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Editorial: Asking for Death

The soldiers who pursued two terrorists who had infiltrated Netzarim in the Gaza Strip on Saturday night probably thought the attack they were attempting to foil was like any other. It was, except for this: the attackers were children, aged 14 and 17.
The children had walked through the main gate of the settlement and began by attempting to stab a 12-year-old boy. The two were quickly caught and are being treated in an Israeli hospital for minor wounds.
How is it that an eighth-grader ends up armed with a mission to kill and be killed?
The first thought that may come to mind is that this is some freak occurrence, a tragic but haphazard result of ongoing war. It is not. As impossible as it may be to believe, it is the result of a systematic attempt to indoctrinate a generation of children to love death even more than they love life.
For over two years, official Palestinian television, newspapers, and textbooks have taught children as young as six years old that the greatest aim of their life should be to become a shahid (martyr). The footage that has been broadcast on a daily basis by Palestinian television must be seen to be believed. Anyone interested - and every UN and European agency that funds the Palestinian Authority should be - can see the following broadcasts at Palestinian Media Watch (
· scenes of children playing and of dead children, ending with a screen that reads, ‘Ask for death, the life will be given to you.’
· the story of a schoolboy who goes to school, leaving his father with a letter that is set to music. The letter reads: ‘Do not be sad, my dear, and do not cry over my parting, oh my dear father. For my country, shahada [martyrdom]… How sweet is shahada, when I embrace you oh my land!’ The clip ends with the boy falling dead and ‘embracing’ the land.
· a film of a child actor playing Muhammad al-Dura, the most famous child victim of the fighting. The narrator says ‘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.’ The child is waving and a caption says, ‘I am waving to you not to part, but to say follow me.’
The phenomenon of suicide bombing is generally associated with groups that are supposedly at odds with the Palestinian Authority, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But the fact is it is the PA that has been pummeling Palestinian children with a constant, multi-layered message that martyrdom is their highest calling.
In addition to the idealization of death on official television, the PA’s official textbooks, teachers, parents, religious leaders, and Yasser Arafat himself have all joined behind this common aim.
Fifth-grade textbooks depict dead children draped in a Palestinian flag, with a poem to death: ‘…I hasten my steps toward it … this is the death of men, and who asks for a noble death, here it is.’
A teacher is quoted in the PA newspaper about a ninth grader who is killed: ‘Wajdi asked me to give out cake if he becomes a shahid … his classmates swore that they would continue in the path of shahada.’
On January 15, 2002, Arafat gave this message on PA television to Palestinian children, ‘This child [Faris Ouda, 14] who is grasping the stone facing the tank, is it not the greatest message to the world when that hero becomes a shahid? We are proud of them.’ Arafat continued to refer to Ouda as an icon for emulation, ‘Oh children of Palestine! The peers of Faris Ouda … represent this immense and fundamental power that is within, and it will be victorious’ (PA TV, August 18, 2002).
In addition to the Palestinian media, political and religious leaders who extol martyrdom, and even the child’s last refuge, the parents, have been drafted to the cause. Palestinian media highlight every parent who celebrates the death of their own children - including clips of a mother sending off her 17-year-old son who later killed five Israeli teenagers, and explaining afterward, ‘How? Because I love my son and want to choose what is best for him.’
Child abuse is normally thought of as among the most abhorrent crimes. There are examples of abuses committed on a society-wide basis. It is hard to imagine another society in history, however, that has so systematically attempted to brainwash its children into loving death and murder. A society that condones transforming its own children into weapons has reached new depths of evil. It is unclear how this society will react not only to losing its war to destroy Israel, but an entire generation dedicated to that project.