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Blaming Israel for child bombers?

Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook

National Post [Canada], April 08, 2004

In a bold attempt at damage control fit for the PR hall of fame, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has come up with an innovative -- albeit bizarre -- response to the tide of world disapproval of recent foiled Palestinian attempts to use youths as suicide bombers.

It's all Israel's fault, of course - but with a twist.

We know the usual pattern of assigning blame to Israel for Palestinian terror attacks. If only Israel would stop targeted killings of terrorist leaders and stop building the wall to keep out terrorists, then the Palestinians wouldn't be driven to blow themselves up, killing and maiming Israeli civilians in the process. Indeed, a good chunk of the world still buys this argument.

But even the most loyal Palestinian sympathizers have had trouble with the Palestinians' recent exploitation of minors, such as planting remote-controlled explosives on an unwitting 11-year-old in Gaza, or duping a naive 16-year-old in Nablus into becoming a suicide terrorist for 100 shekels (about $22 U.S.) and a date with 72 virgins in Paradise. Both attempts were foiled by the Israeli army before the youths could kill or be killed.

News surfaced last week Israel had arrested three more Nablus teens who had been recruited as suicide bombers by Islamic Jihad. The plot was discovered when the older brother of 15-year-old Tamer Khawireh was suspicious of the new cellphone, clothes and cigarettes the Grade 9 student was flaunting.

So the new twist on the "Blame Israel" strategy had to become more inventive. Despite the fact that terrorist organizations have already claimed responsibility for these would-be attacks, the creative PA spin is that Israel -- not terrorist groups -- recruited the kids, planted the explosives and made sure the world media stayed overtime to capture the events for posterity. All in the name of discrediting the Palestinians.

So how did an 11--year-old walk into Israel with a bomb in his bag? According to official PA sources, "...the intelligence services of the occupying authorities [Israel] were the authors, directors and the organizers of the script....As [the boy] was coming home from school he was stopped by soldiers, who placed part of a rifle in his bag together with hand grenades and gas bombs, and then made the boy stand by his open bag so the weapons would be seen .... " [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 27, 2004]

The PA story says that Israeli intelligence collaborators "played with" the mind of 16-year-old Hussam Abdo of Nablus so he would blow himself up. He was caught with an explosive belt March 24 and safely disarmed by Israeli soldiers.

Not only did Israel arrange the would-be suicide mission, according to this revisionist history, but it cleverly manipulated world media to make sure the event received maximum publicity.

According to the PA twist, the Israeli army had asked journalists to stay late at the Nablus checkpoint that day, in anticipation of the arrest. The army then "put pressure on the foreign journalists to focus on the incident."

And the PA allegations go a step further. According to an account in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Israel goes out of its way to publicize the use of children as suicide bombers - not just to discredit the PA, but to encourage more Palestinian children to blow themselves up.

"The occupation [Israel] in this situation and with this lie, is playing with its own blood, and it is like they are encouraging children to go from stone-throwing to use of explosives.... Israel's focusing accusations about children [in suicide terror] is in fact an open invitation to other children to imitate the accusations, because it is characteristic of children to blindly imitate." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 18, 2004].

In fact, it is the Palestinian Authority, not Israeli intelligence, that has preyed on the tendency of children to "blindly imitate" the actions of their peers and elders, with its systematic and relentless indoctrination of children to seek Shahada, martyrdom for Allah.

Music videos directed at children call child martyrdom "sweet" and offer enticing images of child paradise. One, broadcast hundreds of times since Dec. 26, 2000, features child martyr Muhammad Al Dura in paradise flying a kite, frolicking on a beach and riding a Ferris wheel.

"I am waving to you not in parting, but to say, 'Follow me,'" he tells other child martyrs-in-waiting.

Palestinian textbooks contain poems glorifying child martyrs. Yasser Arafat has called dead Palestinian children "the greatest message to the world" [PA TV, Jan. 15, 2002]. Soccer tournaments and summer camps are named after teenage suicide bombers, thus encouraging children and youth to follow these role models.

Asked on a June 2002 PA TV broadcast whether she prefers Shahada or peace and full rights for the Palestinian people, an articulate 11-year-old girl replies without hesitation, "Shahada."

And according to Palestinian surveys, between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of Palestinian children share her aspiration. Taught to overcome their natural fear of death, they are the young suicide bombers of the future - and they won't all be lucky enough to be intercepted.

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



Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved