As Israel has endured a new wave of Palestinian suicide bombings, familiar journalistic rationalizations have appeared as if on cue, explaining who the perpetrators are and what drives them to murder and self-destruction.
In a particularly obtuse April 9 article (“Fateful Turn in a Palestinian’s Promising Life; Family Shocked to Learn Identity of Suicide Bomber”) about Dia Tawil, a 19-year-old bomber, the Washington Post‘s Daniel Williams repeated platitudes that covered up essential truths.
Most egregious was the omission of any mention of the fundamental role and responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, all the way up to Yasser Arafat himself as well as his education system, media, clerics and officials, in extolling such bombers and encouraging young people to choose martyrdom. (The infamous “Children’s Club” program on PA television in which sweet-voiced little girls sang against a backdrop of Disney cartoon characters about drenching the ground with their blood as suicide bombers is a particularly dramatic example of the PA’s pervasive inculcation of messages of extreme violence.)
Williams said, “the practice of suicide bombings [is] promoted by the armed wing of Hamas,” and while it is true that Hamas grooms the individuals, preparing them for their missions through separation from their families and focus on the rewards of the afterlife, the practice is “promoted” intensively by the PA through constant lauding of bombers and martyrs.
The reporter also claimed that Palestinians “question [the] efficacy and morality of suicide bombings.” No doubt some do. But a Palestinian think tank, the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center, published a poll in April showing nearly 75 percent of Palestinians support suicide bombings.
Williams identified Ramallah, where Dia Tawil was a student, as a city experiencing “unease” about “their own growing rage.” He wrote that Ramallah
is militantly nationalist, yet regards itself as civilized under pressure. It is the most open of Palestinian cities. The presence of Bir Zeit (University) nearby is a source of pride, a symbol of the rule of reason and value of education.
The correspondent omits reference to the fact that “open” Ramallah was the place where in October 2000 a mob savagely lynched two Israeli reservists who strayed off course reporting for duty—and Bir Zeit has been a stronghold of Hamas.
Just as he seemed to want to limit and soften Palestinian responsibility for fanatic attacks on innocent people, Williams also preferred to frame the case of Dia Tawil, who detonated himself on March 27 in Pisgat Ze’ev, as exceptional. The reporter claimed that because Tawil was a “star” student “headed toward a career in electrical engineering” he was “an unlikely candidate for a suicide mission.” Williams noted the comment of a family friend that Tawil was not “desperate” or from a “refugee camp.”
But, as author and scholar Daniel Pipes has written, radical Islam across the Middle East has found many of its adherents among the more affluent. He noted that a Palestinian journalist, Khalid Amayreh, had determined that “a substantial majority of Islamists and their supporters come from the middle and upper socioeconomic strata.”
Why then do young Palestinian men strap on explosives (with nails added to inflict extra carnage) and blow themselves up? Williams reported that Palestinians all concur that the triggers are “anger at the rising death toll among Palestinians and Israel’s continuing stranglehold on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
Yet if the Israeli “stranglehold” were the true cause of the rage and the suicide attacks, why did Arafat refuse to end it when former Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to cede to the Palestinians virtually the entire West Bank, Gaza, and parts of Jerusalem? Why instead did Arafat launch a war, and inflict on his own people the death toll and suffering of the last seven months?
A slogan on a headband tied on a small Arab girl at a recent demonstration stated the motive better than Williams. It read: “Palestine from the river to the sea.”
Originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post on May 18, 2001