Jun 1 2002

Children of War

The Israeli-Palestinian war has a profound effect on the children of the region. As NBC‘s Tom Brokaw put it on the April 11 Nightly News, “All of this is making the children of war, on both sides, grow old before their time.”

The piece that followed, however, concerned only children on one side. Correspondent Keith Miller profiled Israeli children at a school with bulletproof glass, and others who must learn how to wear a gas mask. Viewers learned of a cancelled scout trip and heard one young person say that he can’t go out to the discotheque or the mall. As Miller put it, “A whole generation is growing up traumatized by violence.”

What about Palestinian children who are suffering? NBC aired that story on April 8, when Brokaw described “young Palestinians, so surrounded by violence and killing they dream not of a future, but of becoming martyrs for a cause they may not even understand at this age.” Correspondent Martin Fletcher warned: “They’re just schoolgirls, but their call to arms is chilling: Bomb Tel Aviv.” He said that young Palestinians now say they’re ready to die for their cause, and added, “Despite Israel’s war on terrorism, Israeli Army officers warn more than 100 suicide bombers are in training.”

For viewers that put the two pieces together, as NBC seemed to intend, the message is clear: Israeli children fear violence, while Palestinian children dream of committing it. One would hardly realize, from NBC‘s reporting, that since the first Intifada began, in December 1987, 10 Israeli children under 13 have been killed by Palestinians, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem–while 115 Palestinian children under 13 have been killed by Israeli forces.