PALESTINIAN CHILD ABUSE
"Not even animals would send their children into battle," (In response to the charge that Palestinian parents encourage their children to fight the Israelis and to be suicide bombers: )
Hanan Ashrawi (Jerusalem Report, Nov. 20, 2000)
“The most blatantly racist slur is the Israeli theft of our humanity as parents. In an attempt to rob us of our most basic feelings for our children, we are accused of ‘sending [our] children out to die’ for the sake of ‘scoring media points.’ The horror is further compounded by the total and unquestioning equanimity with which such a grand national slur is repeated by Israelis of all parties, with no critical distance or even awareness of the enormity of such a racist charge.” Hanan Ashrawi,Jordan Times, October 29, 2000
by Average Jeff Sunday October 06, 2002 at 08:21 PM
"The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity."
Principle 2, Declaration of the Rights of the Child - UN General Assembly resolution 1386 (XIV), 20 November 1959
Why Palestinian children die
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip May 15, 2002 -- Abu Ali, like many 12-year-olds living in Gaza, has dreams of eternity. But the Palestinian boy's hopes are rooted in a grim reality: "I hope to be a martyr," he said. "I hope when I get to 14 or 15 to explode myself."
His mother, Om Muhammed, is eager to help her son, one of six children, accomplish his goal. She helps him tug on a toy suicide bomber costume in her living room as she serves mint tea to a visitor.
The get-up is dauntingly convincing, but is harmlessly made of electrical tape, plywood and spare wire. Harmless for now, at least.
"I encourage him, and he should do this," said the woman, the mother of six. "God gave him to me to defend our land.
"Palestinian women must have more and more children till we liberate our land. This is a holy duty for all Palestinian people."
Little Ali, masked in a kaffiyeh and carrying a toy gun made of pipes, marched earlier today in a demostration marking Al Nakba or " the catastrophe," as Palestinians refer to the day Israel was founded in 1948.
Given Abu Ali's start in life, his future might seem inevitable. Walking through the streets of Gaza City, one can see young boys playing with toy Kalashnikovs and slingshots beneath the walls painted with graffiti depicting masked Hamas fighters, grenades, exploding buses.
Jobs in nearby Tel Aviv dried up for Palestinians from Gaza after the latest intifada began once peace talks broke down in 2000.
The Israelis closed the border crossings in an attempt to stop the Palestinian suicide bombers from blowing up themselves and Israeli civilians on buses, in cafes, supermarkets and restaurants.
But the bombers still make it through from other places. The killing and maiming of mostly innocent Israelis by these young Palestinians has only made life harder for the rest of the Palestinian people. Even for Gazans with local jobs, road closings often leave them sleeping at the Israeli checkpoints. Students from the south now sleep in tents at Al Aqsa University, lest they risk missing classes when the roads close. With no passports, Palestinians cannot travel. If jobs here are scarce, there is one man who is making enough to support his family.
Twenty-four-year-old Bahaa Yassin paints most of the portraits of martyrs seen in the Gaza Strip. Before the intifada, he did a variety of artwork to support himself and his wife. Family portraits, shop signs, and the occasional martyr.
Now, about 70 percent of his business comes from these large, loving tributes to the young fighters.Funeral marches are a citywide event. Young boys march -- usually five kilometers from the hospital to the graveyard -- alongside men shooting live rounds into the air.
Hisham Zaqout, whose nephew Youssef, 15, was killed when he tried to infiltrate an Israeli settlement, say the well-wishers, posters and artistic tributes have helped ease the family's pain.
"In Islam, sacrifice is the highest honor, " he says.
"Youssef did this for all of us to be free."The irony of his words is that the continued bombings and Israeli responses to them only continues the cycle of violence and hopelessness that has led to a downward spiral in the lives of both the Israelis and Palestinians.
Maya Alleruzzo is a staff photojournalist at The Washington Times in Washington, D.C.
17 October 2002 A Palestinian Mother who sent her son to commit a suicide attack explains her motives
On October 14, 2002, the Hamas Website published an interview with a Palestinian mother who sent her son to carry out a suicide attack against Israel. The mother is proud of the support and encouragement she gave her son in carrying out his attack. She is proud of his death and hopes to serve as an example to other Palestinian mothers and sons.
Here is an excerpt of the interview with of the mother of Mahmud Alabad. Mahmud was killed while attacking IDF troops in the Gaza Strip on June 15, 2002 (two IDF soldiers were killed in the attack).
"I was happy at his birth and at his death"
Mahmud Alabad was born in the Shati refugee camp on April 30, 1979. When I gave birth to Mahmud, I was so happy when I saw him, and when I said goodbye to him when he was on his way to the next world, I was happy? may Allah be praised for the fate that granted this suicide attacker his life and his death.
The process of being accepted into the group of Hamas suicide bombers
Mahmud arrived at home one day and said: I was accepted, mother. I asked him where. He replied: To the ranks of the brigades [The Izz-a Din Al-Qassam Brigades, terrorist faction of the Hamas]. From now on, he said, I am to be counted among the warriors. He hurried and left [the house]. I assumed that he was going to a confrontation with the Jews, yet he returned shortly and asked me to be filmed with him for a video. He told me that the brigades want my approval for him to be a suicide bomber (Istishahadi). I sent a letter with him, which he passed to the leader, Salah Shehade [head of the terrorist faction of the Hamas; Shehade was killed in the IDF Airforce attack on Gaza in July 2002]. Shehade said that the operation that Mahmud would take part in would be very successful, because his mother is pleased by his actions.
"I Agreed that he become a suicide bomber to encourage other mothers"
The truth is that, in the beginning, I was surprised that my son would leave me and that I would see him no more. I steeled myself, however, and realized that my son's martyrdom was an act of Allah, and it became for me as a source of pride. [My son] asked me to come with him to film his farewell video. At first I refused to be filmed with him for fear of how it would appear, but his commanders told me that it would be considered a powerful encouragement for [other] women and youth and would strengthen the heart of our nation. On that basis, I agreed to be filmed to show our loyalty to Allah. Through the film, I wanted to convey the message that we are a people, that our land is occupied, that we have no choice but revolution against the conqueror, no choice but to kill the conqueror, to banish him from our land in any way by possible by pressing the Jihad [the holy war against the infidels], the suicide, and the struggle-and by the fortitude of the mothers.
"I prayed that my son be killed in action, so he could rewarded with the  virgins in Heaven"
Prior to the attack in which he was killed, Mahmud went on two other missions, before which I had to bid him farewell. The first time he left immediately after we were filmed on video. He told me: The most important thing is to please you. He hurried and left, and I waited anxiously to hear of his death. I wished him success and that Allah might speed him along in his attack against his enemies. The following evening, while I was kneeling on my prayer rug, Mahmud entered, and I asked him what happened. He answered: I went to the place and I saw the bride and her family; tomorrow we go there to pay the dowry [bride is the Hamas code word for terror attack; this is based on the belief that a man who falls in the course of Jihad ascends to Heaven and marries 72 virgins]. I asked him what happened. He answered: I could not find any Jews. Then a second time I said goodbye to him, and he said: I am going, and I will not return. I cried and tears flowed down my cheeks, and when Mahmud saw me [like this] he did not answer but turned his head [and ran out]. I waited until midnight, and then he came back. I asked that from now we not say goodbye but that he go at his first opportunity. And that is what happened.
From the first time that I said goodbye, I asked him not to be afraid [in fighting] against the Jews, as they are cowards, that he prepare his weapons well before embarking,? that he kill [as many] as he can and leave none alive?. And when he left for his operation, his face was radiant as if he were meeting the girls of heaven right then and there. I wished him luck and that he enter heaven and marry the girls as soon as possible.
"I was happy when they told me that my son had died"
In the middle of the night, two masked men knocked on the door [of our house]. As soon as I opened the door they said: Allah has richly rewarded you. Instantly I knew that Mahmud had been granted the death he wanted?. I told my husband that Mahmud had been slain in the glorious attack. I also informed Mahmud's brother and felt happiness mixed with sorrow. I informed his sisters that I had known in advance of his attack and that I was even filmed in a video beforehand. They were astonished at first, but they quickly accepted my actions.
"Salah Shehade chose my son personally for this mission."
After my son requested to become a suicide bomber, I wrote a letter to the leadership of the Izz-a Din Al-Qasasm regiment; the letter was transferred to Salah Shehade's personal attention. The great man who had the honor of my son's death and sending him on this mission. He [Salah Shehade] was the one who chose the suicide bombers and asked the family's permission. [Shehade's decision] was the single most influential thing in my son's life.
"The Fact that my son killed Jews makes me happy"
I was very happy when I heard that he [Mahmud] killed Jews in the attack. When a warrior of Jihad follows Allah's path to kill Jews, [it is the act of Jihad] that gives him strength. Even if he does not kill any Jews, it is an honorable act because he dies the death of a martyr.
"We Muslims have the strongest maternal instinct."
We [Muslims] have a strong maternal instinct. We have a deep love for our sons. We always remember our deceased sons and feel their absence. However, this love weakens when compared to our conquered homeland. We want heaven and endeavor to please Allah. Allah has commanded us to fight the jihad in Allah's way-with our possessions and our souls'. We answer Allah's call, and this gives us pride.
Thursday March 25, 2004 at 10:45 AM
Amnesty International issued a report stating that "using children to carry out or assist in armed attacks of any kind is an abomination. We call on the Palestinian leadership to publicly denounce these practices."
Palestinian children are back on the front lines, throwing rocks and bombs. Who's to blame?
The media is awash in moral equivalence, thanks to Amnesty International's new report: "Killing the Future: Children in the Line of Fire," which details how children on both sides have been victims of recent Mideast violence.
A summary of Amnesty's report is online at:
Comments on Amnesty International's report can be sent to AI's international secretariat in London: firstname.lastname@example.org,
or to AI's Israeli branch: email@example.com (http://www.amnesty.org.il/).
Many media reports blanketly compared Israeli children who were intentionally targeted (e.g. the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium disco), with children who were unintentional collateral damage (e.g. killed with Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh).
Typical of media coverage was this short article by CBC (Canadian television), which simply reports: "Amnesty says both the Israeli Defence Force and armed Palestinian groups show an utter disregard for the lives of children and other civilians."
Below we present a comprehensive overview of the issue of child casualties, including 5 key points of background information:
Palestinian Children on the Front Lines
Military and PR Tactic
(3) Palestinian Culture of Martyrdom
(4) Violation of Human Rights
(5) IDF Response to Amnesty Report
Readers may also wish to refer to
http://www.opsick.com/, a website dedicated to stopping abuse of children in the Mideast conflict.
=1) PALESTINIAN CHILDREN ON THE FRONT LINES =
Justus Weiner has authored a comprehensive issue brief entailed, "The Recruitment of Children in Current Palestinian Strategy." Weiner is scholar in residence at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (http://www.jcpa.org/), headed by Dore Gold and Lenny Ben-David.
(To subscribe to the Jerusalem Issue Brief, please send a blank email message to:
Weiner cites recent examples of how Palestinian children and teenagers have assumed an integral role in the murder of Israeli civilians:
(1)February 2002 - Nora Shalhoob, a 16-yeaar-old Palestinian girl, was killed while charging a group of Israeli soldiers at a military checkpoint with a knife in her hand.
- March 2002 - A 16-year-old Palestinian girl named Ayat Akhras walked into a Jerusalem supermarket and detonated a bomb concealed under her clothing, killing two Israelis and wounding 22 others.
- April 2002 - 17-year-old Andaleeb Taqattaqah was recruited by a terror squad and sent to her death in a suicide attack on a crowded Jerusalem market.
- April 2002 - Three teenagers - Anwar Haamduna, Yusef Zakut, and Abu Nada - from Gaza, attempted to crawl under the perimeter fence and attack the residents of the Jewish community of Netzarim, only to be shot dead by guards.
- May 2002 - For over a month, Palestinian children as young as 10 barricaded themselves in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, alongside Palestinian gunmen.
May 2002 - A 16-year-old Palestinian boy was arrested in a taxi near Jenin with a suicide bomb on his body.
- June 2002 - A 15-year-old Palestinian girl, arrested for throwing a firebomb at IDF soldiers, admitted during interrogation that she had previously been recruited as a suicide terrorist.
- July 2002 - Israeli security forces arrrested another 15-year-old Palestinian girl who admitted to having agreed to carry out a suicide attack in Israel.
Early in the current intifada, Weiner notes, children acted as decoys, burning tires and shooting slingshots to attract TV cameras while making it harder for the world to identify the gunmen lying in ambush. Knowing that Israeli soldiers are ordered not to shoot live ammunition at children, Palestinian snipers hide among groups of youngsters, on rooftops or in alleys, often using kids as shields when aiming at exposed IDF soldiers. On some occasions, these gunmen apparently have inadvertently shot Palestinian children from behind.
USA Today correspondent Jack Kelley reported:
"Children serve as infantry in the confrontations between Israeli and Palestinian soldiers. In scenes reminiscent of Iranian children sent to the Iraqi front equipped with plastic keys to heaven, Palestinian children are sent close to Israeli positions with rocks and Molotov cocktails, while the gunmen and snipers fire from positions hundreds of yards back." (Oct. 23, 2000)
The Jordanian newspaper "Alrai" (citing an interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper "Alzaman" on 20 June 2002), quotes Abu Mazen, Deputy Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, who spoke of how Palestinian children are being exploited into carrying out terror attacks:
"At least 40 children from the city of Raphah have lost their arms as a result of the explosions of pipe bombs. They received five Israeli shekels (about one U.S. dollar) for throwing them." (see original article at
The Palestinian Authority has provided children with military training. The New York Times reports that 25,000 children were trained in the summer 2000 in PA camps in the use of firearms, the making of Molotov cocktails, the methods of kidnapping Israeli leaders, and conducting ambushes. (New York Times - Aug. 3, 2000)
The use of children reflects a long-time Palestinian strategy in the fight against Israel. In June 1982, the PLO issued a military call-up order for all boys aged 12 and older whose fathers served in Fatah units. The children were promised $80 a month and were attached to regular PLO battalions, each serving in his father's company.
===== (2) MILITARY AND P.R. TACTIC =====
A Palestinian Authority tactic is to encourage children to seek heroic Shahada (martyrdom) -- and then use the numbers of dead children in their PR war against Israel. Sam Kiley describes in The London Times:
"Since birth, Palestinian children have been pumped full of religious fundamentalism which promises paradise for those who die for the cause of free Palestine... Approving or not, the Palestinian authorities have done nothing to stop children playing with their lives. Let's face it, dead kids make great telly." ("A Deadly Game" - Oct. 19, 2000)
The average Western mind has trouble comprehending a society that might intentionally seek death, in order to advance a political cause. Reporters assume that if Palestinian children are being killed, it can only be Israel's fault.
Yet as Arafat adviser Bassam Abu Sharif told Time magazine: "If he knows he will achieve a political point that will get him closer to independence and if that will cost him 10,000 killed, he wouldn't mind."
Indeed, fault for most of these casualties lies strictly with the PA. Salah Shehadeh operated from a heavily populated neighborhood, precisely because he knew the civilians would serve as a human shield against any Israeli attempt to assassinate him. Writing in the NY Post, John Podhoretz explains:
"The Fourth Geneva Convention goes into great and elaborate detail about how to assign fault when military activities take place in civilian areas... Hamas is at war with Israel. But instead of separating themselves from the general population in military camps and wearing uniforms, as required by international law, Hamas members and other Palestinian terrorists try to use civilians -- the "protected persons" mentioned in [The Fourth Geneva Convention] 3:1:28 -- as living camouflage. To prevent such a thing from happening, international law explicitly gives Israel the right to conduct military operations against military targets under these circumstances."
Speaking about another region of the world, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said:
"Let there be no doubt, the responsibility for every casualty of this war, lies with the Taliban. They use civilians as human shields, and place their arsenal among their homes. We did not look to commence this conflict -- the war was thrown at us, and we are defending ourselves."
===== (3) PALESTINIAN CULTURE OF MARTYRDOM =====
In recent searches of Palestinian homes, the IDF has discovered disturbing "family photos": One shows a Palestinian baby with a semiautomatic pistol and machine gun, and another shows a baby wearing a pretend explosives belt with red wires strapped to his waist.
The Palestinian media is a primary vehicle used to promote the martyrdom of children. In Sept. 2002, the PA renewed broadcasting of one of the most odious PA video clips, the "Farewell Letter." In the clip, a child writes a farewell letter to his parents, glorifying his desire to die, and then places himself in front of Israeli soldiers during a violent riot where he is shot and dies, achieving his goal. The words are sung: " For my country, I shall sacrifice myself... How sweet is Shahada [martyrdom]... Be joyous over my blood and do not cry for me." (source: IMRA.org)
Another Palestinian Authority TV program clip, aimed at young viewers, features a boy killed in Gaza arriving in heaven where there are beaches, waterfalls, and a Ferris wheel. He is saying, "I am not waving goodbye, I am waving to tell you to follow in my footsteps." On the accompanying soundtrack, a song plays, "How pleasant is the smell of martyrs, how pleasant the smell of land, the land enriched by the blood, the blood pouring out of a fresh body."
Religious leaders also encourage the martyrdom of children. Sheik 'Ikrimi Sabri, the Palestinian Authority-appointed mufti of Jerusalem, declared: "I feel the martyr is lucky because the angels usher him to his wedding in heaven... The younger the martyr, the greater and the more I respect him." ("Al-Ahram Al-Arabi" - Oct. 28, 2000)
Parents are also portrayed in Palestinian society as supporting their children's death. "Al-Ayyam" newspaper quotes a mother who encouraged her sons to sacrifice themselves for Palestinian beliefs:
"The danger of injury to the boy Tzabar Ashkaram, 18, paralysis and permanent disability, just added to his mother's determination to encourage her sons to participate in the intifada riots... the fact of his injury by a live bullet did not cause her to mourn. She said she had previously lost her older son, Iyyad." (Nov. 1, 2000)
Another Palestinian mother was quoted in the London Times: "I am happy that [my 13-year-old son] has been martyred. I will sacrifice all my  sons and daughters to Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem."
BBC broadcast a video of a proud Palestinian mother embracing her son and sends him proudly on his way to kill Jews. "God willing you will succeed," she says. "May every bullet hit its target, and may God give you martyrdom. This is the best day of my life."
(All this makes one wonder about the sanctimonious pronouncements of Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi who, when asked about the Palestinian Authority dispatching children into battle with Israeli soldiers, angrily turned on her interviewer:
"They're telling us we are -- we have no feelings for our children? We're not human beings? We're not parents? We're not mothers or fathers? This is just incredible. I sometimes I say I don't want to sink to the level of responding, or proving I'm human. I mean, even animals have feelings for their children." ("60 Minutes," October 24, 2000)
Encouraging children to martyrdom extends into Palestinian classrooms and textbooks as well. Palestinian Brig. Gen. Mahmoud M. Abu Marzoug reminded a group of 10th grade girls in Gaza City that "as a martyr, you will be alive in Heaven." After the address, a group of these girls lined up to assure a Washington Post reporter that they would be happy to carry out suicide bombings or other actions ending in their deaths. (Washington Post - April 24, 2002)
Ramahan Sahadi Abed Rabbah, 13, when asked why he participated in clashes with soldiers, was quoted in "Al-Hayat" as saying, "My purpose is not to be wounded but something more sublime -- martyrdom." (Nov. 8, 2000)
The problem has infested all parts of Palestinian society. Suicide bombing is considered a source of neighborhood pride, as streets are named after the perpetrators of these atrocities. Signs on the walls of kindergartens proclaim their students as "the shaheeds [martyrs] of tomorrow." Some children draw pictures and fantasize about the day when they achieve their goal.
"When I become a martyr, give out Kannafa [sweet cake]," one 14-year-old boy was reported to have told his friends in the days prior to his death in the riots. A 12-year-old boy who died in the fighting was reported to have so yearned for martyrdom that he wrote his own death announcements on the walls of his home.
Under these cultural influences, many children readily admit that they want to become suicide bombers. In June 2002, a documentary on PA television presented a survey conducted by Dr. Fatsil Abu Hin, a lecturer in psychology in the Gaza Strip. He interviewed 996 children between the ages of nine to 17. Ninety percent expressed their desire to participate in intifada activities, and 73% expressed a desire to become martyrs.
"Muslim Fun," a CD-ROM produced in the UK, includes a game called "The Resistance" in which "you are a farmer in south Lebanon who has joined the Islamic Resistance to defend your land and family from the invading Zionists." The Islamic Fun Web site recommends the game for children ages five and up and says: "Your child will learn about Islam by playing lots of exciting games, full of colourful animations and cute sounds effects."
Palestinian children at the Balata camp have thrown away their Pokemon cards in favor of necklace-pendants with pictures of Palestinian suicide bombers. The children spend their meager allowances to collect and trade them, hunting for prized martyr pictures like a vintage baseball card.
One Palestinian parent told the Toronto Star (June 17, 2002): "I opened my son's closet and found it full of martyrs posters and necklaces. I said to him... `Ultimately, you'll be rewarded with your picture hanging from a necklace, and we will have lost a son.'"
"These children are convinced that martyrdom is a holy thing, something worthy of the ultimate respect," said Munir Jabal, head of a Balata teachers association. "They worship these pictures. I think it will lead them in the future to go out and do the same thing."
Weiner reports that a another reason Palestinian parents allow and even encourage their children to get involved is the financial incentive offered to families of "martyrs." Thus, the Palestinian Authority furnishes a cash payment -- $2,000 per child killed and $300 per child wounded. Saudi Arabia announced that it had pledged $250 million as its first contribution to a billion-dollar fund aimed at supporting the families of Palestinian martyrs.
In addition, the Arab Liberation Front, a Palestinian group loyal to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, pays generous bounties to the injured and the families of the dead according to the following sliding scale: $500 for a wound; $1,000 for disability; $10,000 to the family of each martyr; and $25,000 to the family of every martyr suicide bomber -- lavish sums, given the chronic unemployment and poverty of the majority of the Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
===== (4) VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS =====
Yet not everyone agrees with the PA's techniques of child abuse.
Fox News quotes Atta Sarasara, a father of a 16-year-old suicide bomber, who Fox says "is angry with not just the Israelis, but also with the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades for preying on impressionable teenagers and giving his son a bomb. 'They used a child. He was very kind, handsome, smart. They used him,' Sarasara said."
Sweden's Queen Silvia raised the issue at a meeting of the World Childhood Foundation at the United Nations. She strongly criticized Palestinian parents and leaders for "exploiting them [the children] and risking their lives in a political fight... As a mother, I'm very worried about this. I'd like to tell them to quit. This is very dangerous. The children should not take part." (Jerusalem Post - Nov. 27, 2000)
Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, Condoleezza Rice said:
"What does that picture of a baby dressed as a suicide bomber say about the hopes of Palestinians for life with the Israeli people as good neighbors? You know, we've all, in our lives, had experiences with hatred. I certainly have in Birmingham, Alabama. And it all starts with recognizing that the other person is human and deserves a future. If you're going to send your babies and your teenagers to kill other teenagers, something has broken down in this concept of humanity."
The editorial board of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram wrote:
"According to the AP, polls repeatedly have recorded majority Palestinian backing for suicide bombings, with a recent survey indicating more than 60 percent approval. In such an atmosphere, amid accounts of parents piously sanctioning the idea of their offspring becoming instruments of civilian death, perhaps the idea of an infant swaddled in guerrilla's clothes should not be so shocking after all."
For a comparative perspective on the Israeli attitude toward Palestinian children, the media can look at an event this week in Israel: A 7-year-old Palestinian girl from Jerusalem is recovering well after receiving a kidney from Jonathan Jesner, the Jewish student from Scotland who was killed in a recent Palestinian suicide bombing.
(Ironically, earlier this year, the Islamic Association for Palestine reported that Yasser Arafat "has accused the Israeli apartheid regime of murdering Palestinian children and youths and extricating their vital organs for organ transplants.")
Some Palestinian parents are speaking out as well. Abu Saber, the father of one suicide bomber, wrote a letter to the London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat:
"I ask, on my behalf and on behalf of every father and mother informed that their son has blown himself up: 'By what right do these leaders send the young people, even young boys in the flower of their youth, to their deaths?' Who gave them religious or any other legitimacy to tempt our children and urge them to their deaths?... The sums of money [paid] to the martyrs' families cause pain more than they heal; they make the families feel that they are being rewarded for the lives of their children... Do the children's lives have a price? Has death become the only way to restore the rights and liberate the land?
"And if this be the case, why doesn't a single one of all the sheikhs who compete amongst themselves in issuing fiery religious rulings, send his son? Why doesn't a single one of the leaders who cannot restrain himself in expressing his joy and ecstasy on the satellite channels every time a young Palestinian man or woman sets out to blow himself or herself up send his son?"
===== (5) IDF RESPONSE TO AMNESTY REPORT =====
Following are excerpts from the IDF response to Amnesty International's recent report. See the full response at:
The Palestinian terrorists are solely and unequivocally responsible for the injuries caused to Palestinian children. Since the beginning of the conflict two years ago, the Palestinian terrorist factions have cynically exploited children in terrorist activity, in violation of international law. Children are groomed and dispatched to carry out suicide attacks in the centers of the Israeli civilian population; positioned at the front lines of demonstrations to hide snipers behind them; and used to plant explosives and deliver weapons. Moreover, the terrorist factions have transformed Palestinian civilian population centers into terrorist activity headquarters.... Whoever uses children to perpetrate terror attacks, anyone who uses houses were children reside to coordinate and perpetrate attacks is responsible for injuring these children.
Authors of the Amnesty report compare IDF operations in which Palestinian children were killed to Palestinian terror attacks in which Israeli children were killed. This comparison is unjustified and baseless. Palestinian terror attacks, especially suicide bombings, are designated to cause the death of Israeli civilians, including children: this is ruthless, unprecedented, inhuman terror. On the other hand, IDF activity is conducted in accordance with the laws of war and is not aimed at injuring civilians. Injuries are occasionally sustained only because the Palestinian terrorists act from within centers of Palestinian civilian population. Hence, any comparison between the two is groundless, and indicates a fundamental lack of balance among authors of the report.
The authors falsely claim the IDF does not investigate incidents in which Palestinian children are injured, and grants impunity to soldiers involved. The truth is, however, that IDF commanders separately investigate each incident in which Palestinian civilians are injured. When suspicion of criminal misbehavior of the soldiers' side arises, the Military Police launches an inquiry. Since September 2000, the beginning of "Ebb and Flow", over 220 inquiries of the Military Police were launched, some of which regarding incidents in which Palestinian minors were injured.
For example, the Military Police launched inquiries over the deaths of Palestinian children near Khan Yunis on 22 November 2001, the youth Yasser Kassabi from Kalandia on 8 December 2001, the death of Muhamad Hassan Altalalaka near Beith Hanoun on 1 March 2002, the death of children in Jenin on 21 June 2002 and over other incidents. The claims that incidents are not investigated and soldiers enjoy impunity are falsified. The IDF owes its professionalism and power partly due to its willingness to engage in investigations and inquiries even in the midst of intense fighting.
Published: Sunday, October 06, 2002
Child Abuse in the Palestinian Authority
By Justus Weiner - October 2, 2002
From the outset of the current Palestinian intifada two years ago, children and teenagers have assumed an integral role. Regrettably, this role is not adequately addressed in the recent Amnesty International report entitled "Killing the Future Children in the Line of Fire."
Knowing that Israeli soldiers are ordered not to shoot live ammunition at children, and face disciplinary procedures or court martial for breaches, Palestinian snipers hide among youngsters or use them as human shields. Three recent developments are also notable:
Yasser Arafat's deputy, Abu Mazen, admitted to a Kuwaiti newspaper in June that Palestinian children have been paid NIS 5 (about $1) for every pipe bomb they throw.
Children have been increasingly mobilized during 2002 for suicide attacks; their parents have received cash payments from the Palestinian Authority, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
The attempt at a cover-up: The Palestinian Journalists' Association has warned members that they would be punished if they photographed armed children.
On March 30, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl named Ayat Akhras walked into a Jerusalem supermarket and detonated a bomb concealed under her clothing, killing two Israelis and wounding 22 others.
On April 23, three teenagers Anwar Hamduna, Yusef Zakut, and Abu Nada from Gaza, attempted to crawl under the perimeter fence and attack the residents of the nearby Jewish community of Netzarim, only to be shot dead by guards.
For over a month, Palestinian children as young as 10 barricaded themselves in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, alongside Palestinian gunmen.
In May, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was arrested in a taxi near Jenin with a bomb strapped to his body.
On June 13, a 15-year-old Palestinian girl, arrested for throwing a firebomb at IDF soldiers, admitted during interrogation that she had previously been recruited as a suicide terrorist.
On July 9, Israeli security forces arrested another 15-year-old Palestinian girl who admitted to having agreed to carry out a suicide attack in Israel.
These are some of the latest developments in the intifada, an unprecedented wave of ongoing attacks that has roiled the region for two years. Although some elements in Palestinian society oppose using children, or at least their children, in "martyrdom" operations, these voices remain isolated. IDF soldiers who participated in Operation Defensive Shield, for example, reported that children were sometimes left behind to trigger booby-traps that terrorists set for troops.
But why are these young people willing to throw away their lives?
Who led them to believe that assuming dangerous roles in the violence will result in improving their personal, family, and political situation?
How did the celebration of violence against Israelis become so deeply ingrained in Palestinian culture?
What cause, no matter how deeply held, can motivate a society to sacrifice its children, its future?
A Family's Badge of Pride
The pressure to sacrifice oneself in the intifada often originates at home. Stoked by Arafat's speeches lauding the role of children in the struggle and the importance of martyrdom, many Palestinian parents have come to view the role of youth in the uprising as useful and, indeed, honorable. Thus, after 15-year-old Ahmat Omar Abu Selmia was killed on his way to attack the Israeli community of Dugit, his father celebrated his "martyrdom" at a street festival attended by about 200 men.
Martyrs people who die for the sake of jihad (holy war) and Islam are held in such high regard by the Palestinian people that at times parents accept the death of their children as a badge of pride. Parents of toddlers proudly recount their little children saying they want to become martyrs, and a father of a 13-year-old said, "I pray that God will choose him" to be a martyr.
One mother told a journalist from The Times in London, "I am happy that he [her 13-year-old son] has been martyred. I will sacrifice all my sons and daughters (12 in all) to Al-Aksa and Jerusalem."
Another reason Palestinian parents allow and even encourage their children to get involved is the financial incentive offered to families of "martyrs." The PA furnishes a cash payment $2,000 per child killed and $300 per child wounded.
Saudi Arabia announced that it had pledged $250 million as its first contribution to a billion-dollar fund aimed at supporting the families of Palestinian martyrs.
In addition, the Arab Liberation Front, a Palestinian group loyal to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, pays generous bounties to the injured and the families of the dead according to the following sliding scale: $500 for a wound; $1,000 for disability; $10,000 to the family of each martyr; and $25,000 to the family of every martyr suicide bomber lavish sums, given the chronic unemployment and poverty of the majority of the Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
A Society that Sanctifies Death
Violent death is sanctified throughout the Palestinian areas. The streets are plastered with posters glorifying the exploits of individual suicide bombers. Children trade martyr cards, purchased at their local shops, instead of Pokemon or baseball cards, and necklaces with pictures of martyrs are also very popular.
One favorite wall slogan reads: "Beware of death by natural causes."
Suicide bombing is considered a source of neighborhood pride, as streets are named after the perpetrators of these atrocities. There is even a band named "The Martyrs," whose lyrics espouse the virtues of "sacrificing yourself for Allah."
Under these cultural influences, many children readily admit that they want to become suicide bombers. Some draw pictures and fantasize about the day when they will achieve their goal.
The young are taught that, as suicide bombers, they will ascend to a paradise of luxury staffed by 72 virgins waiting to gratify the martyrs as they arrive.
An American psychiatrist with 22 years of experience studying and treating suicidal patients stresses that suicide bombers both children and adults are "tools used by terrorist leaders" with "a whole culture encouraging [them] to die."
The PA the entity established, empowered, funded, and armed to carry out the Oslo peace process uses diverse vehicles to incite the youth to participate in anti-Israeli street violence and even outright terrorism.
Incitement in Palestinian society is both authoritative and omnipresent. Palestinian columnist Ashraf Al-Arjami agrees that the patriotism of Palestinian youth is being exploited, and the schools and mosques under Palestinian control are influencing the children.
The campaign to incite children emanates straight from the top of the PA. Documents signed with the PA emblem and Arafat's office feature inciting words referring to Israelis as "land plunderers" and "creators of international terror."
Arafat himself refers to the children as "the generals of the stones," playing to their pride and young egos.
In a PA-run summer camp, a New York Times reporter observed campers staging the kidnapping of Israeli leaders, stripping and assembling Kalashnikov assault rifles, and learning techniques for ambushes.
One PA television program clip, aimed at young viewers, features a boy killed in Gaza arriving in heaven where there are beaches, waterfalls, and a Ferris wheel. He is saying, "I am not waving goodbye, I am waving to tell you to follow in my footsteps." On the accompanying soundtrack a song plays, "How pleasant is the smell of martyrs, how pleasant the smell of land, the land enriched by the blood, the blood pouring out of a fresh body."
In an October 2001 interview in a PA-controlled newspaper, Youssef Jamah, the Palestinian minister of holy sites, stated, "The suicide bombings are a legitimate means through which the Palestinians fight the enemy....The attacks are the command of Allah."
Although some Islamic authorities oppose suicide bombing, Sheikh Ikrimi Sabri, the PA-appointed mufti of Jerusalem, said, "There is no doubt that a child [martyr] suggests that the new generation will carry on the mission with determination. The younger the martyr the greater and the more I respect him."
Not surprisingly, senior PA officials attend the funerals of the "martyrs."
Educating the "Martyrs of Tomorrow"
Even in the PA's public schools, incitement to violence plays a major role while interest in reconciliation with Israel is notably absent. The PA's deputy minister of education, Naim Abu Humus, called on school administrators to dedicate the first class to praying for the souls of those killed during the intifada, saying, "Today we glorify Al-Aksa and Palestine, and remember the Palestinian martyrs."
Signs on the walls of kindergartens proclaim their students as "the shaheeds [martyrs] of tomorrow," and elementary school teachers and principals commend their young students for wanting to "tear their [Zionists'] bodies into little pieces and cause them more pain than they will ever know."
Posters in university classrooms proudly remind the world that the Palestinian cause is armed with "human bombs."
Sheikh Hassan Yosef, a leading Hamas member, summarized this process of incitement by saying, "we like to grow them from kindergarten through college."
Palestinian Brig. Gen. Mahmoud M. Abu Marzoug reminded a group of 10th-grade girls in Gaza City that "as a martyr, you will be alive in Heaven."
After the address, a group of these girls lined up to assure a Washington Post reporter that they would be happy to carry out suicide bombings or other actions ending in their deaths.
These factors cumulatively explain why young Palestinians are so excited at the prospect of "martyrdom."
"When I become a martyr, give out Kannafa [sweet cake]," one 14-year-old boy was reported to have told his friends in the days prior to his death in the riots.
A 12-year-old boy who died in the fighting was reported to have so yearned for martyrdom that he wrote his own death announcements on the walls of his home. An injured 13-year-old boy was reported as having said, "My goal is not to be injured, but rather something higher martyrdom."
A 13-year-old girl from Egypt tried to sneak into Gaza in order to "join the Palestinian children in anything, even throwing stones."
A week earlier, a 12-year-old boy was stopped at the Israeli border after attempting the same thing.
But why does the PA encourage Palestinian children to become involved in this violence?
Clearly, sympathy for the Palestinian cause has been generated as Western media reports have often highlighted instances in which Palestinian children have been killed or injured by Israeli troops or policemen. These knee-jerk reports have generated criticism of Israeli policies, but few in the Western world have thought through the chaos they see on the television news to consider whose interests are served by the casualties.
Shoved into the Front Lines
There seems to be no end to the list of Palestinian children killed after being shoved into the front lines of the conflict by the Palestinian leadership. In February, Nora Shalhoob, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl, was killed while charging a group of Israeli soldiers at a military checkpoint with a knife in her hand.
Andaleeb Taqataqah was only 17 when she was recruited by a terror squad and sent to her death in a suicide attack on a crowded Jerusalem market on April 12.
As a result of the increasing frequency of such attacks, two points have become clear. The first is that Palestinian children and teenagers are lining up to throw their lives away, and the second is that there is an across-the-board effort by Palestinian leaders, parents, clerics, and educators to turn youthful energy into deadly violence.
And contrary to the above-mentioned Amnesty International's report, that apparently seeks to equate the killings of Palestinian and Israeli children, numerous dissimilarities cry out for attention.
To mention just a few:
Israeli parents are not paid rewards by their government or foreign governments when their children are wounded or killed.
IDF soldiers do not use Israeli children as human shields when they initiate a firefight with Palestinian gunmen.
There is no doctrine in Jewish law akin to that guaranteeing Muslim shaheeds that, after death, bountiful rewards await them in paradise.
Israeli schools and synagogues never brainwash children to undertake life-threatening violence against Palestinian civilians.
The government of Israel does not have thousands of armed terrorists on its payroll.
Israeli parents have never been quoted in the media urging their children to sacrifice their lives for a political or religious cause. Nor do they send their children to the front to riot before the television cameras.
Israeli summer camps do not indoctrinate children to kill or instruct them on how to ambush or use firearms.
Israeli television children's programming never features teachers smiling and clapping hands as their pupils sing of their intent to become martyrs.
Israeli children do not collect or exchange martyr cards, or listen to music by a group called "The Martyrs."
Senior Israeli political and religious figures do not laud, or pander to, children who engage in violence.
And most importantly, Israeli soldiers do not intentionally target Palestinian children (or others not involved in the violence), on buses, in restaurants, discos, etc.
Recently, six children armed with M-16 and Kalashnikov rifles took part in a pro-Iraq rally in the Gaza Strip. Exposed to such shocking images, including those of Palestinian toddlers wearing mock suicide bomber's vests, Western public opinion began to shift. Revulsion increasingly replaced curiosity.
But rather than fulfill its professional obligation to publicize newsworthy and controversial issues, in August, the Palestinian Journalists' Association warned its members that it would punish any journalist or photographer who took photographs of armed or masked Palestinian children. This intimidating message, which was faxed to journalists and news agencies, stated that Palestinian journalists employed by foreign news agencies are even responsible for making sure their colleagues act according to the warning. The association further added that it would not defend any journalists who do not implement the new policy, should the PA decide to punish them.
Blatant child abuse of this kind, and efforts to cover it up, would not be tolerated anywhere else in the civilized world. Where are the children's welfare advocates to condemn the practices that poison the minds and imperil the bodies of young Palestinians?
The writer is an adjunct lecturer at the Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University and a scholar in residence at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. This article was adapted from a paper published by the Institute for Contemporary Affairs, a joint project of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Wechsler Family Foundation.
©2002 - Jerusalem Post
The World Calls on Arafat: Stop the Abuse of Children
The sight of children caught up in the turmoil and conflict has led some of the world’s leading children’s advocates to call on the Palestinians to stop sending their children into harms way.
Sweden's Queen Silvia raised this issue at a meeting of the World Childhood Foundation at the United Nations in September. She strongly criticized Palestinian parents and leaders for “exploiting them [the children] and risking their lives in a political fight… As a mother I'm very worried about this. I'd like to tell them to quit. This is very dangerous. The children should not take part." Cited by Gerald Steinberg, “Child Sacrifice is Palestinian Paganism,” Jerusalem Post, October 27, 2000
Carol Bellamy, UNICEF Executive Director, issued a statement on October 12 to the Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights regarding the situation in the Middle East. The statement called on both parties in the current conflict to protect children from violence, called on the Israeli authorities to immediately ensure that children under 18 years of age are not targeted in the conflict, and called on the Palestinian Authority to take energetic measures to discourage those under 18 years of age from participating in any violent action -- because such action places them at risk.
Doctors Opposed to Child Sacrifice, a group of some 200 American pediatricians, issued a statement at the end of November, 2000, which calls on "all parents and governments to bring an end to their children's participation in non-peaceful demonstrations." The statement singled out the PA as a prime offender and called on the international community "to make a strong statement against this outrage."
"We believe that it is in the best interest of the healthy development of children to teach and model non-violent methods of conflict resolution," the statement said. "Governments that encourage or permit children to participate in violence, to further political aims, are practicing a form of societal abuse." Janine Zacharia, “Jerusalem Post, November 27,
The conditions of both Palestinian and Israeli children have deteriorated sharply in the last two years, as a result of the Palestinian Intifada and the escalation of violence and terror attacks. In addition to the pain and suffering of children on both sides, there is also concern about the long term psychological damage that may result from the trauma of witnessing violence either first hand or as a result of a family or loved one’s involvement.
Because of the innate importance of children to the future of the Middle East, The Prism Group undertook an extensive study to examine the impact two years of violence has had on the children of the Middle East. While the study will be released shortly, this Fact Sheet presents an overview of some of our findings, including:
Children Growing Up With Violence
The International Covenant of Children's Rights condemns the recruitment of children under age 18 in armed conflicts. Yet contrary to this basic tenet, Palestinian children are deliberately being raised in a culture of violence and hate. The instances of proof are many and varied. Following are but a few examples:
The BBC has videotaped Islamic Jihad-sponsored summer camps where children as young as eight receive paramilitary training. In contravention of normal humane standards, children are taught that after a person becomes a suicide bomber, he reaches the highest level of paradise. Such ingrained hatred leads to the glorification of violence and martyrdom, and the willingness to kill others for the perceived benefit of spiritual immortality. Children of a very young age, and even babies, have been dressed and photographed as suicide bombers by their parents.
Abu Mazen, a senior official within the Palestinian Authority, admitted that children have been paid approximately $1 for every pipe bomb they throw. According to Abu Mazen, at least 40 children have lost arms when throwing these bombs. (Alzamim [a Kuwiati newspaper] June 20, 2002)
Incitement to violence is rife throughout the Palestinian Authority school system. School textbooks encourage hatred and extol "martyrdom". Signs are posted on the walls of kindergartens praising their students as "the shaheeds [martyrs] of tomorrow". Elementary school teachers and principals commend students for wanting to "tear their [Zionists'] bodies into little pieces and cause them more pain than they will ever know."
How can this be considered acceptable, a society that encourages its children to die? The Palestinian leadership must be brought to account.
Circumstances Surrounding the Deaths and Injury to Children
A study of the circumstances surrounding the deaths and injury of Palestinian and Israeli children shows that the settings in which these deaths and/or injuries took place differ extensively. It cannot be ignored that there have been scattered instances of Palestinian children killed as innocent bystanders. And yet, the vast majority of Palestinian children have been tragically killed during confrontations with the IDF. Exact numbers are unavailable, but educated estimates set the number of killed in this manner at around 200.
How did these children come to be exposed to danger? Why are Palestinian children allowed to confront a military force? Why are they present among rioters, snipers, and terrorists? And how is the press always in "the right place at the right time" to photograph such acts of false heroism? Unfortunately, these very reasonable questions have not as yet been answered – neither by the Palestinian Authority nor by the families of the victims themselves.
Exploitation of Children for Political Gain
The cynical use of children extends to many other spheres.
There is mounting evidence that Palestinian children have been exploited by elements within the Palestinian leadership, in order to manipulate media images, deliberately being sent to the front lines of the conflict. For example, there is documented television footage revealing that Palestinian snipers have repeatedly used children as human shields when shooting at the IDF. By contrast, Israeli soldiers have standing orders not to shoot live ammunition at children.
Cash incentives have been provided to the parents of children wounded or killed as "martyrs."
Iraq's Saddam Hussein increased his financial pledge to Palestinian families of suicide bombers from $10,000 to $25,000. (Associated Press, April 3,2002)
This is coupled to a social approval so powerful that when 15-year-old Ahmat Omar Abu Selmia was killed on his way to attack the Israeli community of Dugit, his father celebrated his "martyrdom" at a street festival attended by about 200 men.
Intentional Targeting of Children
Hundreds of Israeli children have been killed or maimed since September 27, 2000. In many cases, these children were merely engaging in everyday activities, such as riding in a bus to school, eating at a restaurant with their parents, playing in a kindergarten or simply queuing to enter a discotheque on the weekend. A more comprehensive list is available in The Prism Groups extensive study on The Children of the Intifada.
What links these incidents is that the targets were picked as “soft” and unprotected. Nothing can justify these acts of violence, which strike at the core of reasonable Western values.
The most vulnerable and valuable segment of any society is its children; every effort should be made to afford them the protection promised in the United Nations' Declaration of the Rights of the Child. The Palestinian educational system is in urgent need of reform in order to break the endless cycle of hatred. The exploitation of Palestinian children on the battlefield must be stopped.
It is vital that all children, both Palestinian and Israeli, grow up free of violence and hate. This is the key to a true and lasting peace in the future.
Palestinian child abuse
Lord Weidenfeld on Syrian education
The PA schoolbook and the Palestinian charter
Palestinians revoke the Palestinian charter
Palestinian press freedom
The Palestinian suicide strategy
Jesus was a Palestinian
Palestinian reactions to the Lebanon war 2006.