PMW in the Media
Children's Rights Groups Fall Silent as Arabs Enlist Youth as Terrorists
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It is a cliché of our times that the rights of children are more important than those of anyone else, that children are a window into tomorrow.
The world indeed takes notice. Hundreds of Web sites from the U.N., to various NGOs, to UNESCO to Amnesty International to the Childs’ Rights Information Network pay close attention. They sharply and frequently condemn abuses and launch initiatives against the use of children for work, war, and in the sex market. A long Amnesty International report on the battle of Jenin in April taught us how children can be harmed in a clash in which a strong army hunts terrorists house to house and the knowledge pained us. Children were wounded, some were killed, and many were terrorized, suffering from hunger, sleep deprivation, thirst, and fear.
Yet nowhere does that report mention what a November 16 article in Al Quds, the Hezbollah weekly [sic], exposed. After speaking to children in Jenin, the reporter explained that children had been trained from a very young age not only to throw stones, but also to use small explosive devices and grenades a strategic decision recently supplemented by using children to prepare bombs…
The problem isn’t just the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, it is the entire culture that teaches martyrdom in madrassas, on television, and in Bombers’ state-run schools. The problem, that is, is the entire Arab world, which is raising a generation of children that wants – or is taught that they want to give their lives as suicide terrorists.
“Seek death and you will be given life” is the slogan that appears on television broadcasts from the Palestinian Authority, after a short clip showing scenes of blood and dead children, followed by one of children playing.
The slogan also appears on the cover of a disturbing brochure from Palestinian Media Watch, which has its headquarters in Jerusalem.
The material the group collected on a disk is even more shocking. In it, a reporter interviews two 11-year-old girls on television. They’re modern, easygoing, sweet girls, but when the reporter asks little Walla if she thinks that shahada, martyrdom, is nice, she answers: “It’s beautiful! Everyone wants it. What can be better than going to heaven?”
What do you think is better, the journalist continues, peace and full rights for the Palestinians, or martyrdom? “Martyrdom,” Walla answers. “I’ll get all my rights after I become a martyr.”
The other girl, named Yussra, explains: “We don’t want this world, we want the next world.” Any Palestinian 12-year-old can now say: “O Lord, I want to become a martyr, a shahid!”
Why does this work? The answer lies in a society where the shahid has become a valued currency, where the mothers of martyrs say, “Praised be God, honor is mine, pride is mine that I have a martyred son, and all martyrs are my children!” As another mother said in al Hayat al Jadida in March, “The greatest gift that I received this year is the death of [my son] Abbas as a martyr.”
The propaganda comes in all forms of communication. Citizens are bombarded with photos of martyrs,” radio and television transmit carefully-made, multicolored video clips showing martyrs in heaven and their glorification.
One shows Muhammed Al Dura, who invites all the other little children to come with him to paradise. Another shows children who choose death with determination. In one clip, a sweet 10-year-old child writes a farewell letter to his mother and explains to her how sweet martyrdom is. We then see him die on the screen, killed by Israeli soldiers as he hugs the ground.
Wafa Idris, who blew herself up in the center of Jerusalem on January 27, 2002, in song becomes “like a flower, you martyrdom.” In another clip children dance frenetically while an adolescent sings, “O youths, shake the earth, throw stones, they’re ready to die as martyrs.”
In one educational program on television, professor Issam Sissalem from the University of Gaza says, “We’re not afraid of dying, we don’t love life.”
And in one class a teacher tells how one shahid, a student of his, ninth-grader Wajdi Al Hattab, asked him to hand out sweets after his death. His classmates promised to follow him to the end of the road. There are testimonials like this in every grade, starting from fifth.
And Mr. Arafat? Talking about children in August, he lauded Farid Houra, a 14-year-old shahid, saying, “The shahid constitutes the fundamental and victorious force of our people.” And in January, when he was asked what message he’d like to send Palestinian children, he said: “The child who throws a stone, who confronts a tank, doesn’t it send a better message to the world when that hero becomes a shahid?”
International groups should be asking these questions: can the life of a child be sacrificed for a message? Should one be allowed to trigger a time bomb like this, masochistic and sadistic at the same time?
Ms. Nirenstein is a correspondent for La Stampa.