Palestinian Journalists, Intellectuals Speak Out Against Children Participating In Terrorist Attacks And Against Targeting Civilians
By: C. Jacob*
The Palestinian public and leadership widely support the ongoing violent events which PA officials have dubbed a "popular uprising" and Hamas calls an "intifada."
The PA and Fatah do not condemn stabbing or even shooting attacks, and its officials and media outlets justify the current wave of terrorism, lionize its participants, commemorate attackers who were "martyred" and praise perpetrators who survived the attack. They also accuse Israel of executing Palestinians, especially children, and claim that it still intends to change the status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Despite the atmosphere of incitement and accusations against Israel by the PA, several Palestinian intellectuals and journalist, including Hafez Al-Barghouti, the former editor of the PA dailyAl-Hayat Al-Jadida and a Fatah Revolutionary Council member, have criticized the attacks, and especially those carried out by children. They expressed outrage at the participation of teenagers, including very young ones, in stabbing attacks against Israelis, claiming that it was not the place of children, and that their childhood and lives must be protected. They accused the leadership of Palestinian organizations of "trading in the blood of children" and sending them to die by encouraging them to carry out such attacks and praising and glorifying those who do. Some intellectuals called to instill in the public and the youth values of life, study and work, rather than values of seeking death.
Some writers also urged the Palestinians to avoid harming Israeli civilians, for both moral and practical reasons. On the moral level, they claimed that Palestinians must preserve their humanity; on the practical level, they argued that harming civilians, especially at the present time, harms the Palestinian struggle and casues it to be associated with the global terrorism led by ISIS. Some even called to cease stabbing attacks due to their lack of effectiveness and their heavy cost in Palestinian lives, and called to find alternative modes of struggle.
The following are excerpts from the articles:
Criticism Of The Participation Of Children In Stabbing Attacks: We Must Protect Their Childhood
Some writers spoke out against encouraging children to carry out attacks, calling on the public to protect their childhood and not send them to their deaths. On November 11, 2015, Hafez Al-Barghouti wrote: "From the start we said: Do not send your children into the fray, even though the occupation does not distinguish between children, youth, and adults... We must not bring our children into the cycle of violence... Even the Prophet Muhammad refused to bring children into battle... We should keep our children away from the demonstrations in the areas of conflict and clashes so they can experience their childhood. Even if it is a difficult [childhood], it is better than the childhood of the injured, the prisoner, or the martyr who is [completely] bereft of a childhood."
In another article titled "In Defense Of Childhood" Al-Barghouti added: "Do not cheer [the stabbing children] and do not take pride [in them], since this has become a game of blood. Those who scream and roar, congratulating a child for pulling out a knife or a schoolgirl for taking up a pair of scissors, should see them as though they were their own children. Would they agree to throw their son into this furnace?"
Journalist Mohammed Daraghmeh echoed the claim that the attacks were pointless in an article in Sawt Al-Nisa, the women's and social affairs supplement of the PA daily Al-Ayyam. Addressing the youth, he wrote: "Do not march towards death. Palestine needs you alive. You may rage, rebel, and take to the streets and checkpoints. You can block roads, shout, and make your voices heard to the deaf world. If it does not hear you today, it will hear you tomorrow. But do not die. The homeland needs you alive. [True,] it will be a mark of shame for Palestinians, young and old, if they remain silent in the face of the occupation, or remain busy with their own affairs and forget the homeland. However, there must not be only two options: silence or madness. We were silent for a long time and today we are swept up in the madness of destructive revenge. A youth pushed [to the limit] by the occupation may lose all capacity for thought, hide a knife, and take to the street to seek a symbol of the occupation and slaughter it. This has happened and will [continue to] happen, but it remains on the level of individual acts. The youths of Palestine must not all rush to their deaths [en masse] in this fashion. The small number of soldiers killed by stabbing attacks cannot be compared to the large number of Palestinian youths who lay soaking in their own blood at the feet of armed and trained soldiers.
"When the second intifada ended, we stood up as one and said: We made mistakes here and there; sometimes we went mad and sometimes we lost our [humane] feelings. No one had the courage during the intifada to say what was said at its painful end, lest they be harmed. But today we must face ourselves with courage and call things what they are... Indeed, anyone who takes up a knife and attacks a soldier is committing suicide, because the well-trained and armed soldiers will kill him. Every day several Palestinian youths are killed, yet we remain silent or even praise their deaths. We should stand as one and say 'enough'...
"To the Palestinian youths who have lost hope and seek revenge, I say what I say to my children: Take to the streets, go and protest. This is only one round of the conflict, which will not bring about the end of the conflict, but rather a new phase that is necessary for each and every of us... Palestine is an international problem that will be not solved in a round of knife of suicide attacks, or protests and rallies, but only when the world understands that it must intervene and draw borders as it did in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and North and South Korea. How much longer [must we wait]? Until the day comes.
"We must protect the lives of our children and continue the national struggle... If someone asks whether the previous nonviolent struggle against the occupations [the first intifada] brought about the end of the occupation, I will ask in response: Did the armed military struggle accomplish this? The Palestinian problem is not local, but rather an international problem that the world created and only [the world] can solve, but it will not do so if we [either] remain silent or commit suicide."
Jihad Harb, a political scientist and a columnist for the Amad website, which is run by former PA minister Hassan 'Asfour, called in an article to stop the stabbing attacks, since they have played themselves out. He expressed hope that the Palestinian leadership would heed him and protect the lives of the youths "who are pointlessly executed at checkpoints." According to him, "most of those who carried out such operations or attempted them, or those killed due to claims that they tried to stab, were younger than 18 and could not deal with well-protected, armed, and trained soldiers. The stabbing operations have given Israel a pretext to kill our young men and women at checkpoints... The call for the [Palestinian] leadership and organizations to work to stop the stabbing attacks - even though [this leadership and these organizations] did not join those who lead this activity [i.e., the stabbings] - comes to protect the lives of our sons and daughters, whom Palestine needs in order [to build] a better future. This is not a call for a tahdiyya[calm], but rather a call to redirect this activity and develop the methods and means of the popular resistance."
Criticizing The Culture Of Death
Journalist Mahmoud Fanoun wrote in favor of the culture of struggle, victory, and life in place of the culture of pointless death: "You hear children younger than 10 wishing to die a martyr's death... [A child] wishes to die, rather than to live, struggle, fight the enemy, kill him and defeat him. He wants to offer himself up to die at the enemy's hands. Why? Why does he not wish to terrorize the enemy and persist until the enemy leaves Palestine?... When a youth dies wielding a knife - what is the wisdom of this? There is a battle. On one side is the enemy, its army and its settlers, and on the other side is a boy. The battle ends one-sidedly: the enemy kills the Palestinian fighter before he even launches his hidden attack. In this battle the enemy wins and defeats the youth before he even did anything. Had the youth planned this [attack], he could have attacked and survived or [only] sustained injury. These are the rules of war... They say that life is [but] a corridor to the hereafter and therefore it is all right if life is short, since at its end is Paradise and the black-eyed [virgins]. This [belief] does not anger the enemies; on the contrary, they are happy to have defeated the youths, and their soldiers are rewarded, while we experience tragedy in light of the loss of young life and the youths' chagrin at their failure in the battles against the soldiers.
"This is also true of [Arafat's] slogan: 'Millions of martyrs marching on Jerusalem.' Why martyrs? Are we in a swordfight where we are forced to crawl to Jerusalem while the enemy is armed with large quantities of firearms? Why not set out to conquer and win, and then we can arrive safe and sound, even if some of us are killed? These are the rules of war. This culture [of death] does not affect the enemy; on the contrary, the enemy is glad of it... We set out to die and we will indeed die, while the enemy continues to occupy the land from end to end. We achieve martyrdom, if anything at all, while the enemy achieves the homeland, instead of us defeating him and remaining alive."
Criticizing Leaders Of Palestinian Organizations: They Encourage Children To Carry Out Attacks But Do Not Send Their Own Children
The writers also criticized the leaders of the Palestinian organizations, accusing them of encouraging children to carry out attacks while not sending their own children into the fray or carrying out attacks themselves. Hafez Al-Barghouti wrote: "Some organizations and clans that are morally bankrupt go too far with the