WHEN schoolchildren tote toy guns and stomp on the flag of Israel in a show of support for the people in Gaza, they know little about what they are doing or why they are doing it.
They are simply told to take part in activities to show empathy for the Palestinians who have been portrayed as innocent victims of aggression and violence perpetrated by an “arrogant” power.
This collective demonstration in the classrooms would certainly put Malaysia on the map of the Arab world and win high praise and applause for its unwavering stand for the Palestinian cause but schools are not meant to be training grounds for instilling hate or feeding intolerance into young hearts. Schools must be treated as centres for moulding children to be the future leaders of the country.
Years from now, those children who displayed their “belligerence” for the whole world to see would recall with pride their “participation” in a cause they did not know what it was all about.
They were all made to understand that a cruel and bestial power had committed abominable crimes against humanity cramped in a strip of land whose cities had been laid waste through the “barbaric” actions of the enemy.
Moreover, this narrative is reinforced by graphic images of homes destroyed and lives snuffed out, beamed to televisions around the globe. This would only further inflame public feelings.
What lessons will the schoolchildren take away when they become adults? It is unlikely that they would spread the message of love and kindness towards fellow beings or preach the need for tolerance and understanding.
The seeds of hate had already been sown in their minds on the school “battlefields” where, by virtue of brandishing their “guns”, they had already become partakers in the Middle East conflict.
As they grow older, they pass on their experience to their children. “See, daddy there!” On the wall is a big newspaper cutting of the daddy when he was a boy all dressed up in black and white scarf hollering war cries outside the classroom many years ago.
What lessons can daddy teach his young charge who is curious to find out what the story is all about? Will the adult give a balanced perspective on why there is so much violence in that faraway land?
Or will he just spin a one-sided story about how a “thief” stole all the land owned by his “neighbour,” who now has to squat on a slice of land that is overcrowded and filled with so much misery and poverty?
Will he encourage his school-going child to trample, spit and burn the Star of David and wave a “gun” to show utter contempt for these people who call themselves Yahudi?
Assuredly, the “gun” had created keen awareness that only through the barrel of a firearm can the oppressed regain their land and the enemy obliterated. The smoke you smell, my child, is not empathy but hate.
Given Malaysia’s strong stand on the conflict in the Middle East, the story that would be told in schools and homes down the years would follow the official script, which is to vilify one side for being the villain of the piece.
And so a story that started 3,000 years ago would be reduced to only a few lines—rewritten, re–angled and twisted to fit modern times—so that even schoolchildren could understand why they must hate Israel and love Palestine. – Nov 4, 2023
Paul Bellow is a reader of FocusM.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main photo credit: Reuters