When we think of Palestinian terrorism, often forgotten are its other victims. For most, it is an unintentional oversight; for terror’s apologists, it is an absolute necessity. For terror’s avowed supporters, however, the other victims are not considered victims at all; they are thought of as heroes.
Speaking at a conference on Islam and Democracy in April, journalist Anisa Mehdi suggested that the only reason we consider Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah terrorists is because Americans aren’t “pro-Palestinian.” She added that if we were, we would call them “Palestinian partisans,” not terrorists.
After her speech, this columnist asked Mehdi what she would call a 12-year-old strapping on a bomb and killing a dozen civilians in a café. As she sat stunned by the question, the luncheon’s other speaker, Abdullah Schleifer, executive producer of the documentary “Control Room,” leapt to the podium and said, “Of course it is. And in fact, it’s terrorism against the 12-year-old.”
Though 12-year-olds are on the young end of children converted into suicide bombers, the terrorism perpetrated by the likes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad against young Palestinians is real—and growing.
Roughly one month after this luncheon, Israeli soldiers at the Hawara checkpoint in Nablus stopped two teenagers attempting to smuggle explosives under their clothes. One was 15, the other 14.
When interviewed by NBC News’ Martin Fletcher, the 15-year-old, Mohammed Mustafa al-Nadi, said that he was recruited to “kill the Jews” by al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which was formerly under the thumb of Yasser Arafat. The boy said he only agreed to become a suicide bomber after being asked five times.
Young Mohammed is sadly more the rule than the exception. Already this year, more than 50 Palestinians under the age of 18 have been apprehended attempting to smuggle bombs into Israel, and at least six have been under 16.
Additionally, it was announced this week that Israel’s Shin Bet security force arrested a terror cell just outside of Nablus last month, and four of the eight taken into custody were 15 or 16 years old.
Just over a year ago, the entire world witnessed a frightened 15-year-old at the Hawara checkpoint who decided he couldn’t go through with blowing himself up. Israeli soldiers cleared the area, used a robot to remove the bomb strapped to his chest, and then safely detonated it.
Talking to the BBC a few months later from his jail cell, Hussam Abdo said that although he was glad to be alive and wouldn’t tell his friends to become suicide bombers, he nonetheless still viewed the act he failed to commit as a glorious one. He said blowing yourself up in order to kill Jews is “better than being a singer or a footballer. It’s better than everything.” In an earlier interview with an Israeli newspaper, Hussam revealed where his mind had become so twisted: in Palestinian school. The 15-year-old said that “paradise” was “a river of honey, a river of wine and 72 virgins. Since I have been studying Koran I know about the sweet life that waits there.”
As easy as it would be to chalk up the recruitment of children to the evil deeds of terrorists, both Mohammed’s and Hussam’s experiences demonstrate that the terrorists had help. The kids, like many others their age, are primed for jihad long before they have the mental capacity to fully comprehend what they’re being spoon-fed.
The indoctrination that nearly claimed Hussam’s life permeates Palestinian society, from government-controlled media to the culture at large that exalts suicide bombers as “martyrs” or “shahids.”
Because of the invaluable Palestinian Media Watch, we know that glorification of suicide bombing—even to small children—continues to this day on Palestinian television, from talking puppets that extol the virtues of violence to pre-teen girls telling an adult that “martyrdom” is the greatest success one could ever achieve.
Even at a grassroots level, suicide bombings enjoy popular support. Sports teams, schools, and streets are all named after terrorists, and many families of suicide bombers claim that they enjoy immediately increased standing in the community.
Arafat is largely responsible for poisoning the well, but his death alone does not remove the poison. His successor and longtime right-hand man, Mahmoud Abbas, in fact, has yet to take a significant step in that direction. But even once he does, wholesale change can’t happen overnight.
In the meantime, more children will be sent off to kill—and die. Children who lack any rational conception of death, who are coaxed into evil with the false promise of paradise. These are the other victims of Palestinian terrorism, and they should never be forgotten.