I sent my old school-mate and friend Harold (he's Jewish) the following photo of two Israeli girls signing artillery shells, noting that the Americans used to sign "To Adolf with love" on bombs, or similar, during WW2.
I often wondered what this practice of signing warplanes or bombs said about the Yanks, when I saw pictures of this practice in photos from WW2. I feel sure the US probably repeated the practice in wars over Kuwait/Afghanistan/Iraq.
Harold reckoned that the two girls would not have easy access to an Air Force base, and that self-propelled artillery pieces could have been parked on these kids' doorsteps - many Israeli towns and villages being quite close to various borders. He thought that this photo dated from the last Lebanese War with Hizbullah, as the name of the gentleman to whom the kids are sending regards is/was a Hizbullah leader. The kids up north were showered with hundreds of missiles in a few short days and spent long hours cooped up in bomb shelters.
Not having a name for it, I called the practice "hate-signing". It was - and probably still is - a useful practice for soldiers, because it accelerates a necessary military conditioning process - the process of abstraction and dehumanisation of the enemy. The more one can separate any feeling of common identity with the enemy as fellow human beings, the more one can engage in abstraction, and thus the easier it is to dissociate from the enemy, and the easier it is to kill them without compunction - they are not really "human" after all. That is one reason why the current form of automated warfare is so effective. Pressing a button and seeing the ensuing destruction of night-vision blobs on a computer screen is easy - a bit like a computer game - and not at all like standing face-to-face with, and killing a fellow human being by your own direct and deliberate action.
I think hate-signing must do something inside the heads of those children, and I suspect that it may not necessarily be a good something. My mother would probably have reckoned that this sort of thing was stooping to the level of an unworthy opponent - which, as she pointed out to me as a child, intrinsically detracts from one's own self-integrity and higher principles. We know that Muslims condition their children from as early as the age of 6 to learn by rote to hate "unbelievers" - especially Jews - as being less than human in Allah's eye. Is that any good reason for emulating the enemy by conditioning one's own children similarly?
Even if it were "necessary", I would still have real concerns about it - it goes against the principle of respect for life.
Harold didn't disagree, with me. He reckoned that this was probably one way some misguided adults were trying to relieve the tension for these kids. He did not condone this behaviour, but - probably to give it some balance - he thought it was a little less insidious than the Hamas videos of 3 year-olds being conditioned to want to be suicide bombers, and Mickey Mouse characters on Palestinian pre-school TV programmes encouraging them to do so, as the heartwarming YouTube video clip below shows:
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