Ever since catching a piece of the song on the radio a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been taken with K’naan’s Like a Waving Flag. The lyrics, the music, K’naan’s own Somalian history grab me. I love the Balboaesque, רבים ביד מעטים defiance. Listening to the song, which is also the official anthem of the 2010 World Cup, it’s obvious that so much of it could be a history of the Jewish people.
But the other day I saw a homemade Youtube video set to the song, featuring pictures of victim children from around the world. Sudan, Tamil Tigers, Segregation-era US, Iran, and, of course, inevitably, Palestinian Arab children holding weapons, depicted not as victims of their parents’ militance but rather as victims of Israeli aggression. No pictures of Sderot's children, of course. And now I can’t hear the gentle iron of K’naan’s voice without thinking of those pictures and feeling outraged.
We've seen this before, of course; the world loves its youthful victims, embracing and even idolizing them for their suffering martyrdom. These children tug at our consciences, their pain is our pain, their faces the faces of our own youth, and helping them, or even contemplating helping them, makes us feel better about our own luxury. That their narrative can be so simply described – “Jews moved in, took their land and consigned them to poverty” – helps their cause, too; the world is hardly as sympathetic to Chechnyan children, for example, whose story seems so much more murky.
This is a professional martyrdom, a calculated decision to continue as victims in order to rally the world’s sympathy, and it drives me up the wall. The greatest sin of modern Israeli history is the decision of a nation to defend itself, and the Divine as well as international aid which made that effort a success.
Had the Jewish state remained a pitiful, besieged enclave, surviving at subsistence level, the world would have been most sympathetic, and aid for Israel would be as attractive a cause as tsunami relief was in 2004. But, instead, Israel is cast as the aggressor for its relative success in creating a strong and free society – you cannot be strong unless you are also guilty, apparently – and the Palestinian Arab child, consigned by his family to hunger to afford ammunition, is the poster child for a song about longing for freedom.