If They Strapped Bombs on Dogs or Horses…

Last month’s Annapolis conference, like Oslo, was pure kabuki theater, in which leaders gathered to pretend that the central issue of the Arab/Israeli conflict is land, not irrational hatred, corruption, and brainwashing of the next generation of “martyrs.” Meanwhile, as leaders nitpick over borders and definitions, the education of an entire generation of Muslim children to war continues on a mass scale.

On Wednesday I attended a talk at National Defense University in Washington D.C. by Brooke Goldstein, director of the legal project at Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, whose film on the brainwashing and recruitment of Palestinian children, The Making of a Martyr, I’ve written about for The New York Sun.

Ms. Goldstein, who at 24 went into the West Bank without a weapon or bodyguard and spoke directly to dozens of Palestinian children, the parents of suicide bombers, and the terrorists who recruit them, has experienced firsthand what the free world is up against.

One of her points in Wednesday’s talk was that the brainwashing, recruitment, and manipulation of children to turn themselves into human bombs occur not just in the Palestinian territories, but also in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“When you hear stories about suicide bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the media seldom include the ages of the bombers, who are often teenagers, and sometimes children,” she said.

One example she cited was the case, in June, of a 6-year-old suicide bomber who wandered up to a NATO checkpoint in Afghanistan wearing an explosive-laden vest, asking the officers what the vest was for.

According to Ms. Goldstein, Coalition to Stop the Recruitment of Child Soldiers recently released a report that denies the existence of the phenomenon of recruiting children to become suicide bombers.

“We have to ask ourselves,” says Ms. Goldstein, “is the bias against reporting [critically] on Palestinian and Muslim leadership so deep that media and human rights groups are willing to turn a blind eye to the systematic recruitment of children?”

Her film provides excellent refutation of this denial. In it, we meet 15-year-old Husam Abdu, physically a dwarf. In 2004, at the behest of teenage friends who had been recruited by Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – a wing, incidentally, of the “moderate” Palestinian Authority – Abdu allowed a bomb to be strapped to his torso and sought “paradise” by way of self-immolation and murder at an Israeli checkpoint.

At the last minute, he had a change of heart, wondering (as he later relates in an on-camera interview with Ms. Goldstein,) “I was concerned about my life, my sisters, my mother, the house…why should I die if there is peace tomorrow?”

Ms. Goldstein believes that Abdu is not the correct party to charge with attempted murder in this case; rather, the adults who ordered he be recruited, as well as those who produce television shows and textbooks extolling the glories of martyrdom, are.

Her research reveals that those who recruit child and adult suicide bombers are heartless in exploiting these young people’s deep personal insecurities. In Abdu’s case, he was a dwarf whose normal-size “friends” were recruited by adults to enlist him. Wafa Idris, the first female suicide bomber, whose mother Ms. Goldstein interviews in the film, was at 28 a childless divorcee facing the threat of honor killing (Instead, she chose to bring “honor” to her family by committing suicide and injuring 100 innocent Israelis).

Contrary to the liberal notion that suicide bombers are undertaking acts of sacrifice for the sake of a cause, some of these brainwashed individuals—especially the youngest ones–are not necessarily even acting on political beliefs. They are, rather, in many cases social misfits chosen for their desperation – but not desperation of the type that liberals assume (Abdu, for example, comes from a middle class family). They are easy marks whose psychological weaknesses or extreme youth terrorist ringleaders prey on for their own corrupt ends.

Those who gave the orders that Abdu be recruited are free, while he sits in an Israeli prison.

Ominously, Ms. Goldstein’s film documents that Palestinian children are considerably more radical than their parents. Abdu’s seem dismayed by his suicide bombing attempt and, while they do not blame or condemn him, speak of their son as having been “deceived”—which implies they recognize his murder/suicide attempt was nothing to be proud of.

Abdu’s teenage sister, however, beams with pride as she lifts an award her brother received from Hamas, which reads, “To Hussam the Prisoner Fighter.” And outside Wafa Idris’s mother’s house, Wafa’s adolescent nieces giggle, “Every girl wants to be a martyr!” as if they’re talking about becoming Knicks City Dancers.

TV shows and textbooks to indoctrinate Palestinian and other Arab kids into a violent ideology are being produced in Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia – and instead of demanding that this incitement end and that these leaders genuinely begin preparing their people for peace, world leaders call upon Israel to give up the Golan Heights and the West Bank – as if living on one piece of land as opposed to another leads inexorably to suicidal, murderous impulses.

“The root cause of suicide bombing is indoctrination of children towards a violent ideology, [and] what we’re seeing now is the product of fifteen years of hate education,” Ms. Goldstein says. “If any government strapped bombs on horses or dogs and sent them out into civilian populations to be detonated, the world would be outraged.”

If the Bush Administration’s effort to establish a Palestinian state by the end of 2008 fails to make the ceasing of incitement a prerequisite, I shudder to imagine what, fifteen or twenty years from now, “Palestine” will consist of.

This entry was written by and posted on December 10, 2007 at 3:24 am and filed under Blog.