JERUSALEM (BP)–Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres called July 23 for a global information campaign into the phenomenon of suicide bombings after reports of the militant Islamic Jihad operating summer camps in the Gaza strip for youth, some as young as 11, to instill in them the virtues of becoming suicide bombers, CNSNews.com reported.
Palestinians girded with explosives, who blow themselves up in close proximity to Israelis, have proven to be the most deadly terror weapon against Israel, usually always causing multiple fatalities in each attack. The bombers have been hailed as martyrs and heroes by most of their own people.
Speaking to a visiting delegation of Anti-Defamation League representatives from the United States, Peres charged that Islamic clerics were “brainwashing” Palestinian youth, indoctrinating them with lies and promising they will go to paradise if they blow themselves up in order to kill Israelis.
If such leaders really believe paradise could be attained through suicide bombings, Peres told the ADL delegation, Islamic Jihad leaders should do their own dirty work in their own backyards, instead of brainwashing youngsters to do it for them.
Wayne Firestone, ADL’s Israel director, said July 23 the issue of suicide bombings is of “tremendous concern” to his organization. It would certainly spread the message, he added.
The phenomenon is antithetical to the values of Islam, Firestone said in a telephone interview, but is likely to continue until “clear voices” from the Palestinian side demand that it stop.
The Palestinian Authority led by Yassir Arafat would only take a stand, Firestone added, if the world stood up against suicide bombings.
“No civilized society can accept this,” he said.
Weekend BBC television footage showed Islamic Jihad-run summer camps in which young Palestinian boys are given military training and shown pictures of suicide bombers.
“We are teaching the children that suicide bombing is the only thing that make[s] the Israeli people very frightened,” camp counselor Mohammed el Hattab said on the BBC report. “Furthermore, we are teaching them that we have the right to do it.”
The camp leader also stated, “We are teaching them that after the suicide attacks, the man who makes it goes to the highest state in paradise.” In paradise, the youth are taught, they will be greeted by 70 virgins.
Fourteen-year-old Mohammed was filmed drawing a picture of himself with explosives girded about his body. He said he wanted to become a suicide bomber “to liberate Palestine and be part of the revolution.”
The Palestinian Authority reportedly has said it will close down the camps since hearing about them through the media reports.
But a source who works in the PA-controlled areas and who spoke on condition of anonymity told CNSNews.com that hundreds of children ages 11-15 are being trained in paramilitary camps in Gaza and the West Bank. The camps are run, not only by Islamic Jihad and Hamas, but also by PA Chairman Arafat’s Fatah faction.
Congressmen have in past years expressed concern about PA summer camps at which children are taught acts of violence against Israelis.
The CNSNews.com source said he was not aware specifically of “suicide bomber” training in the Islamic Jihad camps. Nevertheless, he said, the children are taught how to fight in “field conditions” as well as given lessons on history and politics.
Judit Arenas of the British-based Coalition To Stop the Use of Child Soldiers said that while she did not know specifically of the BBC report, the main concern of the coalition is that the welfare of the child comes first.
“We could actually call strongly on Islamic Jihad to put the best interests of the child first,” Arenas told CNSNews.com by phone.
Arenas said her organization is “keeping a close eye” on what is happening in the PA areas as well as the territories still under Israeli control. It had been concerned about reports of military-type children’s camps.
However, she said the children concerned would not be considered child soldiers, because there was no chain of command structure or military-type recruitment process; nevertheless, the children must be protected from being considered viable targets because they have been given military training.
Reports of the training camps come amidst claims by Hamas and Islamic Jihad that they have dozens of Palestinians ready to become human bombs.
Two Israelis were killed in a suicide bombing the week of July 16 in the northern Israeli town of Binyamina.
Twenty-one young people were killed and more than 100 others wounded and maimed in a suicide bomb attack on a Tel Aviv disco in June.
Seven more were killed in a similar blast outside a Netanya mall in May. And last March, two teenagers were killed in a suicide attack on schoolchildren waiting for a bus.
Stahl is the Jerusalem bureau chief for CNSNews.com. Used by permission.