Bill Maxwell (In the Mideast, children are suffering, October 9) writes of his concern for the young victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Based on a recent U.N. report on the Rights of the Child, he faults Israel for children suffering under the Palestinian Authority. Both the report and Maxwell misplace blame and ignore the unlawful child abuse that is a root cause of the continuing strife in the Middle East.
What is disingenuous about the report, but typical of the whitewashing of Arab misconduct, is that it ignores unconscionable child abuse perpetrated by the Palestinian Authority. The PA’s relentless incitement campaign employing television, newspapers, summer camps, textbooks, and rallies to foment hatred of Jews, and to encourage violence and “martyrdom” is strictly forbidden under the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child which states a child should be brought up “in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity.”
Palestinian youngsters have been recruited by the PA to throw Molotov cocktails and stones at Israelis, often closing schools so they can participate in violence. 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 and ambushing, as well as how to operate firearms and other skills for guerilla war.
USA Today correspondent Jack Kelley observed: “Children serve as infantry in the confrontations between Israeli and Palestinian soldiers....Palestinian children are sent close to Israeli positions with rocks and Molotov cocktails, while the gunmen and snipers fire from positions hundreds of yards back.”
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” and follow 12-year-old, Mohammed al-Dura “to paradise.”
The widespread adulation of suicide bombers is evident in the streets and schools named after them and by the posters on classroom walls proclaiming “the shaheeds [martyrs] of tomorrow.” Children even wear pendants around their necks with pictures of suicide bombers. The PA’s effort to promote children’s participation in violence has directly led to fatalities among Palestinian minors. B’Tselem, a pro-Palestinian human rights organization, cites one 14-year-old boy who was killed “after taking part in the stabbing to death of [an] Israeli civilian.” In another case, a seventeen-year-old boy was killed “after having entered the settlement and stabbed the security officer.” Counted among the victims is a 16-year-old Palestinian girl who detonated a bomb in a Jerusalem supermarket killing an elderly Israeli. These casualties, which are not isolated incidents, are often included in the “innocent” Palestinian children casualty count.
It is true that Palestinian children have also been the tragic inadvertent victims of Israeli military strikes against Palestinian terrorists, but Israeli children have been deliberately targeted in cafes, discotheques, malls and buses and even inside their own homes. Several Israeli children were murdered in particularly brutal circumstances exposing the depth of Palestinian rancor. Two young Israeli teens’ hiking trip ended with Arabs stoning them to death and mutilating their bodies. Similarly, armed Palestinians broke into a home near Hebron, shot and killed a five-year-old girl hiding under her parents' bed.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child states “that every child has the inherent right to life.” Instilling the desire to kill and die violates this fundamental right. A government that inculcates extreme hate to create a society that proudly sends children directly into the line of fire, to commit suicide, murder random civilians and to celebrate suicide bombers is practicing a horrific form of child abuse. Until Arab leaders stop indoctrinating children with hate both Arab and Jewish children will continue to suffer.
Originally published in St. Petersburg Times on November 16, 2002