Education or mind infection?
By Nurit Peled-Elhanan
Speech given at Connecticut College, New London, CT 09/27/06
I would like to dedicate these words to all the Palestinian boys and girls, and to all the Lebanese boys and girls, and to all the Iraqi boys and girls who have been massacred by mind-infected Israeli and American soldier boys, and who have recently joined my own little girl in the underground kingdom of dead children, which is growing under our feet as I speak. I would like to tell them not to worry: "You will be well received there, children, and no one will hurt you just because you wandered off on your way to school or because you wore a scarf on your head or because you lived in a certain place. Rest in peace, everyone is equally worthy in your new world. This is the world where Israeli children dwell side by side with Palestinian children. There they lay, victims and murderers, whose bloods have long been absorbed by the holy land which has always been indifferent to blood. There they rest, all of them, victims of deceit.
In the so-called Western enlightened world everyone feels very well-founded when they blame Islam for suicide bombing and terror. But who would ever blame Judaism for murder? And yet, Ulta Orthodox Jewish children who have never left Brooklyn know that to kill Arabs is a 'mitzva' (holy commandment) for they are 'vilde hayeths' (wild beasts). And Israeli children actually commit the crimes of slaughter and tporture. Neither Judaism nor Islam nor any religion for that matter are the cause for murder and terror. Racist education is. American imperialism is, and Israeli ruthless regime of occupation is. The women and children who suffer most from western violence today are Muslim women but racism has its way and the blame for their suffering is attributed to their being muslim.
The western world today is infected with fear of Islam and of the muslim womb. Great France of liberte egalite and fraternite is scared of little head-scarved girls, Jewish Israel calls in public speeches and schoolbooks the Arab citizens of Israel a demographic nightmare and the enemy from within. As for the Palestinians refugees living under occupation, they are defined in Israeli History schoolbooks as a 'problem to be solved". Not long ago the Jews were a problem to be solved.
They are Christian, and Jewish. Nevertheless people who belong to the Judeo-Christian cultures, who support American-British and Israeli crimes against humanity, and particularly against Muslims all over the world, people who send their children to fight these ruthless useless wars in the name of democracy and freedom which are cover names for greed and megalomania, dare call themselves enlightened and blame it all on some imaginary clash of civilizations.. What does this fear-stricken world offer as a solution to Palestinian , Iraqi or Afgan people who are harassed, abused, tortured and famished by western crimes and exploitation? The general offer this enlightened world gives them is: Be like us. Constitute a Democracy like ours, embrace our values which despise you, which consider you an inferior primitive lot to be cultivated or cleansed away.
This, ladies and gentlemen is the attitude that permit American soldiers to rape, torture and kill muslim men women and children by the thousands, that permits Israeli soldiers to order Palestinian women to strip in front of their children for security reasons, jailers to keep them in inhuman conditions, without necessary hygienic aids, without clean water or clean mattresses and separate them from their breast-fed babies and toddlers. To block their way to education, to confiscate their lands, to destroy their water wells, to uproot their trees and to prevent them from working their fields. This is what permits Israeli pilots to drop a hundred bombs of one ton a day on the most crowded area in the world Gaza. This is what permits Israel to issue racist laws that separate mothers from fathers and children.
Palestinian Iraqi and Afgan women are mothers like me. And when they lose a child, even if it is one of 12, their pain is equal to mine. But in addition to losing their children they also lose their homes and their livelihood and their future because the world does not listen to their sufferings and does not punish their murderers. Their honour as women and mothers is crushed. Their identity is destroyed and their cry is not heard. their faith and customs, their centuries-old ways of life are disregarded and despised.
Not only American soldiers but also Israeli soldiers who actually perform massacres of 'Arabs' - Palestinian or Lebanese - may never see an Arab human face until they are drafted to the army, but they learn, for 12 long years, that these people are primitive, bear children in order to send them to the streets and throw stones at our peace-keeping soldiers, uneducated because they don't receive our education, conniving and dirty because they have different notions about politeness, they dress differently and cover their heads with different pieces of cloth. Well, from my experience there are many more Kafiehs in the camp of peace lovers than there are kippas. Israeli children are deprived from knowing their immediate neighbours, their history and their culture and their merits. Israeli children are educated to see their neighbours as an unwanted element. This is not education, this is mind infection.
The scientist Richard Dawkins was the first to speak about viruses of the mind. Children, because their minds are gullible and open to almost any suggestion, are not immune to mental infections of all sorts of propaganda and fashion. They are easily persuaded to pierce their faces and tattoo their bottoms, to turn their hats around and bare their bellies, to believe in angels and fairies. They are equally easy to acquire political beliefs and to appropriate mental maps which will later influence their decisions on the question of the future borders of the state and on the necessity of war. All of Our children are mind-infected from an early age. So that by the time they are old enough to become real soldiers, they have already learned to be good soldiers, which means their minds are totally infected and they are incapable of questioning the 'truth' that has been inculcated to them. This is part of the explanation one can give to the terrible deeds that are committed today by good Israeli boys, who are characterized once and again as "people of values". Therefore it is high time to ask, what values are these? The following lines are part of a personal preface by Tal Sela, one of my university students to his term-paper, which included the analysis of a History textbook:
On the 5th of September 1997 I found myself in LEbanon , on a rescuing mission . All my friends were in the battle, 12 soldiers were killed. The following days I was happy: " I am alive, I survived" I said to myself. However, a year later I was in deep depression. Sad and morose. I decided to consult a psychologist. After a few sessions I was able to gather up my forces again, both physical and moral. I could reorganize my thoughts.
What I actually felt was frustration, shame and anger. ... How could I be so gullible and let myself be duped?
How can I explain that a man of peace, exposes himself to such a morbid experience of his own free will?