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It's Aspiration, not Desperation: Understanding the Death Worship of the
Palestinian Suicide Bomber

Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook

Jerusalem Post Op-Ed & the National Post (Canada), January 29, 2004

"I always wanted to be the first woman who sacrifices her life for Allah. My joy will be complete when my body parts fly in all directions."

These are the words of female suicide terrorist Reem Reyashi, videotaped just before she killed four Israelis and herself two weeks ago in Gaza. What is surprising about this horrific statement is that she put a positive value on her dismemberment and death, distinct from her goal to kill others. She was driven by her aspiration to achieve what the Palestinians call "shahada," death for Allah. She had two distinct goals: To kill and to be killed. These independent objectives, both positive in her mind, were goals greater than her obligations and emotional ties to her two children. This aspiration to die, which contradicts the basic human instinct for survival, is at the core of the suicide terrorism fervor. Only when this death worship component is recognized as a basic tenet of Palestinian belief will it be possible to understand the challenges Israel and the world face from suicide terror.

Palestinian society actively promotes the religious belief that their deity craves their deaths. Note the words of a popular music video directed at children, broadcast hundreds of times on PA TV, which depicts the earth thirsting for the blood of children: "How sweet is the fragrance of the shahids, how sweet is the scent of the earth, its thirst quenched by the gush of blood, flowing from the youthful body."

This conviction that the deity thirsts for or craves human death as tribute and sacrifice has its roots in ancient beliefs.

The Bible cites ancient cultures of the Land of Israel: "Their sons and their daughters they sacrifice to their Gods" [Deut: 12]. Even the Israelites were drawn to it: "And they built altars to give their sons and daughters to Molech which God did not command nor consider this abomination [Jeremiah: 32]." As recently as 500 years ago, South American tribes used to leave children to die on mountain tops as presents to their gods. The common denominator driving human sacrifice cults was the belief that the deity craved the death of innocents.

This is precisely the belief that the leaders of Palestinian society are inculcating in their people. Moreover, Palestinians have been taught on PA TV by their religious leaders that they are born for the very purpose of dying for Allah: "The believer was created to know his Lord and to uphold Islam to be a shahid, or intend to be a shahid. If the Muslim does not aspire shahada, he will die as in the Jahiliya [pre-Islam faith]. If we truthfully request it of Allah, He will grant us its rewards even if we die in bed."

This message is of paramount significance. The Muslim is born in order to die the right death, according to Palestinian Islam. Death need not be the termination of life to be prevented, but can be transformed into the ultimate achievement, on the condition it is for the deity. Those who do achieve this death are promised rewards by religious leaders on PA TV: "All his sins are forgiven from the first gush of blood; he is exempted from the torments of the grave (Judgment)... he marries 72 Dark-Eyed [Virgins or Maidens of Paradise]... on his head is placed a crown of honor, one stone of which is worth more than all there is in this world."

EVEN CHILDREN are not spared the indoctrination that the deity wants their deaths. A telling example is the story of 14-year-old Faras Ouda, a boy elevated to heroism by the Palestinian leadership.
Yasser Arafat regularly singles out Ouda as a role model for children, addressing children on TV once as "peers, friends, brothers and sisters of Faras Ouda," another time telling them "This generation represented by your colleague, the hero Shahid, Faras Ouda!" Yet another time he said, "We are saluting to the spirit of our hero Shahid Faras Ouda, Faras Ouda, Faras Ouda!"

What was Faras Ouda's great accomplishment that Arafat elevated him to archetypical role model? The boy's goal in life was to die for the deity, as reported in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al Jadida: "On the day of his death Faras Ouda left his home with a slingshot, after having made himself a wreath decorated with photos of himself and having written on it 'The Brave Shahid Faras Ouda.'

Faras Ouda wanted to die for the deity, achieved it, and thus became Arafat's hero.

Palestinian mothers have been taught to aspire to death for Allah for their children. A mother explained recently on PA TV why she expressed joy upon hearing of her son's death: "A mother makes sounds of joy because she wants him to reach shahada. He became a shahid for Allah Almighty. I wanted the best for him; this is the best for [my son] Shaadi."

PA ideology rejects the value of 'life' that other societies hold supreme. As expressed by a senior historian, professor Issam Sissalem, in a lecture on PA TV: "We are not afraid to die, and do not love life."

Like their adult role models, Palestinian children have learned to see dying for the deity as their goal in life. In a chilling talk show interview on PA TV, two 11-year-old girls explain cheerfully and eloquently what they and their young friends desire:
Walla: "Shahada is very, very beautiful. Everyone aspires to shahada. What could be better than going to paradise?"
Host: "What is better, peace and full rights for the Palestinian people or shahada?"
Walla: "Shahada".
Yussra: "Of course shahada is sweet. We don't want this world, we want the Afterlife. We benefit not from this life but from the Afterlife... Every Palestinian child aged, say 12, says "Oh Lord, I would like to become a shahid."
Public opinion polls indicate that Yussra and Walla represent an overwhelming majority of Palestinian children who embrace this belief. According to three different polls, 70 to 80 percent of Palestinian children aspire to shahada.

In the ancient world, there was widespread belief that the deity wanted humans to die as the ultimate form of worship. People gave their children to the deity of Molech and the Baal. This ancient belief has now returned to plague the world.

The world had assumed that the Palestinian suicide terrorist was facing a dilemma of having to choose between the "value" of killing Jews and the value of life. Clearly, this is false.
Killing Jews is one "value." Death for deity is itself a value, indeed, a value greater than life. Seeking shahada is not desperation but aspiration. As the mother explained her joy after her son's death: "I wanted the best for him."

Itamar Marcus is director of Palestinian Media Watch.
Barbara Crook, a writer and university lecturer based in Ottawa, Canada, is PMW's North American representative.

 

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