PMW in the Media
Pressures Exerted on Palestinian Children to Seek Shahada – Death for Allah
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“Ask for Death – the life will be given to you.” This slogan, which was broadcast on Palestinian television on July 5th of last year, was also the headline chosen by the authors of Palestinian Media Watch as the title of their 40th research report. This report examines the social pressure exerted by the Palestinian Authority [PA] on children to die as “Shahids” [Death for Allah].
The written findings of the report are presented with a CD, which is not easy to watch. The televised evidence, includes educational films specially prepared for children that have been broadcast in the Palestinian Authority, texts from PA schoolbooks, and quotes from statements issued by political and religious figures in the Palestinian Authority.
One particular “educational” film clip, which was broadcast regularly during 2001 and 2002 as often as three times a day, shows a child writing a farewell letter to his mother in which he declares, “Rejoice over my death and do not cry for me,” and also “How sweet is Shahada [Death for Allah] when I embrace you, my land…” This text is recited over a backdrop of a picture showing the child falling to the ground “embracing” the earth.
One short broadcast shows the most famous child Shahid, Muhammad Al-Dura, whose death was captured on camera, apparently calling to Palestinian children, “Join me in Paradise.” A child actor plays Al-Dura in fictional scenes of his life in Paradise, frolicking in an amusement park with a kite and on the beach.
“How pleasant is the fragrance of Shahids… I go with no fear or tears,” says the fictional Al-Dura. The program begins with the caption, “I am waving not to part, but to say you, ‘Follow me.’ And is signed: “Muhammad Al-Dura”
The report also displays texts that appear in widely-used school books published by the Palestinian Education Ministry, such as the “Song of the Shahid,” which is found in four different publications. In one book, “Islamic Education for the Eighth Grade,” on page 176, states that, “The Moslem sacrifices himself for his belief, and wages Jihad [Holy War] for Allah. He is not swayed, for he knows that the date of his death as a Shahid on the field of battle is preferable to death in his bed.”
The November 2000 issue of “Al-Hayat Al-Jadida,” a PA newspaper, quotes “The sports teacher of Wajdi Al-Hattab,” [a 14 year old student] “responded to Allah’s call and achieved the Shahada he yearned for.”
The teacher relates that, “Wajdi asked me to give out cake when he becomes a Shahid.” The newspaper also reports that Wajdi’s classmates “swore that they would follow the path of Shahada until the liberation of Jerusalem.”
The author of the report, Itamar Marcus, writes that many cultural programs “encourage Shahada and show approval for those who are killed. Many television broadcasts include songs and dances accompanied by photographs of violence and highlight how right it is to die for the sake of Allah.”
Marcus gives the example of a song [broadcast 3 times on PA TV] that was composed in memory of Wafa Idris, the first woman suicide bomber. The song was recorded at a concert in Egypt, and it describes Idris as a “flower” and a “heartbeat of pride.” “In death, you have brought life to our will,” the song continues.
In the past Marcus and his institute issued a comprehensive report into Palestinian study material and helped to expose Yasser Arafat’s “Hudaybia Speech,” in which Arafat compared the Oslo Agreement with the Hudaybia Pact, which the prophet Muhammad signed expressly in order to break later. This time Palestinian Media Watch also brings relevant quotes from Yasser Arafat, who expresses his pride in the Shahids. In a speech given to children who were attending a summer camp, Arafat states, “You are the peers of Faris Ouda [a youth who planned his own death as a Shahid]. Onwards together to Jerusalem.” In response, the children call out, “Millions of Shahids marching to Jerusalem.”
The report also brings examples of the statements issued by the parents of suicide bombers, in which they welcome their children’s deaths, and express their satisfaction and joy. The mother of one boy who was killed states: “Praise to God, the Master of the Universe. I can raise my head up high and I have glory and pride. My son is a Shahid. But it is not just my son. All of the Shahids are my children.”
The mother of Abbas Al-Awiwi states, “The greatest mother’s day present I received this year is the death as a Shahid of Abbas.”
Marcus and his staff also bring quotes from speeches delivered by religious leaders. Dr. Muhammad Ibrahim Madi stated on Palestinian television in June 2001: “Shame upon he who does not educate his children the education of Jihad… blessings upon he who dons a vest of explosives belt on himself or on his children and goes in to the midst of the Jews”.
Sheikh Abd al-Razak stated on Palestinian television on 22nd March 2002: “…Allah has planted within our youth the love of Jihad, the love of Shahada. Our youth have turned into bombs, they blow themselves up among them [Israelis] day and night.”
Marcus and his colleagues have concluded that, having been exposed to such messages, young Palestinian children from the ages of six till nine play “death” games and role-play the dead. Children between the ages of 10 to 13 express the will to die, sometimes in televised interviews, and from the age of 14 some even take part in suicide attacks.