The Dec. 19 ABC World News Tonight “A Closer Look” segment about Palestinian children injured in the clashes with Israelis is typical of many stories on this subject found in the mainstream media – it entirely ignores the Palestinian Authority’s role in the tragic phenomenon of children fighting and dying on the front lines. Aside from an original article in USA Today, and a derivative story in the New York Daily News, the secular Western media has been almost entirely silent on this aspect of the conflict.
While the ABC program with anchorman Peter Jennings, entitled “War Wounds: Mideast’s Young Martyrs,” purports to present the Palestinian perspective, it in fact omits the perspective of a key segment of the Palestinian population with a strong, albeit ignored, opinion on the matter – mothers who object to the PA policy of sending their children into the fighting.
According to a Dec. 8 USA Today article by Matthew Kalman, the Tulkarm Women’s Union, a trade-union group that advocates for women, sent a letter to PA Chairman Yasser Arafat stating:
We urge you to issue instructions to your police force to stop sending innocent children to their death.
In the article, a mother named Aisheh, who gives only her first name for fear of being condemned as a “traitor,” reveals that the PA is actually bringing children to the flashpoints. Aisheh, whose 17-year-old son was injured in the head by a rubber bullet, stated:
When school finishes, Palestinian Authority security cars go around collecting children from the streets and sending them to the killing fields.
Her husband, Abdelghani, adds that the PA intimidates those who speak out:
No one here dares to say publicly that he is against sending his own children to the front line. . . Some parents who have tried to protest have been condemned as fifth columnists [traitors] and threatened.
Indeed, in a front page editorial Oct. 27 in the PA official daily Al Hayat Al Jadida, editor-in-chief Harfez Bargutti wrote that parents who discourage their children from going to the clash points are:
destructive, abominable [individuals who] harm us more than the bullets of the occupation, because they constitute a fifth column.
He also calls their actions “one of the most severe transgressions."
Any broadcast supposedly reporting the Palestinian perspective on Palestinian child casualties in the clashes should have taken into account the internal conflict within Palestinian society between parents like Aisheh and Abdelghani and the official PA establishment, represented by figures like Bargutti and the Mufti of Jerusalem. Sheik Ikrima Sabri, the Arafat-appointed Mufti who is the top Palestinian Muslim cleric, was quoted in an Egyptian newspaper as saying: “The younger the martyr, the greater and the more I respect him” (Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, Oct. 28, translated by MEMRI). About the martyred children’s mothers, he adds: “They willingly sacrifice their offspring for the sake of freedom. It is a great display of the power of belief. The mother is participating in the great reward of the Jihad to liberate Al-Aqsa.” Not so, though, in the case of mothers of the Tulkarm Women’s Union, for example.
According to an Oct. 31 Associated Press report, Arafat himself called for children to wage war:
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Tuesday called for renewed resistance by young activists, "these children who throw the stones to defend Jerusalem, the Muslims and the holy places."
While the ABC reporter Gillian Findlay does challenge a Palestinian teacher about the value of school children honoring their injured classmates, asking if this only encourages “more children to go the streets,” she neither covers nor questions the fact that the PA actually brings children to the sites of fighting, denounces parents opposed to this policy, and lauds the death of children.
Also ignored is the ongoing education of Palestinian children to wage a “jihad” against Israel. For example, PA textbooks extol the value of martyrdom. In just one example, a literature reader for eighth graders quotes a jihad song: “Death calls and the sword will go crazy . . . Palestine, the youth will redeem you.” In The Guide to the Improvement of the Arabic Language, twelfth graders are requested to memorize the song of the “martyrs”: “I lift my spirit to my hands and send it to death / I swear on your life, I see my death, but I lengthen my stride to it.”
These lessons are reinforced by official PA television, which continuously demonizes Israel, and by actual martial training in summer camps, where children learn how to use guns and attack Israelis.
Given this context, it is particularly striking that Findlay only presents the opinion voiced by the Palestinian establishment – that Israel alone is responsible for the death of Palestinian children. “The doctors who spend so much time treating the children say if Israel would stop shooting the stone-throwers, parents would have an easier time keeping their kids at home,” she reports without challenging this illogical position. (In other words, if Israel would only stop shooting, then Palestinian children would ignore years of indoctrination by their media, religious leaders, school teachers, and summer camp advisors praising the merits of death in battle.)