Heavily armed Israeli soldiers shooting at innocent Palestinian children
caught in the crossfire. That is the image that has dominated
international press coverage of the five-week-old wave of violence that
has wracked the Middle East, during which, according to some accounts,
over 40 Palestinian children have died.
With each new report of youthful casualties, the perception of something
unthinkable — that Israeli soldiers are targeting children — is
reinforced in media coverage, a great deal of which tends to favor the
perceived underdog in the clashes, namely the Palestinians.
The reality is indeed unthinkable, but not in the way so neatly
portrayed by sound-bite media accounts of Palestinian children being
shot by Israeli soldiers. Indeed, powerful and secret forces are at work
in Palestinian nurseries, preschools, entertainment venues, classrooms
and summer camps – forces that shape the current and future battles
between Palestinians and Israelis, indeed, make them all but inevitable.
However, up until recently, this amazing story has for the most part
been hidden from Western eyes.
Palestinian children are taught to hate Jews, to glorify “jihad” (holy
war), violence, death and child martyrdom almost from birth, as
an essential part of their culture and destiny.
As captured on an Israeli video documentary produced in 1998, a “Sesame Street”-like children’s program called the “Children’s Club” — complete with puppet shows, songs, Mickey Mouse and other characters — focused on inculcating intense hatred of Jews and a passion for engaging in and celebrating violence against them in a perpetual “jihad” until the day the Israeli flags come down from above “Palestinian land” and the Palestinian flag is raised.
|Palestinian children throwing rocks at an Israeli military vehicle.|
In one song on the “Children’s Club,” very young children are shown singing songs about wanting to become “suicide warriors” and to take up “a machine gun” to direct “violence, anger, anger, anger” against Israelis.
During the show, which features children aged 4-10, one young boy sings, “When I wander into Jerusalem, I will become a suicide bomber.” Afterward, other children stand to call for “Jihad! Holy war to the end against the Zionist enemy.”
In another segment, a boy who appears to be no more than 8 or 9 years old chants: “My patience has run out. All Arab existence cries for revenge” against the Jews in Israel.
The documentary also juxtaposes the children’s programming with television news reporting, in which the news anchor – reflecting the same message the children are receiving -describes Palestinians as “noble, courageous” fighters, while describing Israel as “mean, fascist, racist, genocidal” and “Nazis.”
Other “highlights” of the “Children’s Club”:
Groups of children are gathered together, shouting for “Jihad against Israel.”
One girl, who appears to be in a Palestinian school classroom, sings of donning “battledress” to “attack the Zionists.”
A small girl chants the now-familiar ditty, “When I wander into Jerusalem, I will become a suicide bomber.”
An adult narrator reads material in a Palestinian school pamphlet: “I have raised my children for jihad and on the principle that they never give up on their land.”
One segment depicts a small boy on the street chanting, “Revolution until victory.”
Another boy is shown in class proclaiming, “We will settle our claims with stones and bullets.”
In Palestinian school classrooms, the message is the same.
“It’s very scary – it’s a state-run educational system that teaches its children to be martyrs,” said Meyrav Wurmser, Ph.D., an expert in Middle East politics who taught at the U.S. Naval Academy and Johns Hopkins. Wurmser is the author of the recently published book,
Ba’athism,” in which she makes a comprehensive survey and analysis of Syrian school textbooks. What she found is identical to what goes on with the Palestinians, she says.
“In the Palestinian case, what we see is the cynical use of children, who are exposed to a state-run ideology that pushes them to their death, in the name of Palestinian nationalism,” she says. “Children are taught to idealize death, to view it as a positive. In many cases, they are told that death is not death at all, but rather the beginning of a new life.”
Wurmser is currently the executive director of The Middle East Media & Research Institute, or
MEMRI, and has published extensively on the Middle East and Arab and Israeli politics.
How can children be sold on dying in battle?
“The state threatens children if they’re not willing to commit jihad,” says Wurmser, “and tells them they will be punished by God if they do not commit jihad. If they do commit jihad, they and their families will be benefited by the state. [Their families] are promised major financial benefits if they kill themselves in suicide attacks against Israel.”
To get over the fear, explained Wurmser, “they are told by their teachers that they’re not going to die at all. There is definitely an element of denial they are exposed to.”
This is not to say that some parents won’t object to having their children converted to terrorists, says Wurmser, “but in the more religious families, there is no sense of sorrow. We see Palestinian mothers who have lost children – especially parents from very fundamentalist Muslim backgrounds — who are not upset at all, but who say their sons have brought great honor to their families.” This is typical, she says, of “radical national Arab regimes who have adopted the Islamic line.”
This shocking assessment was bolstered in an Oct. 27
editorial, in which writer Gerald M. Steinberg provided details of statements made by Palestinians to reporters after their children had been killed in fighting.
“Interviewed by journalists after [recent] tragedies, some of the parents of these young victims refer to their children as shaheeds (martyrs), whose lives were given willingly and proudly to the Palestinian cause in fighting the hated Zionist enemy,” Steinberg said.
|Palestinian man teaching children how to fire M-16 automatic assault rifles.|
“In an unbelievably shocking scene, one mother boasted that she bore her son precisely for this purpose, and the father proudly claimed credit for providing the training. The parents will also receive a sizeable financial ‘reward’ from the Palestinian Authority,” he said.
“For a people who count Abraham (or Ibrahim) among their ancestors, this willful child sacrifice violates the fundamental tenets of morality and ethics,” said Steinberg. “The message of Abraham’s non-sacrifice of Isaac was, and remains first and foremost, the absolute rejection of such practices.”
Middle East sources consulted by WorldNetDaily said the “Children’s Club” is no longer being produced, but that other programs with similar messages and themes have taken its place.