Michael Riordon

the view from where I live

Neither shall they learn war anymore

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Child’s play in Israel.

This is the startling image that opens Making Militarism Visible, the English-language version of New Profile’s touring educational exhibit, Neither shall they learn war anymore (a biblical quote.)

Ruth Hiller reports from Israel that Making Militarism Visible is now available online.  It’s a slide show, 34 images, with text.

For more about Ruth Hiller and New Profile, see Civil-izing Israel, chapter 11 in Our Way to Fight.  But for now, a quick introduction:

New Profile is a registered non-profit Israeli organization devoted to changing Israel “from a militarized to a civil society.”  Though small, volunteer, feminist and rigorously non-violent, it has drawn the fury of the most powerful military state in the Middle East, one of the dozen or so most powerful on the planet.  New Profile members have been arrested and interrogated, and high-level attempts are ongoing to shut down the organization, or at least to make its members shut up.  Why?

Here is a clue:

“New Profile has made its aim to work towards changing Israeli society  –

  • from a militarized to a civil society
  • from a discriminating and oppressive society to an egalitarian one
  • from an occupying nation to a respectful neighbor.”  (from the New Profile statement.)

New Profile defines itself  as a ‘movement for the civil-ization of Israeli society.’   I asked Ruth Hiller what that means.

She replied, “What you see on your travels here, guns and soldiers everywhere, we don’t see at all.  I have to retrain myself to see these things.  That’s how a militarized society works – it’s so regular, so normal, we no longer see it.  Civil society isn’t just about having schools, a fire brigade and such things, it’s also about how we behave as neighbours, it’s about respectful coexistence, and no obvious hierarchy between the military and civil spheres.  Do you want a country with a military or a military with a country?  Who makes a better prime minister, a general or a civilian?  How does military training prepare you for a civilian job?  Creating a civil society means creating something egalitarian, rather than having a male elite run everything as it does here, with qualifications entirely defined by your military background.  But we don’t ask such questions here in Israel, we’re too afraid – we’re people of the book who don’t know how to question.”

New Profile definitely does ask these questions.  So does Making Militarism Visible.

Introducing it, Ruth Hiller says:  “Please take a look.  We invite you to share the exhibit widely, and to use the visuals to explain how Israeli society perceives and justifies our deep and ever present military mindsets.  These images hopefully will provide a better understanding of the mechanisms that keep an entire country mobilized, fearful for its existence, and in a state of emergency for over 63 years.

You are invited to share the complete version or to use those images which you feel are relevant to your audience.”

To my way of thinking, the questions that New Profile insists on asking become more relevant by the day, not just in Israel but also in the United States, and increasingly in Canada, Britain and other countries where the elites are doing their best — or worst — to militarize civil society.

Author: Michael Riordon

Canadian writer and documentary-maker Michael Riordon writes/ directs/produces books and articles, audio, video and film documentaries, plays for radio and stage. A primary goal of his work is to recover voices and stories of people who have been silenced or marginalized, written out of the official version: First Nations (aboriginal) youth, Mozambican farmers, inmates in Canadian prisons, traditional healers in Fiji, queer folk across Canada, Guatemalan labour activists. Michael also leads courses, workshops and seminars for community organizations, trade unions, schools, colleges and universities.

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