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Junior Jihadists By: Erick Stakelbeck and Michal Deskalo
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 06, 2004

Thanks both to its much-maligned security barrier and its assassination of several Palestinian terrorist leaders, Israel has seen a dramatic decrease in suicide bombings over the past several months. 

This fact—as well as the rapidly diminishing role of terror master Yasser Arafat in everyday Palestinian affairs—makes recent talk that the Intifada has finally ended after almost four years of bloodshed seem almost plausible.

But amidst these hopes, terrorist groups in Gaza and the West Bank are busy grooming the next generation of suicide bombers. 


Last month, the student movement of Hamas, Al-Kutla al-Islamiyya, debuted a new Arabic-language website—www.alkotla.net—designed to encourage Palestinian teenagers to join the group and carry out suicide operations against Israel.


In addition to a section honoring past Al-Kutla suicide bombers (whose attacks have left 53 Israelis dead and over 300 injured) the site features photos of Palestinian high school students who earned academic honors this year, calling them, “the group which will lead the Palestinian nation to victory and liberation.”


According to the website, in early July, Hamas organized several large festivals in Gaza honoring over 2000 recent high school graduates. The students were presented with certificates of achievement and told to avoid “the Western lands of the infidels” while pursuing their college degrees.


Hamas has long courted top Palestinian high schoolers in order to groom them for future leadership positions within the organization. But these Hamas recruitment drives aren’t just limited to the secondary school level. Even preschoolers are sucked into the group’s culture of death. 


For example, another popular Hamas website, www.al-fateh.net, features snapshots of Palestinian pre-teens and toddlers dressed in Hamas military regalia and holding automatic weapons.


Along with bedtime stories, games, riddles and coloring activities, the site showcases a Hamas “Featured Martyr.” The most recent honoree is Mahmoud Salem, the 18-year-old responsible for a suicide bombing at the Israeli port of Ashdod in March that killed 10 people.


Salem’s picture is accompanied by the text of his suicide note, which implores Palestinians “to continue their path to jihad and martyrdom.”


A number of graphic poems also appear on the site, with one of them encouraging young readers to, “raise the flag of jihad…and take out all the Jews from the land of Palestine.” Another, simply titled, “Palestine,” includes the phrase, “I walked towards my destiny as a martyr covered in blood.”


The manipulation of innocents is nothing new for Hamas and its ilk. Each summer, Hamas, along with fellow terrorist groups Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, operates camps that indoctrinate scores of Palestinian children in the ways of jihad and Jew-hatred. The campers, some of whom are as young as 8 and 9 years old, are taught military tactics as well as the finer points of suicide attacks.


The Palestinian Authority (PA)—although it claims to disapprove—funds several of these “paradise camps” throughout Gaza and the West Bank.


The PA also militarizes Palestinian children through government-run television programming. In one fictitious music video that has run continually over the past few years on PA TV, a young Palestinian boy is shown heading to “shahada,” or martyrdom. Scenes of his death are accompanied by selections from his suicide letter, such as, “How sweet is shahada…be joyous over my blood, and do not cry for me.”


Other PA music videos show children defacing Jewish symbols, such as the Menorah, and throwing stones at Israeli soldiers while chanting, “You will not be saved, oh Zionist.”


Given that PA Chairman Yasser Arafat has personally commended the work of child suicide bombers, the wanton brainwashing that young Palestinians are subjected to on a daily basis comes as no surprise. But it appears that the Palestinians’ glorification of terrorism among children may now be spreading to other countries as well.


Last month, German authorities raided a mosque in Frankfurt after a nine-year-old girl said that she had been shown graphic videos there calling for “a holy war against unbelievers.” And in June, a disturbing home movie circulated widely on the Internet showed four Muslim children in Sweden playfully reenacting the savage beheading of American contractor Nicholas Berg. 


Plus, Saudi Arabia continues to publish and finance extremist textbooks that carry the Kingdom’s virulent Wahhabi ideology to millions of Muslim schoolchildren worldwide.


This widespread indoctrination of young Muslims calls to mind an Arabic saying, Al-ilm fi al-sghirar kanaqshi fi al-hajar. Translated into English, it means, An education in one’s youth is like engraving into a stone.”


Nations that are battling the forces of radical Islam around the globe can only hope that isn’t the case.


Erick Stakelbeck is senior writer and Michal Deskalo is a terrorism analyst at The Investigative Project, a Washington, D.C.-based counterterrorism research institute. 

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