USA Today Skips the Hard Questions

The highly-publicized scene of Palestinian teenager Husam Abdu caught at an IDF checkpoint with an explosive belt wrapped around his body (March 25) generated broad media follow-up on the highly troubling question: How can Palestinians send young children to perform suicide terror?

But, as a March 31 USA Today article by Ellen Hale on this topic illustrates, media outlets have by and large decided not to tell the whole story on this key issue.

The USA Today article, entitled ‘For Palestinian Moms, Some Painful Choices,’ attempts to debunk the claim that some Arab parents (to paraphrase Golda Meir) ‘hate Jews more than they love their own children.’ To that end, the reporter omits all mention of Palestinian cultural encouragement of child suicide terror in, for example, religious sermons, official textbooks, public speeches, television, and even through kids’ collector ‘terrorist cards.’

Regarding parental attitudes on suicide terror, the reporter interviews three pro-Palestinian figures to reach the following conclusion:

Experts discount claims that any Palestinian mother would wish her child to die as a martyr, even though the mothers of suicide bombers commonly are quoted as glorying in their child’s death. Such comments are meant to provide a show of strength and assuage political and community pressure, mental health experts say.

USA Today submits that the oft-expressed Palestinian parental pride in a child’s ‘martyrdom,’ after the deed is done, is merely a psychological defense mechanism that ‘assuages community pressure’ and makes the best of the tragedy.

But what about the harder and more vital question the many documented cases of parents actively encouraging their children to commit suicide terror?

Naima al-Obeid and her son Mahmoud, before his terror attack, June 2002

For example, Naima al-Obeid, videoed in June 2002 alongside her son Mahmoud before he went off on a suicide attack, saying:

May every bullet hit its target, and may God give you martyrdom. This is the best day of my life.

And what about Umm Nidal, who appeared in a March 2002 video sending her son to commit a suicide attack? She recalls:

I prayed for him when he left the house and asked Allah to make his operation a success and give him martyrdom.

And just last week at a pro-Palestinian rally in South Africa, the Argus of Capetown reported that a

six-year-old boy, dressed as a Palestinian suicide bomber, complete with a belt of fake explosives strapped to his body, says he wants to go to heaven and his father says his child wants to be a martyr.

These parents, and the religious and political leaders who incite them, are wholly ignored by USA Today in an article that addresses this very issue.

And when USA Today addresses suicide bombing against civilians, it’s only in the context of a parental dilemma:

Religious mothers have a particular conflict in child rearing; in Islam, life on Earth is considered a test for getting into heaven. Dying as a martyr ensures immediate ascent there. [A psychiatrist] recounts an incident last week involving a devout mother suffering immense guilt because her son kept telling her he wanted to die as a martyr.I don’t want him to die, [he] says the mother told him. ” ‘But at the same time, I’m a good Muslim.

Let’s get this straight the Palestinian woman is torn between restraining her son, which would render her a ‘bad Muslim,’ and blessing him to blow up on an Israel commuter bus, which would make her a ‘good Muslim.’ USA Today lets this statement pass without batting an eye, thereby passing off the horror of Islamist suicide bombing against innocent civilians as just another form of legitimate religious expression. Again, USA Today fails to ask the hard and vital questions that lie at the heart of this issue.

Last week’s scene of the teenager wearing the bomb vest outraged the world, and might have been an important impetus to real reform of Palestinian education to child terror. But news agencies such as USA Today ? through omission of essential cultural context and extreme moral relativism ? have told only part of the story, and allowed that opportunity to pass.

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