Although it has become almost a routine sight on our television screens, I cannot help but gasp every time I see it: children in front of tanks, throwing stones at armed soldiers. And nowhere, but nowhere, is there a single mother running to grab their hands and lead them home.
Where are the Palestinian mothers? And what in Heaven’s name are they thinking when they let their children endanger their lives, and the lives of others, day in and day out? Because make no mistake about it, when those kids throw those stones, they are making an effort to injure and kill our kids. Because those “flak jacketed army regulars,” just a little older than the kids trying to give them skull fractures, are our kids: eighteen year- old draftees, not volunteers, handed guns and rubber bullets with strict instructions to be very careful not to hurt anyone unnecessarily.
True, an eighteen year-old is not a ten year- old. But if my son was ten, you can bet your life I would be out there dragging him off the street and locking him in his room. He’d be grounded forever. And I would wonder, as the wails of mourning mounted in the homes of my friends, and relatives, and neighbors, why it was that my wise and fearless leader, Yasir Arafat, has abandoned the negotiating table and turned to bullets and thus invited bullets in return from those who had extended their hand in peace. I would wonder what in Heaven’s name he hoped to accomplish, and how many Palestinian children he intended to sacrifice the altar of his monomaniacal dreams of glory?
I know what the well-oiled Palestinian public relations machine will say: These young people are so enraged by atrocities on the Israeli side that their parents are helpless to stop them expressing their fury.
I also have a young son the same age as the rock-throwers. He is no less enraged by Palestinian atrocities — buses blowing up near his school, Arabs running amok and stabbing passersby in quiet Jerusalem streets, lynchings, the desecration of Jewish holy places … And I ask myself, why don’t I have to drag him away from throwing stones at the Arab village that is practically in our backyard? And I ask myself, why isn’t it necessary to restrain the children of Gilo, who have been subject to gunfire aimed at their brothers and sisters, their parents and friends, from a rage of rock-throwing at Arab Beit Jalla?
There is a simple answer, of course, which somehow no one is willing to admit: In the last seven years since Oslo, while Israeli children were learning to paint doves and sing songs longing for peace, Palestinian kids were taken to summer camps where they were taught to shoot and sing patriotic war songs. While my son, and the kids in Gilo, have been subject to an endless barrage of peace programs, dialogues with peace-loving Arab teenagers, plays, movies, and songs lauding peace and brotherhood and denouncing violence, Palestinian preschoolers got treated to a Palestinian version of Sesame Street that taught them the joys of becoming a “shahid” or suicide-bomber for Allah. While our children’s textbooks were revised to inculcate democracy and respect for all cultures, post-Oslo Palestinian textbooks show no Israel on the map and systematically demonize Israel and the Jewish people.
Add to this the Goebbels-inspired propoganda films depicting depraved Israeli soldiers raping young Palestinian girls (produced and broadcast by the Palestinian Authority) — is there any wonder that these kids want to disembowel every Jew and dip their hands in the blood? Or as one crazed and truly scary Palestinian youngster said on camera (I saw this with my own eyes): “Eat Jewish flesh.”
Yasir Arafat, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is the director of this production which has turned normal kids under his tutelage into murderous, rock-throwing, gun-shooting rabble. And his show is being swallowed by the world press as if they’d never been to Journalism 101, their purple prose wallowing in the “freedom-fighting kids against evil soldiers” cliché as if it were a Shakespearean tragedy instead of the cheesy and obscene exploitation film it is, only one in a series by the same director, who brought us the massacre of Israeli schoolchildren in Maalot, and the murder of Olympic athletes in Munich.
So what is the answer? For starters, what about a call on Palestinian mothers and fathers to exercise a little parental responsibility; to go out there, take those misguided kids by the hand and take them home? And if these parents are so incompetent or fanatic that they can’t or won’t try to save their kids from harm (for after all, even animals care about their kids, isn’t that what Hanan Ashwari told Bob Simon?) then I say those kids need to be cared for by public institutions that will take responsibility for their well-being.
Perhaps the UN, which has done nothing worthwhile in this region for some time, can start working on a plan to set up UNICEF boarding schools, a place where Palestinian kids can be sheltered from exploitation; a place where they too can learn to paint doves and sing songs longing for peace.