A View From Israel: Education begins at home

After last week's beating in Jerusalem, Israel must put a stop to bystander non-intervention.

Beating in California (photo credit: MCT)
Beating in California
(photo credit: MCT)
Eyewitnesses said that approximately two dozen Jewish teenagers surrounded an Arab youth on Thursday night in Zion Square and began to beat him, continuing to kick him even after he fell unconscious to the ground.
A New York Times article read, “Hundreds of bystanders watched the mob beating, the police said – and no one intervened.”
Other media outlets made the non-intervention of bystanders a major part of the story, as if to say that Israelis are indifferent to the beating of Arabs.
THOSE WHO believe that this is out of the ordinary are mistaken. Take a look around the world and you will notice numerous cases of mobs attacking a victim as bystanders do nothing.
In June 2011, CBS Chicago reported that Kris Wilkowski was attacked by a mob of teenagers right across the street from the downtown campus of Northwestern University. Bystanders stood by and did nothing to assist him.
In another report, a man named Anthony Adams was brutally beaten in a Chicago YMCA parking lot by a group led by a classmate as others stood by. In a separate incident, Derrion Albert, who was beaten to death by a mob, could have been saved by bystanders. Then too, no one intervened.
Last year, an ABC News report covered the beating of a woman by four thugs on a busy street in Boston as witnesses walked by.
In July, a girl was molested and beaten by a mob of men in Guawahati, India, while people stood and watched. It took police from a nearby station 45 minutes to act.
In April 2010, ABC News also reported an incident that took place in New York. Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax, a homeless man, collapsed on a sidewalk after he was stabbed several times by a mugger, but not a single passerby bothered to help or to alert the police – until he had been lying there bleeding to death for over an hour. The incident, captured on a surveillance camera, began when Tale-Yax attempted to thwart a mugger who had attacked a woman on the street. The mugger stabbed him and then more than 20 people passed his wounded body on the sidewalk. In fact, one man rolled Tale-Yax over and then walked away, and another used his cell phone to photograph the dying man.
The same report repeats one of the most notorious and recent examples of indifference, which took place in China in 2011 when a toddler was run over – not once, but twice – and ignored by at least 18 pedestrians and cyclists.
Clearly, the phenomenon of non-intervention by bystanders is not one that can be defined as solely an Israeli problem.
At the root of all this is, as Jeff Brumley writes on Jacksonville.com, what social scientists call the bystander effect – or Genovese Syndrome – after a 1960s incident in which a woman was stabbed and raped as neighbors watched.
ABC News refers to it as “a psychological phenomenon where people fail to act instead of listening to their moral compasses” and “is a common inhibitor of altruism.
Psychologists have demonstrated that if one person is spurred to take action, others will follow. But if nobody makes that first move, others may not either.”
CLEARLY, SOMETHING is amiss in Israeli society, but the media’s effort to make it seem as though it is a racist, Israeli-Palestinian conflict-related issue is definitely off the mark. The fact is, violence is universal and the bystander effect is a worldwide phenomenon.
People need to realize that education begins at home, and apparently Israeli parents are raising violent children.
Blame it on TV, blame it on Israeli culture.
Blame it on anything, but it is inexcusable.
The “death to Arabs” refrain is, unfortunately, a common one at local soccer games and continues to go relatively unchallenged by authorities, although there have been recent efforts to curb this type of behavior.
That being said, it is impossible to judge a society – any society – by its teenagers. No society is represented by its young hooligans, but rather by the success of its education system and its justice system. Society is judged by its values and moral standards and by those who contribute to society.
According to SOS Violence – The Israeli Center for Violence Studies, some of the issues that exacerbate youth violence include eagerness of the media to create sensationalist stories, public desire to find shortterm solutions, politicians’ desire to be seen as the ones dealing with the problem, and a “zero tolerance” policy.
All of these, the report says, actually contribute to the problem of violence. Rather, what is needed is an investment in “a supportive policy which could provide tools and support for youth.”
The center suggests “focusing on reducing alienation within the classroom as part of training workshops for teachers and students” and proposes that teachers “focus on training students and providing tools to cope with negative dynamics of individuals and groups in the classroom.”
The center also offers “an alternative model to the balance of power in the class. If today students perceive aggression as an effective tool for achieving/promoting/maintaining social status, the SOS Center and the students in the classroom work together to create a different model in which the tool to achieve those things will be reversed.”
Schools in Israel need to get their acts together and crack down on violent behavior in a manner that educates – and not only punishes – delinquents.
But first, parents need to raise their kids properly.
Education begins at home.