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February 6, 2012

Israeli children are raised to be soldiers from kindergarten

Scott Stockdale

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Israel has come first again in The Bonn International Center for Conversion's (BICC) list of the world's most militarization nations. Iran is ranked 32nd on the Global Militarization Index (GMI) list, while the U.S. is 39th. Statistics are for 2010, the last year they are available.

With its Global Militarization Index , BICC is able to objectively depict worldwide militarization for the first time. The GMI compares, for example, a country’s military expenditure with its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and its health expenditure. It contrasts the total number of military and paramilitary forces in a country with the number of physicians. Finally, it studies the number of heavy weapons available to a country’s armed forces.

These and other indicators are used to determine a country’s ranking, which in turn makes it possible to measure the respective level of militarization in comparison to other countries. The current index looks at the level of militarization of 149 countries and  documents developments since 1990.

After 9/11, American media outlets made it a point to criticize Arab and Islamic educational systems, portraying the Madrassas as breeding grounds for religious extremism and violence, while ignoring the good teachings Islamic schools are offering, including acceptance of Judaic and Christian religions, tolerance to other cultures, moderation of behaviours, family values, compassion towards the poor, equality of rights, freedom and slave emancipation, and democracy.

Meanwhile, little, if anything, about the militarization process taking place in Israeli schools was publicized.

Considering that Israelis are steeped in militarization from an early age, it's not surprising that Israel would be the most militarized nation in the world.  While many assume that this process begins at 16 years old, when all Israeli citizens get a call for recruitment to the army, the process actually begins at a much earlier age, as New Profile Movement for Civilization of Israeli Society member Ronnie Barken points out.

“Israeli children are raised to be soldiers from kindergarten.”

One example of this is the tradition of Israeli kindergarteners sending candy to soldiers on holidays. New Profile members have been trying to get more parents to ask the kindergarten teacher if they could send the candy to children in hospitals rather than soldiers in the field. But even this small act of resistance towards militarization is difficult in Israel.

To indoctrinate the new generations with the military spirit the schools organize school field trips to military bases, where students can be exposed to military life, to get familiar with all kinds of weapons, to take pictures with soldiers, and to attend live ammunition training.

Israeli researcher Eli Bodia, at Haifa University, conducted a study of the Israeli scholastic historical curriculum called “Israeli Struggle in the Hebrew Scholastic History Books”. Professor Bodia concluded that the curriculum perpetuates the Israeli Arab conflict, and has been a contributing obstacle to any real peace treaty with Palestinians.

He described the curriculum as deeply distorted by extreme Zionist ideology. It breeds hatred against Arabs generally and Palestinian specifically by stripping them of their humanity and describing them as savages, violent, terrorist, retarded, criminal, dirty, and animalistic.

Moreover, military personnel are entrusted with the management of educational institutions and the teaching of students. The Israeli Ministry of Education adopted a training program called “Tsafta” to qualify ex-military and ex-intelligence officers and generals to become teachers and school headmasters.  Militarism is not only colourful and fascinating, it provided material for interesting stories which impact on the imagination of impressionable young students.

The Israeli scholar and reporter “Erna Kazin” noted that the Israeli scholastic curriculum is designed to raise students, since childhood, within a militarized atmosphere glorifying the military, in order to prepare students to become soldiers in the Israeli army.

Military service in Israel is considered the highest religious duty that every Israeli citizen aspires to.

The army permeates most aspects of Israeli society.  One of the biggest radio stations is owned by the army and pictures of soldiers are often used in commercials and educational material.

Israeli political and business leaders usually have a record of stellar military service to buttress their credibility with the public. Soldiers are often invited to speak to students at school, and pictures of soldiers often appear in newspapers.

Israelis themselves need to rethink what it takes to make a meaningful contribution to society.

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