- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2002

As disturbing as the phenomenon of the Palestinian suicide bombers is, possibly even more disturbing is the fact that suicide bombing is gaining an unprecedented level of acceptance and respect in the Arab world. "A terrible malignancy has been unleashed," wrote Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University of the suicide bombings in U.S. News & World Report. He's absolutely right.

Mad Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is not alone any longer in distributing blood money to the families of the suicide bombers (he has been paying out $25,000 a head). Egyptian mufti Ahmad Al Tayyeb, the country's highest religious jurist, has declared that "The Islamic countries, peoples and rulers alike, must support these martyrdom attacks."

Last week, Saudi Arabia held a hugely successful telethon for the families of the killers, and on Saturday, the London-based Arabic newspaper Al Hayat published a poem by the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Britain, "The Martyrs," hailing one of the female suicide bombers. "She embraced death with a smile while the leaders are running away from death. Doors of heaven are open for her," wrote Ghazi Algosaibi. Isn't that sweet? Would he send his own children out to do the same?

Suha Arafat, wife of Yasser Arafat and friend of Hillary Clinton, actually had some thoughts on that, as reported Sunday by the weekly magazine al-Majalla, also based in London. She was equally enthusiastic in her support for the terrorist killings. "Resistance," as she called it, "is a legitimate right for every occupied people." And if she had a son she would be proud to sacrifice him for the cause. "Would you expect me and my children to be less patriotic and more eager to love than my countrymen and their father and leader who is seeking martyrdom?"

In other words, today it is not just Arab children raised in dismal poverty and force-fed a steady diet of virulent anti-Semitism that are embracing suicide missions. As Henry Siegman of the Council on Foreign Relations told the New York Times, "When I hear a woman of Suha Arafat's intelligence, culture and standing in the Palestinian community condone suicide attacks, I fear that for Israelis and Palestinians the goal is no longer the security or the creation of a state, but vengeance."

Well, there was actually no mention of the fate Mrs. Arafat has in mind for the 7-year-old daughter she has with the Palestinian leader, but it is pretty clear that old Yasser himself is hardly seeking martyrdom. It is a fact that Mr. Arafat's tactics have always focused on the most vulnerable. For decades, Mr. Arafat was content to have terrorists target Israeli children in their playgrounds and their school buses.

But since the beginning of the Intifada, Mr. Arafat has sacrificed Palestinian children as well. For it is always young people, with all their potential and their lives ahead of them, that end up being the cannon fodder deployed by the graybeards. The reason is, of course, that people with a few more decades behind them are not so easily persuaded of the virtues of throwing stones at well-armed Israeli soldiers or blowing themselves to smithereens in Israeli marketplaces. And so the leadership prefers to send out the children. Evil is the only word that seems adequate to describe what is going on.

Not so long ago though it feels like ages a group of Palestinians came in for an editorial board meeting here at The Washington Times. They complained bitterly about an editorial we had run, criticizing Palestinian parents for allowing their children to be used in the Intifada. It may be recalled that one of Mr. Arafat's dirty little tricks was to close the schools in the Palestinian Authority in order to send children into the streets and into harm's way. No parent would ever allow that, the visitors told us. What kind of people do you think we are? The mere thought was taken to be evidence of sheer racism on our part.

It all came back to me as I was reading accounts of the suicide bombing by Andaleeb Takafka, the young Palestinian woman who blew herself up at a bus stop in Jerusalem on April 12. She killed six Israelis, including the niece of the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, someone almost her own age. Her gruesome means of destruction was a belt full of nails, nuts and screws and explosives. As the al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades, an offshoot of the Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, claimed credit for this monstrosity, this is what her father had to say "I am happy. All the girls should do it."

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