Last week, I wrote about the process by which a Palestinian child becomes an enemy in the eyes of Israeli soldiers. I wrote it from the perspective of a close friend of mine who had recently completed a round of reserve duty in the village of Ni’ilin, where he routinely shot at children with tear gas, stun grenades, rubber coated steel bullets and live ammunition. The post generated rich discussion which even my friend, neither a +972 reader nor a leftist, joined. This afternoon, I was sent the following short and powerful documentary investigating the treatment of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.
The details revealed by one former solider in the film were particularly unsettling. Listen to his sober description of how the children are detained and left in front of a military post for all in the base to ridicule and sometimes beat. One can understand the emotional stress generated by what he had seen. He describes having to set his emotion aside because the work of harassing children never ended. I can only assume that my friend had similar feelings during his service in Ni’ilin but chose to understand this in a paradigm where Palestinian children are enemies and devoid of childlike qualities. For him, Palestinians children are just Palestinians and Palestinians are simply enemies.
What good can come from this policy towards children? What do the officers and commanders, who order such actions, expect to achieve? Has racism against Palestinians penetrated so deep into Israeli society that we are no longer capable of seeing a child as a child?
The easy answer is that Israel has crossed a line of absolute racism and now it is beyond our control. It is a war to the end and all are targets. However, the genuine emotion of the brave soldiers who testify in this film (and with Breaking the Silence) makes this answer difficult to swallow. Watching their testimonies, I see that we have not crossed this red line because there is still moral quandary about our treatment of ‘the enemy.’ The reality is that we are simply too afraid to face the truth of our actions.