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Hiding the truth

My four-year-old daughter is rather more observant than my wife and I would like her to be. The carefully hidden chocolate bars are a piece of cake for her. The toys for an upcoming birthday remain a secret until she opens the front door to greet me and the camouflaged gifts fall into view. In a phrase, she doesn’t miss a trick.

As a journalist daddy that can present problems. A couple of Fridays back I was glued to the TV screen watching Yassir Arafat’s burial. It was something of a farce, with armed officers having to sit atop the coffin to ensure it was not prized away by overzealous mourners. At one particularly graphic moment, with guns firing, and attendees shouting, my daughter walked in to the lounge and asked what the fuss was about. Rather than try to explain the vagaries of the Middle East I flipped the TV onto Barney, the peace-loving purple dinosaur.

A few days later my daughter’s kindergarten teacher pulled me aside and informed me that in a moment of rage my four year old had threatened to hit her. “She certainly didn’t learn to talk like that in my class,” she said, wagging her finger at me. “Does she watch television?”

My immediate response was to explain that my daughter only views programs aimed at toddlers, or educational programming for her own age. At no point does she sit down and watch Ali versus Foreman, or the news for that matter.

And good job too.

I know it is the same the world over, but here I will highlight the news as reported on Israeli television channels.

If it is a ‘quiet news day’ the top item will be about poverty, showing that one in every four Israelis, Jews and Arabs alike, is under the poverty line. The pictures will be of a soup kitchen, with a mother explaining her lot, baby crying in her arms.

The next offering will be about some violence between Palestinians and Israelis. That of course means some graphic footage of someone being taken by stretcher into a hospital, if the victim was lucky. Invariably there will also be a pool of blood.

Next up the unveiling of the latest version of Iran’s Shihab missile. This one can “only” reach Italy, the reporter says grimly.

The last item before the break could well be about warring criminal families in Israel, with a shootout outside a snack-food store.

No surprise then that my kid’s teacher thought to ask such a question. My answer was honest, but it has left me thinking.

What if my curious child figures out that channels 10, 11 and 22 have Israeli news pretty much all the time she is home, and when she finally learns to count past “twenty-teen” channels 102, 103, 105 and countless others have round-the-clock news? I do not want my pre-school daughter knowing of genocides in Africa, mining disasters in China and nuclear threats in many Asian nations.

I want her to be able to differentiate between a rhinoceros and a hippopotamus, to recognize the scent of a rose, to be able to tie her shoelaces. I want her to appreciate the wonders of this earth before she learns how mankind tries to destroy them all.