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Raising the Children of Terrorists

Raising the Children of Terrorists

Not one parent owned up to contributing to a culture in which suicide bombers were teen idols.


In the Chicago Tribune's fascinating February 6 article, "Palestinian families wonder: Were suicide attacks worth the loss of our children?" veteran journalist Christine Spolar returns to the families of terrorists and asks how they're feeling now, as the intifada is supposedly ending, about their children's deeds.

Despite initial proclamations of pride in their martyrdom, the eight families she interviewed admitted feeling sad, angry and unfairly disadvantaged. Several were disgruntled that the decision of their family member to serve as a human bomb had been less than efficacious, considering the increased incursions by Israel and the building of the fence. Others felt inconvenienced and literally put out -- their homes were destroyed, business was bad and family members were stopped at checkpoints when they wanted to enter Israel.

None of her interviewees expressed guilt or remorse, neither for their children's violence nor over their part in it.

One parent blamed terrorist leaders for inciting and recruiting the children of others, but never their own. But most knew whom to blame. You guessed it -- Israel.

It was our fault that their children strapped on those nail-studded explosive belts and headed off to blow us apart.

None of her interviewees expressed guilt or remorse, neither for their children's violence nor over their part in it. Not one parent owned up -- not in the article and not, according to Spolar, in interviews that didn't make it into the piece -- to contributing to a culture in which suicide bombers were teen idols. They wouldn't admit that photographing their children in studio portraits dressed up as suicide bombers and exposing them to the death chants popular on TV shows and in summer camp had contributed to their children's decisions. The Palestinian parents didn't suffer nightmares over the people their children had murdered or disabled, nor did they lose sleep over the sowing of destructive seeds within the next generation of Palestinian children.

Take, for example, the family of Abdel Bassat Odeh, the mass murderer who blew up the Park Hotel on Pessah eve 2002, killing 30 and maiming 160. Odeh, 25, had worked in his family grocery business, as a waiter in Netanya, and as a car salesman. He lived in a recently repainted room in his family's four-story house in Nur Shams, near Tulkarm.

Reports Spolar: "Odeh's mother, Nawal, and father, Mohammed, waved off questions about the bloody consequences of Abdel Bassat's action. They wanted to talk instead about what led Abdel Bassat to kill himself. They didn't blame him. They didn't blame any Palestinian. They blamed Israel.

"Israeli security forces, months before the bombing, had named their son a wanted man based on suspicions that he funneled money into Hamas militant activities. Their son viewed the arrest warrant as a death sentence, the parents said, and he went underground... 'We knew the Israelis were after him,' Nawal said. 'What is better -- to just be killed or to be a martyr? They did this to him. I think it was better to be a martyr.'"

Wasn't Nawal pained that her son killed people gathered for a cherished religious event, Spolar asked. "'I assume the Jews feel the same pain I feel,' the 58-year-old woman said. 'There is pain on one side and there is pain on the other.'"

Other family members took this a step further. "Issam Odeh, the Park Hotel bomber's brother, shrugged at the idea that he might have known some of the Israeli dead. 'Compassion,' he said, 'cannot blur loyalties.'

"His first-grader asked him if an Israeli soldier 'is a human being like us?' 'I couldn't figure out how to answer,' Issam Odeh said. 'I knew if I did, after one question, he'd ask another difficult question. And how do I keep answering the questions? Because the last question leads where? Who is a human being?'"

Spolar came away from the article optimistic, seeing "movement" from the positions that Palestinians held two years ago. I hope she's right, but I don't feel reassured. I'm worried that we're in such a hurry for reconciliation, ready to consign all evil to the category of "bygones," that we'll blur the moral issue of the unacceptability of terrorism. If we do, the strategy of suicide bombing won't be defeated.

Let's keep the facts straight. The majority of Israelis were willing to go ahead with former prime minister Ehud Barak's radical peace plan before the intifada. We were not pummeled into making peace because of terror. On the contrary, we stood our ground -- but found we had lost our common ground with the Palestinians. Even the peace camp was shocked by the gleeful frenzy at the lynch in Ramallah and after every bombed bus, and the 100,000 Palestinians dancing at the downing of the Twin Towers.

Palestinian parents weren't helpless. They stopped teachers from taking their kids to dangerous demonstrations, but they didn't act against the genocide bombers. Instead, they served their children breakfast in kitchens decorated with murderers' photos and named babies and school soccer teams after Abdel Bassat Odeh and Muhammad Atta. And yes, they should feel guilty for that.

Expecting heshbon nefesh, accountability, isn't unreasonable. If there's to be hope for a long-lasting peace, Palestinian children had better learn quickly from mom and dad that Israelis are indeed human beings.

This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post.


February 26, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Anonymous, March 8, 2007 12:16 AM

Suicide bombing is not part of Islam.

It is sad to see these people day by day buying the fact that those who blow themselves up are Martyrs. They are in no way martyrs in Islam. The Prophet of Islam (Peace be upon him) has forbidden to kill women, children, priests and unarmed men even in he war. So, how can these people strap a bomb and go and kill women/children/innocent people and then claim they can be martyrs. I mean come on, if you are frustrated about something and want to do it, that is your business - but how can you sugar coat with the religious color.

This is just ridiculous!

(6) helene jenkins, April 19, 2005 12:00 AM

I'll bet there not dancing now

the world needs to understand that jews need a home just like the rest of the world. I don't think giving up land is the answer.

(5) Anonymous, March 31, 2005 12:00 AM

This article reminded me of some of my own thoughts on this issue which I would like to share. It has often been noted that the Palestinians have created a culture of death, a point that was illuminated quite well in Barabara Sofer's well-written article. It would be difficult to argue with her conclusions, and I certainly would not. I would go even further and say that the Palestinians have created a culture that is nothing short of sick and demented. And it is important to note that we Jews are not the only victim, but so are the Palestinians. And while I cry for all our Jewish bretheren suffering Eretz Yisroel, I must take a moment and remember what the Palestinians have done to themselves. As Barbara Sofer correctly points out, none of this is Israel's fault, yet they all blame Israel. One final note: Sadly, I don't believe there can be any peace in Israel until the Palestians do a major Cheshbon HaNefesh.

(4) Judy, March 5, 2005 12:00 AM

We must move on to change the future

I, a Jew and a Zionist, recently met a Palestinian who owns and runs a local shop. Not particularly unusual, except that the shop is out in the “toolies” of O’ahu, Hawai’i. We started to get into the same old argument about who was right and who was wrong. It occurred to us, before any damage was done, that perhaps it would be best if we just agreed to disagree. And we realized, jointly, that repeatedly opening old wounds would serve no one. We each wondered how it would be possible to let go of the nasty past and move on to a future with peaceful relations. It must be possible; we must make it so.

It is terrible that parents of terrorists do not see that they have contributed to the horror. And that they continue to do nothing about it. Let us remember that they and their children have been indoctrinated these many years since the War of Independence and before. There must be, and we all must find, a way to reverse the training if there is to be any hope of any kind of peace.

I am reminded of my uncle Milka, of blessed memory, who live in Netanya and had many friends in the Arab community. Thirty years after his death, while visiting Israel, I was invited for coffee at the home of one of these friends. If two small families can maintain trust and friendship through all that has gone before, why not the larger mishpocha?

(3) Anna from New Zealand, February 28, 2005 12:00 AM

Not surprising

I was not surprised. In NZ, when I was a teenager, there was a popular song whose chorus went 'Oh no, not my son John/Oh no, you must be wrong/My son John can do no wrong' and so on.

I heard part of a talk by a Presbyterian minister, Glenn Jetta Barclay, who, because she spent 5 months living in Israel, considers herself to be an expert on Israeli/Palestinian relations. Palestinians, naturally, being the down-trodden victims, prisoners in their own land etc, etc. Equally naturally, all Israelis think exactly alike on these issues !!!(or as Ms Barclay would have it, 95%: I assume that she spoke to every Israeli to arrive at this figure!) Unsurprisingly, the suicide bombers etc are all Israel's fault. She also had the gall to compare the situation in Israel with the Holocaust; an angry challenge by me was met with a concession that there are no gas chambers, and I was then put in my place with "Well, I have been there' and the meeting was hastily wound up with no more time for questions. If this poisonous woman ever visits Israel again, be warned. She has a very personal agenda.

I will never understand people encouraging their children to blow themselves to pieces-the idea that it is Israelis' fault is crazy-why would you want to have Israelis die in this horrible way ?

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