Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

These are the children

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On Saturday, a Palestinian stabbed 2 Jews on Neviim street in Jerusalem, leaving them both wounded.

On Monday, a Palestinian attacked an Israeli police officer with a knife at the entrance to Jerusalem's Old City.

On Tuesday at 2pm, a Palestinian tried to stab an Israeli police officer outside the national Police headquarters.

At approximately 3pm on Tuesday, 2 Palestinians attacked a Jew riding his bike through the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Pisgat Ze'ev, and stabbed another man walking through the streets nearby.

These incidents are tragic in and of themselves. Their tragedy is amplified however, knowing that all of the perpetrators of these attacks, and one of the victims, were under the age of 18. Saturday's attacker, a 16 year old boy from the West-Bank; Monday's, a school girl from East Jerusalem, and Tuesday's attackers aged 15, 13 and 17 respectively.

Here in Australia, the recent shooting of a police officer by 15-year old Farhad Jabar in Western Sydney purports a crisis of a different scale, but in a similar vein: how is it, in this global age, that these children became so radicalised, so violent, and so driven by an extreme ideology at such a young age?

In Australia, it appears the teenager had his vulnerability abused by an extremist group, stripping away his innocence and seducing him into violence. The numbers in the case of juvenile Palestinian terrorism however, suggest that something more pervasive is at work.

The most poignant explanation for the Palestinian teenagers willing to sacrifice their lives for the chance to murder a Jew, is undoubtedly linked to the powerful value system behind them. Values are generationally transmitted, educated and actively reinforced in order to build societies of like-minded individuals with common goals. They shape our ambitions, our opinions and our behaviours. And the values of children can almost categorically be traced back to three things: their parents, to their education, and to their cultural inculcation.

Following the attacks this week, parents of the juvenile terrorists expressed both praise for their children's actions, and pride in their deaths. The father of Muhannad Halabi, the 19-year old murderer who was shot by Israeli police after stabbing two Israeli-men in the Old City of Jerusalem last week, came out with the following statement:

"He avenged [the women of Al-Aqsa]... against the impure enemies...He made everyone lift his head up high. May he find favor in the eyes of Allah".

His wife, the mother of Halabi echoed his sentiments:

"O mother of Martyr, let out cries of joy, all the youth are your sons".

Rami Alloun, Uncle of Fadi Alloun, who died stabbing an Israeli in Jerusalem on October 3, expressed a similar praise at the funeral of his nephew, declaring that:

"This is a wedding, it is a celebration. We consider him a martyr with Allah".


However, while the seeds may be planted in the home, they can grow to violent fruition through the reinforcement of academic education.

The generation of terrorists currently rampaging across Israel were supposed to be "the children of Oslo" - a generation with a fresh outlook and a new reality, stemming from the peace accords signed in 1995 between Israel and the PLO. One of the key clauses of the Oslo accords was a commitment to ending incitement from both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, with an emphasis on the education systems:

1. Israel and the Council shall seek to foster mutual understanding and tolerance and shall accordingly abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda, against each other and, without derogating from the principle of freedom of expression, shall take legal measures to prevent such incitement by any organizations, groups or individuals within their jurisdiction.

2. Israel and the Council will ensure that their respective educational systems contribute to the peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and to peace in the entire region, and will refrain from the introduction of any motifs that could adversely affect the process of reconciliation.

This week's comments from Ahmed Sahwil, Secretary General of the General Union of Palestinian Teachers provide context, if not explanation for the disintegration of these clauses:

"We will redeem the Al-Aqsa [Mosque] with our souls so that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu the criminal, the gangs of settlers, his soldiers and robbers will understand that the Palestinian people will sacrifice its soul and blood for the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque."

Considering these are the words of the Secretary General of the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, it is no surprise that the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education has found that Palestinian school textbooks dehumanize Jews and Israel, present history in a biased manner, encourage violence, and refrain from mentioning atrocities committed against the Jewish people, such as the Holocaust, massacres where Arabs killed Jews, or the suffering of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Indeed, a Palestinian text-book given to eighth graders reads:

"Today's Muslim countries need urgently jihad and jihad fighters in order to liberate the robbed land and to get rid of the robbing Jews from the robbed lands in Palestine and in the Levant."

With this as a mantra of Palestinian education, it seems the age of "the children of Oslo" was inevitably doomed to culminate in what we have been seeing recently in Israel.

Yet, it is questionable whether the hype surrounding martyrdom would exist amongst Palestinian youth to the same extent if the only factors at play were the transmission of values from parents and the education within schools. Indeed, the attractiveness of death in the name of Allah is rooted in its societal celebration, as he who was an average teenager from the West Bank in life, becomes an admired hero in death, with his face on posters hung throughout the city, his name widely known and long remembered.

These children grow up in societies not only where their friends and siblings die celebrated deaths whilst committing acts of terror, but where their schools, camps, graduation ceremonies and sporting events are named after glorified terrorists, such as Dalai Mugharabi (perpetrator of the 1978 bus hijacking which killed 37 civilians) and Abd Al-Baset Ubdeh (terrorist of the Passover Seder Massacre). Additionally, following last week's stabbings, 19 year old terrorist and law student Muhannad Halabi was awarded an honourary law degree by the Palestinian Bar Association, a statement from the Association adding that the next swearing in ceremony will be held in his honour. Furthermore, Palestinian Media Watch has confirmed that the Palestinian media has been referring to Halabi and the other assailants of recent attacks as ‘martyrs', denying their acts were terrorist and insisting rather that they were victims of ‘execution' at the hands of Israeli policemen and soldiers.

This is a culture that rejoices in the fatalities of war-time - and while it offers an explanation, it does not lessen the blow that the last few weeks have seen 7 Israelis dead, over 50 wounded, and 29 Palestinians have been killed during acts of terrorism or in clashes with the IDF, many of them adolescents.

These are the children who were draped in flags and taken to protest at riots, instead of to the park or to the movies. These are the children who were taught to fight with stones instead of with words. These are the children who sat in classrooms with the refrains of martyrdom plastered on the walls, instead of ‘treat others how you want to be treated', or ‘don't judge a book by its cover'. These are the children who attend sports games at stadiums named after murderers instead of Prime Ministers, who live on streets named after suicide bombers, instead of philosophers. These are the children taught that they're better off breaking the law in the name of Allah than finishing their law degree. These are the children taught about killing and liberation, but not about compromise. These are the children taught about enemies and allies, but have no concept of shared humanity. These are the children whose funerals are tragically considered to be a greater celebration than their weddings, or graduations. It seems these are the children whose parents tell them that their lives are less important than their deaths.

It is a moral abomination.

 

Ari Wenig

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