[Marxism] Israel's toy soldiers

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Oct 1 07:12:03 MDT 2007

Israel’s Toy Soldiers
Posted on Oct 1, 2007

By Chris Hedges

If you are a young Muslim American and head off to the Middle East for a 
spell in a fundamentalist “madrassa,” or religious school, Homeland 
Security will probably greet you at the airport when you return.  But if 
you are an American Jew and you join hundreds of teenagers from Europe 
and Mexico for an eight-week training course run by the Israel Defense 
Forces, you can post your picture wearing an Israeli army uniform and 
holding an automatic weapon on MySpace.

The Marva program, part summer camp part indoctrination, was launched in 
Israel in 1981.  It allows participants, who must be Jewish and between 
the ages of 18 and 28, to fire weapons, live in military barracks in the 
Negev desert and saunter around in an Israeli military uniform saluting 
and taking long hikes with military packs.  The Youth and Education 
Corps of the Israel Defense Forces run four 120-strong training sessions 
a year.

“Upon arrival, the participants experience an abrupt change into army 
life: wearing uniforms, accepting army discipline, and learning the 
programs and lessons integral to the program,” the Let Israelis Show You 
Israel Web site reads.  “The program includes military content such as: 
navigation, field training, weapons training, shooting ranges, marches 
and more, as well as educational content such as: Zionism, Jewish 
Identity, history and knowledge of the land of Israel.  All of this is 
taught in Hebrew in an intensive eight weeks.”

"The participants finish the program after completing a short, 
intensive, exhilarating military experience that allows them to taste 
Israel in a way that they never could before—as part of the Israel 
Defense Forces,” the site reads.  “They leave the program with a feeling 
of belonging and a strong connection to Israel, and many return to 
Israel to continue the connection that was created in the framework of 
the Marva course.”

There are, of course, gushing testimonials about the program.

"I spent the first few days of Marva doubting my decision, wondering why 
I had come, wondering if there was any way out.  With all of the 
running, yelling orders, discipline and Hebrew, I felt horribly out of 
place,” writes Canadian David Roth of his summer.  “It was a completely 
different world from the one I was used to.  All that changed, though, 
by the end of the first week.  We had our first ‘Masa’ (Hike).  It was 
very hard, but at the end, we all knew, our M16s were waiting for us at 
the ‘tekes’ (Ceremony).  We got through the 8 kilometers and had our 
‘tekes’ and got our guns.  It felt amazing, and from that point on Marva 
was incredible.”

How have we reacted when we discovered that American Muslims were being 
taught in a foreign country to fire machine guns at paper figures and 
simulate military maneuvers?  And what about the summer schools in Gaza 
organized by Islamic Jihad designed to train young Palestinians in the 
basics of military life?  These Gaza camps, uncovered in 2001, were 
widely denounced by Israel as proof that the Palestinians were teaching 
their children to hate and kill.

The argument in favor of camps in Israel, as opposed to camps in 
Pakistan, is that these young men and women are not going to come back 
and use what they have learned to harm Americans.  They are not 
terrorists.  Muslims, however, have not cornered the market on terrorism 
and violence.  Radical Jews have also been involved in terrorist attacks 
in Israel and the United States.

I discovered an American in Israel in 1989 named Robert Manning.  A 
huge, burly man, Manning was living in the West Bank Jewish settlement 
of Kiyrat Arba.  When I found him he was carrying a pistol, a large 
knife strapped to his leg and an M-16 assault rifle.  He was part of a 
Jewish terrorist group called Committee for Protection and Safety of the 
Highways that set up ad hoc roadblocks and pulled Palestinians from cars 
to beat and often shoot them.  He was a follower of Meir Kahane, the 
leader of the Jewish Defense League, who was implicated in terrorist 
attacks in the United States and Israel.  Manning served as a reservist 
in the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank.

Manning was wanted in California for murder.  He had been charged in a 
1980 mail-bomb killing as part of his involvement in the Jewish Defense 
League.  The bomb was intended for the owner of a local computer firm, 
but the package holding the device was opened by the firm’s secretary, 
Patricia Wilkerson, who was killed instantly by the blast.

Manning, full of bluster and a bitter racism toward Arabs, used as his 
pseudonym the name of the FBI agent in charge of his case, a bit of 
humor that backfired on him by confirming my suspicion of his identify. 
  I obtained the picture from his California driver’s license and showed 
it to his neighbors at Kiyrat Arba.  They identified him from the photo. 
  I wrote an article affirming that Manning, heavily armed and an active 
member of the Israeli army, was living in a Jewish settlement.  The 
Israeli government, until that moment, said it had no information about 
his location.  He was extradited in 1993 and sentenced the next year to 
life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 30 years.  He is 
in a maximum-security prison in Florence, Colo.

Those who go through the Marva summer program are indoctrinated as 
thoroughly as Muslims who go overseas and are told they are part of a 
greater jihad for Islam.  The results, given Israel’s close alliance 
with the United States, may not be negative for those in power in the 
United States, but it may be very negative for those Americans defined 
as the enemy, especially Muslims, should we suffer another 9/11.  The 
program inculcates hatred and a belief in the efficacy of violence to 
solve the problems in the Middle East.  It identifies Israel with 
militarism.  It feeds the idea that a Jew born in Brooklyn has a 
birthright to settle in Israel that is denied to an American of 
Palestinian descent.

Jerusalem, aside from being one of the most beautiful cities in the 
world, is one of the most literate, creative and intellectual.  Do these 
young men and women really know the best of Israel by spending eight 
weeks playing soldier and glorifying the military?  Is the cause of 
Israel advanced by mirroring the twisted militarism of Islamic 

Terrorists arise in all cultures, all nations and all religions.  We 
have produced more than our share.  Ask the people of Vietnam or Iraq. 
The danger of a military program such as these is that it solidifies a 
mind-set of us and them.  It romanticizes violence.  It widens the 
divide that leads to conflict.  It makes dialogue impossible.  There are 
great Israeli institutions, from the newspaper Haaretz to the courageous 
Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem to Peace Now.  A summer 
working for them, rather than wearing an army uniform, unleashing bursts 
of automatic fire in the desert and singing Israeli patriotic songs, 
might actually help.

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