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Editorial: This anniversary deserves no celebration

In the last three years, Israeli-Palestinian fighting has claimed three times as many Palestinian lives as Israeli ones: 2,477 to 860. But the numbers tell us little about the dynamics of this conflict. More illuminating is that while Israelis this week are in a sombre mood – as they were last week and the week before that – thousands of Palestinians took to the street in celebration. For Israelis, the third anniversary of the second Palestinian intifada prompts introspection and self-criticism; for Palestinians, it’s a time to be festive.
Those of us who prefer peace to conflict have a hard time understanding the mindset of these celebrating Palestinians. Since September 2000, scores of Palestinian youth have strapped explosives to their bodies and immolated themselves in discotheques and pizzerias, hotel restaurants and city buses. It is becoming harder to see the word “Palestine” and not think “terrorism.” Yet despite this leakage of international legitimacy, and the loss of their sons and daughters, many Palestinians are celebrating.
They do so because of a cult of martyrdom. The glorification of death has always existed on the fringes of Islam, but in the last three years it has gone mainstream in Palestinian society. Summer camps are named in honour of suicide bombers. Parents arrange for studio photographs of infants with mock explosives around their waists. Music videos on Palestinian TV depict “martyrs” enjoying the company of the 72 virgins that await them in paradise.
The thousands of Palestinians celebrating the third anniversary of the intifada are not rejoicing in the fact they have killed 860 “Zionists.” They are rejoicing in the Palestinian deaths – their own deaths. “You chose Shahada (martyrdom),” goes a popular Palestinian song in honour of the first female suicide bomber who blew herself up in January 2002. “In death you have brought life to our will.”
Former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir was once asked when there will be peace in the region. “When they love their children more than they hate us,” she answered. The problem today might not be that Palestinians hate Jews more than they love their own children, but that some of them love death more than they do life. Until this sickness lifts, there will be no peace in the Middle East.