FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Confessions of a Summer Camp Terror Tot

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

 

More articles by:

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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 23, 2019
Peter Belmont
The Monroe Doctrine is Back, and as the Latest US Attack on Cuba Shows, Its Purpose is to Serve the Neoliberal Order
David Schultz
The Mueller Report: Trump Too Inept to Obstruct Justice
Geoff Beckman
Crazy Uncle Joe and the Can’t We All Just Get Along Democrats
Medea Benjamin
Activists Protect DC Venezuelan Embassy from US-supported Coup
Patrick Cockburn
What Revolutionaries in the Middle East Have Learned Since the Arab Spring
Jim Goodman
Don’t Fall for the Hype of Free Trade Agreements
Lance Olsen
Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too
William Minter
The Coming Ebola Epidemic
Tony McKenna
Stephen King’s IT: a 2019 Retrospective
David Swanson
Pentagon Claims 1,100 High Schools Bar Recruiters; Peace Activists Offer $1,000 Award If Any Such School Can Be Found
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
Kerron Ó Luain
What the “White Irish Slaves” Meme Tells Us About Identity Politics
Andy Piascik
Grocery Store Workers Take on Billion Dollar Multinational
Seiji Yamada – Gregory G. Maskarinec
Health as a Human Right: No Migrants Need Apply
Howard Lisnoff
Loose Bullets and Loose Cannons
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
Dreaming in Miami
Graham Peebles
Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion
Robert Dodge
Earth Day: Our Planet in Peril
Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail