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18 August 2011
*PALESTINE REFLECTION: The clarity of thirteen-year-olds*
by Mel Southworth
A couple months ago, I gave a presentation to a grade eight English class, on
the work of CPT and the Israel/Palestine conflict. I tried to describe the
situation there in a way they could relate to using the following scenario:
One year ago, a boy brought a knife to school and immediately after the
incident, the principal released a statement to the media that he would
increase security measures at the school. Days later, the school
administration decreed that all boys must go through a newly installed metal
detector before they could enter the school building. Today, the screening
process can take up to three hours; school starts at eight o’clock. Girls
do not have to go through the detector; they can enter through the back.
The administration also mandated that boys and girls must attend separate
classes and if a girl is suspicious of a boy, she is allowed to request that
a teacher search him for weapons.
During the discussion time that followed the role-play, all the students
agreed that it was unfair for the school administration to make all boys go
through a metal detector because of one incident. One boy said that
penalizing all boys was stereotyping. Another boy said that he probably
wouldn’t go to school anymore if he had to get up three hours early. A
group of girls said that losing their friendships with the boys and learning
to live in fear of them made them sad. One brave girl even said that she
thought girls might misuse the power the school administration had given them
and falsely accuse the boys just to exert power.
I couldn’t have asked for a better transition into the discussion of the
Israel/Palestine conflict. The role-play illustrated vividly for the class
the power dynamics between Israelis and Palestinians.
Following the presentation, the students viewed clips from “Iron Man,”
“You don’t mess with the Zohan”, “True Lies” and “Hidalgo” and
then tried to connect the presentation to their current lessons on Media
Literacy. They instantly recognized the ways in which movie makers
stereotyped the antagonists as poor, aggressive, dangerous, violent, Muslim,
and Arabic-speaking, while depicting the white people as heroic, kind,
English-speaking and filled with good intentions. They discussed the
implications of these characterizations, concluding that these movies can
influence how we think of and treat each other. Class members said they would
now view the media with a critical eye and an open heart, knowing that what
is accessible is not always the truth.
The following day some students described my presentation to their teacher.
He called to tell me that they had found the time intriguing and were
grateful they had had an opportunity to participate in it. One boy
mentioned that while paying his video games he was able to recognize
stereotypes in the characters. That boy gave me hope that in a climate of
racism and fear perpetuated by the media, sometimes the truth will win.
CPT's MISSION: What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline
and sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war? Christian
Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks to enlist the whole church in organized,
nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained peacemakers in
regions of lethal conflict.
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