- Prospects for peace in the Middle East have been dealt an enormous blow by the election triumph of Hamas in January 2006. Palestinian education, television shows, websites, and even families are all being mobilized in an intensified environment of agitated hatred toward Israel and Israelis.
- Even prior to the Hamas election victory, anti-Israel rhetoric was already embedded in Palestinian school textbooks and other educational materials, and ideas such as romanticizing martyrdom and “reconquering” the land were taught in the classroom. Bitter hostility towards Israel’s very existence is currently woven into the entire Palestinian educational system.
- UNRWA educational institutions are controlled by individuals committed to Hamas ideology and they are educating terrorists. Numerous terrorist operatives and Hamas political leaders have been educated in UNRWA schools.
- The idea of martyrdom has become so ingrained in Palestinian culture that it is a major theme in religious practice, television broadcasting, posters, pre-suicide eulogies, summer camps, children’s trading cards, movies, music, and games.Palestinian newspapers report that the number of children who express a willingness to become martyrs exceeds 70 percent. Palestinian psychiatrist Dr. Shafiq Massalha, after finding that over half the Palestinian population aged 6 to 11 dream of becoming suicide bombers, concludes that the next generation of Palestinians will be a very murderous population full of anger and hatred.
The raison d’etre of Hamas – the Islamic Resistance Movement, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, is the complete annihilation of the State of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state in its place. Prospects for peace in the Middle East have been dealt an enormous blow by the election triumph of Hamas in January 2006. Palestinian education, television shows, websites, and even families are all being mobilized in an intensified environment of agitated hatred toward Israel and Israelis.Mahmoud al-Zahar, a founder of Hamas and the current PA foreign minister, understands the key role of education: “We will turn every facet of life into resistance. Education will deal with the culture of resistance. We will not tell them [the children] that Palestine is a state that runs from Rafah to Khan Yunis [the limits of the Gaza Strip]. We will tell them it runs from Rafah in the south to Ras al-Nakura [the Israel-Lebanon border] in the north, and that Palestine’s western border is the [Mediterranean] sea and the eastern border the [Jordan] river [thus encompassing all of Israel].”1
Article 12 of the Hamas Charter reads: “Nationalism, from the point of view of the Islamic Resistance Movement, is part of the religious creed.”2 Such wording blurs the distinction between Palestinian nationalism and fundamentalist Islam. Consequently, in the aftermath of the Hamas election victory, there is great concern that “Islamizing” and indoctrination will become even stronger in the Palestinian territories.
Palestinian Education Before the Hamas Victory: A Platform of Hate
A June 2005 report published prior to the Hamas election victory by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP) reveals that anti-Israel rhetoric was already embedded in Palestinian school textbooks and other educational materials. The report notes how ideas such as romanticizing martyrdom and “reconquering” the land were taught in the classroom. According to Dr. Yochanan Manor, the chairman of CMIP, the biggest problems with the textbooks are the fact that there is no mention of the historical link between the Jewish people and their holy land, that efforts toward peace and understanding are notably absent, and that one hundred years after first being published, the anti-Semitic Czarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, is presented in the textbooks as historically accurate.3
Until 1999, the PA used Jordanian and Egyptian textbooks laden with blatant anti-Semitism in its schools. In September 2000, however, after much international pressure, the PA Ministry of Education issued fourteen new textbooks for grades 1 and 6.4 Since then, two more grades have adopted new textbooks every year, written by the Center for Developing the Palestinian Curricula. Though these textbooks are not as blatantly anti-Semitic as their Jordanian and Egyptian predecessors, a careful look reveals subtle (and not so subtle) elements that call for “reconquering” Israel and incite children to martyr themselves for Allah. As Dr. Manor points out, these new PA textbooks, ostensibly secular and nationalistic, are Islamist as well, and martyrdom is given pride-of-place in the curriculum.
Both the June 2005 CMIP report and a study by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) show that the PA textbooks attempt to delegitimize Israel from a religious point-of-view and encourage martyrdom. For example, students reading the sixth grade text, Islamic Education,5 learn that “Islam determined the defense of the homeland to be a religious obligation, and considers anyone who is killed in defending it as a martyr of the highest order.”6 Despite the PA’s claim that it is secular, religious ideals such as martyrdom are often portrayed as practical obligations.7
Even in the updated Palestinian textbooks, an attempt is made to subconsciously ingrain the struggle against the “occupier.” This delegitimization of Israel is found even in first grade science books. In a chapter on eyesight, the PA coveys the message that Palestine belongs solely to the Arabs. Looking through a magnifying class, the enlarged text reads, “Palestine is Arab and Muslim.”8 Without realizing it, the youth are being subliminally manipulated.
Rather than accepting Zionism as a valid expression of Jewish self-determination, Israel is repeatedly condemned as an imperialistic colonizer. A fifth grade text, History of the Ancient Civilizations, reads, “The land of Syria presently comprises the following states: Palestine, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Republic of Lebanon, and the Syrian Arab Republic.”9 Israel is conspicuously omitted. A tenth grade history textbook says, “Zionism is a political, aggressive, and colonialist movement.”10
Education in the Hamas-Led PA: Extremism Exacerbated
Bitter hostility towards Israel’s very existence is currently woven into the entire Palestinian educational system. Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon says that peace is impossible if Palestinian children are incited to hate and kill Israelis from the age of three.11
With Hamas’ rise to power, Israel-bashing is likely to become even broader due to the importance Hamas puts on the doctrine of jihad. Article 15 of the Hamas Charter emphasizes: “Jihad becomes a personal duty of every Muslim….This requires the propagation of Islamic consciousness among the masses….The indoctrination campaign must involve ulama (community of learned men), educators, teachers….It is necessary to introduce essential changes in the curricula, in order to eliminate the influences of the intellectual invasion which were inflicted upon them by the Orientalists12 and the missionaries.”13
UNRWA Schools: A Hotbed for Hamas Hatred
This anti-Israel and pro-martyrdom rhetoric is actually sanctioned by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Ostensibly a relief and human development agency that provides education, healthcare, and other social services to Palestinian refugees living in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, a more sinister role lurks just beneath the surface. Established by the United Nations General Assembly in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War,14 UNRWA schools, primarily funded by the European Union, administer 59 refugee camps and serve roughly three million Palestinian Arabs.
However, as former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dr. Dore Gold notes: “Although education was one of the fields in which UNRWA was supposed to provide aid, the agency did nothing to alter Palestinian educational texts that glorified violence and continuing war against Israel.”15 According to Gold, there are posters of martyrs on the walls of the schools and in the homes of UNRWA staff. Worse still, UNRWA workers are essentially members of Hamas: “Hamas made a clean sweep in the ‘teachers’ sector’ of the UNRWA clerk’s union, indicating to what extent UNRWA educational institutions were controlled by individuals committed to Hamas ideology”16 – and this was prior to the Hamas election victory. As journalist Arlene Kushner notes, “The UNRWA camps have been the source of an enormous number of terror attacks. Weapons are stored and explosives manufactured within the camps. Not only do the terrorists emanate from the camps, but UNRWA employees, who are themselves refugees, are often in the service of Hamas.”17
The UN Commissioner General for UNRWA, Peter Hansen, explained: “Hamas as a political organization does not mean that every member is a militant and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another.”18 Yet UNRWA schools are educating terrorists. Gold counts forty-six terrorist operatives educated in UNRWA schools.19 A number of those, such as Shadi Zakayira Tubasi20 and Fuad Ismail Mohamad Al-Horani,21 carried out their “duty” by committing suicide attacks and killing dozens of innocent Israeli civilians. Others are prominent Hamas leaders. Ibrahim Maqadama, who founded the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza and helped create the military structure of Hamas, and Salah Mustafa, another high ranking Hamas leader, studied in UNRWA schools as well.22 According to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh received his early formal education in an UNRWA school as well.
The Hamas Objective: Focus on the Next Generation
The idea of martyrdom has become so ingrained in Palestinian culture that it is a major theme in religious practice, television broadcasting, posters, pre-suicide eulogies, summer camps, children’s trading cards, movies, music, and games.23
A video clip repeatedly broadcast on Palestinian TV since December 2000 features a child actor playing the role of Muhammad al-Dura (who died in the crossfire between Israeli troops and Palestinian terrorists in September 200024) calling on other Palestinian children to literally follow him to paradise through martyrdom: “I am waving not to part but to say, ‘Follow me.'”25 While the clip was removed from Palestinian TV in 2003 after U.S. senators expressed shock and horror at what they perceived to be “horrific child abuse,” the PA resumed its use in broadcasts in June 2006.26
Hamas’ Al-Aqsa Television often broadcasts anti-Israel songs while showing pictures of masked gunmen in the background. One popular song says: “Oh, hawks of al-Qassam; oh, men of Hamas, the settler is not asleep, he will surely run away. My land will be reclaimed by the rifle alone, ignite them with fuel and fire and drive the Zionists away.”27
At a Palestinian summer camp in 2005, instructor Sa’eb Dormush explained to the San Francisco Chronicle that “resistance” “is the first word [Palestinian children] learn when they are born.”28
Arab affairs expert Ehud Ya’ari has noted, “Hamas is more interested in controlling the ministries through which it can combine its own extensive social activities with the government machinery in these spheres, most notably the education system.”29
The children’s magazine, Fatah, published a story about a Palestinian child who is determined to be a jihad fighter like his older brothers. “I want to commit a fedayeen30 action against the ‘evil Zionists’ and I want so much to sacrifice myself by attacking the evil Zionists that stole our dear land.” For younger audiences who cannot yet read, “Hamas television shows impart children with the jihad message when they are toddlers.”31
The Hamas website, www.al-fateh.net,32 glorifies violence and calls for “dying for the sake of Allah.” According to the website’s feature, “Stories of the Martyrs”: “We will rise up in determination, like our ancestors. We will sacrifice, sacrifice our lives. Our father’s bidding has taught us that jihad is the eternal path and that the oppressors [Israel] will be defeated.”33 Reuven Paz, director of PRISM, the Project for the Research of Islamic Movements, reports that “reaching younger people, who are, not coincidentally, the main users of the Internet, is the main goal of radical Islam.”34
Palestinian martyr posters often line the streets in Gaza and the West Bank, celebrating the suicide bombers, sometimes captioned, “Glad tidings from a heroic suicide bomber.”35
Manipulating the Youth to Hate
Middle East expert and psychiatrist Dr. Daphne Burdman asserts that the PA uses television broadcasting, music, and posters to embed martyrdom in the minds of children. “Music is a prominent feature, sometimes with a martial beat….The chants are often those heard at funeral processions for fallen Hamas and Islamic Jihad martyrs.”36
The Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam reported a survey in 2002 in which “72 percent of the children sampled from all the districts of Gaza expressed the hope of becoming martyrs.”37 A few months later, the official PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported that “79 to 80 percent of the children expressed willingness to be martyrs.”38
According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Terrorist groups also use children for smuggling, digging tunnels, spying, and intelligence-gathering. The terrorists exploit their innocent appearance, which allows them to pass more easily through IDF roadblocks and to approach soldiers and Israeli settlements, the fact that they are easy to influence and recruit because of their tender age and the intensive incitement to which they have been exposed, and the tendency of Israeli soldiers to refrain from harming children and youth.”39 For example, “On 23-24 April 2002, the Hamas website confirmed that they sent out three Palestinian schoolchildren from Gaza aged 12 to 14 to attempt to enter [the Jewish settlement of] Netzarim for the purpose of carrying out a suicide attack there….It was revealed that these youths were sent by the Hamas following the decision to conduct a jihad against the Jews.”40
When Becoming a Martyr is a Family Value
In an interview on Dream 2 TV, Maryam Farahat,41 popularly known as Umm Nidal, was asked if she cried upon hearing her son had just been killed in his attack on Israelis. Farahat responded, “At first I did not cry. I said ‘Allah Akbar’ and bowed in gratitude. The truth is I was ashamed to say, ‘Allah, help me in my tragedy,’ because I consider this a blessing, not a tragedy. I prepared boxes of halva and chocolates, and handed them out to his friends [in celebration].”42
PA television in February 2006 broadcast an interview with the mother of Wafa Al-Bas, a 21-year-old Palestinian woman arrested with a 20-pound bomb inside her undergarments, who was asked how she felt about her daughter going on a suicide mission. The mother said, “If it was a boy, I would have supported it, but since she is a girl I discouraged it.”43 Another example of romanticized martyrdom is found in the publicized poem written by a young Palestinian girl: “Daddy bought me a present, a machine gun and a rifle.”44
Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh praises and encourages those who commit suicide bombings: “One of the signs of victory is the Palestinian mother who prepares her son to be a warrior and then receives the news of his death for the sake of Allah with cries of happiness.”45 “According to Palestinian psychiatrist Dr. Shafiq Massalha, the next generation of Palestinians will be a very murderous population full of anger and hatred. He reached this conclusion after his study found that over half the Palestinian population aged 6 to 11 dream of becoming suicide bombers.”46
Since Hamas is committed to mobilizing its youth for violence, revamping the Palestinian education system is a vital prerequisite to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not only is it necessary to change what is being taught in the classroom and in the textbooks, but also there needs to be a genuine attempt to reform informal education, such as summer camps, and put an end to the hostile propaganda (such as posters and television programming) that is so prevalent in Palestinian society. Regrettably, the current leaders of the Palestinian Authority, many of them Hamas graduates of the UNRWA school system, are continuing to brainwash their youth with hatred and inciting them to commit terror. What hope can there be for peace when impressionable children are incited to hate?
2. The 1996-2005 Ayalon Project at Yale Law School, “Hamas Covenant 1988, the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement,” http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/hamas.htm.
3. Interview with Dr. Yochanan Manor, co-chairman of the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), in Jerusalem, March 5, 2006. Moreover, in Article 32 of the Hamas Charter, where it is claimed that the Zionists have aspirations to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is cited for proof. “Hamas Covenant 1988.”
4. Itamar Marcus, “The New Palestinian Authority School Textbooks,” Palestinian Media Watch, January 19, 2001.
5. Islamic Education, sixth grade textbook, Part A, p. 68.
6. Marcus, “The New Palestinian Authority School Textbooks.”
7. An historical perspective on martyrdom is given as well in the textbooks: “In this battle [Al-Qadissiyah] her [Al-Khansa’s] four sons fell as martyrs. Al-Khansa learned of their martyrdom and said: ‘Praise to God who honored me by their death in God’s cause.'” Dr. Arnon Groiss, “Jews, Israel, and Peace in the Palestinian Authority Textbooks,” Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, June 2005.
8. National Education, second grade textbook, Part 1, p. 16.
9. Marcus, “The New Palestinian Authority School Textbooks.”
11. Former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon, “Gaza Withdrawal a Major Mistake,” address at JCPA seminar in Jerusalem, February 21, 2006, reprinted at http://www.zoa.org/2006/02/former_idf_chie_1.htm.
12. The term “Orientalist,” often used by Edward Said in attacks on Bernard Lewis and other leading scholars, refers to someone from Europe and America who studies Near and Far Eastern societies, cultures, and languages with an attitude shaped by old fashioned and prejudiced European imperialism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Ibn Warraq, “Debunking Edward Said: Edward Said and the Saidists, or Third World Intellectual Terrorism,” Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society, 2002; http://www.secularislam.org/articles/debunking.htm.
13. Steven Stalinski, “Hamas’s Philosophy on Raising Martyrs,” New York Sun, March 15, 2006.
14. In a damning assessment of the Arab world’s attitude toward the suffering of its Palestinian brethren, Ralph Galloway, former UNRWA director, declared (in 1958), “The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders do not give a damn whether Arab refugees live or die.” Mitchell G. Bard, Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Chevy Chase, Md.: American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2001), p. 184.
15. Dore Gold, Tower of Babble (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2005), p. 216.
17. Arlene Kushner, “Fatal Approach,” National Review, March 30, 2004; http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/kushner200403300906.asp.
18, “UNRWA Head to Go Against His Will,” BBC News, January 20, 2005; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4191313.stm.
19, Gold, Tower of Babble, pp. 256-268.
20. Shadi Zakayira Tubasi studied in secondary and junior schools run by UNRWA. He was a member of Hamas and went on to commit a suicide bombing in the Arab-Israeli owned Matza restaurant in Haifa on March 31, 2002. Fifteen innocent civilians were murdered and at least 44 were injured. “Victims of Palestinian Violence and Terrorism Since September 2000,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website; http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Palestinian+ter ror+since+2000/ Victims+of+Palestinian+Violence+and+Terrorism+sinc.htm.
21. Fuad Ismail Mohamad al-Horani studied in secondary and junior schools run by UNRWA. He committed a suicide bombing in the Moment restaurant in Jerusalem on March 9, 2002. Eleven innocent civilians were killed and 54 were injured. “Victims of Palestinian Violence and Terrorism Since September 2000,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
22. Gold, Tower of Babble, p. 217.
23. Michael Sussman and Justus Reid Weiner, “Will the Next Generation of Palestinians Make Peace with Israel?” Jerusalem Viewpoints, December 1, 2005; http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp537.htm.
24. Muhammad al-Dura’s death is controversial. Following his death, it was widely reported that he was killed by Israeli gunfire. However, it subsequently transpired that al-Dura was not killed by Israeli troops, but rather by Palestinian gunmen. Amnon Lord, “Who Killed Muhammad al-Dura? Blood Libel – Model 2000,” Jerusalem Viewpoints, July 15, 2002; http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp482.htm.
25. Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, “Seducing Children to Martyrdom,” Jerusalem Post, July 4, 2006; http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1150885912208&pagename=JPos t%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull.
27. “Rabid Anti-Israeli and Anti-Semitic Incitement on Hamas-owned Media,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies, July 3, 2006; http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ha mas_incitement_e.pdf.
28. Stalinski, “Hamas’s Philosophy on Raising Martyrs.”
29. Ehud Ya’ari, “Hamas Aliekum,” Jerusalem Report, February 20, 2006.
30. The word “fedayeen” comes from the Arabic word “fida’i” which means “one who is ready to sacrifice his life for the cause.” “Khoja [Nizaris] Satpanth Ismailism,” GlobalSecurity.org, 2005; http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/intro/islam-khoja.htm.
31. Rachel Ehrenfeld and Alyssa Lappen, “Youngsters and Jihad,” Washington Times, February 14, 2006.
32. Orly Halpern of the Jerusalem Post reported that Hamas denies being associated with the website. However, Itamar Marcus and Dr. Reuven Ehrlich both assert that this claim is not true. Orly Halpern, “Hamas Denies Running Kids’ Suicide Web Site,” Jerusalem Post, March 15, 2006.
33. Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, “Hamas Encouraging Children to Die for Allah on Website,” Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin, March 6, 2006; http://www.pmw.org.il.
34. Hanan Sher, “Jihad’s World Wide Web,” Jerusalem Report, February 20, 2006.
35. This quote was on a death-notice poster of 17-year-old Nazir Mohammed Mahmoud Hamad, who killed three Israelis and wounded thirteen others when he blew himself up in the Israeli town of Afula on October 4, 2001. The poster is on file with the authors.
36. Daphne Burdman, “Education, Indoctrination, and Incitement: Palestinian Children on their Way to Martyrdom,” Terrorism and Political Violence, vol. 15, no. 1 (2003):96-123.
37. “Sout Al-Nissa”-Voice of the Women, Al-Ayyam, January 24, 2002.
38. PA official daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 18, 2002.
39. “Palestinians Exploit Children for Terror,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 10, 2004; http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terror+Groups/P alestinians+exploit +children+for+terror+-+March+2004.htm?DisplayMode=print.
41. Um Nidal is notorious for having encouraged three of her sons to martyr themselves, while killing as many Israelis as possible. She is also hoping that her last three sons will follow suit. Harry de Quetteville, “I Will Urge My Last Three Sons to be Martyrs, Vows Newly Elected Delegate,” Telegraph (UK), January 29, 2006; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/01/29/wmid12 9.xml &sSheet=/news/2006/01/29/ixnewstop.html.
42. “Palestinian Legislative Council Candidate and Bereaved Mother of Three Hamas Terrorists Umm Nidal Farhat: Israelis Are Not Civilians and There Are No Prohibitions on Killing Them. I Am Willing to Sacrifice All My Sons,” MEMRI TV Monitor Project, December 21, 2005.
43. Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, “PA TV: Mom Sad Daughter Arrested, But Not Because of Bombing Attempt,” Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin, February 27, 2006; http://www.pmw.org.il.
44. Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, “PA Child: ‘Daddy Bought Me a Machine Gun and a Rifle,” Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin, February 28, 2006; http://www.pmw.org.il.
45. “Ismail Haniyeh, Portrait of the Hamas Candidate for Palestinian Prime Minister,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies, March 1, 2006; http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/is mail_hniyeh.pdf.
46. Sussman and Weiner, “Will the Next Generation of Palestinians Make Peace with Israel?”
* * *
Justus Reid Weiner is an international human rights lawyer and a member of the Israel and New York Bar Associations. He is currently a Scholar in Residence at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and an adjunct lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was formerly a Visiting Assistant Professor at the School of Law, Boston University.
Noam Weissman is currently studying for his B.A. at Yeshiva University, New York. He served as a research assistant at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs during the spring of 2006. The authors express their appreciation to Ari Rudolph for his assistance in research and editing.
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