By Martin Fletcher, NBC NEWS, Tuesday, May 08, 2001
The Palestinians are Calling on the Youngest to join the battle, and using a Stunning tactic: commercials on Palestinian TV asking children..
"Drop Your Toys, Pick up Rocks"
The video shows a child dropping his toy and young boys throwing stones, even using actors to recreate the most famous image of the uprising, one that shocked the world: 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura dying in his father's arms, caught in a hail of Israeli bullets.
(BTW, Mohammed al-Dura, it turns out -- was Killed by Palestinians)
The commercial shows Mohammed in paradise, urging other children to "Follow him." The shot of al-Dura slumped against his father shifts to an image of the boy running through a sunlit field in "paradise" where he then greets other boys who sit together in the green grass.
At Mohammed's school in Gaza today, the daily prayer followed by a call to arms. "Are you afraid?" the teacher shouts "No," they answer. And then, "We ask Allah to destroy the Jews," rows of children in a schoolyard shout in unison.
Mohammed's desk is now a shrine, complete with his photograph, a PLO flag and flowers. The teacher asks, "Where is Mohammed?" The children answer, "Paradise!"
And in English class, they learned a new phrase today.
TEACHER: "The Israeli army killed our friend. Shame on them!"
CHILDREN (in unison): "Shame on them!"
Already, young boys are learning how to fight. Summer camp teaches how to resist the Israelis. But now they are being taught not to fear death. The greatest glory, they are told, is to be a martyr.
But what does it mean to teach children not to fear death? A coalition of American paediatricians, DOCS (Doctors Opposed to Child Sacrifice) says that official PA encouragement of children to participate in violence against Israel is "societal child abuse."
DOCS founder Dr. Pejman Salimpour said, "Adults, governments, and media outlets that encourage young children to participate in violence to further their own political agenda are practicing a form of societal child abuse..." DOCS called on the PA to halt broadcasts that glorify martyrdom.
Dr. Salimpour and Mr. Fletcher deserve thanks for pointing out what should have been obvious since Arafat launched the latest war on Israel: children who should have been protected have been cynically and abusively manipulated, robbed not only of their childhoods, but of their humanity, and sometimes of their lives.
And by extension, it will become impossible for them to ever find a way to accept the legitimacy of Israel, or of Jews living in the Middle East, ensuring that the conflict runs at least one more generation.