Encouraged by Yasser Arafat and sponsored by the PA, young Palestinians are being prepared for a future in which peace with Israel plays no part.
Their little bodies sway in time to the music, eyes shiny and hair-ribbons bright in their curly hair. In the studio around them are the colourful props used in children's television shows everywhere—teddy bear puppets, murals of Donald Duck and other Disney characters, while a larger-than-life "Mickey Mouse" dances to a cheerful tune. Then the camera focuses on a little girl—she can't be much more than five years' old—as she sings, slightly off-key: "Oh my sister, sing constantly about my life as a suicide warrior … each and every part of your soil I have drenched with all my blood, and we shall march as warriors of jihad."
This is childrens' television, Palestinian Authority-style. The participants in this popular prime-time show are bringing a grotesque message of holy war and hatred into tens of thousands of living-rooms throughout the Palestinian autonomous areas. And the US government and European Union are footing some of the bill.
The Children's Club, broadcast on official Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) television, is produced by the PA Ministry of Education. A video on this phenomenon, produced last month by the Israeli lobby group "Peace for Generations", is deeply disturbing. One after another, children almost too young to pronounce the words properly stand up to recite slogans about blood, stones, bullets, and—the most common word—jihad. A little lass sporting a gap in the front of her milk-teeth declares: "When I wander into the entrance of Jerusalem, I'll turn into a suicide warrior, in battledress, in battledress".
"Ask from us blood and we will drench you, ask from us our soul, we will give it to you," cries another, and "… all Arab experience calls me to take revenge". A boy, about eight, warns grimly: "Occupier your day is near, then we will settle our account … with stones and bullets."
Possibly most chilling is a pretty child dressed in a puffed-sleeve, orange and white party frock. Beginning earnestly, her voice rising steadily in crescendo, she sings the song of a Muslim preparing to sacrifice her life, and kill Jews, for Allah: "I shall take my soul into my hand, and throw it into the abyss of death. On your life, I foresee my death. But I march quickly towards my death. Am I afraid? For me life has little value, because I'm returning to my lord, And my people will know that I am a hero, and my people will know that I am a hero."
After each brief contribution, all the children burst into applause, while the programme presenter, a young woman, claps and calls, "Bravo, bravo!"
Entitled Jihad for Kids, the "Peace for Generations" video has been shown to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee and to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who told reporters afterwards: "We saw child after child get up and talk about the blood that he or she is willing to spill, including his or her own, and all for one purpose: to destroy the State of Israel … [Arafat] must stop poisoning the hearts and minds of their children! Start teaching them about peace!" (Arutz 7, July 6)
Samples of similar video footage were also viewed at a special session of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee special session on March 11, also attended by Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk.
According to PBC chairman Radwan Abu Ayash, the corporation has received "about $500,000 in equipment and training from the US Agency for International Development and … more than $6 million in aid from the European Union" (The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept 7, 1997).
THIS blatant, televised exploitation of children openly violates the Oslo II agreement, article XXII of which says Israel and the PA "shall seek to foster mutual understanding and tolerance and shall accordingly abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda, against each other …"
It's clearly effective, too. Israeli mourners driving to the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar for the funerals of two young Jews shot dead in an early August terror attack noted that Arab children in villages they drove through laughed loudly at them, making shooting gestures …
Summer camp with a difference
Unfortunately, such PA incitement doesn't end with the very young. The next stage of the evolutionary process sees the older child preparing for the battle so lovingly extolled by the younger sibling. And where better to obtain political indoctrination and skills in violence than … summer camp?
Official summer camps run by the Palestinian Authority aim to provide political education and military training for children. While their Israeli counterparts learn about biblical heroes and sing around campfires, Palestinian youngsters learn weapons training and hand-to-hand combat.
A report by the Jerusalem-based monitoring group Palestinian Media Watch has found that this summer's camps are being run on military lines, under a camp "commander". Staff members are often PA police or security officials, or "National Political Direction" officials. Children are divided into platoons "which carry the names of the Palestinian cities that were destroyed by the occupation in 1948", in the words of one camp commander (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 21). Boys and girls alike are taught military drill, and in at least one camp, a PA lieutenant "held a lecture on the technical and tactical characteristics of the rifle" (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 9).
In song, dance and drama, the children are taught that Israel must disappear for Palestine to be created. Violence is glorified. In television footage from a Khan Yunis summer camp, one young boy leads others in a chant: "The youth will be victorious, we are ready with our guns, revolution until victory" (PA TV, July 2).
One such summer camp is entitled: "Fifty years of Occupation: We will not forget and we will not forgive." Large maps of "Palestine" are displayed, including all the State of Israel (whose name doesn't appear at all). At one camp, a huge picture of the Temple Mount is shown, covered with blood, severed arms and heads, Palestinian Media Watch reports.
A deputy commander of another camp describes them as being " like a mission under the auspices of the political guidance to build a generation capable of shouldering the responsibilities of the present and the past, who can arrive at Jerusalem, fight the settlements and build the independent Palestinian state". (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 19)
Poisoned books, poisoned minds
IT'S not just during the holidays that children learn the lessons of hatred and violence. Textbooks used in Palestinian schools are full of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish invective. And PA chairman Yasser Arafat has just assumed the responsibilities in his newly-announced cabinet for Education and Youth Affairs, placing himself in an even better position to affect young minds.
An Israeli body called the Centre For Monitoring The Impact Of Peace issued a report in late July comparing the contents of school text books with rhetoric contained in the (still unamended) PLO Covenant.
"Our Arabic Language for Fourth Grade" contains the slogan: "Long live the homeland. O my land, my land, my blood will be sacrificed for you. I have given my life as a sacrifice, accept it." An exercise in "Our Arabic Language for Seventh Grade" asks: "How are we going to liberate our stolen land? Make use of the following ideas: Arab unity, genuine faith in Allah, most modern weapons and ammunition, using oil and other precious natural resources as weapons in the battle for liberation."
Other examples: "Reader and Literary Texts (Eighth Grade)": "My brothers! The oppressors have overstepped the boundary, therefore jihad and sacrifice are a duty...are we to let them steal its Arab nature?....let us gather for war with red blood and blazing fire...Oh Palestine, the youth will redeem your land …"
"Modern Arab History (Tenth Grade)": "The Zionists turn their attention towards Palestine as the national homeland of the Jews, while relying on false historical and religious claims."
"Islamic Education (Ninth Grade)": "Write in your exercise book: An event showing the fanaticism of the Jews in Palestine against Muslims or Christians."
"Our Arabic Language for Fifth Grade": "Remember: the final and inevitable result will be the victory of the Muslims over the Jews ... the Nation will recruit its forces and there will be a jihad and our country will be freed."
SCHOOLED in such sentiments, Palestinian youth are ripe for abuse by those promoting violence. Chief of these is Arafat, who has himself led the campaign of incitement.
In a recent interview with the Algerian newspaper Sawt al-Ahrar, Arafat announced that the PA was "ready to restart the intifada in order to stop the assault on the Arab character of Jerusalem" (Aug 1). More dangerously, in a speech to an Islamic gathering in Morocco, Arafat whipped up Muslim sentiment by repeating a baseless yet perennial myth about Israeli plans to destroy mosques in Jerusalem: "They are determined to destroy the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqua Mosque on the Temple Mount and to replace them by building Solomon's Temple. Israel has started the war over Jerusalem, but with Arab and Islamic assistance, this shall be our faithful jihad, to defend holy Jerusalem …" (Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, July 30)
Thus speaks the young Palestinian's hero and role-model. Thus speaks Israel's peace partner.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET
A private television station in the autonomous areas has teamed up with Israeli television to produce an Israeli-Palestinian version of the internationally popular children's show, Sesame Street.
In stark contrast to the Children's Club on official PA television, Rehov Sumsum/Shara'a Simsim, which premiered on April 1 this year, promotes tolerance between children from different ethnic, cultural or religious backgrounds. Israeli and Arab characters regularly "visit" each other's side of the street, to discuss problems and air views in a friendly spirit.
Not surprisingly, the PBC has declined to screen the programme, which is shown on Israel Educational Television, as well as the private Al Quds TV. Since its inception in 1994, the PBC television and radio stations have adopted a policy of promoting speeches, interviews and shows that focus on tensions, rather than advocate peace.