THE ISRAEL REPORTNovember/December 2000
Jerusalem cleric praises child "sacrifices"
'The younger the martyr, the greater and the more I respect him'By David Kupelian
The Mufti of Jerusalem, the city's highest Muslim religious authority, is calling for the complete "liberation" by Palestinians not only of Jerusalem, but of all of Israel, and stresses that "sacrifice" and "martyrdom" of Palestinian children prove that "the new generation will carry on the mission with determination."
Speaking to the Egyptian weekly, Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, Sheik 'Ikrima Sabri, the Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, addressed several issues regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict -- including his admiration for the child "martyrs." Over 40 Palestinian youths reportedly have died in the last six weeks of clashes between Palestinians and Israelis after the meltdown of the doomed Clinton-brokered "peace process."
"We haven't sacrificed enough yet to be worthy of liberating Al-Aqsa," said Sabri. "To liberate Jerusalem, Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi made great sacrifices for a long time, and we have to sacrifice until Allah's victory is completed ..."
Reiterating the long-held Arab nationalistic view that Mideast peace can only come if and when all of Israel is "liberated" and the Jews expelled from the region, the Mufti said: "The land of Palestine is not only Jerusalem; this land stretches from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea. Naturally, the [Palestinian] problem relates to all of this land. We cannot establish a homeland by only liberating Jerusalem. It is true that Salah Al-Din did not rest until Jerusalem was liberated, but this does not suggest that the rest of this blessed land is to be neglected or given up. ..."
Stressing that "Every Palestinian is, in fact, in a state of Jihad," Sabri praised the Palestinian "martyrs," and particularly the children that are proudly thrust by their parents and other combatants into the frontlines of conflicts with Israelis.
"I feel the martyr is lucky because the angels usher him to his wedding in heaven," he said.
"There is no doubt that a child [martyr] suggests that the new generation will carry on the mission with determination," said the Mufti, appointed by Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. "The younger the martyr, the greater and the more I respect him. ... One wrote his name on a note before he died. He wrote: 'the martyr so and so.' In every martyr's pocket we find a note with his name on it. He sentences himself to martyrdom even before he becomes a martyr."
In response to the interviewer's question, "Is this why the mothers cry with joy when they hear about their sons' death?" Sabri answered:
"They willingly sacrifice their offspring for the sake of freedom. It is a great display of the power of belief. The mother is participating in the great reward of the Jihad to liberate Al-Aqsa ... I talked to a young man ... [who] said: '... I want to marry the black-eyed [beautiful] women of heaven.' The next day he became a martyr. I am sure his mother was filled with joy about his heavenly marriage. Such a son must have such a mother."
Asked, "How do you feel about the Jews?" Sabri answered: "I enter the mosque of Al-Aqsa with my head up and at the same time I am filled with rage toward the Jews. I have never greeted a Jew when I came near one. I never will. They cannot even dream that I will. The Jews do not dare to bother me, because they are the most cowardly creatures Allah has ever created. ..."
Palestinian children are taught almost from birth to hate Jews and to glorify "jihad" (holy war) -- even to the point of their own death and "martyrdom" -- as an essential part of their culture. As a Sesame Street-like television program called the "Children's Club," complete with puppet shows, songs and a Mickey Mouse character, celebrates violence and terror, teaching Palestinian children songs like "When I wander into Jerusalem, I will become a suicide bomber." A video documenting the children's program also shows kids singing songs about taking up "a machine gun" to direct "violence, anger, anger, anger" against Israelis.
In the Oct. 27 Jerusalem Post, writer Gerald M. Steinberg revealed the shocking aftermath of the recent violent deaths of some Palestinian children.
"Interviewed by journalists after [recent] tragedies, some of the parents of these young victims refer to their children as shaheeds (martyrs), whose lives were given willingly and proudly to the Palestinian cause in fighting the hated Zionist enemy," Steinberg said.
"In an unbelievably shocking scene, one mother boasted that she bore her son precisely for this purpose, and the father proudly claimed credit for providing the training. The parents will also receive a sizeable financial 'reward' from the Palestinian Authority," he added.
Not all Palestinians agree with sacrificing their children for the sake of the "Jihad" against Israel, however.
Recently, a pro-Palestinian Arab journalist with the London-based Arab daily, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, condemned the use of children in the struggle with Israel:
"Some Palestinian leaders ... consciously issue orders with the purpose of ending their childhood, even if it means their last breath," wrote Huda Al-Husseini in the Oct. 27 edition.
"I want to know why we, the Arabs, insist on dying instead of living for our homeland," she said. "If these children have nothing to lose, and they think the training is ... a game, are we supposed to continue pushing them with hypocrisy and stupid enthusiasm to actually lose their lives? Have we exhausted all means, and every argument, have we exhausted ... our brains, having nothing left but to gamble with the lives of children and push them to confront Israel? Or maybe the Palestinian leaders -- those who are in the PA or those who are getting ready to fill a role in it -- put their trust in the humanity of Israel? If this is what they do, then they are wrong.
"What kind of independence is built on the blood of children while the leaders are safe and so are their children and grandchildren?" she asked. "Are only the miserable destined to die in the spring of their lives? Those children who are killed may not, in their short lives, have enjoyed a fresh piece of bread, sleeping in a warm bed, the happiness of putting on a new piece of cloth, or carrying books with no torn pages to school."
Arguing that "the time of Arafat and the people around him has reached its dusk," the Palestinian journalist and activist chastised the dominant culture of the Palestinians today:
"First of all, these children deserve to live, before we push them to find death. But what are we doing to them? We abuse their innocence, we supply them with tons of stones, while we sit in our offices and commend their death. Then we accept an invitation for a working lunch or dinner and talk about those children who died holding stones, those that died, probably hungry."
Translation into English of Oct. 28 Al-Ahram Al-Arabi interview with Sheik 'Ikrima Sabri and Oct. 27 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat article by reporter Huda Al-Husseini was done by the Middle East Media and Research Institute, MEMRI, an independent, non-profit organization providing translations of the Arab media and original analysis and research on developments in the Middle East.
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