What kind of a society consciously and purposely sacrifices its own youth for political gain and tactical advantage? Suicide bombers are an escalation of a small-arms war introduced during the first Intifada (1987-1993 Palestinian’s uprising) and championed by Palestinian leaders, even prior to Arafat’s arrival from Tunis in July 1994. Today the overwhelming majority of Palestinian Arabs nurture a blind hatred of Israel. They created a cultural milieu of vengeance, violence and death – preparing their children to be sacrifices in a death cult. Proud parents dress up their toddlers not in clown costumes, but with suicide belts,1 and countless others celebrate their children’s deaths with traditional sweet holiday cakes and candies.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas applauds girl chanting on death as a Martyr
Palestinians are killing their children because they make effective delivery systems for killing Israelis. They also sacrifice them because wounded or dead children paint Israelis as heartless and cruel in the eyes of the world and the Israelis themselves
Five months into the first Intifada in 1988, a Palestinian leader told an Israeli reporter: “We will make you cruel.” He said the use of women and children on the front lines, leading violent riots, would make Israelis look bad in the eyes of the world and make the Israelis hate themselves because Israel is morally sensitive.
In the first Intifada, the strategy of sending children into battle worked on both fronts: it produced painful headlines and anguished Israelis, leading to negative coverage of Israel abroad, including articles by American Jews who worried that Israel was losing its soul. The feeling of having been ‘tainted’ was reflected in a letter sent by an Israeli medic in the reserves to MK Haim Oron, writing that while his unit’s behavior was devoid of any case where “soldiers or officers stepped out of bounds,” the unpleasant task of apprehending rock-throwing youth was unbearable. “But now the Palestinians hate me and I hate myself. So what the hell do I do?”
While the mobilization of children on the front lines did not have the effect Palestinians ultimately sought – a unilateral Israeli withdrawal without peace – Palestinians did note the success the strategy had in demonizing Israel in the eyes of the world and the Israelis themselves. This so-called success encouraged Palestinians to enlarge the role of their children by using them as human shields, direct combatants and suicide bombers and by glorifying, rather than mourning, their deaths.
As long as the deaths of children serve the Palestinian cause, Palestinian leaders will continue to employ this strategy. If deploying Palestinian children as combatants and targeting Israeli children is to halt, the world community must take a clear moral stand.
The death of Arab children on the front lines – extolled as shahids or martyrs – has become a cynical weapon in the arsenal of Arab leaders. They have learned that when their children are killed, they gain world sympathy, especially in Europe and North America – where the death of any child is viewed as a tragedy and portrayed as such in the media, regardless of circumstance.
In January 1990, at the close of the second year of the first Intifada, an Israeli journalist wrote of the sacrifice of Palestinian children and what seems to fuel it:
“The numbers are horrendous. However these child victims of the Intifada are not targets. They are weapons. Few … in the West stop to ask – Who sends children to the front with coffins on their shoulders and potentially lethal projectiles in their hand? … The Intifada is unconventional warfare, using women and children as weapons, because it is a psychological war … [for] the hearts and minds of world opinion … to erode traditional support of Israel by the diaspora … to victimize Israelis by manipulating moral sensibilities inherent in Jewish ethics and Western society to undermine motivation and paralyze the Israeli body politic by systematic de-legitimization of our self-image … The only way to break this brutal and vicious circle and put an end to Palestinian moral-mental blackmail is to get to the source and recognize that the youthful victims and their elder victimizers hail from the same camp.”
Not much has changed since then except that the Palestinians’ exploitation of children has reached new heights. Their 1988 threat to Israel – “We will make you cruel” – hangs in the air. With sometimes 20 or more tips of planned terrorist attacks in their final stage of execution every day, Israelis are forced, against their will and against their humanitarian instincts, to take extreme measures to protect their own children from these onslaughts. Perversely, Israel is condemned for protecting herself from these lethal ‘children.’ To add insult to injury, the hapless victims are often not mentioned by name in the world press – not even in short obituaries – while the young perpetrators are the focus of compassionate coverage, with long, empathetic profiles like the one about the suicide bomber in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. It described the killer as a person who “raised doves and adored children.”
A 2002 Washington Post editorial headlined “Death Wish,” following a conference in which 57 Islamic nations rejected the idea that Palestinian ‘resistance’ to Israel had anything to do with terrorism, said:
“In effect, the Islamic conference sanctioned not only terrorism but also suicide as a legitimate political instrument…. It is hard to imagine any other grouping in the world’s nations that could reach such a self-destructive and morally repugnant conclusion.”
The Post castigated Muslim states and suggested their behavior was liable to be the seeds to their own destruction. It concluded:
“The Palestinian national cause will never recover – nor should it – until its leadership is willing to break definitely with the bombers.