Back in 1957, Golda Meir said something like:
"Peace will come when Palestinian mothers learn to love their children
more than they hate the Jews."
She also said that there was no such thing as a Palestinian people. Of course, several years later she apologized, saying, “That was the silliest damn thing I ever said.” Well, I don’t know. I think accusing Palestinian mothers of not loving their children merits a gold medal for silliness.
Palestinian mothers do in fact love their children as do mothers all over the world. They also fear for their safety. They are concerned for their future in an apartheid state where their rights as human being are being ignored because the big superpower occupying them wants their land and water. Mothers in Palestine long for their children to have an opportunity to grow up with dignity, to have a safe place to sleep and go to school, all of which are systematically jeopardized by Israel’s military occupation. Far from choosing to hate their enemies more than they love their children, Palestinian mothers on numerous occasions have sacrificed their lives to cover their children with their own bodies to protect them from bombs, tanks and white phosphorus.
I think I first heard this little caricature of Palestinian mothers in 1988 during the first intifada. Kids who had never lived a day in their entire life free of the humiliation and the pain of military occupation suddenly began throwing rocks at Israeli tanks, trucks and troops. Israel responded with “An iron fist policy.” by killing, beating, and torture.
During the first year of the intifada:
Amnesty International reported 540 killed by Israeli troops including 159 children. Their average age was ten years old.
Save the Children reported 7000 hospitalized from beatings, 1/3 were ten years old, 1/5 five years old.
Dennis Madden, Roman Catholic Priest attested,
"If you take all the Palestinians who have been killed, the number is roughly around 1,000. The number who have required medical attention is roughly around 106,000. The over 50,000 who have been in prison, the houses that have been demolished, the thousands of trees that have been uprooted, the deportations. You take all of the statistics together...what it averages out to is that every Palestinian family has had at least two members that have either been killed, deported, arrested or tortured."(1)
And this was BEFORE suicide bombers.
According to Rosemary Radford Ruether:
Anyone arrested in the occupied territories can be held without trial or consultation with a lawyer for eighteen days. During this period (and also during extensions of this period) those arrested are typically subject to brutal treatment, ranging from kicking and beatings to elaborate form of torture...” (2)
Ari Shavit, a young Israeli soldier ordered to serve in Ansar II, one of Israel’s prisons for Palestinians, reported in Ha’aretz.
Perhaps the fault lies with the screams: At the end of your watch, on the way from the showers, you hear horrible screams...from over the galvanized tin fence of the interrogation section come hair-raising human screams. I mean that literally. Hair-raising. And you of course have read the B’Tselem report...And you ask yourself, what is going on here five meters away? Is it someone being tied in the “banana” position? Or is it a simple beating? You don’t know. But you do know that from this moment forth you will have no rest. Because 50 meters from the bed where you try to sleep, 80 meters from the dining hall where you try to eat, human beings are screaming. And they are screaming because other people wearing the uniform as you are doing things to them to make them scream. They are screaming because your state, your democratic state in an institutional systematic manner — and definitely legal — your state is making them scream.” (3)
To avoid the moral judgment of the world, Israel shifted the responsibility of their treatment of Palestinian youth onto the mothers whom they said, “sent their children out to commit violence.”
But, why bring this up now, twenty five years later? Because that old unfounded quip is still being passed around by intelligent people in an effort to give Israel legitimacy. Recently, I was referred to this very slogan to make the case that the Palestinians are really the cause of their own pain.
It was quoted by a friend who is quite superior to me in education and theological acumen. I was shocked, not so much by the quote, but that with all his credentials, he still thinks this is relevant to the Israel/Palestinian situation. In spite of his creditability in other areas, when it comes to applying his biblical faith to justice for the Palestinians, he just doesn’t get it.
August 22, 2012
1 - Private conversation with Father Dennis Madden, Tantur Institute, Jerusalem. Summer, 1991.
2 - Rosemary Radford Ruether, Herman Ruether, The Wrath of Jonah, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2002) p. 157.
3 - Marc Ellis, Beyond Innocence and Redemption, (Harper and Row Publishers, San Francisco, 1990,) p.73.