Zionism and Indoctrination – Modest Proposal to Prevent Hurt Feelings over Anti-Israel Demos

A pro-Palestine protest in Canada. (Photo: Jim Miles, Supplied)

By Yves Engler

Is it surprising that kids who have endured this indoctrination feel threatened by criticism of Israel? For many, university may be their first sustained interaction with anti-Zionism.

According to a Parliamentary Commission Jewish students are feeling “unsafe” on Canadian campuses.

Last week a House of Commons justice committee hearing instigated by Liberal MP Anthony Housefather heard from a half dozen students about how difficult life has become as their peers criticize Israel’s holocaust in Gaza.

As the Grind’s Dave Gray-Donald pointed out, the media ignored that three of the students who testified previously held positions in Israel lobby organizations. But focusing only on those paid to promote a foreign state ignores the depth of the problem.

The problem begins when two and three-year olds are indoctrinated into worshiping a far-away apartheid state. The daycare and preschool at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre in Toronto has Israeli flags on the wall and describes “Israel as a Source and Resource”.

From daycare to summer camp to kindergarten, many young Jews are conditioned to be “terrified” by those opposing genocide. At a number of private elementary schools, they paint the kids’ faces with Israel’s colors on special occasions and regularly sing the national anthem of one of the most violent states in history.

At Montréal’s Hebrew Academy Israeli emissaries lead five- and six-year-olds in “fun IDF programs”. Photos of Israeli soldiers and IDF emblems are common and schools also show movies that celebrate the Israeli military and have students send gifts to IDF bases.

Beyond instilling an emotional attachment towards the Israeli military, the kids are radicalized into fundraising for colonial land theft. Schools distribute Jewish National Fund Blue Boxes as part of “educating Jewish youth and involving them in these efforts in order to foster their Zionistic spirit and inspire their support for the State of Israel. For many Jews, the Blue Box is bound up with childhood memories from home and the traditional contributions they made in kindergarten and grade school.”

Blue Boxes raise funds for the explicitly racist JNF, which has played an important role in the colonization of Palestine. A number of Montreal Jewish schools have also recently brought grade three and fours to “JNF Day” events that show maps of Israel that include the illegally occupied West Bank.

At Tuesday’s Israel Independence Day rally in Montreal hundreds, maybe a thousand, students were bused in from private schools. The DJ belted out different school names as the kids danced, waived Israeli flags and knocked beach balls around.

In a sign of what’s being taught at the schools, the Montreal Gazette reported on a student yelling “f**k off”  as their bus passed by the Palestine counter demonstration.

An hour later at a cafe a few blocks away a large group of 16- and 17-year-olds sat down next to me with Israeli flags draped over their shoulders. When I asked how they felt about the 15,000 Palestinian children killed one joked about liking to eat 15,000 of the ice creams he was consuming.

As the kids grow older, the indoctrination becomes more intense and sophisticated. At Toronto’s TanenbaumCHAT all grade 12s were recently given a copy of the Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism and the Delegitimization of Israel Noa Tishby’s book Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth.

They also entice students to join the IDF. Former Israeli soldiers visit and school alumni sometimes speak to the teenagers from their IDF bases. Hebrew Academy, TanenbaumCHAT and others also celebrate those who join the Israeli military.

Is it surprising that kids who have endured this indoctrination feel threatened by criticism of Israel? For many, university may be their first sustained interaction with anti-Zionism (or even non-Jews).

One certainly can have sympathy for young people who have been brought up in a fantasyland in which Israel is the “only democracy in the Middle East” and a place where settlers made an empty land “bloom”.

They’ve been told over and over the IDF is “most moral army in the world” and “there’s no such thing as Palestinians”. We should pity those who have been sheltered from the real world in which billions around the world perceive Israel as a settler colonial state engaged in an ongoing genocide against millions of displaced people.

Something must be done to help them. What can we do to prevent the shock of entering the real world when they attend university? Require changes in the curriculum? Demand historical honesty?

Parliament should investigate what can be done to save these students from feeling frightened by social justice activists opposing genocide.

 – Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and a number of other books. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit his website: yvesengler.com.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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