A while back I saw a post featuring a photograph of a big, fully armed IDF soldier with his boot on the back of a very small Palestinian child. It was a picture worth a thousand words. I was embarrassed by it even though I’m not Israeli. By the way, in spite of what I’m about to write, I still am.
When I saw such posts I tended to keep my mouth shut unless I was sure I agreed with the point of the post, like the recent shooting of a sixteen year old demonstrator in Gaza by the IDF.
But then a question occurred to me:
How did the child get there?
I’m not saying that a child who looks about five years old in the photo is at fault for finding himself in that position. A child of about five isn’t at fault for much. But how did he get there?
We can be reasonably sure that the soldier didn’t wade into a crowd of Palestinians, pick up a little child at random, and pose for an awful picture that certainly doesn’t do his country any good. The way a child ends up in that position is by throwing rocks.
I can tell you a few things about rocks. I was once struck by a hard object, in this case a piece of coral, in the head that was thrown accidentally in my direction by a nine year old girl. My scalp bled rather profusely.
I’ve also, oddly enough, had the experience of being threatened by a group of very young (pre-teen) Palestinian boys brandishing rocks in a field adjacent to Jerusalem in 1980. I was with my younger sister, and the purpose of brandishing the rocks was to extort money out of us. The effort was successful as every other choice was a great deal more dangerous.
But back to the child in the photo. Most of the people on this site are parents. Can you imagine bringing a five year old child to a demonstration that has a high probability of getting violent? Worse, can you imagine encouraging your child - or permitting your child to be encouraged by authorities - to do something at that demonstration that is likely to put the child in harm’s way?
Do you think it’s ever appropriate to use a child that young as a soldier?
The probability of harm’s way is actually backward here. The point of the child’s participation was to get in harms way in that specific fashion, because the most valuable outcome for the Palestinian government (either the PA or Hamas but especially Hamas) is the Money Shot, the picture worth a thousand words that goes around the world and shows very graphically how oppressive the Israelis are.
The problem is that getting it involved exploiting a small child.
And, as with any photograph exploiting a small child, publicizing that photo is part of the exploitation process because it encourages putting more little children in harm’s way.
This conflict is not simple. There are no clean hands here.