I never imagined that I would write about Israeli children casually scribbling messages on bombs meant for Lebanon.
Pictures from Associated Press
Frederick Deknatel, at War Post (via Amitava Kumar), in his essay Obsessed, asks,
I wonder how the Israeli girls who write on bombs that kill Lebanese girls, and their mothers and old grandmothers, would explain their war obsession. The girls’ doting mothers take cute photos of them with digital cameras: soccer moms next to tanks, the healthy-looking women crouching to catch this moment in their daughters’ young life. Maybe they talk about this moment at dinner, at night. Maybe they try and tell the daughters that it’s fine to be obsessed with war, to write on bombs, since all they want is peace. Maybe they tell their daughters who the bombs kill, before reminding them to eat their beans.
Granted these children live in the Middle East where peace is a scarce commodity and where children live day in and day out among the ruins of war, the sounds of gun fire and the threat of suicide bombings, but I wonder what the parents of the children in the pictures were thinking.
Are they so jaded that they took the girls and let them frolic among the war heads dreaming up things to write on the bombs while they stood around, chatting, taking pictures? Don't children get desensitized to war and all the havoc it causes by treating it so trivially as the girls in those pictures seem to be doing? Aren't children supposed to be feeling sad about all the death (as Frederick says, of little Lebanese girls) and destruction these bombs are sure to cause? Aren't children supposed to be making drawings and writing letters to their Prime Minister to stop the war? Aren't children supposed to be writing peace letters to the children of the "enemy"?
Lisa Goodman at On The Face (via Curious Gawker) provides some background and much needed context to these pictures.
On the day that photo was taken, the girls had emerged from the underground bomb shelters for the first time in five days. A new army unit had just arrived in the town and was preparing to shell the area across the border. The unit attracted the attention of twelve photojournalists - Israeli and foreign. The girls and their families gathered around to check out the big attraction in the small town - foreigners. They were relieved and probably a little giddy at being outside in the fresh air for the first time in days. They were probably happy to talk to people. And they enjoyed the attention of the photographers.Please do read the rest.
Apparently one or some of the parents wrote messages in Hebrew and English on the tank shells to Nasrallah. "To Nasrallah with love," they wrote to the man whose name was for them a devilish image on television - the man who mockingly told Israelis, via speeches that were broadcast on Al Manar and Israeli television, that Hezbollah was preparing to launch even more missiles at them. That he was happy they were suffering.
The photograpers gathered around. Twelve of them. Do you know how many that is? It's a lot. And they were all simultaneously leaning in with their long camera lenses, clicking the shutter over and over. The parents handed the markers to the kids and they drew little Israeli flags on the shells. Photographers look for striking images, and what is more striking than pretty, innocent little girls contrasted with the ugliness of war? The camera shutters clicked away, and I guess those kids must have felt like stars, especially since the diversion came after they'd been alternately bored and terrified as they waited out the shelling in their bomb shelters.
While this explanation may help us understand just how it came about that these children wrote on the bombs, it still does not explain why the parents allowed these children close to the bombs or how they thought it was all right to have them write whatever they did. Whatever the explanation, whatever the justification, it just does not bode well for the future.
Crossposted on Project Child.