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The Palestinian children of Gaza are playing. “Let’s play the Shahid (Martyr) game”, calls 7 year old Nada to her friends.” They fetch an old sheet and spread it on the ground. “You were the shahid yesterday, it’s my turn”, cries 6 year old Fa’iz to his friend. “Today I will be the one to die”, he lies down on the sheet. Nada plays Mother of the Shahid. She cries and screams as the others bear Fa’iz in his death sheets. The children walk, shouting “Alahu Akbar, make way for the shahid” as they brandish plastic Kalashnikovs, imitating the funerals they see daily.
So reads an account printed in the official Palestinian Authority (P.A.) daily paper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on December 26th 2001. The article explains that similar scenes happen every day in Palestinian communities. It goes on to lament that psychologists are concerned that the new generation will evolve even more violent and frustrated than the last.
There has long been a strand in Islam that glorifies martyrdom for the cause of Allah. As Dr Ismail al-Radouan put it in his Friday sermon, broadcast on P.A. TV on August 17th 2001, “The prophet Muhammad said, those of your children who does this and is killed, it is Allah’s obligation to grant him entrance to paradise… When the shahid meets his Maker, all sins are forgiven from the first gush of blood, and he is exempted from the torments of the grave; he sees his place in paradise, he is shielded from the great shock, and marries 72 virgins… The obligation of the Islamic nation is to open the gates of Jihad, the very Jihad that has glory for this nation and honour for the Muslim nation.”
All religions have extremist strands, yet they are invariably small and restricted, almost exclusively, to adults. A recent poll conducted by Palestinians, amongst Palestinian children and reported in the Palestinian, Al-Ayyam Supplement of January 24th 2002, declared that “72% of the children sampled from all the districts of Gaza expressed the hope of becoming Martyrs in clashes with the occupation forces.”
So how is it that, whilst the children of other nations are obsessed with nothing more ominous than the Teletubbies and Britney Spears, Palestinian children have become politicised to the extent that their greatest dream is to kill themselves for the cause?
Itamar Marcus, Director of Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli-funded* service that monitors all the Palestinian media, says he has the answer. Marcus argues that the P.A. long ago realised that they would never be able to defeat Israel militarily. So they, coldly and quite cynically, embarked on a propaganda campaign to push their children into the front line of confrontation with Israeli soldiers.
He offers the following evidence.
Marcus says the exhortation to kill oneself for the cause is an intrinsic part of the education for children as provided in P.A. schools.
“Shahada is that a Moslem dies for Allah… One who dies in such a way is called a Shahid… Shahada for Allah is the aspiration of those who believe in Him and those who trust his promises … the Shahid is happy for the paradise that Allah promises him…”
(page 112, Islamic Education for 7th grade).
“I will take my soul in my hand and toss it into the abyss of death.
And then, either life that will gladden friends or death that will anger the enemy.
The honourable soul has two objectives: Achieving death and honour.”
(‘Song of the Martyr’ recited by schoolgirls. It appears in 5th, 6th and 12th grade P.A. school books and was broadcast on P.A. TV on 27th October 2000).
Palestinian newspapers are a rich source of encouragement for children to martyr themselves. The following were all in the official P.A. daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida.
“The Boy Martyr Karam Al-Kard (age 12) announced of his own death on the walls of his home…” “Prior to his being injured … Karam announced his own death on the walls of his home and attributed to himself Martyrdom and its honour, in his handwriting on the walls. The notice read ‘The Al-Kard family announces the death of its courageous Martyr Karam Fat’he Al-Kard…” (Nov. 30, 2000)
“The injured (boy) Alfayumi (11) says that being killed as a shahid for Allah and the motherland is an obligation of every Palestinian.” (Nov. 6, 2000)
“The best Mother’s Day present I got this year was the death as a Martyr of Abbas.” (The mother of Abbas Al Awiwi, March 21, 2001)
“…Hullah Badir (an 8 year old girl): ‘we must fight and die to get what we want’.” (Al-Ayyam Nov. 2, 2000)
Some of the most blatant and effective exhortations for children to embrace violence and death have come from the screen of P.A. TV. In one clip we see child actors take their toys, dramatically throw them to the ground and pick up rocks instead. The voice-over intones, “The time for peace is over, the time for talking has ended” (P.A. TV, May 2, 2001)
In another clip, broadcast nearly every day last year, actors act out a scene where a boy writes a farewell letter to his father, then cycles off to martyrdom. The screen voice recites the text of the letter, “Do not be sad, my dear, and do not cry over my parting, O my dear father, for my country, the shahada … for my country I will sacrifice myself… How sweet is martyrdom when I embrace thee O my land.”
The most famous sequence is of the child Muhammad Al-Dura, who was filmed by TV cameras as he was caught in a cross-fire between Israeli and Palestinian forces and killed. His death and his image have become symbols of the ‘intifada’ in Palestinian society. In one clip broadcast regularly on P.A. TV, a child actor acts out what is supposedly the boy’s idyllic after-life in paradise. The writing on the screen says, “I’m not waving ‘goodbye’, I’m waving ‘come, follow me’. (signed) Muhammad Al-Dura”
The message from Palestinian political leaders is equally uncompromising. Following the death of Wafa Idris, the first woman suicide bomber, Fatah led a demonstration of young, elementary school girls carrying posters of the young woman. The text on the posters read, “The Fatah Movement … proudly eulogize their heroine Martyr, from the Alamari refugee camp, the martyr Wafa Idris.”
Marcus says that he can understand the view of some of those in Europe and the US, who argue that it is nothing to do with them and that it is just Jews and Arabs killing each other, as they have done for centuries. However, he points to far more sinister evidence. The sermons of the mullahs.
“Allah willing … Israel will be erased. This oppressing state, America, shall be erased, the oppressing state Britain shall be erased, who brought this Naqba (catastrophe – Israel’s creation) of this nation…” (Dr Muhammad Ibrahim Maadi, Friday sermon, P.A. TV, June 8, 2001).
“We are counting on you our Lord… that you will protect Al-Aqza from the occupation … Allah! Destroy the occupation and its supporters and its collaborators. Allah! Destroy America and its supporters and collaborators. Allah! Destroy Britain and its supporters and collaborators.” (Sheikh Ikrime Al Sabri, Mufti of Jerusalem and the P.A., Friday sermon, Voice of Palestine, Aug. 24, 2001).
And almost as a postscript to September 11th, “The infidel countries, led by the United States, invented … the justification for their dirty war against Islam, Muslims, and Islamic movements all over the world… The US, who used its criminal agression against Afghanistan with the most destructive bombs… Criminal Britain, who was directly responsible for the creation of this corrupt entity on Palestinian land … is demanding that the Palestinians destroy its Islamic groups. Britain has forgotten that it is at the peak of terrorism and hatred against Islam and Muslims…” (Sermon, Al Aqsa Mosque, Dec. 28 2001).
In conclusion, Marcus argues that it isn’t only Israel in the firing line of Islamic terror. “The Palestinians have been successful beyond their wildest dreams in mass producing suicide terrorists, but the experiment is out of control”, he says. “The world should recognise the threat posed by these young men who would kill themselves and others for their cause. After all, aren’t they precisely the sort of people who flew the planes into the twin towers.”
*Palestinian Media Watch is an independent, non-profit organization that receives no funding from the Government of Israel. The Sunday Express is mistaken in this article.

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