Emotions are predictably running high in the wake of the Israel-Palestine ‘conflict’, particularly among Malaysians concerned about the injustice and endless suffering endured by Palestinians for decades.
But such sentiments should not spill over to impressionable young students ill-equipped to understand the flashpoint in West Asia and the violent catastrophe accompanying it.
While many adults are rightly horrified and disgusted by the carnage inflicted with impunity on Palestinian civilians by the Zionist military, children should be spared such violence.
This is not about trying to live in denial of the atrocities committed by both parties in the conflict, although the production of violence and calamity between the two is clearly unequal.
It is about teaching children not to valorise violence, especially in a world where violence is a game played by adults with vested interests and who would even cross the red line to achieve their goals.
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The dehumanisation, ethnic cleansing, mass murders, apartheid rule and nerve-wracking checkpoints that have been inflicted on the Palestinians since the creation of Israel in 1948 have been an emotive issue for many in Malaysia.
Thus, it is not a surprise that certain teachers, driven by raw rage, encouraged their young charges to take up toy arms in a symbolic act of defiance against ‘the enemy’ in the lead up to the “Palestine Solidarity Week”. Such a scene was recorded in a video clip that went viral.
The Ministry of Education’s warning issued to a school that induced children to act out a military march and brandish replica guns against perpetrators of the Gazan carnage is like an attempt to lock the stable door after the horse had bolted.
Ministry officials should have seen it coming – that is, the adult teachers’ outrage against the Zionist regime being swiftly transferred in the most extreme form to innocent children.
Groups opposed to the Palestine Solidarity Week in schools indeed have a point – schoolchildren should not be taught violence, especially to the extent of normalisation.
The classroom is normally where knowledge useful to children later in life is imparted. It is also an ideal place where universal values such as peace, compassion, justice, respect, freedom, equality and humanity can and must be taught to children. These values are crucial to build and strengthen the children’s moral fibre as they enter adulthood, when the line between right and wrong has to be defined and observed.
With a moral compass in hand, young adults would be able to be sensitive to injustices inflicted on people on the receiving end of settler colonialism, apartheid rule and curbed human rights, such as the Palestinians.
A sense of justice and compassion would help students and concerned Malaysians to empathise with refugees and migrant workers who face many challenges, such as xenophobia, exploitation and discrimination in Malaysia.
Similarly, justice should be emphasised among secondary school students, so that discrimination based on ethnicity, faith or political affiliation would be taught as something that is morally wrong and reprehensible. This would be useful in the attempt to make the world, particularly Malaysia, a better place in which to live.
The younger generation should be encouraged to appreciate a future built on peaceful coexistence, trust, mutual respect and justice. Not on imparted hatred and violence. – The Malaysian Insight