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PMW op-ed: Engineering civilian casualties

Itamar Marcus & Barbara Crook  |
It could have been an invitation to a social event, calling for "all citizens - women, children and the elderly" to participate. But the venue was anything but hospitable. The event was dangerous and the consequences deadly.

 Two days before four Palestinian civilians were killed and others injured during the recent fighting in Rafah, the Palestinian Authority called on women, children and the elderly to stand in front of the IDF bulldozers that were searching for weapons tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.

The area was infested with terrorists, and was the location of heavy fighting between the IDF and armed Palestinians. Instead of urging civilians to stay out of harm's way, the PA intentionally sent them to the front lines of an active war zone.

 In the words of the official Palestinian Authority daily, the call was to create "an impassable barrier for the occupation bulldozers" and to "prevent their progress to the Rafah neighborhoods." The principal of a school in Rafah "called for all the citizens, women, children and elderly to participate" according to the May 17 Al Ayyam newspaper.

 The call was answered. Thousands of civilians marched into the heart of the battle zone. Tragically, this is not the first time the PA has urged civilians into combat zones. It is part of a consistent and disturbing pattern. Since the outbreak of violence in October 2000, the PA has been pushing civilians, especially children, to leave the safety of their homes and join the fighting.

 Children have been enticed into battle through manipulative music videos, broadcast for hours every day on official PA television, depicting youngsters in combat as heroes. One such video, broadcast repeatedly by the PA, shows young boys and girls in army uniform taking part in a frenzied war dance, along with other scenes of children participating in the violence at the battlefront. The song accompanying the visuals is a musical call to arms for the children:

 "Oh, young ones: Shake the earth, raise the stones.
 "You will not be saved, O Zionist, From the volcano of my county's stones.
 "You are the target of my eyes, I will even willingly fall as a shahid [martyr for Allah]. Allahu akbar! Oh, young ones!"

 Children are directed by Palestinian television to go to the front and "willingly fall" as martyrs. In this glorification of war for children, even a toddler who can barely sit up is filmed breaking stones for the older children.

 ANOTHER VIDEO, aired repeatedly from 2000 through 2002, instructs very young children to attack soldiers with stones and tells them about their supposed strength and invincibility.

 "Don't be afraid," a 10-year-old sings to a five-year-old. "The stone in their hand turns into a rifle."

 Every adult knows that stones can't be a match for rifles. But the Palestinian leadership mesmerizes its children through music and dance, while inculcating the fanciful notion that "the stone in their hand turns into a rifle," and that they should therefore be out fighting IDF rifles with their stones.

 As they have done repeatedly in the past, the United Nations and world media have rushed to condemn Israel for the deaths of civilians during Operation Rainbow. But very few observers have looked beyond these lamentable deaths to ask the crucial questions: Why are PA leaders sending civilians, especially children, to the front lines and encouraging them to seek death?

 What kind of political leaders send their five-year-olds, their "women, children and elderly," to the front lines of a war zone?

 Yasser Arafat supplied the answer on Palestinian television several years back. Asked what message he would like to send to Palestinian children, Arafat answered: "This child, 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" (PATV January 15, 2002).

 The PA chairman's explanation that dead children are the greatest message to the world finally puts PA policy into perspective. Palestinian leaders know that civilian corpses make powerful images and increase global anti-Israel sentiments. Dead Palestinian children make the Palestinians look like victims and create a smoke screen for the PA's terrorism war against Israeli civilians.

 Photos of dead Palestinian children are manipulated to balance photos of dead Israeli civilians killed in pizza shops and on buses, murdered by Palestinian terrorists.  Simply put, dead Palestinian children create the illusion of moral symmetry. The saddest part of this twisted value system is how well it is succeeding. Palestinian civilians continue to flock to the front lines. And, tragically, the media have fallen for the Arafat trap, enabling the PA to continue its terror war while the world laments the "cycle of violence."

 Arafat's propaganda campaign, built on the corpses of these civilian pawns, continues to fool even the best-intentioned observers who focus only on who inadvertently hit the wrong target, not on who deliberately put the target there in the first place.