According to Bethe Dufresne (“Islam, Judaism each teach one death is too many,” June 28) statistics are irrelevant because “one death is too many” in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. She writes that “more Palestinian children have died at the hands of Israeli soldiers than Israeli children have been killed by suicide bombers.”
While she is surely correct about the particular tragedy of children killed in the violence, in fact, it is the Palestinian Authority itself that has systematically raised new generations to seek violence and death in a zero-sum war against Israel. The real obstacle to peace is the indoctrinated hatred of Israelis and Jews promulgated by the Palestinian Authority's media, school textbooks, mosques, rallies, summer camps and political statements.
Palestinian children and teens have been recruited by the PA to throw Molotov cocktails and stones at Israelis. The New York Times reported that more than 25,000 Palestinian children in a single summer attended a camp that taught boys the practice of kidnaping, ambushing, how to operate firearms and other skills for guerilla war.
The recent picture of a Palestinian infant in Hebron decked out in dynamite sticks demonstrates how some glorify child martyrdom. NBC's Martin Fletcher reported on a commercial that ran on the official Palestinian Authority television encouraging children to become martyrs. The segment urged children to, “Drop your toys. Pick up rocks.” It showed a re-enactment of 12-year-old boy, Mohammed al-Dura, dying in his fathers arms. Al-Dura then urged other children to “follow him to paradise.”
Such indoctrination has not gone unnoticed. The founder of the group DOCS (Doctors Opposed to Child Sacrifice) argued that to “encourage young children to participate in violence to further their own political agenda are practicing a form of societal child abuse.” The Arab Journalist Huda Al-Husseini in the London based paper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat voiced similar concerns asking, “what kind of independence is built on the blood of children while leaders are safe and so are their children and grandchildren?”
As far as the larger number of Palestinian fatalities in the crisis, here too it is essential to look deeper. A comprehensive analysis performed by the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) revealed that the majority of Israelis killed were civilians while the vast majority of Palestinians killed were initiators of violence. In the recent Amnesty International report that declared suicide bombings “crimes against humanity,” that group too concluded that the overwhelming majority of Israeli fatalities were, in fact, civilians (over 70%).
An analysis reported in the magazine Middle East Quarterly calculated the number of fatalities between September 29, 2000 to January 31, 2001 of those highly unlikely to be combatants including women 10-54 years old, children under the age of 10 and men and women older than 55 (noncombatants). These “noncombatant” groups accounted for less than five percent of the total Palestinian casualties, even though they constitute more than two-thirds of the population. One percent of the fatalities were children. The same groups comprised forty-two percent of all Israeli casualties.
Very likely, the statistics cited by Defresne are from a pro-Palestinian “human rights group,” B'tselem . It is important to understand how that group defines its terms. In the category “civilian” fatalities, they include Palestinians who have stabbed to death Israelis. Thus, while they state that approximately 250 Palestinian minors (under the age of 18) have been killed, among this number, about two-thirds were fourteen to seventeen-year-old teens (nearly all boys) some of whom were initiating violence. B'tselem cites one 14 year old boy who was killed “after taking part in the stabbing to death of the Israeli civilian.” In another case, a seventeen year-old boy was killed “after having entered the settlement and stabbed the security officer.” Both these casualties were listed as civilians killed by Israelis and are included in the “innocent” Palestinian children casualty count.
B'tselem also notes that in nearly 15 years of fighting (December 1987-January 2002), about 115 children 13 years old or younger have been killed by Israelis. While their deaths are tragic, the figure strongly indicates that, in fact, Israel does not deserve the oft repeated accusation of using indiscriminate force.
If Israelis were targeting civilians, the number of women, children and elderly fatalities should be significantly higher than five percent. All the statistics, even B'tselem's support the Israel Defense Force's contention that soldiers seek to avoid civilian casualties especially youngsters.
The Palestinians make no attempt to minimize innocent fatalities and, in fact, have blatantly targeted civilians as demonstrated by their fondness for suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.
Ethically there is a profound difference between those who intentionally kill and those who accidently kill innocent victims. There is a difference between a child killed eating at a pizzeria and one killed because he confronted an armed soldier with a Molotov cocktail.
Only with the instilling of extreme hate does any parent or society proudly send children directly in the line of fire, to commit suicide, murder random civilians and to celebrate suicide bombers. The Palestinians could have ended “occupation” by accepting Prime Minister Ehud Barak's offer of a Palestinian state. Instead, Palestinians launched the current terror war. Sadly, until Middle East leaders stop inculcating children with hate, there will continue to be too many innocent victims.
Originally published in New London Day on August 2, 2002