Spare the children

The Palestinian cult of martyrdom is being perpetuated rather than dismantled.

pal kids (photo credit: )
pal kids
(photo credit: )
"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." - Palestinian Authority television After a three-year hiatus, official Palestinian Authority television - which remains under the office of President Mahmoud Abbas - has begun rebroadcasting a film that was shown hundreds of times between 2000 and 2004. The film stars a child actor playing Muhammad Al Dura, the most famous Palestinian child martyr, who was killed in a crossfire between Palestinian forces and the IDF. In the film, which originally bore a credit to the "Ministry of Information and Culture, Palestinian National Fund," the Al Dura character beckons the child viewer to "follow me," and is seen frolicking in heaven. A narrator says the words quoted above, and a popular Palestinian vocalist sings them, with pictures of "Al Dura" playing on the beach and flying a kite in the background (see op-ed page 15; translations by This is disappointing, to say the least, given what Abbas said just two weeks ago in Petra, at a meeting of Nobel prize winners. Abbas was on a panel with author Elie Wiesel, who challenged him to declare that suicide bombings are "crimes against humanity." Abbas responded, "First of all, as Muslims, it is a crime to commit suicide. Muslims believe that if you commit suicide, you go to hell and that goes without saying for killing others." Abbas also said, "We say to the Israelis - we are your partners. Everyone should stop [the violence], sit down at a table and talk." When questioned by Wiesel regarding incitement of hatred and violence in the official Palestinian media, Abbas said he would work to stamp out "instigation" in the curriculum as well as in the media and literature. Whether Abbas was being untruthful or exhibiting his powerlessness is hardly material. Abbas is the Palestinian leader who has campaigned for at least the suspension of terrorism. Yet it is not just through PA TV that the Palestinian cult of martyrdom is being perpetuated rather than dismantled. The attempt to obtain Hamas's agreement on the "prisoners' document" has been widely portrayed as a bold assertion of moderation on Abbas's part. But in his interview last week with The Jerusalem Post, President Moshe Katsav raises a critical point: "I think it's wrong that murderers of women and children, prisoners in Israeli jails, initiate a political move and are given precedence over the Palestinian parliament ... and government. That also says something about the Palestinians themselves ... why do they need people in jail to set the agenda?" The prisoners' document repeatedly calls for continued Palestinian "resistance," what we know as terrorism. But in addition to its inherent lack of moderation, there is the matter of its source. If terrorism is against Islam and terrorists will go to "hell," as Abbas said in Petra, why is he turning to the terrorists themselves as a source of political legitimacy? These are not only profound moral questions; they have direct life-and-death consequences. At this moment, the IDF is already deployed inside the Gaza Strip, and is poised to extend its operations into Palestinian cities to root out the terrorist infrastructure that has only grown since Israel withdrew its forces and citizens from the area. The terrorists, far from avoiding civilian areas, hide deeply within them, deliberately endangering Palestinian civilians. As Air Force chief Eliezer Shkedy explained to the Post, "They know who they are fighting. ... The terrorists are capable of putting their own children in the car when they set off to fire a Kassam ... [and] to terror training camps. ... You see the cynicism in that they put their laboratories in a building where every other apartment is full of civilians." No one is forcing Abbas to reject terrorism with one hand and hold up terrorists as moral arbiters and resume the brainwashing of new child "martyrs" with another. No one is forcing the terrorists to use their own civilians as human armor. Even if we cannot immediately end the conflict between us, is it too much to ask that Palestinian leaders of all factions leave their children and ours out of it?