Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Jewish Voice for Peace is sponsoring  an event, "Kindle a Hanukkah Light for Palestinian Children's Books!"


One of the books being featured is Ida in the Middle, by Nora Lester Murad.


In this debut novel for Murad, Ida, a bashful Palestinian American teenager, is dreading the final class project: discussing her “passion” with the rest of the class. 

Her anxiety skyrockets when the school principal informs her that she will be representing her school in this eighth-grade capstone for the entire region.

She is terrified at the thought that someone in the audience will shout out “terrorist” as she ascends to the stage, just as someone had scribbled that insult on her school desk. Home alone one afternoon, as she worries yet again about that presentation, she reaches for her comfort food, green olives sent by her aunt all the way from Palestine. 

Olives, as every Palestinian knows, are not just a savoury snack; they encapsulate our culture in each dense nugget. When they are cured by a favourite aunt, they can have magic powers. As she eats the olives, Ida is transported to her parents’ village, Busala, just outside Jerusalem, where she immediately feels at home. 

In this alternate reality, her parents have never left Palestine, and she has grown up with feelings of belonging amid kids who look like her, speak Arabic, and can pronounce her name correctly: ‘Aida, with an ‘ayn.

But life in Busala is also unpredictable, scary, and dangerous because of Israel's occupation. Here, Murad skilfully weaves the narrative between Ida’s fantasy and the all-too-real events of life under occupation, as Ida has to brave Israeli military raids, curfews, and home demolitions. 

We get to read about the strong sense of community that sustains Palestinians as they navigate life in these extremely difficult circumstances. We witness the immense courage of Palestinian children - including Ida herself - as they dodge the occupation forces; and we hear discussions about survival and resistance, including the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. 

There are some exhilarating moments, such as when Ida carries a terrified three-year-old boy to safety, telling him his name, Faris, means “knight,” and that he is their leader, while he explains that her name means “Returning,” and he knows she will not leave him behind, as she scouts their whereabouts for a safe path home. 

And there are heartbreaking moments, as when Ida watches Israeli bulldozers demolish her friend Layla’s family home. This experience transforms Ida and, after having eaten more green olives, she is transported back to Boston, where she gives an impassioned presentation about the hardships that Palestinians endure under Israel’s settler colonialism. 

This is brainwashing youngsters to hate Israel with lies.

Yes, novels can lie - and they can lie far more effectively than most media. 

The town of Busala is fictional. The author wants her audience to believe that it is a typical town where Palestinians live.

The lies aren't in the plot, but in the milieu. Israelis storm Palestinian towns for no reason, they demolish houses for no reason, they attack innocent Palestinian children for no reason, a three year old is in danger of being killed by Israelis for no reason, and most importantly, this is presented as the life of an average Palestinian teen.

Those are all lies. Palestinians in Area A, where most of them live, have little to worry about (this year was a rare exception when towns like Nablus and Jenin were taken over by terror groups that had to be rooted out.) Their houses are never demolished by Israel, and Israel only demolishes houses that were either built illegally or that housed terrorists. The IDF doesn't want or try to kill children. The Palestinian teens in danger are the ones throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at Israelis.

I'm certain that none of these facts are mentioned in the book.

This isn't an accurate depiction of a Palestinian teen's life; this is propaganda meant to create hate against the unnamed, inhuman Jews who invade and steal lands that they have - according to people like this author - no valid claim to.

The only reason this book was written was to incite hate against Israelis and, indirectly, proud Zionist Jews.

Books about Palestinians do not have to be that way. Another book featured in this webinar, Salim's Soccer Ball, looks to be a very nice children's book that (as far as I can tell) does not try to indoctrinate the young readers into hate. 

Propaganda disguised as young adult novels is insidious. And it needs to be called out.

UPDATE: I spoke too soon on Salim's Soccer Ball. Amazon reviews include:
“I also really love how the book focuses on Palestinian resistance.” 

“A very good book to teach kids about the conflict in Palestine.“

It also includes a "discussion guide." Now, what could be in there? Do books about Japanese children also require discussion guides? 

Yes, they weaponize children's books.

(h/t Irene) 



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