Reporter Christine Toomey of the Sunday Times Magazine visits Zakaria Zubeidi (pictured). During a lunch interview, she admirably goes toe-to-toe with Jenin’s Al-Aqsa Brigades commander over terror attacks targeting Israeli children and taking advantage of Palestinian children. Toomey clearly did her homework before the interview:
But what about those whose childhood is cut short by Palestinian suicide-bombing atrocities, I badger him. And it is here our discussion enters the realm of fantasy. “I have not in all my resistance hurt a child. I am against hurting children. In the Aqsa-brigade suicide attacks never did a child die. Most of the acts I’ve been involved in are shooting acts,” insists the man sat before me with a gun at his hip.
Exactly what he has and has not been involved in should be a matter for the courts to decide. According to Israeli sources, at least six children have been killed and many more injured in suicide attacks for which al-Aqsa have claimed responsibility….
When I dismiss his claim about avoiding child targets as nonsense, Zakaria starts to backtrack. When a suicide bomber walks into a shopping mall or cafe or onto a crowded bus and blows himself up, he is oblivious as to whether or not there are children among those he intends to murder, I insist. “When kids are targeted, that’s a mistake,” Zakaria blusters, before cranking his political posturing up a gear. “Every time we have a suicide attack it is a reaction to an aggressive Israeli attack. Our attacks are not strategic attacks. All the attacks of the Aqsa brigades have been reaction to big Israeli aggressive attacks. Since we all feel that we are targeted, we follow an Arabic saying, ‘Don’t die before showing you’re a strong opponent.’ We have no problem with Israel. We have a problem with the occupation. We in Palestine have the highest level of independence and integrity of thinking.”
From here our discussion descends to absurdity. When I challenge him about the fundamental barbarity of the act of suicide bombing and the waste of the young lives of the suicide bombers, he insists the al-Aqsa brigades have never used a child in attacks. The case of a 16-year-old boy who, four years ago, positioned himself alongside a group of elderly people playing chess before detonating the bomb he was carrying, killing himself and two others and wounding 40 more in an attack attributed to al-Aqsa is ignored. And what about even younger boys, I argue, caught at checkpoints with bomb belts strapped to their waists? “Ah yes,” Zakaria concedes. “But they were intending to be caught. A true suicide bomber will never be stopped by any checkpoint. These boys you are talking about go to the checkpoint desiring to be caught to escape their bad economic situation. They want to go to prison – they can study better there.”
The idea that teenage suicide bombers are deliberately allowing themselves to be caught by the Israelis so they can get a bit of peace and quiet to do their schoolwork behind bars is clearly preposterous. But when I laugh out loud, Zakaria tries to drive the point home, gesticulating with his finger in the direction of my pen and notepad. “I would like you to know. Write it down! We do not use children for such acts.”
Whether or not Zubeidi’s last point is preposterous doesn’t negate the fact that there are plenty of Palestinians willing to blow themselves up along with Israelis at the behest of terror leaders like him.