(The National Post, 24 October 2015)
She's a bright and pretty nine-year-old, a wellspoken kid you might see acting in a TV drama, but her task last week was to encourage the wave of Palestinian violence that has terrorized Israel since mid-September. That's now a favourite theme of Palestinian media.
In a video excerpt circulated by Palestinian Media Watch, we see her in Grown-Up Kids, a children's show on the Palestinian Authority (PA) station. She holds a script in her hand but it's apparent that she has her part mostly memorized. Speaking to the camera, she tells us that the recent disturbances are all Israel's fault. She claims Israelis shoot peaceful Palestinians, then accuse them of wielding a knife or gun. That's why, she claims, more Palestinians than Israelis are being killed or wounded.
On the other hand, she calls the dead Palestinian youths martyrs: "We salute and revere the young heroes," she declares, a remarkable comment to make about people who she says have been shot at random. She (or the author of her script) wants to have it both ways. She's been recruited to raise the spirits of the terrorists and their families. Current Palestinian shooters and stabbers appear to be freelance terrorists without organizational support. But it's clear that many Palestinians, including TV producers, are anxious to endorse whatever harm they have done, and eager to encourage more.
This could be dangerous, and not only to Israelis. It's possible that otherwise normal hoodlums are being led to think they are martyrs to their faith. Who really knows their motives? At every chance he gets, Mahmoud Abbas, the PA's president, throws the word "martyr" at the terrorists, while calling for calm in the international press: "With the help of Allah," Abbas says, "every martyr will be in Heaven."
The PA newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, shows cartoons in which Palestinians happily stab terrified Israelis, both sides being identified by their flags. The cartoons aren't intended to be funny. Their mood is simple jubilation and their message to young men is clear: go and do likewise.
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida recently used romantic, worshipful terms about a dead terrorist, 19-year-old Basel Sidr, who tried to stab an Israeli policeman. Palestinians cherish his blood, the paper said. It depicted Palestinians waiting to "inhale the scent of the Martyr's blood." Glorification seems a bizarre response to the murder of innocent strangers. A leading Egyptian journalist, Ibrahim 'Issa, editor of Al-Maqal in Cairo, argues that attacks on civilians undermine the moral legitimacy of the Palestinian cause. The revolt allows Palestinians to express their rage, but without planning, without political structure and without any clear strategy.
Consider Jibril Rajoub, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1970 for throwing a grenade at an Israeli army truck. He was set free in 1985 when Israel released 1,150 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for three captured Israeli soldiers. Now Rajoub is head of Palestinian sports and youth affairs. He recently turned up on Palestinian TV to give a talk titled, "We Are Proud of Heroic Palestinian Attackers."
He described a blogger's account of an "operation" involving violence, saying it's a document that should be taught in schools to explain the meaning of martyrdom. The independence of the terrorists looks to Rajoub like good public relations. It helps attract the support of the international community. He said, "It's intolerable to the international community when a bus explodes in Tel Aviv but the international community doesn't care what happens when a soldier finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time."
As the French philosopher Bernard-Henri LÚvy wrote this week, world opinion has not been much disturbed by the stabbings of innocent passersby. It would be different if such outrages occurred in Europe or North America. Think of the outpouring of emotion over the hatchet-killing of a British soldier on a London street in 2013, an act not altogether different from what's happening now in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Or recall the killing in Canada a year ago of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent by individuals supporting Islamic extremism.
The more you learn about the Palestinians, the more poisoned their society appears. One way or another, by public rhetoric and politicized schooling, the PA has created a community that encourages its young men to kill. Someday this phase will give way and the PA will try to impose a more ordered, less violent and less martyr-obsessed way of life. It's hard to imagine how that will be managed.