Note: This is an updated version of a post first published in November on my TOI blog.
“Child Sacrifice Brings No Honor to the Palestinian Cause” was the title of a recent Ha’aretz op-ed by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie. It’s 2015, and one might have hoped there would be no need for an op-ed with such a title. But sadly, there is even a Wikipedia entry for “Child suicide bombers in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict,” and the recent stabbing attacks by Palestinian teenagers – including a boy as young as 11 – are only another reminder of the abusive indoctrination and exploitation of children practiced by Palestinian society for decades.
Long before Hamas officials boasted in recent years that their efforts to train a “true generation of martyrdom-seekers” were so successful that “Palestinian youngsters … fight and quarrel over performing a courageous suicide operation,” a Life Magazine cover story on “Palestinian Arabs” in 1970 included a photo showing a group of very young boys with guns and the caption: “The ‘Tiger Cubs’ train at a camp in Jordan.”
Why Palestinians considered it useful to train child soldiers was explained by the prominent cartoonist Nagi Al-Ali in an article published in 1985, where he first denounced Israel’s 1982 campaign against Palestinian terror groups in Lebanon and then gloated:
“I saw for myself how afraid the Israeli soldiers were of the children. A child of ten or eleven had sufficient training to carry and use an RBG rifle. The situation was simple enough. The Israeli tanks were in front of them and the weapon was in their hands. The Israelis were afraid to go into the camps, and if they did, they would only do so in daylight.”
More than three decades have passed since then, but Palestinians still believe that the same Israeli soldiers they regularly denounce as brutal and trigger-happy are “afraid” of children – which of course means they know full well that Israeli soldiers don’t want to shoot kids. Sadly, that in turn only means Palestinians find it very useful to involve their children in protests and violent provocations.
The deeply cynical game that Palestinians like to play was illustrated a few months ago, when a video showing the attempt of an Israeli soldier to arrest a seemingly frightened boy for rock-throwing went viral. The fully armed soldier was quickly attacked and forced to retreat by a group of women and girls from the Tamimi clan of Nabi Saleh – a small village near Ramallah, which has become a popular destination for international activists who are attracted by the weekly efforts of the Tamimis to provoke clashes with the IDF.
The boy in the video elicited all the more sympathy around the globe because he had one arm in a cast. His parents, Bassem and Nariman Tamimi, proceeded to tell the media various stories about how their son had broken his arm, and needless to say, all the stories blamed the brutality of Israeli’s army. However, when I decided to look into the matter, I found out that Facebook posts by the Tamimis revealed that their son Mohammad (aka Abu Yazan) had broken his arm when he stumbled while throwing stones at an army jeep – for which his parents not only praised him to the high heavens, but which they also encouraged him to continue. When a Facebook friend expressed concern and suggested it might be better to stop these provocations, Mohammad’s loving mother coldly responded: “Either victory or martyrdom; and everything is going to be OK.”
For the Tamimis everything was more than OK when the video of the attempted arrest of their son went viral. They greatly enjoyed the global media attention and shared countless reports condemning Israeli brutality against an innocent helpless little boy on their Facebook pages. But they also shared a revealing cartoon that illustrates their cynical exploitation of their own children: the ostensibly terrified boy with the broken arm, who was exhibited to the world as the victim of a brutal assault by a heavily armed soldier, is transformed into a little superman who needs just one arm to toss a monstrously huge Israeli soldier into the air; the triumphant caption reads in English: “Shatter the myth of the Zionist army at the hands of the children of Nabi Saleh.”
While the Tamimis gloat that it is child’s play to “shatter the myth of the Zionist army,” they also happily spread current versions of the medieval blood libel, including accusations that Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinian children for fun or arrest them to harvest their organs.
It’s arguably worthwhile to ponder for a moment how it must feel to grow up in such an environment: on the one hand, your parents and adult family members push you relentlessly to provoke Israeli soldiers and praise you when you do so; on the other hand, your parents and adult family members say that the Israeli soldiers you are supposed to provoke kill kids for fun or arrest them to harvest their organs.
Add to this frightful demonization the pervasive glorification of terrorism in Palestinian society with the clear message that there is nothing more heroic than being killed while killing – or at least trying to kill – Israeli Jews, and it’s no longer such a mystery why even young Palestinian teens would grab a knife and go out to stab a Jew.
So it was no surprise that the Tamimis cheered the recent stabbing attacks – even when the attacks were thought to be carried out by 15-year-olds.
In this case, the attacker turned out to be actually 19, and the victim was a yeshiva student; but as I have shown in a detailed documentation published recently by The Tower Magazine, the Tamimis had been rooting for a “third intifada” for years and could see nothing wrong when it seemed that this long-hoped-for “third intifada” might be brought about by knife-wielding Palestinian teenagers stabbing Jews on the streets of Israel’s cities. Since the Tamimis had long promoted the use of children in violent confrontations with the IDF, they were now ready to hail teenaged terrorists as “heroes” if they were arrested, and as “martyrs” if they were killed while killing or trying to kill; at the same time, they were shameless enough to claim repeatedly that the “martyrs” were innocent victims executed in cold blood by the evil Zionists.
Sadly, the Tamimis are quite representative of mainstream Palestinian support for violence and terrorism, which is well-documented in surveys that go back more than two decades.
What makes the Tamimis’ support for terrorism – along with their openly displayed Jew-hatred and their frank rejection of a peacefully negotiated two-state solution – noteworthy is that they have the unwavering support of Amnesty International. At the end of the second intifada, Amnesty eventually got around to issuing a belated statement criticizing “Palestinian armed groups” for using children. But apparently, Amnesty sees nothing wrong when the Tamimis insist that even children have the “duty” to “resist.” Indeed, when Bassem Tamimi recently faced criticism for trying to indoctrinate American Third Graders during a US-speaking tour that was co-sponsored by Amnesty, an official of the organization rejected the criticism and emphasized that Amnesty had “adopted his village of Nabi Saleh as a community-at-risk” and that “AI groups globally work on behalf of the village long term.”
It’s supposedly an African proverb that says “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” As I have shown in The Tower Magazine documentation, children in the Amnesty-supported village of Nabi Saleh are raised by adults who push them relentlessly to put themselves in danger in order to fulfill their “duty” to “resist;” the children see their parents cheer teenagers who went out to stab Jews, and they grow up among adults who feel that Israel’s Jews deserve to be killed because they are all bloodthirsty “settlers” and “Zionists” who want global strife. And as soon as the children are on Facebook, they will be “friends” with one of the most notorious Tamimi-clan members: Ahlam Tamimi, the mastermind of the 2001 Sbarro massacre in Jerusalem.
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About a month after The Tower Magazine published my documentation, Amnesty International decided to show again its support for the Tamimis and organized a campaign on Twitter that was joined by numerous regional and local Amnesty branches all posting tweets with the hashtag #NabiSaleh.
Amnesty’s continued support for the Tamimis is shameful, all the more so since in the meantime, some Palestinian journalists and intellectuals have begun to speak out against the indoctrination and exploitation of children in confrontations with the IDF and terror attacks. To quote one voice repudiating the kind of views promoted by the Tamimis:
“Do not send your children into the fray, even though the occupation does not distinguish between children, youth, and adults… We must not bring our children into the cycle of violence… Even the Prophet Muhammad refused to bring children into battle… We should keep our children away from the demonstrations in the areas of conflict and clashes so they can experience their childhood. Even if it is a difficult [childhood], it is better than the childhood of the injured, the prisoner, or the martyr who is [completely] bereft of a childhood.”
“Do not cheer [the stabbing children] and do not take pride [in them], since this has become a game of blood. Those who scream and roar, congratulating a child for pulling out a knife or a schoolgirl for taking up a pair of scissors, should see them as though they were their own children. Would they agree to throw their son into this furnace?”
However, a recent poll shows overwhelming support for the current wave of Palestinian terror attacks, though most do not want “young school girls” to commit stabbings.