As Israel enters the northern Gaza Strip, there are signs that the Palestinian Authority plans to renew the tactic of sending children to the front lines as human shields to obstruct the IDF.
PA TV is again broadcasting music videos designed to brainwash young children into seeking death as shahids - martyrs for Allah. Shahada-promoting music videos were first broadcast thousands of times on Palestinian TV from 2000 through 2004.
One of the most sinister of these clips was broadcast twice last week, according to our research after a three-year absence. The clip features a child actor playing the most famous Palestinian child martyr, Muhammad al-Dura - whose death in a crossfire was broadcast to the entire world - calling to other Palestinian children to literally follow him to Child Martyrs' Heaven.
"I am waving not to part but to say, 'Follow me,'" is Dura's invitation on the TV screen.
The children watching this video are then shown what awaits them if they join Dura in death. The video follows the child actor - "Dura" - joyously frolicking in heaven. He romps on the beach, plays with a kite and runs toward a Ferris wheel.
The children are being told that death in conflict with Israel will bring them into a child's paradise. Muhammad al-Dura is already in this paradise, tranquil and fun-filled.
This call to children to seek death, coming from the child who has turned into a Palestinian hero, and broadcast to their children by PA TV, is one of the most odious examples of exploitation of children witnessed on PA TV.
THE WORDS sung by the popular singer Aida are as insidious as the pictures. The earth is described as yearning for the children's death - "its thirst quenched by the gush of blood flowing from the youthful body."
The main lyrics of the clip are as follows:
How sweet is the fragrance of the martyrs,
how sweet is the fragrance of the earth,
its thirst quenched by the gush of blood
flowing from the youthful body.
Caption: And so he went...
Choir: Good-bye to the boy Muhammad (2x)
Aida: Good-bye, good-bye...
Aida: How sweet is the scent of the earth,
its thirst satisfied by the gush of blood
flowing from the body of youth.
Choir: Good-bye, good-bye.
Aida: Good-bye, good-bye...
Choir: O father, 'til we meet (2x)
Aida: 'Til we meet, my father, 'til we meet!
I shall go with no fear, no tears.
How sweet is the fragrance of the martyrs!
I shall go to my place in heaven,
How sweet is the fragrance of the martyrs!...
WHEN PREVIOUSLY shown, the clip closed with the credit:
"Produced by: The Ministry of Information & Culture - The Palestinian National Fund."
This year the credit has been erased.
A SECOND music video rebroadcast after years of absence, opens with a girl witnessing the cold-blooded murder of her mother. The child then sings for five minutes about how she misses her mother, including the repeating refrain: "If you can't come to me, I can go to you."
This particular clip was first broadcast in December 2000. It was one of dozens of PA TV clips targeting children that portrayed shahada as "sweet" and idyllic.
This tactic was exceedingly effective for the Palestinian Authority. As children went to the front lines to try to copy Dura, the IDF had great difficulty aiming at gunmen who were firing from behind the children and using them as human shields.
In addition, when children were killed by either side, the Palestinians used them effectively for propaganda purposes. And indeed Israel was universally condemned for these deaths.
This clip was removed in the fall of 2003, after we showed it at a hearing in the US Senate and drew outrage from US senators. Sen. Hillary Clinton attacked it a "horrific child abuse," and Sen. Arlen Specter denounced it as "civilization abuse."
The reason for its sudden rebroadcast now, after three years, seems clear: The PA learned a long time ago that images of dead children are an ideal way of manipulating public opinion against Israel. Images of children running up to tanks and of children's funerals are precisely what the PA used so successfully in the past.
It is apparently planning to revive this tactic if Israel moves deeper into Gaza in search of terror leaders.
Societies prepare for battle in different ways. Some focus on military preparations, while others focus on prayer. For the Palestinian Authority, battle preparation means encouraging their children to leave their homes for the front lines and to seek death.
Marcus is director and Crook is associate director of Palestinian Media Watch.