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Why have children been involved in the violence?

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Why have children been involved in the violence?

Instead of educating for peace, as Israel does, the extremist Palestinians have encouraged their youth to take an active role in the violence. Instead of making every effort to protect children, as Israel does, the Palestinian terrorists have deliberately targeted Israeli young people.

Israel is devoted to educating its children for tolerance and coexistence, teaching them to respect all peoples in accordance with Israel's democratic values and ideals. Israeli children are taught in their schools and via the media that the pursuit of peace is the highest calling. Israel believes that the key to a true and lasting peace lies in educating the next generation of both Israelis and Palestinians to live side-by-side in peace.

In contrast, the Palestinian extremists have deliberately created a culture of hatred that encourages Palestinian children to take an active role in violent activities. They have trained young people in the use of weapons and created an atmosphere that prepares them to become suicide bombers. Most casualties among Palestinian youngsters have occurred due to their direct participation in the violence or as the result of Israel's confrontations with terrorists who hide among the Palestinian population. The Palestinians have not attempted to safeguard Palestinian children from harm, rather it has chosen to use them as a propaganda tool.

Palestinian schools, summer camps, mosques and official media have all participated in creating this culture of hate. The cynical use of children as pawns in the conflict begins in the education system. Instead of educating children for peace, as Israel does, Palestinian textbooks openly teach hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. Educational facilities are used to inspire hero-worship of suicide bombers, psychologically preparing Palestinian children to follow in their footsteps. Children are given weapons to carry in anti-Israel rallies or are dressed up as suicide bombers. Youth groups and terrorist summer camps teach young people to become holy warriors, actually training them in the use of firearms.

Palestinian television is a very effective media for spreading the message of hate, with programs that incite violence aimed at every age group, starting with toddlers. Hamas has put a strong emphasis on producing children's programs that incite even the youngest viewers.

This cult of martyrdom inspired Palestinian children to take an increasingly active role in the violence. The average age of suicide bombers dropped and attacks carried out by teenagers became more and more frequent. Younger children, some no more than toddlers, have been used to provide cover for the transportation of weapons and explosives. Others have been hurt and even killed when retrieving Kassam missile launchers.

The Palestinian manipulation of children, which has been extensively documented by the media, constitutes a reprehensible violation of every international treaty and convention meant to protect children in situations of armed conflict. This heinous exploitation of children is both profoundly immoral and fundamentally illegal.

Targeting children in terrorist attacks also violates international laws and norms. Hundreds of Israeli children have been killed or wounded in numerous terrorist attacks over the decades. They were not incidental victims of the violence, but were the intended and preferred victims of the Palestinian terrorists. Israeli children have been deliberately targeted by Palestinian snipers and roadside bombs. Youngsters were bludgeoned and stoned to death by terrorists while hiking near their homes.

Palestinian terrorists have murdered nearly 120 children since September 2000, choosing to strike at places where young people are known to congregate - discos, bus stops, fast-food restaurants and shopping malls. Suicide terrorists stood face-to-face with their young victims, including babies, before deciding to detonate their explosives. In one of the most horrendous terror attacks - the suicide bombing of a Jerusalem bus on August 19, 2003 - seven of the dead and 40 of the injured were children.

The suffering of any child is tragic and regretful, and Israel believes that every effort must be made to protect all children - Israeli and Palestinian - from the violence. Palestinian schools and media must stop preaching incitement to violence and hatred, and join Israel in teaching the next generation to live in peace.

These texts are taken from material published by the Israel Ministry of Foreign affairs. with additional comments and hyperlinked materials. They were apparently published in connection with the Annapolis peace conference of 2007, but they have extensive applicability beyond it. They explain fundamentals of Israeli policy as well as the meaning of Zionism and history of the conflict.

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Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs text is at Israel, the Conflict and Peace. Original text  is copyright by Ami Isseroff and Zionism-Israel Center.

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