Aspiring to Martyrdom

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At the start of September, 2017, Israel’s Shin Bet security service director reported the agency had foiled about 200 terror attacks in the previous nine months and broke up approximately 70 terrorist cells in the previous two months alone.

Despite Israel being a liberal democracy like New Zealand, these attacks are seldom reported in the New Zealand news. There is also a distinct lack of public condemnation from New Zealand leaders, especially when compared to terror attacks in Europe or elsewhere. The latest murder of three Israelis at Har Adar is a good example of this. There has been no public statement from any leader and the NZ mainstream media has not reported on the story.

Some reports of Palestinian terror attacks minimise the nature of the incident, question whether it was really terror, or remove responsibility from the terrorist. Again, the latest attack is another example of this – as highlighted by HonestReporting.

In the spirit of the old adage “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”, some people have even sympathised with Palestinian terrorists – as they are perceived to be fighting against an evil Israel. However, simply feeling oppressed cannot explain terrorism, otherwise Tibetans and Cypriots would be murdering Chinese and Turks.

The argument that Palestinians have no options other than murder also belies the fact that many of the Palestinian terrorists have been well educated and wealthy individuals. A 2007 study found that the more educated and better off Palestinians were more likely to join a terror organisation or commit a suicide attack.

The sad reality is that Palestinians believe that killing Israelis or Jews is honourable – just like Islamic State terrorists consider murdering infidels to be honourable. This might seem extreme but not when one considers the culture within which young Palestinians are raised. The incentivisation towards terrorism is seen across Palestinian society, from the encouragement of children to seek martyrdom, the naming of sports clubs after terrorists, the celebrations in streets following terror attacks, and the praise of martyrs by politicians. Rather than peace and respect, Palestinian children are being taught that murder and death are aspirational.

However, even if we remove the ideological reasons for committing terror attacks, there remains a financial reward – the Palestinian Authority pays salaries to terrorists based on the number of Jews murdered and have recently refused to put this practise to an end.

A change of culture is needed, and this starts with education. A new study on the attitude to the Jews, to Israel and to Peace in the schoolbooks of the Palestinian Authority reveals disturbing results. Commissioned by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Center for Near East Policy Research and Middle East Forum, it revealed

PA schoolbooks’ attitude to Jews, Israel and peace is based on three fundamentals: De-legitimization, demonization and indoctrination to violent struggle instead of peace. Based on these fundamentals, a narrative has been built that presents the conflict in a distorted manner historically, and does not leave any hope for ending it in a peaceful coexistence of the two parties involved, with grave implications as far as their future, and their children’s future, is concerned.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean and director of global social action at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, has described the findings as “a war curriculum, not a peace curriculum.” Cooper further commented, “This is not a right or left issue…This is a study that everybody, across the full political and social spectrum, everywhere, needs to read.”

The report also implicated UNRWA in perpetuating a culture of martyrdom and inciting terror – as previously also exposed by UNWatch. New Zealand has privately raised some of these issues with the organisation but continues to voluntarily fund UNRWA and praise their work. One million New Zealand dollars in untagged core funding is provided by our government each year. As long as this funding continues, New Zealand is part of the problem.

The much needed cultural change in Palestinian society may be expedited if it is acknowledged and challenged. Media and leaders in liberal democracies should accurately report the terror attacks in Israel and condemn them publicly. The money that is sent to the Palestinian Authority should also be closely scrutinised so that Israeli blood is not on the hands of the generous aid donors. The United States has taken a lead in acting to stop the “pay to slay” policy – the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently passed the Taylor Force Act with bipartisan support. The legislation effectively cuts off all U.S. economic aid that “directly benefits” the P.A. until they cease payments to families of terrorists.

Unless there is understanding of the context and culture of Palestinian terrorism, and concrete efforts to speak out and act against it, martyrdom will continue to be the ultimate aspiration for Palestinian children and many more innocent people will needlessly die.

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