For more than a decade, the Clinton and Bush administrations have labored mightily to broker a workable peace accord that could pave the way to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and thereby end the Middle East’s most notorious, ongoing dilemma. There is good reason to question, however, whether such a state would inevitably amount to nothing more than yet another breeding ground for worldwide terrorist activities – like Iraq, Iran, and Syria – carried out behind the righteous sounding cloak of “sovereignty” and “nationhood.”
Given the degree to which the Palestinian Authority (PA) has, for years, systematically infused its subjects’ hearts with violent bigotry, there is reason to wonder whether the current Palestinian population possesses the moral or ethical foundation necessary to pursue peaceful coexistence with Israel. The generations of Palestinians already raised on this steady diet of hate may in fact be lost forever – incapable of truly accepting such coexistence even under the most favorable terms imaginable.
The organization Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) closely monitors the messages to which Palestinians are repeatedly exposed by their broadcast and print media, their school textbooks and teachers, and their political and religious leaders. The composite content of these myriad messages is a horrifying testament to just how assiduously the PA has worked to turn the minds of Palestinians into reservoirs of venom. The quotations and statistics cited in this article represent but a fraction of PMW’s compiled data.
First and foremost, the PA consistently uses its media to put forth the message that Jews are the inherently evil enemies of Allah – and thus deserve to be despised and slaughtered by God-fearing Muslims who desire glorious resurrection. As Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya, the Rector of Advanced Studies at Islamic University, recently told a PA television audience, “Jews must be killed and butchered. Everywhere you meet Jews, kill them. It is forbidden to have mercy on a Jew.”
The foregoing sentiments, and variations thereof, are commonplace elements of the Palestinian media – repeated ad infinitum, both in print and on the air, thereby infecting not only the minds of men and women, but of their children as well. As a result, the PA has set in motion a virtual assembly line for the creation of young, bigoted, hate-filled monsters who crave martyrdom above all else. The official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, glorifies children who are killed in jihad against “infidels,” depicting them as youngsters who have reached “the highest levels with Allah.” PA television regularly broadcasts short propaganda film-clips for children, teaching that Shahada (a martyr’s death in battle) is the ideal to which all should aspire. One such clip, titled “The Farewell Letter,” has sometimes aired three times per day. Its purpose is to assuage children’s natural fear of death through its hero – a schoolboy who, with a tranquil heart, writes his mother a farewell letter explaining his decision to pursue the “sweet” rewards of Shahada. “Be joyous over my blood and do not cry for me,” he writes. In another film, titled “Follow Me,” a young actor portraying Muhammad Al-Dura (an infamous child Shahid, or martyr), urges Palestinian children to become suicide bombers so they may join him in paradise, where he is seen enjoying the pleasures of an amusement park, a beach, and flying a kite.
PA television programming regularly includes scenes of anti-Jewish violence accompanied by a background of singing and dancing in honor of those deeds. For instance, a song praising Wafa Idris, a female suicide bomber who blew herself up in the heart of Jerusalem, calls her a “blossom” and a “heartbeat of pride.” In a recent demonstration by Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization, young female participants were given posters portraying Idris as a “heroine Shahida.” Another popular song calls upon Palestinian children to attack Israelis with stones. The lyrics “I will even willingly fall as a Shahid” are sung while scenes of youngsters throwing stones and performing a frenzied war dance fill the television screen.
The indoctrination that occurs on television is further buttressed in the classroom, where the PA Ministry of Education’s textbooks typically portray Shahada as the ultimate ideal for boys and girls alike. For example, in schoolbooks for grades 5, 6, 7, and 12, “The Poem of the Shahid” urges children to yearn for a martyr’s death. “I see my death,” it reads, “but I hasten my steps towards it.” The 8th grade book Islamic Education states, “The Moslem sacrifices himself for his belief, and wages jihad for Allah . . . his death as a Shahid on the field of battle is preferable to death in his bed.”
Palestinian children are taught that Allah requires them to hate Jews. In the new 6th grade book Reading the Koran, students learn about Allah’s pledge to kill Jews because they are evil: “Oh you who are Jews . . . the death from which you flee . . . will surely overtake you.” The 9th grade edition of Islamic Education says, “One must beware of the Jews, for they are treacherous and disloyal.” The 4th grade edition reads, “[T]he Jews are the enemies of the Prophets and the believers.” A 5th grade text titled Our Arabic Language asserts, “The final and inevitable result will be the victory of the Muslims over the Jews.” In recent years foreign governments have offered money to the PA to cover the cost of reprinting these books without the hateful characterizations of Jews – offers that the PA staunchly refused with an admonition against tampering with “our Palestinian heritage.” Moreover, the PA schoolbooks portray Israel as a foreign occupier with no right to even exist. In schoolbook maps, all of Israel’s cities and regions are presented as parts of “Palestine.”
Palestinian leadership has unabashedly echoed these anti-Jewish themes for years. Yasser Arafat, for instance, publicly extols youngsters who intentionally die as Shahids while attacking Jews. In a television interview, he said that Palestinian child Shahids constitute “the greatest message to the world.” In order to depict the pursuit of Shahada as a popular and noble phenomenon, the PA media give extensive exposure to parents who praise their children’s choice to die as martyrs. As the mother of Ashraf Zwayed told PA television reporters, “Praise to Allah. . . . I hold my head high. . . . I have a son who is a Shahid.” Another mother told PA television in December 2002 that her son, prior to embarking on a suicide bombing mission, had “put his hands on my head and said, ‘Be calm, mother, be calm, this is my wish. Pray for me, that I will be a Shahid.’ ” Noting that she had in fact dutifully “prayed for him,” this same woman pronounced, “Praise Allah, my children asked for Shahada, and it is [a better way to] die.”
A month later, yet another mother said of her dead son, “He would always dream of Shahada, it was his first and last goal in life. . . . I told him, ‘By Allah, we all want to be Shahids.’ ” Another suicide bomber’s mother filmed her parting ceremony with her 17-year-old son before he went off to kill five Israeli teenagers, ordering him not to return to her “except as a Shahid.” After her son’s death, this woman told a PA television audience, “I give my son to jihad for Allah. This is a religious obligation for us.” In October 2003, the brother of female suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat grinned as he told reporters, “We are receiving congratulations from people. Why should we cry [over her death]? It is like her wedding day, the happiest day for her.”
Senior religious leaders reinforce the message that children are obligated to Shahada. According to Sheikh Hamed Al-Bitawi, Head of the Council of Sages of Religion of Palestine, “We in Palestine have a great love of jihad and Shahada, and that makes many children compete among themselves in carrying out jihad and Shahada-seeking missions.” Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Razek agrees, “The Moslem was created to die for Allah . . . [who] 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.” Dr. Muhammad Ibrahim Madi adds, “Shame upon he who does not educate his children the education of jihad. . . . Blessings upon he who dons a vest of explosives on himself or on his children and goes in to the midst of the Jews. . . . Oh young child, . . . all the weapons must be aimed at the Jews. . . . Nothing will deter them except the color of blood in their filthy nation.”
Through the endless repetition of such stupidities, the seeds of barbarism have taken root in all too many young souls. In January 2002, the publication Al-Ayyam reported that according to Palestinian polls, “72 percent of the children sampled from all the districts of Gaza expressed the hope of becoming Shahids.” In another poll five months later, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported that “79 to 80 percent of the children expressed willingness to be Shahids.”
In September 2003 one of Israel’s senior research institutes – Public Opinion & Marketing Research of Israel – conducted a poll of 607 Palestinian adults, with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent. When asked which nation posed the single greatest threat to world peace, 51 percent of respondents named Israel and 36 percent named the United States, while Iran, North Korea, and China were each named by just 1 percent of respondents. Fully 74 percent of those polled said they supported Saddam Hussein in the current war in Iraq, versus 10 percent who favored the US. When asked to characterize the people who crashed planes into New York’s World Trade Center on 9/11, respondents were evenly divided as to whether they were terrorists or freedom-fighting martyrs. While only 13 percent of those questioned deemed Hamas a terrorist group, more than 80 percent identified it as an organization of freedom fighters. A mere 10 percent said they considered Palestinian bombings of Israeli buses and restaurants to be acts of terrorism. Only 13 percent thought it was improper when the PA had named a recent children’s soccer tournament in honor of Abd Al-Al Baset Odeh, who killed thirty Israelis in a suicide bombing. When asked if Hamas and Islamic Jihad should give up their armed struggle against Israel if that nation “were to leave all territories, including East Jerusalem, and grant statehood to the Palestinians,” only 26 percent answered affirmatively.
These numbers are not pretty. They suggest a seething, raging population far more interested in wiping Israel off the earth’s face than in achieving peaceful coexistence. Can a people so filled with hateful bigotry realistically be expected to develop a nation that will somehow stop producing an endless stream of homicidal degenerates? These are important, if uncomfortable, questions.