In June 2005, when Wafa al-Biss first made headlines, optimists were fervently hoping that Israel’s imminent withdrawal from the Gaza Strip would not only advance peace but that the Palestinians would seize this opportunity to turn the territory they were given to rule into the Singapore of the Mediterranean.
If you want to understand why the optimists were wrong then, and why they will continue to be wrong in the foreseeable future, the story of Wafa al-Biss is very instructive.
The young woman from the northern Gaza Strip was recruited by Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade to blow herself up in an Israeli hospital where she was being treated for severe burns that she sustained in an accident at home. But the diabolic scheme failed because al-Biss aroused already suspicion when she was about to cross into Israel for her medical appointment; and even though she attempted to set off her explosives when she was stopped, her detonator malfunctioned.
After her arrest, al-Biss presented two very different faces: sometimes she was a tearful confused young woman hoping for mercy, while at other times she declared that it was her dream to be a “martyr” and to kill Jews.
When the American journalist Judith Miller interviewed al-Biss in prison some two years after her failed terror attack, Miller also wondered: “Who was the real Wafa al-Biss: the proud patriotic bomber who boasted of her desire to slaughter Jews, even babies, at the hospital that had saved her life? Or the tearful victim of a sophisticated martyrdom recruiting organization who had failed to kill herself, if not others, only because of a defective detonator?”
Miller noted that al-Biss was born “into wretched poverty in Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza, one of 12 children.” During the interview, al-Biss described her father as a “primitive” man who rarely allowed his daughter to go out except to school or the mosque. Al-Biss also claimed that her father and her brothers used to beat her and that she was so desperate that she wanted to kill herself already years before her disfiguring accident.
Al-Biss also gave a chilling account of the cynical tactics used by her terrorist mentor, who reminded her that due to the disfigurement caused by her accident, nobody would ever marry her and that she therefore had no future. Indeed, her fiancée had already broken off their engagement, and according to the information al-Biss revealed when she was interrogated by Israeli security forces, even her parents eventually encouraged her “martyrdom”. A “farewell” video clip was taped in her home with the consent of her parents, and when it was time to put on her explosive-laden garments that weighed 10 kg (22 lbs), her own mother helped her dress and fixed a broken zipper.
Some six years after her failed suicide bombing attempt, al-Biss is now among the more than 1000 Palestinian convicts who were exchanged for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. She has returned to the home of the parents who had hoped her daughter would “martyr” herself by detonating her explosives among the patients and staff of the Israeli hospital where she was being treated.
Upon her return home, she was visited by a large group of children, and according to press reports she told them: “I hope you will walk the same path we took and God willing, we will see some of you as martyrs.”
The children responded with cheers and, waving Palestinian flags, they chanted: “We will give souls and blood to redeem the prisoners. We will give souls and blood for you, Palestine.”
This is the Palestine of Wafa al-Biss: a death cult where a young desperate woman who was told that her life would only have meaning if she ended it with a terrorist suicide bombing knows full well what to say when a group of children is sent to visit her – and the visiting children know already how to respond to the message that seeking bloody and violent “martyrdom” is one of the noblest goals they could chose to pursue.
Wafa al-Biss is alive because she was saved by Israeli medical treatment, and she is a Palestinian heroine and role model because she was willing to end her young life by going back to where she had been saved in order to kill anyone who happened to be there.
The Palestine of Wafa al-Biss may not be eagerly embraced by all Palestinians, but it is officially endorsed by all Palestinian factions and its death cult is everywhere: in the omni-present posters that glorify successful “martyrs” who killed themselves by killing Jews, in the public squares, facilities and streets named after “martyrs” and terrorists, in the “ethos” of Palestinian officials who pride themselves in the regular payments given to terrorists and their families, and in the official media that provide regular programs glorifying terrorism.
It is the Palestine of Wafa al-Biss whose application for full membership the UN is currently considering, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) has not at all been bashful about this, as is amply illustrated by the fact that the PA chose the mother of four convicted terrorist murderers as the head of a delegation that carried the Palestinian statehood application to the UN offices in Ramallah. The message is clear: the Palestinians want the international community to endorse a state where terrorists who target Israeli civilians are feted as national heroes – and they want this state in order to pursue their already largely successful efforts to enlist the international community in legitimizing the view that a Palestinian killed in a defensive Israeli operation is a war crime, whereas an Israeli killed by a Palestinian terrorist is a casualty incurred due to the legitimate Palestinian “resistance” that is at the core of Palestinian national identity.
All the critics from abroad who are now warning that Israel is encouraging terrorism by releasing more than a thousand Palestinian convicts for Gilad Shalit would do well to contemplate the effect of the double standards that are so widely embraced when it comes to the world’s only Jewish state.
Without diminishing Palestinian responsibility for the glorification of terrorism, it is clear that due to these fashionable double standards, Palestinians have faced little serious criticism let alone any serious consequences for developing a despicable national ethos that is reflected in the fact that Wafa al-Biss and so many others who are even more fanatical are celebrated openly as Palestinian heroes and role models.