Monday, October 1, 2007

Israel’s Toy Soldiers

A Good Piece
By Chris Hedges

"If you are a young Muslim American and head off to the Middle East for a spell in a fundamentalist “madrassa,” or religious school, Homeland Security will probably greet you at the airport when you return. But if you are an American Jew and you join hundreds of teenagers from Europe and Mexico for an eight-week training course run by the Israel Defense Forces, you can post your picture wearing an Israeli army uniform and holding an automatic weapon on MySpace.

The Marva program, part summer camp part indoctrination, was launched in Israel in 1981. It allows participants, who must be Jewish and between the ages of 18 and 28, to fire weapons, live in military barracks in the Negev desert and saunter around in an Israeli military uniform saluting and taking long hikes with military packs. The Youth and Education Corps of the Israel Defense Forces run four 120-strong training sessions a year. “Upon arrival, the participants experience an abrupt change into army life: wearing uniforms, accepting army discipline, and learning the programs and lessons integral to the program,” the Let Israelis Show You Israel Web site reads. “The program includes military content such as: navigation, field training, weapons training, shooting ranges, marches and more, as well as educational content such as: Zionism, Jewish Identity, history and knowledge of the land of Israel. All of this is taught in Hebrew in an intensive eight weeks.”

"The participants finish the program after completing a short, intensive, exhilarating military experience that allows them to taste Israel in a way that they never could before—as part of the Israel Defense Forces,” the site reads. “They leave the program with a feeling of belonging and a strong connection to Israel, and many return to Israel to continue the connection that was created in the framework of the Marva course.”......

How have we reacted when we discovered that American Muslims were being taught in a foreign country to fire machine guns at paper figures and simulate military maneuvers? And what about the summer schools in Gaza organized by Islamic Jihad designed to train young Palestinians in the basics of military life? These Gaza camps, uncovered in 2001, were widely denounced by Israel as proof that the Palestinians were teaching their children to hate and kill.....

....Muslims, however, have not cornered the market on terrorism and violence. Radical Jews have also been involved in terrorist attacks in Israel and the United States.

I discovered an American in Israel in 1989 named Robert Manning. A huge, burly man, Manning was living in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Kiyrat Arba. When I found him he was carrying a pistol, a large knife strapped to his leg and an M-16 assault rifle. He was part of a Jewish terrorist group called Committee for Protection and Safety of the Highways that set up ad hoc roadblocks and pulled Palestinians from cars to beat and often shoot them. He was a follower of Meir Kahane, the leader of the Jewish Defense League, who was implicated in terrorist attacks in the United States and Israel. Manning served as a reservist in the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank.

Manning was wanted in California for murder. He had been charged in a 1980 mail-bomb killing as part of his involvement in the Jewish Defense League. The bomb was intended for the owner of a local computer firm, but the package holding the device was opened by the firm’s secretary, Patricia Wilkerson, who was killed instantly by the blast. Manning, full of bluster and a bitter racism toward Arabs....

The results, given Israel’s close alliance with the United States, may not be negative for those in power in the United States, but it may be very negative for those Americans defined as the enemy, especially Muslims, should we suffer another 9/11. The program inculcates hatred and a belief in the efficacy of violence to solve the problems in the Middle East. It identifies Israel with militarism. It feeds the idea that a Jew born in Brooklyn has a birthright to settle in Israel that is denied to an American of Palestinian descent......"

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