If you wanted a prime example of the Palestinian propaganda machine’s belligerent self-pity in full flow and of the Guardian’s complete commitment to lying by omission by privileging one side of the story only in order to underpin its inveterate demonisation of Israel, you need look no further than Harriet Sherwood’s “Childhood in Ruins”
Of course Gaza children are traumatised and that trauma is none of their own making, but neither is it only of Israel’s. Yet nowhere in this execrable compendium of omissions is there any attempt to make this clear. On the contrary, Harriet Sherwood refers more than once to John Ging, who works for UNRWA and can therefore hardly said to be unbiased (see here for his significant omissions about alleged IDF culpability in the UN school incident during Cast Lead, and here for a more balanced and contextualised account of the incident) and yet nowhere does Sherwood make clear that the school was later found to have been used by Hamas to fire on the IDF from among the civilians sheltering there.
In her one-sided account, Sherwood spares us nothing about the desperate plight of Palestinian children, and desperate it is. Again, however, there is no attempt to give us the context of this, rather the article heaps all blame and opprobrium upon Israel, reserving none at all for Hamas which is on record as deliberately using those children to be human shields. (See here also).
To read Sherwood, it is as if Cast Lead and its results for these children arrived out of the blue and from nothing Hamas did. Nowhere, for example, are mentioned the eight years of shelling from Gaza endured by the families of Sderot and the effects of this on their children, for example. Nowhere is mentioned the Muslim on Muslim violence in Gaza, much of it witnessed first-hand by Palestinian children, and which, it is reasonable to argue, was as much responsible for their mental health problems as were the abuses of their human rights by their leaders or by anything the IDF did during Cast Lead itself.
Worse, Palestinian psychiatrists are roped in to be part of the anti-Israel propaganda machine. Of course to side with Hamas openly, rather than remain neutral as any ethical practitioner should, may be a vital prerequisite for their own safety, but they are not helping the situation. As professionals theirs should be voices of reason against the mindless violence rather than trying to find excuses for it without making any attempts to change it.
Sherwood does not hesitate to blame Israel for the potential for violence in Palestinian children. Of course she ignores the psychological damage resulting from witnessing first hand the Muslim on Muslim violence, particularly after Cast Lead, which I refer to above, and equally carefully avoids any mention of the indoctrination by Hamas of even the very young to aspire to suicide terror (and see also here and here ).
Most human beings are afraid of death and few willingly embrace it. Children do not have a sense of the “foreverness” of death and are likely to be afraid of it. Research by Itamar Marcus points up that Hamas deliberately sets out to eradicate children’s fear of death by initially making a game out of it.
Thus, at six to nine years of age, Hamas will encourage children at its schools and summer camps to play games which “normalise” violent death: Marcus tells us that Palestinian children play the “Shahid Game,” in which children act out a Shahid’s funeral. An interesting note on this game: the children argue who will have the honour of playing the dead child. “I am younger than you. I should be the one to die!” is the 6-year-old’s assertion. Even at this young age, they have already internalized the message that the honourable role is that of the Shahid.
At ages ten to thirteen, many of these children are already actively expressing a wish to die. Marcus describes how in July 2002, two articulate 11-year-old girls were interviewed in the studio of official Palestinian Authority TV. Among other topics, they spoke of their personal yearning to achieve death through Shahada – Death for Allah – and of a similar desire they said exists in “every Palestinian child.” It is striking and horrifying that their desire for death was expressed as a personal goal, not related to the conflict with Israel, having been convinced that dying for Allah is preferable to life. Their goal in living is not to experience a good life, but to achieve the proper death – Shahada.
These children are groomed and ready for their handlers to send them out on “martyrdom” missions by the time they reach fourteen to seventeen years of age. Marcus quotes from an article in the New York Times of 25th April 2002, that three 14-year old boys set out to attack an Israeli village, hoping to be killed. They left farewell letters which included phrases from the TV clip “Farewell Letter” which was broadcast hundreds of times on PA TV: “The child Yussouf Zaakut wrote: ’…Don’t cry for me. Bury me with my brothers and with the Shahids…’”
Sherwood’s and the Guardian’s show of concern for Palestinian children, whilst ignoring the harm done to their psyches by the very people they and their parents should be able to trust, rings very hollow indeed given the foregoing. However this is the Guardian where facts are distorted routinely to service the Guardian World View that Israel alone is the unique evil in the world and Hamas and its fellow travellers (which include its supporters on “Comment is Free”), who have such a reprehensible attitude to the safety of Palestinian children, are portrayed as the victims and are therefore foolishly and misguidedly absolved from all guilt and blame for their evil deeds.