Moulding the minds of Israeli children

Issue 

Moulding the minds of Israeli children

By Miriam Tramer

Izkor (Slaves of Memory), shown at the Israeli film festival at the end of last year, is a film about the way the Israeli education system moulds the minds of young people to Zionist ends.

Within the space of a month in spring each year, Israel has four major memorial/festival days: Pesach (Passover) commemorating the liberation from slavery in Egypt, Holocaust Memorial Day, Israeli Independence Day and the memorial day for soldiers killed during the "war of independence".

The insistent, simplistic message drummed into young heads is that, for the Jewish people, the past was unremitting oppression and persecution. The line is that this was ended only by the foundation of the Jewish state. However, the mind set of being under constant threat is continually reinforced, with the Arabs posited as the perennial enemy.

Kindergarten children are shown acting out and reciting in chorus the liberation from Egypt. "Then we were slaves." (All the children kneel with their faces down on the floor.) "Now we are free." (They face up, flinging their arms up in celebration.)

Linked to the Zionist message, a legitimate celebration of national liberation implicitly becomes a justification for any action to protect the Zionist state. The four anniversaries, falling in the same month and used for such overtly political, nationalist purposes, constitute a powerful ideological force akin to brainwashing.

In the documentary, four Israeli teenagers are interviewed for their opinions on the way these days are marked and the lessons which are drawn from them. Despite the propaganda, these kids have their own views and do not always agree with the message that is constantly preached to them.

Rabbi Liebowitz, outspoken Israeli critic of Israel's denial of human and national rights to the Palestinians, is interviewed. He attacks the Israeli education system for what he describes as enslaving the minds of the young.

He says the horror of the Holocaust can never be an excuse for oppressing another people. The constant rehearsal of these horrors is used to deny Israeli responsibility for their own actions. In any case, he says, the Holocaust is for those who

perpetrated it to remember, not the victims.