'Scandal' in Israel: IDF Soldiers Seen Playing With Children of Refugees

To the politicians and activists opposed to the refugees' presence, this was like giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Children wake up from a nap at the Unitaf day-care center in Tel Aviv's Hatikva neighborhood, April 2, 2015.
Children wake up from a nap at the Unitaf day-care center in Tel Aviv's Hatikva neighborhood, April 2, 2015.Credit: Ariel David
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

One can only hope that the IDF’s Chief Education Officer, Brig. Gen. Avner Paz-Tzuk, will be on guard and cleanse the army from the moral and educational filth that has stuck to it.

We should thank Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan for asking the chief of staff’s office to end this disgrace. We should praise the commander of Training Base 15, who has already ordered his soldiers to have nothing to do with this shameful pursuit.

This shameful pursuit is the soldiers’ occasional visits to the so-called “child warehouses” – unlicensed “babysitter” facilities for refugee children in south Tel Aviv. In the summer, 30 to 80 children up to age six inhabit each of these “warehouses,” crowded in cubbyholes of 50 to 60 square meters.

The soldiers play for two or three hours with a few dozen of the 3,000 children of asylum seekers living in the city. About 15 of these children have died in the last five years, and about half of them suffer some developmental disorder or disability due to the squalid conditions they are being raised in.

Undoubtedly, those children must be punished severely. They must be denied any assistance.

The story began some two months ago, with a parliamentary question submitted by MK Amir Ohana (Likud) in the Knesset. He asked, “Why is the IDF encouraging illegal infiltration into Israel?” following complaints by south Tel Aviv residents. At the same time the organization Students for South Tel Aviv gathered pictures of soldiers playing with children, posted them on Facebook and tagged a number of Knesset members, including Ohana.

About a month ago, Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, head of the pre-military academy in the West Bank settlement of Eli, raised a public furor with his appalling utterances about gay people, whom he called “perverts.” He denounced the initiative in which flight cadets volunteered to paint a gay community club in Tel Aviv. MK Ohana, a gay man and a father, apparently sees no connection between these matters.

The way Ohana, and apparently most of the public, sees it, the gays’ market value in the human stock exchange is higher than that of black children. Presumably the very comparison will sound offensive to him.

Ben Dahan answered the question for the cabinet, saying the soldiers’ visit to asylum-seekers’ child centers was an isolated, one-time initiative and in general the IDF was not involved in activity in south Tel Aviv.

But alas, last week more incriminating pictures surfaced, showing Intelligence Corps cadets playing in a park with black children. After this, said one of the asylum seekers’ leading opponents, Ben Dahan promised her that “these scenes will not be repeated.” He even went to the chief of staff’s office and was told the army would examine the list of organizations for which soldiers would be allowed do volunteer work.

“The poor of your city come first,” the deputy minister said, explaining his objection to the soldiers’ activities with the refugee children.

But what he said wasn’t accurate. The children of south Tel Aviv, who are offhandedly called “infiltrators,” are the poorest of the town’s poor. As far as Ben Dahan, Ohana and many others are concerned, they’re probably not even included in the definition of “human beings,” because they’re not Jewish, and worse – they’re black.

Is anyone stopping IDF soldiers from volunteering for NGOs that look after the poor of Ben Dahan’s town, i.e. the Jews, his own people? Are the black children robbing so many resources during the two or three hours during which a few dozen soldiers play ball with them, or push them on a swing in a park?

Ben Dahan is part of the cabinet. The same cabinet that demonizes anyone who isn’t flesh of its flesh – that is, Jewish, rightist, chauvinist. Thus the “liberal” Ohana holds hands with the religious Ben Dahan and together with Yariv Levin, Miri Regev, Ayelet Shaked and others, they are taking steps to cast out anyone outside their immediate circle – including asylum seekers, people who try to help asylum seekers, opponents of the occupation and liberals in general.

This demonic tactic has now reached the point of absurdity: Even playing with three-year-olds is a crime, a shocking spectacle that won’t be seen again.

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