Sweets on the streets….
Glorification of terror in Palestinian society

London - published on 14 November 2004
Beyond Images Ref: 104

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This Briefing describes how the killing of 16 Israelis by Palestinian suicide bombers in August 2004 was greeted with joy and celebration on the Palestinian “street”. Such Palestinian reactions have occurred countless times in recent years. In the era following Yasser Arafat, the Palestinians face the challenge not only of curbing terror, but of rooting out the culture which glorifies terror.

On 31 August 2004 two Palestinian suicide bombers killed 16 Israeli men, women and children in the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva. The victims were travelling in two passenger buses 100 metres apart. Among the victims was a three year old boy. Over 100 people were wounded in the attacks.

“I heard a blast and started to run to the site…..” said one resident. “Within seconds there was another explosion…. when I got there there were people on the floor, wounded people, limbs torn off….”. The city of Be’er Sheva descended into mourning, and shock. A Hamas cell in Hebron claimed responsibility for the double-attack.

Here are some reactions from within Palestinian society (reported in The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz of 1 September 2004):-

  • Yasser Arafat was meeting with hundreds of Palestinian supporters in the West Bank town of Salfit when news of the attacks came through. He declared to the crowd: “we will march towards Jerusalem, we will sacrifice millions of martyrs…” (reported by Khaled Abu Toameh from The Jerusalem Post). [Upon his death two months later, Arafat was widely described as having been “ambivalent about violence…”]

  • Scores of gunmen in Nablus, Tulkarem and Jenin fired into the air, shouting “Allah Ahkbar”, God is great…

  • About 20,000 Hamas supporters took to the streets of Gaza City to “celebrate” the killings. Women ululated in joy, and others urged Hamas to carry out more attacks

  • Demontrators handed out sweets to marchers as a sign of jubilation

  • Arab satellite TV stations interrupted their normal news programmes to break the news of the killings, and Muslim leaders praised the bombers’ “heroic operation” over mosque loudspeakers

  • A statement by Hamas threatened new Jewish immigrants to Israel: “This is a gift to the newcomers… we say to you, this is your fate….”
Vilification of Israel, and celebration of terror, have become hallmarks of Palestinian culture. The successors to Yasser Arafat, and Palestinian society generally, face the challenge of rooting out not only the groups who commit mass murder, but the glorification of their deeds.

Hamas spokesmen claimed that the attacks were “revenge” for Israel’s targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Dr Abdel-Aziz earlier in 2004 (in the three years before Yassin and Rantisi were killed, Hamas had carried out 42 suicide bombings in Israel, killing 446 Israeli civilians). Apparently no-one told the Palestinian perpetrators that “revenge”was their “motive”. In a videotape made prior to the attacks, and released afterwards, one of the bombers recited a dedication of the attack to Palestinian prisoners, and appeared to forget that he was meant to mention that he was “avenging” the Hamas leaders (reported in Haaretz, 1 September).

The Hebron-based family of one of the killers, Naseem Jabari, accused Hamas of “brainwashing” him into carrying out the attack (same source).