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Indoctrinating Israeli Youths to Be Warriors - Indoctrinating Israeli Youths to Be Warriors

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Indoctrinating Israeli Youths to Be Warriors
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Soldiers in Israeli Schools

They're both former IDF teachers and administrators as well as "uniformed soldiers on duty, stationed in schools as part of the school staff....The presence of former soldiers, especially retired high-ranking officers, in the education system is considered by many in Israeli society, including government, to be a positive influence on children," especially since preparing youths for military service is a core educational goal.

In collaboration with the Ministries of Education and Defense, the IDF operates two large-scale youth programs:

  • the Teacher-Soldier one to train soldiers to become teachers, to complement civilian staff despite their poor qualifications; and
  • the Youth-Guide one works with underprivileged children, in some cases for Youth Battalions; others as Preparation for Military Service coordinators.

They're nearly always in uniform, report to civilian and military superiors, promote militarism and wars for defense, and children acclimate to viewing them as an integral part of their education and a future obligation.

Indoctrinating youths early blurs the line between Israeli military and civil society, promotes militarism, and makes conscription seem inevitable, necessary, and desirable.

Preparation for Military Service

For most male and female Israeli youths, military service is a rite of passage, a natural step in preparation for adulthood, something policy makers have been cognizant of for decades.

After the 1973 Yom-Kipper War, the above-mentioned "When a Nation Reports for Duty" guide explained the role of all Israelis during emergencies and helped children understand it clearly.

In 1984, actively preparing youths for military service began when the IDF and Ministry of Defense published a guide called "Towards Service in the IDF," explaining:

  • the privilege of serving;
  • adapting to military and basic training;
  • developing fitness in preparation;
  • the IDF as a positive force in society; and
  • and preparing parents to accept their children's role as future warriors.

Since the run-up to the 1948 war, training for military service was common, especially through Youth Battalions, but in 1984 programs included school indoctrination "as part of the ordinary curriculum."

Today's program is called "Willingness to Serve and Readiness for the IDF," mandated for three years in high school, the program's goal being:

"Preparing the entire youth population to service in the IDF, while strengthening their readiness and willingness to perform a substantial and contributing service, each to his abilities, and emphasizing the importance of serving in combat units."

Content includes combat legacy stories on field trips, the ethics of war, familiarization with different IDF units, physical education, and Arabic studies to enlist Israelis for intelligence. The format is regimented, emphasizing discipline, and a "Soldier for a Day" program takes children to a military base for descriptive presentations, especially about elite combat units.

Several civilian programs also prepare them for future service, including "Preparation for Combat Fitness" courses, "Youth Battalions Special Forces Induction," and "Follow Me." It's common "to see large groups of young men run about on public beaches, in preparation for military service."

The "Naale Program (a Hebrew acronym for Youth Immigrating Before Parents) promotes immigration for foreign Jewish children, encouraging them to come to Israel, attend high school, and become citizens. It presents military service as a major socializing force, stressing benefits such as acceptance in Israeli society.

Israeli Law Provisions

Article 44 of Israel's 1986 National Defence Service Law authorizes the IDF to obtain information about everyone Intended for Security Service. Educators, employers, and others asked to help must cooperate.

Under Article 43, persons Intended for Security Service can't travel abroad without Defense Ministry permission, although exemptions are freely granted with restrictions such as time limits.

Prior to conscription, most children receive a warrant at home, requiring they report to their Regional Conscription Bureau, a practice called "first call-up" for initial screening, data verification, medical and intelligence tests, and a personal interview. If after three warrants, children don't comply, police intervention may follow.

Military High Schools

Besides ordinary ones, some military high schools include:

  • Mevo'ot Yam with 500 students who wear uniforms, participate in parades, and learn weapons use in preparation for future Navy service;
  • Air Force technical schools for cadets preparing for future IAF service; and
  • the Amal 1 network - one of the largest high school ones in Israel, a joint military-civilian project for future Air Force service.

Courses combine civilian and military studies, children  being groomed to become soldiers.

Yet Article 77(2) of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions (1977) prohibits recruiting them under 15. In Israeli military schools, they're "regularly recruited" as young as 13 or 14. It persists because of militarism's pervasive influence in Israeli society and culture.

Military Training for Children

In all Israeli high schools, mandatory Youth Battalion Training Week simulates army life for 11th and 12th graders on military bases. In uniforms, it includes:

  • reception, processing, orientation, and marches;
  • night and day weapons and field training; and
  • lessons about battle heritage, military ranks, discipline, adapting, service commitment, and purity of arms, etc.

During the entire time, youths are surrounded by soldiers and treated like them gain familiarity with military life. In groups of about 20, treatment and conditions are rigorous, obedience a must, and for those who disobey, punishments include extra calisthenics, running, and chores like latrine duty.

In times of emergency Youth Battalions may be recruited for active service as they were during the 1948 war.

For boys 16 or older, elite combat unit tryouts are held, initially for two days, and for qualifiers up to five, involving demanding and exhausting mental and physical fitness tests. The IDF's reference to "substantial service" strongly emphasizes Elite Combat Unit enlistment - the "cream of the crop" for the "most exciting fighting activities."

For the few selected, pressure to be accepted is intense because participation is considered a great honor.

Military Use of Child Labor

Arranged through schools, children are enlisted to support the IDF, especially during times of emergency or special needs. Besides training, they do laundry, sort uniforms, wash dishes, set dining room tables, clean vehicles, and do other chores, freeing up soldiers for military duties.

To support a war effort, children as young as 15 and a half are enlisted for "Labour Service (to protect) the State or public security or for providing vital services to the population." In all cases, schools cooperate, and during extreme times, children have no choice.

Civil Guard Use of Children

The Israeli Civil Guard is a police-run community-based organization, founded in 1974 to mobilize civilians for protection against Arab militia attacks. Today, the Guard patrols community areas, challenges Palestinians, harasses them, at times shoots them, and performs other civil services like securing public transportation, educational institutions, open markets and parking lots as well as helping out at checkpoints.

About 15% of Guard volunteers are children, eligible at age 15 to join in a restricted status that's removed a year later. Parents consent is also required. Youths are armed, and some schools give extra credit for participating.

Members of Emergency Squads are mostly adults to be first called on as needed, but since 2002 high school students have increasingly been enlisted.

Although part of Israel's police force, the 1971 Police Order's Section 8 is titled "The Israeli Police Force in Military Functions, and Article 92(a) states:

"At times of war or emergency, the Minister is entitled, if the government agrees, to declare the Israeli Police Force, or a part of it, a military force which might be employed in military functions for the protection of the State."

In the West Bank, children as young as 15 guard settlements and other security work, performing functions that include working in police headquarters and patrolling with arms they're trained to use.

Some of them "grow up believing they must banish the Palestinians, and act" violently with impunity, including harassing them freely, beating them, breaking into their homes, destroying their property, and at times killing them.

There's little difference between "training and assigning a child to do work as an armed (settlement) guard (or) assigning (them as) soldier(s) at the front in wartime....The formalities of whether one officially belongs to the army or not are hardly relevant," given the pervasive militarization of Israeli society.

Although civilian service is voluntary, children are raised "in a hostile and violent environment in the middle of a confrontation area." In the Territories, many believe it's their land. They must protect it, and Palestinians are enemies. Under intense social pressure, they perform at a very immature age when they're too young to know the consequences, yet are conditioned to be militant and obedient.

Using Palestinian Children as Collaborators

Israel's GSS recruits Palestinian informants, including children, for field agents to provide intelligence - collaborators most Palestinians call traitors "worthy of death."

Tactics involve detaining Palestinian children, then pressuring and torturing them to comply, much like recruiting the South Lebanon Army (SLA) after the 1982 invasion and occupation. Under IDF and GSS supervision, SLA Lebanese citizens, including children as young as 12, were used as collaborators for intelligence purposes.

During the second Intifada, Palestinians (including children) were used as human shields, forced at gunpoint to comply.

Some Final Comments

Israeli militarized education starts early in overt and symbolic ways to condition young minds to accept  service as natural, vital, and an honor for Jewish citizens. The "educational system is so committed to (promoting) military service that it (fails) to consider" the harm to new youth generations who grow up thinking wars and violence are natural, peace unattainable, Arabs inferior, and Palestinians enemies.

Militarizing society is corrupting and self-destructive, recruiting child soldiers criminal and unconscionable. "All forms....must stop." The alternative is unacceptable, illegal, and intolerable.


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