Australia/Israel Review

Scribblings: Children to Martyrs

Jun 29, 2009 | Tzvi Fleischer

Tzvi Fleischer

Children to Martyrs

Readers will probably recall considerable controversy over Hamas’ efforts to indoctrinate children into violence and martyrdom via the television program “Tomorrow’s Pioneers” (home of the infamous Farfur the Mouse) on al-Aqsa TV. It has now been revealed that Hamas is also employing an online magazine for children entitled al-Fateh for the same purpose.

Moreover, the magazine in question, according to its own masthead, is published not in Gaza but in London.

The magazine features imagery, poems and stories designed to encourage children to seek martyrdom, “liberate Palestine” and deplore Jews.

For example, every issue of the bi-weekly magazine features a profile of a shahid (martyr) from Hamas’ military wing, the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, who is praised for having “sought shahada [martyrdom ]” or having been a “soldier of jihad”.

A profile of Hamas founder Sheikh Yassin says he was killed by the “murderers of prophets… the cowardly Zionist Jews.” Another article admonishes children, “Tell them about your ancestors and about the Jews’ ancestors, and make a distinction between them. They [Jews] break agreements, kill innocent people, turn truth into lie and lie into truth… Tell them about the Jews’ cunning towards our Prophet Muhammad, cunning that will last until the end of times. You cannot trust a Jew.”

Meanwhile, Hamas’ internet efforts to indoctrinate children have been joined by an Arabic internet singing sensation know as the “Birds of Paradise,” according to a report by the US-based Investigative Project on Terrorism. Apparently based in Jordan, this production company has created an immensely popular and highly professional music video called “When We Seek Martyrdom” which is directed at children from toddler to elementary school age. It features a small girl singing words such as “When we seek martyrdom, we go to heaven. You tell us we’re small, but from this way of life we have become big. Without Palestine, what does childhood mean?”

In addition, children are shown practising violent attacks, and killing other children dressed up to represent Israeli soldiers. The video has received millions of hits across the Arabic-speaking world.

Another “Birds of Paradise” video features adults carrying out terror attacks on Israelis and a teenager throwing a Molotov cocktail into an Israeli military position, along with chants of “Victorious, as promised by Allah, we will have, we will have victory!” Many “Birds of Paradise” videos also include links to additional pages of jihadist material for children.

Despite their popularity, some in the Arab world are protesting what these videos are doing to children. Fawzia Nasir al-Naeem of the Saudi Arabian newspaper, al-Jazirah warned of the “Birds of Paradise” videos, “It encourages the use of arms, killing, explosives, shedding blood and terrorism with all its synonyms. Our children parrot what they hear, and it enters their minds…so, mother, open your half closed eyes to the bitter reality.”

HRW’s Strange Bedfellows

Readers may recall that I have written in this space previously about the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), and especially its Middle East and North Africa Division. I noted the fact that the organisation’s apparently excessive and discriminatory focus on Israel can at least partially be explained by the personnel in this division, virtually all of whom seemed to have been involved in anti-Israeli activism before being hired by Human Rights Watch.

Now the head of that division, Sarah Leah Whitson, has sought a new source of funding – Saudi Arabia – based on a pitch specifically highlighting the organisation’s severe criticisms of Israel. According to the Arab News (May 26, 2009), Whitson visited Saudi Arabia at the end of May to seek funds from Saudi businessmen on the basis that “The group is facing a shortage of funds because of the global financial crisis and the work on Israel and Gaza, which depleted HRW’s budget for the region.” Moreover, Whitson’s presentation to Saudi businessmen at a fundraising dinner reportedly focused on “the report they compiled on Israel violating human rights and international law during its war on Gaza earlier this year.” Whitson reportedly boasted that, “Human Rights Watch provided the international community with evidence of Israel using white phosphorus and launching systematic destructive attacks on civilian targets.”

The obvious point to make about this is that Saudi Arabia has one of the worst human rights records in the world, something that HRW has actually done a pretty good job of documenting. Yet, in visiting the country, HRW largely ignored Saudi Arabia’s atrocious record (there was apparently some mention of a mild call for Saudi Arabia to improve the treatment of domestic workers), and instead focused on the organisation’s criticisms of Israel. Saudis were, in essence, asked to pledge money to support, not human rights in general, but a campaign against Israel. And to enable this campaign, Human Rights Watch was willing not only to ignore Saudi Arabia’s record, but to make themselves, effectively, financially dependent on that totalitarian state’s pleasure or displeasure with their work.

This shows pretty effectively where the priorities of at least the Middle East division of the organisation lie.



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