Are Palestinian Children Less Worthy?

Although Palestinian children endure lives of suffering, Obama’s love for their Israeli counterparts knows no limit.

What is it about Jewish and Arab children that privileges the first and spurns the second in the speeches of President Barack Obama, let alone in the Western media more generally? Are Jewish children smarter, prettier, whiter? Are they deserving of sympathy and solidarity, denied to Arab children, because they are innocent and unsullied by the guilt of their parents, themselves often referred to as “the children of Israel”? Or, is it that Arab children are dangerous, threatening, guilty, even dark and ugly, a situation that can only lead to Arabopaedophobia – the Western fear of Arab children?

Innocence and childhood are common themes in Western political discourse, official and unofficial. While it is a truism to state that since the end of European colonialism the US and Europe have been, at the official and unofficial levels, friendly to and supportive of the Zionist colonial project and hostile to Palestinians and Arabs in their resistance to Zionism, the expectation would be that a West that insists rhetorically on the “universalism” of its values would show at least a rhetorical commitment to the equality of Arab and Jewish children as victims of the violence visited on the region by Zionist colonialism and the resistance to it. Yet, the only Western sympathy manifest is to Jewish children as symbols of Zionist and Israeli innocence. This Western sympathy is deployed primarily to denounce Arab guilt, including the guilt of Arab children.

Joseph Massad is Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University. He is author of The Persistence of the Palestinian Question (Routledge, 2006).

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