so bad about the Holocaust that the governments of the most powerful countries said the Jews could have a country of their own where they could run things for themselves. Sort of like giving the kids who have been picked on their own playground.”

“Their own playground far away from the bullies?”

“Exactly, but the problem was that the land which the powerful countries gave to the Jews belonged to other people.”

“How could they give away land that belonged to other people?”

“Well, unfortunately that used to happen a lot. Like right here in Canada when the British and the French fought over land that belonged to the First Nations. Mama and Papa have explained colonialism to you, right?”

She nodded. “That was very bad.”

“This country given to the Jews was called Israel and some people thought it would be the perfect thing to end all the bullying that had happened in Europe, but others were not so sure. Some people said that if you gave land that belonged to other people the only way Jews would be able to keep it would be by becoming bullies themselves.”

“Why?”

“Because the people who lived there, the Palestinians, wouldn’t just give up their homes. Why should they? Palestinians weren’t the ones who had killed the Jews so why should they be punished for bad things Europeans had done? People predicted that the Jews would have to fight the Palestinians for the land and that’s exactly what happened, over and over again. And it’s still happening today.”

“They fight to take the Palestinian land?”

“At the root of it yes.”

“Are the Jews bullies now?”

“Jews are the same as everyone. Some are bad, but most are nice. Most don’t even live in Israel.”

“But taking people’s homes is not nice. Dropping bombs is not nice.”

“You’re right. But are you a bad person when you pick on your sister or have a temper tantrum? No, you’re a nice person doing something bad. It’s the government of Israel, its army, one of the largest in the world, and the police who are bullies. They’re always picking on Palestinians, especially the ones who still live on the land that the right-wing Israelis want for themselves, but that the governments of the world say belongs to Palestine. Of course this makes the Palestinians very mad and they try to fight back anyway they can. When they do, the Israeli government puts them in jail or tears down their houses or drops bombs on them and kills lots of little kids. Then Israel and its supporters says they can’t possibly be nice to Palestinians because all they ever do is fight.”

“I think the Israelis are mean.”

“I do too. But the real question is how do we stop it?”

“I don’t know.”

“How do you stop someone being mean on the playground?”

“By telling the teacher.”

“Sure, but sometimes that doesn’t work. And in the case of Israel telling the teacher is like telling the most powerful country in the world, which is the USA. But the USA keeps on giving Israel all the bombs and other weapons it wants. It suits the interests of the rich people who run the USA to keep everyone in the different countries around Israel fighting amongst themselves.”

She looked perplexed.

“So what do you do if the teacher doesn’t stop someone who is being mean?”

“Stop playing with them?”

“Exactly. If you can’t get a teacher or an adult to stop a bully, you stop playing with them. You avoid them. You tell your friends and everyone you know to stop playing with them, to avoid them. If no one plays with a mean person, if everyone avoids a bully, they just might learn that only way to have friends is by being nice to people. Right?”

She nodded.

“Well that’s what we need to do to Israel. We need to boycott it until it stops being mean to Palestinians, until it allows them to have their own country. That’s the only non-violent way of fixing things. Does that make sense?”

She nodded. “Sometimes when I’m bad, Mama makes me have a timeout.”

“That’s right, Israel needs a timeout. You remember when I took you to the candy store and bought you some but you wanted more. And I made the mistake of listening to you and buying you more? And that still wasn’t enough? You wanted even more? Then you threw a temper tantrum. You hit your sister because she wouldn’t give you her lollipop, even though you’d already eaten yours?””

“Mama said it was because of the sugar.”

“Exactly.”

“Is that what Israel is like?”

“Pretty close.”

She thought about it for a few seconds and then asked: “Grandpa, can you read me a book?”

Gary Engler is a Canadian journalist and novelist (The Year We Became Us) and co-author of the recently released New Commune-ist Manifesto — Workers of the World It Really is Time to Unite (www.newcommuneist.com).

Gary Engler is a Canadian journalist, novelist (The Year We Became Us) and co-author of the recently released New Commune-ist Manifesto — Workers of the World It Really is Time to Unite (www.newcommuneist.com).  He is currently working on the first great hockey novel tentatively titled Puck Hog.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
Charles R. Larson
A Review of Mary Roach’s “Grunt”
David Yearsley
Stuck in Houston on the Cusp of the Apocalypse
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail