A children’s book that teaches about justice and resistance

Feb. 2018 P for palestineBy JOHN LESLIE

 “P is for Palestine,” a children’s alphabet book by Golbarg Bashi, illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi.

The publication of the book,P is for Palestine,” has sparked controversy and charges of anti-Semitism from pro-Israel parents and politicians. Some parents were particularly upset by the choice of “I is for Intifada” as part of a primer on the alphabet. Pro-Zionist parents in New York have called for the book to be removed from shelves.

The author of the book, which is now in its second printing, disputes the notion that “P is for Palestine” promotes either hate or violence. This is a book written from a place of love, not a place of hatred. It is a book celebrating Palestinians and empowering their children without an iota of animus towards any other people—Israelis included,” Bashi told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. (1)

P is for Palestine” is a delightful book for parents and children alike. The illustrations are beautifully drawn with warm colors and bright imagery. It’s the imagery of Palestinian resistance, culture, and social life that enrages Zionists commentators. For example, “G is for Gaza, a city like Mombasa without any plazas, but full of generous casas.” Contrast this with the reality of Gaza as a hellscape created by Israeli bombardment and blockade.

Also, controversial for some critics are images of Handala, the creation of Palestinian cartoonist Naji Al-Ali. Handala stands as a witness to abuses against Palestinians. Critics also decry the inclusion of “I is for Intifada, Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or a grownup!”

Opponents of Palestinian self-determination accuse the international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of anti-Semitism. By conflating anti-Semitism and opposition to Zionism, apologists for Israeli policy hope to demonize and marginalize voices who would speak against the human rights violations of the Israeli apartheid state.

Detractors of the book claim that the reference to Intifada is proof of the book’s advocacy of violence. This claim ignores the constant violence against the Palestinian people and, in particular the children.

O is for Oppression

 The opponents of “P is for Palestine” want us to ignore the actual lives of Palestinian children. In 2016, Israeli armed forces killed more than 90 Palestinians and injured more than 3200 in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel. This does not include the more than 66 incidents when settlers attacked Palestinians or destroyed property, including crops. In a 10-year period from 2006 through mid-2016, Israeli authorities bulldozed 1113 homes, rendering 5200 people homeless, 2600 of them children. Alarming numbers of children in both Gaza and the West Bank face homelessness and malnutrition.

Schools and playgrounds have also been targeted for destruction. Last August, Israeli forces razed three schools in the West Bank shortly before the school term was to begin. In 2017, more than 100 buildings that were financed by European Union donor nations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were destroyed, including schools and water facilities. Playgrounds have been destroyed in Beit Jala (2010), Bil’in (2014), Silwan (2016), and Nablus (2016). In 2014, an airstrike destroyed a playground, killing eight children and two adults. Forty-six people were wounded.

According to a United Nations study, home demolitions in the occupied territories are “continuing at the highest rate since the United Nations started collecting such data, and included the demolition of donor‑funded humanitarian facilities serving vulnerable communities.” The UN also reports that the construction of illegal settlements, built on stolen Palestinian land and in Occupied Syrian territory (Golan Heights), has more than doubled. The continued construction of illegal settlements creates the facts on the ground to provide the Israelis with the rationale for annexation of land and the forced expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied territories.

Israel holds about 400 Palestinian children as prisoners, including Ahed Tamimi, who recently turned 17 in jail. Roughly 60% of Palestinian child detainees are sent to prisons in Israel, a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Why buy this book?

I would suggest that parents, especially those who may be unfamiliar with the subject, read through the book and the handy glossary at the back. Familiarize yourself with the terms. One addition to the glossary, which would have been handy for non-Arabic speakers, would be a guide to pronunciations. It would also be useful for parents to read about the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. “10 Myths About Israel,” by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, would be a good place to start.

As parents, we try to teach our kids about kindness and justice. Our obligation is to teach our children to stand up to bullies, whether they are in the schoolyard or a regional power linked to imperialism. Love of justice is taught; it’s not instinctive. Solidarity with the oppressed is a value we must do our best to model for the next generations.

For kids, the love of books and reading is essential. Palestinian kids, who are too often robbed of their childhoods by a brutal occupation regime, deserve the same right to play, learn, read and laugh that any other children enjoy.

  1. https://www.haaretz.com/life/ books/.premium-p-is-for- palestine-children-s-book- sparks-outrage-in-u-s-1. 5466917