Children and IDF are Israeli Occupation Pawns

By James M. Wall

There are times when one picture says it all.

This picture at right shows a terrified Palestinian child between two Israeli soldiers who, from my perspective, are ashamed of what they are doing.

Ponder that picture a few moments and then ask yourself, “Does Israel have a right to exist”?  It is the wrong question. It is actually a “trick question” intended to deceive.

Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, wrote an article in the liberal Jewish publication, Forward, which exposes “right to exist” as a trick question, a tactic designed to evade the political reality of Israel’s immoral and corrupting occupation of Palestinians.

Any occupation, by definition, is corrupting to everyone involved. It is corrupting to the occupied and to the occupiers. It is also corrupting to those who look at what is happening and pass by on the other side of the road. 

I have had the “trick question” hurled at me for almost half a century. It is universally employed by occupation apologists. It is a question which serves as a mental wall to hide the immorality of Israeli military control, which is not a defense force but a conquering force.

Up close, it is an ugly and heart-breaking sight.

On one of my 20 reporting trips to the Middle East, I needed to travel to Lebanon when Israel was involved in one of its armed conflicts with Lebanon. I signed in as a journalist with the IDF press office outside Jerusalem.

We traveled through Palestinian villages in an IDF jeep, heading north. The two soldiers escorting me took note of children along the way who had tossed a Palestinian banner on a wire and were eager to throw stones at our jeep. 

One soldier muttered, “we’ll take that one down on the way back”. I felt degraded for the two soldiers. They should have been home in Tel Aviv with their own children. Instead, they were escorting an American journalist who witnessed children mocking them.

When I told the story of that trip to readers, Israeli-backers fired back with the inevitable trick question, “Does Israel have a right to exist?” I wish I had known then to dismiss the question as a trick.

Well-protected behind the wall that trick question has built, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a national election in December, motivated, the Guardian alleges, to delay pending legal action against him. Israel’s voters will have an opportunity to change course from a government that makes the IDF and children pawns in Netanyahu’s obvious plan to conquering all of Palestine.

Is Israel’s current government acting like a democracy concerned about the well-being of its own citizens and the well-being of Palestinians living under its military control? 

Look at the record.

The Guardian writes:

According to the United Nations, Palestinians – many of them children – were killed at the rate of around one a day while taking part in protests along Israel’s perimeter fence with Gaza about their right to return to ancestral homes. They included medics and journalists. Most of the dead were unarmed and posed no danger to anyone, with little more than rocks in their hands and slogans on their lips.

Yet Israel continued with an immoral and unlawful policy that sees soldiers of its military, which is under democratic civilian control, teargas, shoot and kill protesters, including those who pose no credible threat.

Hospitals in Gaza, which already struggle under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, have been stretched to breaking point in dealing with the flood of patients ferried in from the protests.

The Guardian recalls a phrase from the late Amos Oz, the Israeli novelist who was a loyal Zionist with a conscience.

The novelist Amos Oz’ words that “even unavoidable occupation is a corrupting occupation” have been ignored for too long. Netanyahu’s nearest rival [in the upcoming election] brags that he sent parts of Gaza “back to the stone age” when in the military.  

Netanyahu would dismiss Oz’s warnings; but perhaps he ought to take heed of the recent spat between the historian Benny Morris and the Ha’aretz writer Gideon Levy.

Benny Morris is the historian who “lifted the veil” on the ethnic cleanings on which Israel was founded, but then drifted to the right to say that these heinous crimes did not go far enough. Gideon Levy is the left-leaning Ha’aretz columnist. They differ on much but agree that “the two-state solution is a fading prospect”.

[Meanwhile] Netanyahu lulls the public with the notion that a two-state solution will wait until Israel deems the conditions to be ripe. He hints that new friends in Washington, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi will come up with a proposal the Palestinians will swallow.

This is pure cynicism. There is no new plan – just a rebranding of the status quo, maintained by force by Israel, and with Palestinians within and without Israel’s borders subjugated and dependent. Israelis must turn away from the occupation, which is debasing their society and suffocating the Palestinians.

Israel’s “right to exist” trick question, is a high wall built around the minds of those who are easily distracted away from Israel’s evil occupation.

It is time to say, “tear down that wall”. Let children grow up in peace and let the IDF soldiers go home to their own children.

The picture above of two Israeli soldiers and one small Palestinian boy appeared in the Jerusalem Post.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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5 Responses to Children and IDF are Israeli Occupation Pawns

  1. John Kleinheksel says:

    Hi Jim,
    On target as usual, highlighting the indignities heaped on vulnerable Palestinian children and youths.
    Our Kairos West Michigan chapter is considering being a part of the “No Way to Treat a Child” movement. The United Church of Christ is in full-bore, (plus other groups). They have developed curriculum (for two sessions, 29 minutes and 42 minutes), with a trailer.
    If your readers will go to they can access the December issue of The Link. AMEU stands for Americans for Middle East Understanding, Inc. In that issue, Brad Parker explains how in 2014, the AFSC set up the DCIP (Defense for Children International – Palestine).
    The No Way to Treat a Child campaign was launched in June, 2015, whose goal was to engage members of Congress on a narrowly-tailored child rights issue, the widespread and sustematic ill-treament and torture of Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces.
    In November, 2018, they celebrated a historic achievement when Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and nine co-sponsors introduced H.R. 4391. That bill died with the end of the last House term. Steps are now underway to re-introduce a similar bill. It had 31 sponsors. Our W. Mi Kairos group will be enlisting our consituents to get our three Representatives in W. MI to look into the merits of the bill and co-sign. Not an easy sell, given the power of the Israeli lobby.
    BTW, in email exchanges with the producer of The Occupation of the American Mind, he gave all of us an important distinction. Instead of talking about the power of the Jewish lobby; he urged talking about the power of the Israeli lobby. We are not opposed to Jews or Judaism. We are opposed to the policies of the Israeli State. They are driving AIPAC and outdated Jewish establishment types in the US.
    I’m eager to view the new documentary film by Marjorie Wright, JEWS STEP FORWARD, based on interviews with 24 American Jewish activists. Also available through AMEU ($9. for the cost of S/H). They all journeyed from Israel-lovers, turning to 180 degree opposition to Zionism, wanting to deconstruct it, bring it to an end. This would end the Occupation and open the door to a pluralistic, binational state with libery and justice for all. We can all dream can’t we?
    Younger Jews are getting it right. Israel is beside itself, worrying over the disconnect between the Zionist State and those heretic Diaspora youngsters in America. Expect more fireworks.

  2. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Many thanks, Jim.
    I would also like to comment on 2 items, if i may:
    1- “Does Israel have the right to exist?”
    I have had the same old concocted “trick- question” hurled at Mr.Yousef Munayyer, also asked of me, and probably thousands of other Palestinians. In more recent decades, I learned to ask the inquirers to “COMPLETE”‘ their question. And, when they looked puzzled, I rephrased their question, which should have actually been: “Does Israel have the right to exist on lands usurped in 1967 (East Jerusalem, West Bank, & Gaza)? Or, beyond 1947 UN Partition Plan? Or, Palestine (pre-1948)? A two-state solution, warped by illegal Israeli “attack-settlements”?
    Or, should we really talk about a ONE-STATE that is secular and democratic?

    2- Israel’s monstrous incarceration of children.- the new Palestinian generation of youth – in order to manipulate their minds and warp their psyche, and deform their bodies.
    Israeli soldiers corral groups of kids in streets, without any charges, and incarcerate them on grounds of fabricated crimes, or disobedience, or demonstrations, or throwing stones at tanks and military vehicles..
    Actually, Israel goes way beyond what is mentioned in our biased media, the rare times they do mention it..
    No one talks about the World War II-learned Israeli psychological crimes that use terror, blackmail, threats of doing harm to parents and families of incarcerated Palestinian children.
    Our media does not talk about physical, mental, and psychological abuse of children, whilst in captivity. How are these kids terrorized to become informers; or physically abused to degrade them, deprave them, and dehumanize them, in order to ensure that, when, and if, they grow up they will be forever severely handicapped mentally, psychologically, and physically.
    As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have no doubt that, one day, Israel will be held accountable for its crimes since its creation by British colonialism.
    But, what I do not understand is, why on earth are successive U.S. administrations so willing and so eager to be partners and allies in such horrendous crimes?

  3. Patricia says:

    No Israel doesn’t have a right to exist in Palestine! Ending US support of Israel should be a priority of good human beings.

  4. For starters, Arthur Balfour did NOT own Palestine to promise it to non-indigenous people. Other overlooked important matters is that the UN General Assembly resolutions are advisory and non-binding apart from the partitioning resolution being against the very Charter of that organization. Also, the admission of Israel to the UN was CONDITIONAL upon allowing the displaced Palestinians to return to their homes – Israel is still until today in violation of that as well no less than 70 other UN resolutions. Another ignored fact is that prior to 1948, the Jews already had a state which was set up in 1938 in the Soviet Union – go to:
    In order not to stir up the hornet’s nest, I have to refrain, in this instance, from exposing Israel’s lies and fabricated narratives.

  5. Richard Greve says:

    If asked that question reply “Does Palestine have the right to exist? Let the zionists answer that.

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