A recent incident involving Israel's public broadcaster, Kan, has sparked a significant controversy. The broadcaster uploaded a video on its official page showing Israeli children singing a song that appeared to celebrate the ongoing conflict with Palestinians in Gaza.
The video, which was swiftly removed following an online backlash, continued to stir discussions and criticisms globally. The content, showing children cheerfully singing about “eliminating” an entire people within a year, raised serious questions about the messages being conveyed to young Israelis.
This incident is not isolated but reflects deeper issues within certain segments of Israeli literature and educational curricula. The portrayal of Palestinians and the ongoing conflict in these mediums suggest a pattern of dehumanization and a skewed narrative.
Decades of Shaped Perceptions
Israeli scholar Adir Cohen's analysis in his book, “An Ugly Face in the Mirror – National Stereotypes in Hebrew Children’s Literature,” sheds light on this issue. Cohen examined around 1700 Hebrew-language children’s books published between 1967 and 1985, finding that a significant portion contained negative stereotypes of Palestinians.
His findings revealed a concerning prevalence of descriptions portraying Palestinians in dehumanizing terms. Moreover, the use of the Holocaust in Israeli education has been critiqued for potentially desensitizing Israeli children to the suffering of Palestinians.
Historian Andrew Hurley, in his book "One Nation Under Israel," discussed how Holocaust education might inadvertently lead to viewing Palestinians as modern-day targets for retribution. Israeli scholar Nurit Peled-Elhanan's research further underscores this concern.
In her book "Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education," she analyzed textbooks and found that Palestinians were often depicted as "terrorists" and Israeli history was simplified to favor a particular narrative.
Peled-Elhanan argued that these textbooks prioritize creating a "usable past" that often distorts reality to justify present actions, thus perpetuating a cycle of animosity and conflict.
“The books – in defiance of actual evidence- still present the Palestinians as the ‘thugs’ and the Israelis as the victims” she wrote, and reflect the Zionist-Israeli opinion that “the Palestinians cannot be viewed but as an obstacle or a threat to be overcome or eliminated.
Therefore their stories, their suffering, their truth or their human faces cannot be included in the narrative”.
A Narrative of Victims and Aggressors
These studies and incidents highlight a critical issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the role of education and media in shaping perceptions.
The portrayal of Palestinians as threats or obstacles in educational materials and public media contributes to a polarized view, where empathy and understanding are overshadowed by narratives of victimization and aggression.