Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: How we are sowing the seeds of tomorrow's sectarian hatred

Nobody has the right to pass on the infection of racism to children, or enlist the innocent intheir war games and separatist ideologies
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The Independent Online

On the invigorating, weekly television programme Dateline London, on the BBC News Channel, Israeli journalist Saul Zadka told me he feared the revolution in Egypt would lead to an Islamicist takeover and presumably explosive, uncontrolled, widespread anti-Israeli hatred. We have already seen and heard individual Egyptians expressing abhorrent views about Jews and their nation. For many in the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, the only good Jew is a slain one, and that is what they teach their young. So yes, I empathise with Zadka's dread of what may lie ahead. That doesn't mean one has to excuse the stubborn righteousness, unshakeable bigotry and institutionalised cruelty of ardent Zionists and their state, which has placed itself outside international law.

Not many defenders of all things Israeli will turn on and watch War Child on More 4 this Tuesday. More's the pity. If they did, their skin would burn with shame and their hearts might crack and splinter. Some might find the hour unbearable. (Obviously not fanatics such as Melanie Phillips, whose rage button goes off like a fire alarm whenever Israel's violent acts are revealed.) I have just watched a preview DVD and cannot stop shaking. It transmits the anguish of Gaza like nothing I have ever seen or heard, except for another similar film, the Bafta-winning Children of Gaza, also by director Jezza Neumann and broadcast last year.

Neumann takes us back to December 2008, when the Israel Defence Force carried out its 22- day mission to punish the entrapped people of Gaza, ostensibly to stop Hamas rockets and mortars. He lets Gaza's doomed children tell the story. Over 1,300 Palestinians were killed and a blockade has prevented reconstruction and recovery. The invader never expresses doubt or sorrow and is so bone-headed that it can't see the enemies it is raising, a future of eternal conflict.

So here is nine-year-old Amal, who was buried in rubble for four days and still has shrapnel in her head causing nose bleeds, terrible headaches and weakened eyesight. Her father and brother were killed. So what becomes of this child? She cannot but detest those who did this to her and her family, and wish them terrible harm.

Her brother Mahmoud, only 11, is already learning from his uncle how to become a suicide bomber, a militant martyr: "Before, I was only thinking about reading my lessons, but [now] I started to think about becoming a defender of the nation – if I could only kill one, that would be enough." His mother weeps helplessly.

Ten-year-old Loay saw his best friend die, and was blinded in a savage bomb attack. He wets his bed now. Countless youngsters are mentally ill and are getting worse; others are filled with molten anger. Some make toy bombs and set them off playfully. They hate Israelis. You can see why. Do we expect them to say: "They only attacked us because of horrible Hamas. I really like the Israelis. They are nice people, my friends. I will like to kiss an Israeli soldier"?

Surely Zionists must ask themselves: why is worldwide odium now directed at their state and its people, many blameless? It is not all orchestrated by malevolent, Jew-hating Arabs. Israel's own policies and actions are also to blame: its refusal to look out from the battlements, to halt the fire and reflect on what they do, especially to children, their own included. I am not picking on Israel; only using the Neumann film as a powerful example of how in today's most intractable conflicts, the young are hurt and mentally programmed to replicate adult hostilities: the rejection of, and aggression towards, the "enemy". Nobody has the right to pass on the infection of racism to children, to enlist the innocent in their war games or separatist ideologies, to violate their rights. Yet that is what happens, and not only in Israel but across the Middle East, and the rest of the world, including the UK.

And that leads to another television programme, Suffer Little Children, on Dispatches, Channel 4, today. Undercover filming by a Muslim journalist in a highly praised state-funded 'Darul Uloom' (meaning 'house of knowledge') Islamic High School in Birmingham shows children as young as 11 being taught to keep away from Hindus and non-believers, and turned against Jews and Christians.

More and more such brainwashing establishments are being set up across the land, blessed by the Government, which believes in "free" and "faith" education. Mr Cameron makes fervent speeches about integration and British values and yet lets such schools work on young, impressionable minds so that when pupils emerge from this so-called education, they will have imbibed the idea that those outside their narrow religious circles are to be suspected, avoided, insulted, despised and attacked. The Prime Minister and Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, do not deign to explain why they are actively supporting divisive schools.

Children have become the most tragic victims of the unholy battles of unrelenting Zionism and Islamism – which to me means Islam that is both excessively politically charged and self-segregating. The kids they enlist to their causes are given no choices, are put into lethal situations, have their trust and curiosities bent and distorted; they must, it seems, carry on and pass on legacies of bitter antagonism until the end of time. Yet when given a chance to be true to their childish natures, the first thing kids do is reach out.

One of the most moving scenes in the Gaza film is when Palestinian youngsters say they never blame Israeli children, only the bad adults who do bad things. By the time they grow up, they will not make those distinctions. Their flickering tenderness, a small candle flame, will die. And they will be ready for combat, to blow themselves up and feel nothing. Their enemies on the other side will be similarly hardened so they can shoot and bomb and humiliate Palestinians without guilt.

Meanwhile, in many Muslim and Jewish schools in the UK, the idea of separation and suspicion will continue to be reinforced in perpetuity. People with power never see any reason to give kids a chance to be free of historical prejudices so they can make a different and more peaceful future, create possibilities not imagined by their parents or leaders. That could be one of the most pessimistic sentences I have ever typed.