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Arafat’s role-modeling of 14-year-old “Martyr” remains central to PA ideology

Nan Jacques Zilberdik  |

2002 and 2003:

  • Arafat taught “children of Palestine” that 14-year-old child Martyr was their role model:
    “We salute the spirit of our heroic Martyr, Faris Ouda!” 

 2021:

  • PA continues to glorify the 14-year-old’s Martyrdom “fighting” Israel

At the beginning of the PA’s 5-year terror campaign, the second Intifada (2000-2005), 14-year-old Faris Ouda died as a “Martyr” when he participated in violent confrontations with the Israeli army. After his death, the family and the PA publicized that Faris had deliberately sought Martyrdom and even created his own memorial in advance:

“The morning [he died], Faris went out early from his home carrying a slingshot in his hand after preparing for himself a wreath of flowers, decorating it with his picture, and writing by hand: ‘Heroic Martyr Faris Ouda.’”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 30, 2000]

Yasser Arafat, then PA leader and orchestrator of the terror, saw Faris Ouda’s deliberate Martyrdom-death as a fantastic opportunity that could serve him a dual purpose:

  1. He could turn child Martyr Faris Ouda into a role model and promote Martyrdom-death as an ideal for all Palestinian children.
     
  2. The more children that would follow their “peer” Faris to Martyrdom, the stronger the political messages Arafat was able to send not only to Palestinians but also to the international community: To his own people the child Martyrs would brand Palestinians as “the people of giants”; to the world he could brand Israelis as murderers of innocent children.

At the time, Palestinian Media Watch exposed that Arafat presented Faris Ouda to children as a “hero” to be “saluted.” He made sure other children would see themselves as potential Martyrs like Faris, calling him their “comrade,” telling them they were his “peers, friends, brothers and sisters.” The children in the audience responded enthusiastically, chanting one of Arafat’s slogans: “Millions of Martyrs are marching to Jerusalem!”:

PA Chairman Yasser Arafat: “Oh children of Palestine!
The peers, friends, brothers, and sisters of Faris Ouda.
Faris Ouda and his peers - the Martyrs of this nation - represent this hidden, great, and deep-rooted power. It shall be victorious, it shall be victorious, Allah willing.
Onward together to Jerusalem!
Onward together to Jerusalem!”

Children shout: “Onward together to Jerusalem!
Millions of Martyrs are marching to Jerusalem!”

[Official PA TV, Aug. 18, 2002]

Two years into the terror campaign, Arafat openly bragged that dead Palestinian children had proved to be a “great message” of heroism - to the world and to Palestinians. Instead of mourning the dead children, Arafat told the media he was “proud of them,” indicating that all Palestinians ought to feel such pride:

Interviewer: "Mr. President, what message would you like to send to the Palestinian people, in general, and in particular to the Palestinian children?"
Arafat: "This child, who is grasping the stone, facing the tank – is it not the greatest message to the world when that hero becomes a Martyr? We are proud of them."

[Official PA TV, Jan. 15, 2002]

Arafat continued to use dead Faris Ouda as a role model to Palestinian children and they in turn continued to respond eagerly, reciting slogans glorifying death for “Palestine”:

Children shout: “With spirit, with blood, we will redeem you, Palestine!
Millions of Martyrs are marching to Jerusalem!”

Arafat: “We are proud of you. We are proud of this growing generation that represents... the resolve and the sacrifice, and the self-sacrifice that was exemplified by your comrade, the hero Martyr, Faris Ouda!”

[Official PA TV, July 22, 2003]

Arafat: “We salute the spirit of our heroic Martyr, the spirit of our heroic Martyr, the spirit of our heroic Martyr Faris Ouda!”

[Official PA TV, Aug. 4, 2003]

Now, 21 years after the child’s Martyrdom-death, the PA still glorifies “Martyr” Faris Ouda as an unselfish boy who altruistically sacrificed himself and became a hero. A hero whose poster Palestinians would buy in the thousands, and a Martyr hero who was embraced by Arafat who “repeated his name again and again.” This is the way WAFA, the official PA news agency, in 2021 describes the 14-year-old who chose death:

For nothing in return he gave us an incredible picture of a child fighting dozens of Israeli tanks with rocks – and then he was shot and executed. Martyr Yasser Arafat repeated his name – Martyr Faris Ouda – again and again, and connected his name with his famous saying: ‘The people of giants’ …

In conclusion, we remind [readers] that the poster of Faris standing in front of the tank was printed many times. One of these times the number of copies was 150,000. They all disappeared within days because the public hurried to buy them.”

[WAFA, official PA news agency, Nov. 7, 2021]

Last year, PMW exposed similar praise for Faris Ouda, when a Fatah spokesman singled him out as a role model, still valid for PA/Fatah leaders 20 years later:

Official Fatah Spokesman Osama Al-Qawasmi: “This is the land of Palestine. Whoever remembers Faris Ouda and ‘the children of the rocks’ knows that this people is great… This people is fighting… Israel doesn’t frighten us – not with its armored vehicles and not with its planes... We have the Palestinian will. We have the Palestinian honor… The image of Faris Ouda standing opposite the tank – Israel needs to remember it well.”

[Official PA TV, June 12, 2020]

The following are longer excerpts of the reports cited above:

Headline: “Faris Ouda – 21 years since the struggle with the Merkava [tank]”

“An’am Ouda, the mother of Faris [Ouda] (i.e., teen who died while participating in violent confrontations against Israel), told [the official PA news agency] WAFA on the 21st anniversary of his death as a Martyr that will take place tomorrow, Monday, Nov. 8, [2021]… that his cousin Shadi died as a Martyr several days before him…

She added: ‘We finished mourning over Shadi, and we opened a mourner’s [house] for Faris. He took a wreath from Shadi’s grave and hid it under the staircase, and he asked the photographers to photograph him in the confrontations in his last days to print a picture for him. One of the photographers brought a picture of Faris throwing rocks at tanks to our home. I took it with concern and hid it so that his father would not see it. When I asked him what the story of the wreath and picture is, he said “I brought them for the day of my death as a Martyr”’…

Faris, whose mother An’am brought him back dozens of times from the sites of confrontation, and whom the entire family lay in wait for him to prevent him from going to throw rocks, stood in front of a procession of Israeli tanks…

The ban – and sometimes even beatings – did not stop him from coming out to the confrontations. On the day of his death as a Martyr they locked him at home, and he went out through the window and down a pipe. Thus for nothing in return he gave us an incredible picture of a child fighting dozens of Israeli tanks with rocks – and then he was shot and executed. [Former PLO and PA President] Martyr Yasser Arafat repeated his name – Martyr Faris Ouda – again and again, and connected his name with his famous saying: ‘The people of giants’ …

In conclusion, we remind [readers] that the poster of Faris standing in front of the tank was printed many times. One of these times the number of copies was 150,000. They all disappeared within days because the public hurried to buy them.”

[WAFA, official PA news agency, Nov. 7, 2021]

Faris Ouda - 14-year-old ‎Palestinian who was presented by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat as a role model for ‎Palestinian children because he sought and achieved death as a "Martyr" ‎in confrontations with Israel during the PA’s 5-year terror campaign. According to his family and the official PA daily, on Nov. 8, ‎‎2000, the day he was killed, before heading towards the areas where ‎Palestinian and Israelis were involved in fighting, Ouda left a wreath ‎around his picture in his room with the words: "Heroic Martyr Faris ‎Ouda." [Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 30. 2000] The PA daily wrote that Ouda had said to his ‎mother, "Don't be afraid, mother, Martyrdom (Shahada) is sweet, and I’m an atonement for the Al-Aqsa Mosque." [Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 3, 2001]

Yasser Arafat – Founder of Fatah and former chairman of the PLO and PA. During the 1960s, 70s and 80s Arafat was behind numerous terror attacks against Israelis. Although he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 together with then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres “for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East" after signing the Oslo Accords peace agreement, Arafat launched a 5-year terror campaign - the second Intifada (2000-2005) – in which more than 1,000 Israelis were murdered. Arafat died of an illness in 2004.

Headline: “Faris Ouda shocked the world when he came out against a tank”

“An’am Ouda, the mother of Martyr Faris [Ouda] (i.e., 14-year-old who sought Martyrdom by participating in violent riots against Israel), received the nickname ‘Um Al-Sa’id’ (i.e., “the mother of the happy one,” indicating that her son is a “Martyr” in Paradise)…

Faris was a normal child… who liked debka dances (i.e., Arab folk dance), sports, and religious lessons, until his cousin Shadi was shot by the occupation and died as a Martyr at Al-Muntar Crossing (i.e., Karni Crossing)… His mother said: ‘A day before his [Faris’] death as a Martyr I saw a picture of him standing in front of a tank on TV, and I asked him not to do that again, because if he did his father would hit him and he wouldn’t get his allowance.’ …[Faris] said that his cousin Martyr Shadi came to him in a dream and asked him to take revenge, and it was the same dream that came to his mother one night when Martyr Shadi came to her in a dream and asked her to let Faris go to the Al-Muntar Crossing.

‘Um Al-Sa’id’ said about this: ‘I had not yet recovered from the shock of losing my sister’s son, Martyr Shadi, and therefore I begged him [Faris] not to go to Al-Muntar, and many times I chased after him there and brought him home.’

The morning [he died], Faris went out early from his home carrying a slingshot in his hand after preparing for himself a wreath of flowers, decorating it with his picture, and writing by hand: ‘Heroic Martyr Faris Ouda.’”

 [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 30, 2000]

Headline: “Faris Ouda, the Martyr of the Zionist tank – the story of the child who ran towards the Israeli tanks”

“The first Intifada (i.e., Palestinian wave of violence and terror against Israel, approximately 200 Israelis murdered, 1987-1993)

I first asked Faris [Ouda’s] (i.e., teen who died while participating in violent riots against Israel) mother about his childhood, and she said: ‘Faris participated in the [first] Intifada and threw rocks. I told him: “A rock can’t do anything.” He answered: “My rock is a bomb and it will blow up the Jews.”’ …

His mother said: ‘Faris asked his aunt [whose son Shadi died in confrontations] for the wreath of flowers that we had previously placed on the body of Martyr Shadi, and she gave it to him. My heart shrunk when I saw it, and I asked him: “Why did you bring the wreath, Faris?” He said: “In order to put my picture in it.” I shouted: “What picture?” He said: “The picture of Martyr Faris.” I started to beg him to return the wreath to his aunt and told him our hearts are burning because of his cousin. [I said:] “Don’t scare me!” He answered: “Don’t be afraid, mother. Martyrdom is sweet, and I’m an atonement for the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” When he said that I cried and told him: “You are 14, you’re still young.” He said: “No, I am more than 20 (sic.), and I want to put my picture in the wreath.” …And indeed, we put the wreath at his funeral, after he hid it on the roof of our house.’ …

[Faris’ father said:] ‘Allah be praised, Faris became a Martyr.’”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 3, 2001]

The following is a longer excerpt of Arafat’s speech to children in 2002:

PA Chairman Yasser Arafat: “Oh children of Palestine!
The peers, friends, brothers, and sisters of Faris Ouda.
Faris Ouda and his peers - the Martyrs of this nation - represent this hidden, great, and deep-rooted power. It shall be victorious, it shall be victorious, Allah willing.
Onward together to Jerusalem!
Onward together to Jerusalem!”

Children shout: “Onward together to Jerusalem!
Millions of Martyrs are marching to Jerusalem!”

Arafat: “These are the peers of Faris Ouda… and they will enter the [Al-Aqsa] Mosque ‘as they entered it the first time’ [Quran 17:7, Sahih International translation].”

[Official PA TV, Aug. 18, 2002]

“As they entered it the first time” is a reference to The final (other) promise - The second half of Sura 17:7 of the Quran - “Then when the final promise came, [We sent your enemies] to sadden your faces and to enter the temple [in Jerusalem], as they entered it the first time, and to destroy what they had taken over with [total] destruction.” [Sahih International translation] - can be understood as either past or future tense due to the ambiguity of the Arabic "idha ja'a" referring to “the promise” that can be understood as “when it came” or “when it comes,” and the Arabic “al-ahera,” also referring to the promise, which can mean “other” or “final.” Many religious scholars understand it as past tense, and referring to the destruction of the Second Temple. But some understand it as future tense, apparently referring to some future destruction befalling the Jews. Palestinians present it as prophesizing a final war in which Israel will be destroyed.