Prime-Time Hate From Arafat TV

Posted Dec. 17, 2002

By Kenneth R. Timmerman in Jerusalem

Arafat continues inciting Palestinian children against their neighbors, even if it means death.

The five-minute video clip could have been produced by Jennifer Lopez to the music of Pink Floyd. It is professional, dreamy and haunting. It begins with a handsome young schoolboy writing a farewell letter to his parents. In this pop saga the boy goes off on a "mission" in which he dies, and his farewell letter is handed to his father, who tears his hair at the news. Scenes of the boy's last day scroll across the screen as an enchanting male voice puts the words of his letter to a haunting melody. "Do not be sad, my dear, and do not cry over my parting. Oh, my dear father; how sweet is Shahada [martyrdom]. How sweet is Shahada when I embrace you, oh my land."

In the video the boy embraces the ground with his arms stretched out as upon a cross. His death is gentle, innocent, heroic -- not at all the brutal dismemberment that awaits suicide bombers. "Mother, my most dear, be joyous over my blood," he sings. "And do not cry for me."

That same line, "Mother, do not cry for me," has appeared in at least three farewell letters from 14- to 17-year-old Palestinians who have carried out suicide bombings since the film clip first aired on Palestinian television in May 2001, says Itamar Marcus, an Israeli researcher who unearthed the music videos. Yasser Arafat's official TV station broadcast the dreamy clip virtually every day for more than a year in a clear effort to incite children to murder/suicide. It aired between cartoons, after school and in the early evening between regularly scheduled programs. Marcus plans to play these clips to a congressional committee later this month and is urging the United States to pressure the Palestinian leader to stop the deadly propaganda.

"For the six years we'd been following PA [Palestinian Authority] TV, we'd seen on average 15 minutes of violent, anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic video clips, interspersed between regular programming throughout the day," Marcus tells Insight in Jerusalem. "Suddenly, in the summer of 2000, it went up to two hours per day, just as [former Israeli prime minister Ehud] Barak was getting ready to give away 98 percent of the territory the PA wanted at Camp David."

In the beginning, the violent trailers mostly were composed of old news footage edited to glamorize suicide bombings and to call people to the streets. But soon, professional filmmakers were called in to take advantage of their special skills.

Twelve-year-old Mohammad al-Dura is the most famous Palestinian "martyr." Images captured live by a Palestinian film crew and broadcast by French state-owned television on Oct. 2, 2000, show the boy shot to death in his father's arms, presumably by Israeli soldiers. Now he has become the posthumous star of a five-minute film clip produced and edited by Arafat's official state-owned TV. The opening screen is a handwritten message "signed" by the young Mohammad: "I am waving to you not to say goodbye, but to say, follow me." A child actor depicts the death of the young Mohammad, said to have been "massacred" by Israeli soldiers, then portrays him in paradise, riding on a Ferris wheel, flying a kite and playing on the beach. A haunting lyric accompanies these pictures, with lines including the following: "How sweet is the fragrance of the Shahids. How sweet is the scent of the earth, its thirst quenched by the gush of blood flowing from the youthful body." Then the vocalist does repeats with a choir:

Vocalist: "Oh father; till we meet. Oh father; till we meet. I shall go with no fear, no tears. How sweet is the fragrance of the Shahids."

Choir: "How sweet is the fragrance of the Shahids."

The controversy over whose bullets actually killed Mohammad al-Dura remains. The Western media, led by the French News Agency and French A2 television, still insist that he was killed by Israelis. But an investigation by the Israeli army raised serious doubts, since Israeli soldiers would have had to shoot around a corner to hit him.

"These are the most evil films we ever saw," Marcus tells Insight as he plays a selection of these video clips, with English subtitles provided by his Palestinian Media Watch.

One of the many myths spread by left-wing academics and apologists for terrorism is that suicide bombers come from poor families where "hopelessness" drives them to despair and suicide. But, ever since Israel and the Clinton administration brought Arafat to Gaza in July 1994, he has been fostering hatred of Jews and promoting the cult of martyrdom through the schools, the mosques and the state-owned media. In eight years, the virus has infected all sectors of Palestinian society.

"The new role model for young Palestinian women is Wafa Idriss, the first female suicide bomber," Marcus says. Idriss blew herself up in Jerusalem on Jan. 27, 2002, killing an 81-year-old Israeli man and wounding 150 others, four seriously. "We're beginning to see her name pop up everywhere," Marcus says. "There's the Wafa Idriss course in human rights and democracy at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. There are Wafa Idriss schools run by the United Nations. It's incredible."

On June 9, 2002, two well-dressed 11-year-old girls named Wala and Yussra were interviewed on a talk show broadcast by PA TV about their personal yearning to achieve death through Shahada, which they said is the desire of "every Palestinian child." These were not children of the camps, but from the middle classes. They explained that their goal was not to become doctors or teachers, but to achieve a proper death through martyrdom for Allah.

Host: "You described Shahada as something beautiful. Do you think it is beautiful?"

Wala: "Shahada is very, very beautiful. Everyone yearns for Shahada. What could be better than going to paradise?"

Host: "What is better, peace and full rights for the Palestinian people, or Shahada?"

Wala: "Shahada. I will achieve my rights after becoming a Shahida."

Yussra: "Of course Shahada is a good thing. We don't want this world; we want the afterlife. We benefit not from this life, but from the afterlife. The children of Palestine have accepted the concept that this is Shahada, and that death by Shahada is very good. Every Palestinian child aged, say 12, says: 'Oh Lord, I would like to become a Shahid.'"

Yet another film clip aimed at children intersperses scenes of "martyred" children about to be buried with normal street scenes of children playing. It ends with a black screen stamped with the official crest of the PA and a slogan in Arabic with its English translation: "Ask for death, the life will be given to you."

There is no precedent for this type of indoctrination. "Not even Hitler did this," Marcus says. "The Hitler Youth were taught to kill, not to be killed. This is the ultimate in child abuse. Here you have a whole generation of kids who think the most they can accomplish in life is to die for Allah. This is a tragedy with implications that no one in the West has begun to contemplate."

Some Palestinian parents have tried to raise their voices against the barbarity of the PA indoctrination, but to little effect. Bassam Zakhout is the father of a 14-year-old boy who set off in April with two schoolmates to attack an Israeli military outpost near the Netzarim settlement in Gaza. Prompted by the calls to martyrdom the three teen-agers armed themselves with knives and packed their schoolbags with explosives, apparently given to them by Hamas, and ran across open ground toward the army post, where they were gunned down. Bassam Zakhout blamed PA TV for inciting the attack. "I am against all this, especially at his age," he said. "We should not destroy this generation. They are the leaders of the future."

After plastering Gaza with posters of the three "martyrs," Hamas was too embarrassed to claim responsibility once it heard the father's remark. "The blood of our cubs should be preserved for a coming day when they become strong men," said a Hamas statement issued soon afterward. "Their role in jihad is for later." Even Arafat's deputy education minister, Naim Abu-Hummos, decried their deaths. "What's happening is crazy," he said, vowing to instruct Palestinian teachers to stop glorifying martyrs.

But those thoughts, if sincere, were short-lived. Addressing a chanting auditorium full of children in August, Arafat put an end to any doubts: "Oh, children of Palestine! The colleagues, friends, brothers and sisters of Faris Ouda [a 14-year-old who died in the conflict]. The colleagues of this hero represent this immense and fundamental power that is within, and it shall be victorious, with Allah's will! One of you, a boy or a girl, shall raise the [Palestinian] flag over the walls of Jerusalem, its mosques and its churches. ... Onward together to Jerusalem!"

As the children responded with wild cheering and chanting, Arafat shouted: "Millions of Shahada marching to Jerusalem!"

In signing the Oslo Declaration of Principals in September 1993, Arafat pledged to put an end to incitement and hate education. Nine years later, his refusal to live up to that commitment has paid off in hundreds of innocent deaths on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide.

[These and other PA TV video clips for children can be viewed at www.pmw.org.il.]

Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer for Insight magazine.

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