Australia/Israel Review

Scribblings: Martyrdom complex

Dec 15, 2021 | Tzvi Fleischer

Palestinian attackers killed in the midst of a stabbing or car-ramming are eulogised as innocent “martyrs” murdered by Israel for no reason (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Palestinian attackers killed in the midst of a stabbing or car-ramming are eulogised as innocent “martyrs” murdered by Israel for no reason (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Israel has been experiencing a sharp uptick in “lone wolf” terror attacks in recent weeks, mainly by young people not directly affiliated with any terrorist group using knives or a vehicle.

There are concerns this could be the beginning of something like the so-called “Knife Intifada” which took place in late 2015 and early 2016. That six-month period saw 211 stabbings or attempted stabbings of Israelis by Palestinians, 83 shootings and 42 car-ramming attacks – leading to the deaths of 32 Israelis and tourists and some 200 Palestinians. Most attacks were perpetrated by young people, with many deliberately copycatting previous attacks, incited to do so by social media, official Palestinian Authority (PA) media and pronouncements by PA leaders. PA sources contributed to that wave of senseless terrorism by frequently presenting the Palestinian attackers killed in the midst of a stabbing or car-ramming as innocent “martyrs” murdered by Israel for no reason.

This destructive pattern is showing signs of being repeated (all quotes below courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch). 

For instance, on Nov. 21, 42-year-old east Jerusalem resident Fadi Abu Shkhaydam used a sub-machine gun to open fire upon three Jewish civilians walking through Jerusalem’s Old City. He killed one of them, Eliyahu David Kay, 26, and injured the two others, before Israeli police responded and shot and killed Abu Shkhaydam. 

(That particular attack was unusual compared to other attacks in the recent wave because the attacker was older, he was known to be affiliated with Hamas, and he used a firearm.)

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported this incident by saying that: “Israeli occupation forces today opened gunfire and killed a Palestinian man … in the Old City of occupied Jerusalem, according to witnesses. The man was identified as Fadi Abu Shkhaydam, a 42-year-old teacher of Islamic education…” The agency did say that “The Israeli Police claimed that Abu Shkhaydam opened gunfire on police officers killing one of them and injuring another three” – but this not only falsely claimed the targets were police, but came at the very end of the dispatch after the story was presented as an Israeli attack on a Palestinian. 

The next day, the official PA paper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda’s report on the incident started out by saying that: “Fadi Abu Shkhaydam a 42-year-old civilian from the Shuafat refugee camp in occupied Jerusalem, was shot by the Israeli occupation forces and died as a Martyr yesterday…”

It went on to say: “The occupation police claimed that a shooting operation occurred in the Old City of Jerusalem, in which 1 settler was killed and 3 others were wounded, one of them seriously.” Note that the attack by Abu Shkhaydam was portrayed as only a “claim” by “occupation forces”, while the alleged victims were now “settlers” (Kay actually lived inside pre-1967 Israel). Meanwhile, Abu Shkhaydam was explicitly labelled a “martyr”. 

A stabbing attack near Jerusalem’s Old City on Dec. 5 was also similarly misrepresented by Palestinian Authority official media. An Israeli police video shows 25-year-old Muhammad Shawkat Salima suddenly pulling out a knife and stabbing a nearby 21-year-old Jewish pedestrian in the neck (he survived). Salima then lunges at two nearby Israeli police officers who shoot him three or four times – including twice after he falls to the ground but is trying to get up – in an incident that lasted only a few seconds. 

Palestinians passing by later uploaded video to social media showing only the two shots fired while Salima was on the ground, amidst claims that he had been executed. 

Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda headlined their story on the incident: “The occupation executes young Muhammad Salima in Jerusalem, Bennett and Lapid support the soldiers’ crime!” The paper’s story said Salima “died as a Martyr after the occupation forces fired at him from point-blank range after he was wounded, and left him on the ground without allowing him to be given [medical] assistance.” And again, his stabbing attack was labelled as only something the “occupation police” had “claimed” despite video readily available showing Salima stabbing the Jewish pedestrian. 

What’s more, the story then editorialised that the incident was “clear proof of the instructions that the occupation soldiers receive… which allow them to murder and execute any Palestinian.” Meanwhile, both PA President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Muhammed Shtayyeh publicly condemned the “murder” of Salima. 

By labelling terrorists like Salima and Abu Shkhaydam as “martyrs” and creating unjustified outrage over their deaths – when their own actions made their deaths virtually inevitable – the Palestinian Authority is clearly helping encourage similar copycat attacks. 

Also note that, alongside the confected outrage, there is no hint anywhere in the PA’s coverage of any suggestion Palestinians should not be murdering random Jewish civilians. 

In 2015-16, similar incitement contributed to the senseless deaths of scores of Palestinian young people – one would have hoped that the PA had at least learned some lessons from that. 


The PFLP hearts terror

The sceptical reaction in some circles to Israel’s banning of six prominent Palestinian NGOs in October for close links – including diverting funding – to the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), involved efforts to play down PFLP terrorism. Some suggested that the PFLP may have been a terror group in the past but is now mostly out of the terrorism business. 

It is thus worth highlighting how the PFLP reacted to Fadi Abu Shkhaydam’s Nov. 21 shooting attack on Israeli civilians, noted above.

The PFLP put out an official statement praising the “heroic operation” and urging Palestinians to “to learn from the example of the self-sacrificing fighter,” and “escalate the resistance.”

Does anyone still think that the PFLP is no longer in the terrorism business?


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