When a teenager informs his parent that he intends to do something rash, any normal, responsible parent tries to dissuade him. "Don't do something crazy just because your friends are doing it." Or "But that will go on your permanent record." Or "I'm not giving you the car keys if that's where you're going."
But that's not the response that 16-year-old Muntasir Al-Shawa got when he recently informed his mother that he intended to carry out a terrorist attack against Israeli Jews. Instead, she gave him tips on how to properly prepare himself to carry out the attack.
This horrifying, fascinating glimpse at attitudes towards terrorism among ordinary Palestinian Arabs was provided by official Palestinian Authority Television. (Translation courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch).
Last month, Muntasir told his mother that he planned to go to Balata, a neighborhood in the city of Shechem/Nablus near the Tomb of Joseph, "and I'll come back to you as a martyr." The term "martyr" in the Palestinian Arab lexicon means somebody who dies in the course of murdering or attempting to murder Jews.
Murdering Jews in Shechem is not as easy as it used to be. From 1967 to 1995, there was an Israeli military governor and administration running the city. There were Israeli soldiers stationed there all the time. In other words, there were plenty of potential targets for would-be terrorists. But because of the Oslo Accords, Israel withdrew its soldiers and administrators from Shechem/Nablus in 1995 and handed the city over to the Palestinian Authority.
With one small exception: According to the Oslo Accords, Jews have a right to visit their holy site, the tomb of the biblical patriarch Joseph. The P.A. security forces are required to protect Jewish visitors. But since the P.A. more often than not refuses to do so, terrorists like Muntasir Al-Shawa are free to target Jewish worshippers and the Israeli soldiers accompanying them.
That's what Muntasir had in mind when he revealed his plans to his mother, according to what she later told P.A. Television. In her Feb. 21 interview, Mrs. Al-Shawa described her response when her son informed her of his intention to die while murdering Jews:
"I laughed and told him: 'Do you think being a martyr is something trivial? Go bathe, pray, bow down to Allah and then there might be a chance that Allah will agree to accept you [as a martyr]. The following night he came back to me as a martyr. Praise Allah."
Mrs. Al-Shawa is obviously a deeply religious woman. But the concept of "religious" does not mean to her what it means to most civilized people. Her religious beliefs evidently include killing innocent people.
Because instead of trying to discourage her son from becoming a killer, she actually urged him to undertake religious preparations that would—in her view—spiritually enhance his murderous activities.
She didn't ask the boy's father to stop him. She didn't enlist the family's imam to intervene. She didn't take away Muntasir's gun or scold him. She did exactly the opposite because she wanted him to be a more effective "martyr."
And so, Muntasir proceeded to the Tomb of Joseph, where he and other terrorists opened fire on Jewish worshippers and their Israeli guards. The Israelis shot back and killed him. Mrs. Al-Shawa got her wish.
Over the years, there have been many other examples in the P.A. media of Palestinian Arab parents expressing pride that their children murdered Jews. (Many of them can be found at Palestinian Media Watch.)
Advocates of the Palestinian Arab cause often tell us that ordinary Palestinians are just like ordinary folks everywhere. They say Palestinian mothers and fathers have the same concerns as those in America, Israel and everywhere else.
Former President Bill Clinton epitomized this attitude when he met with Israeli parents of terror victims on Dec. 15, 1998, and then traveled to Gaza to meet with Palestinian parents of imprisoned terrorists. The president told reporters: "If I had met them in reverse order, I would not have known which ones were Israeli and which Palestinian."
How sad that the president of the United States was unable to tell the difference between the parents. The Israeli parents were the ones mourning the deaths of their innocent children. The Palestinian parents were the ones cheering on their children for murdering the Israeli children.
For the past 28 years, the P.A. has refused to fulfill its Oslo Accords obligation to encourage Palestinian Arabs to reject terrorism and embrace peaceful coexistence with Israel. In fact, it has done exactly the opposite: It has raised an entire generation of parents and children who continue to see anti-Jewish terrorism as a worthy life goal.
And that, in a nutshell, is why the possibility of achieving real peace with the Palestinian Arabs is so remote. It has nothing to do with settlements or borders. It has everything to do with the widespread and deeply held attitudes that permeate the Palestinian Arab community.
Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is author of "A Father's Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror."
Reprinted with kind permission of JNS.