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Watching Her Go From a Doll to a Rock to a Bomb

January 30, 2002|JONATHAN KAY | Jonathan Kay is editorials editor at the National Post in Toronto, Canada. E-mail: jkay@nationalpost.com.

Neither Islamic Jihad nor Hamas has taken responsibility for the deadly bombing of a Jerusalem shopping district on Sunday. That is not surprising: The bomber was a woman. Both terror groups have fundamentalist Islamic agendas, and neither believes a woman is deserving of a martyr's glory.

But Sunday's attack did not mark the first time that Israel has been victimized by a female terrorist. In 1978, a woman named Dalal al Mughrabi led a group of terrorists who took over a civilian bus on the road between Haifa and Tel Aviv. Thirty-seven Israeli civilians were killed, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Israeli history.

Last week, I met with Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, a group dedicated to monitoring the Palestinian Authority's state-controlled media. In a prescient presentation, Marcus showed me Palestinian television programming that glorified Al Mughrabi. On a show called "Panorama," a commentator described Al Mughrabi as "a symbol for the Palestinian nation" who demonstrated "the Palestinian woman's role as a fighter." The speaker exhorted viewers to "cling to Dalal as an individual who belongs to the Palestinian consciousness."

Following this, viewers were shown a dramatization in which Israeli Jews threaten a Palestinian with a pistol in the cemetery in which Al Mughrabi is buried. As the action unfolds, Al Mughrabi appears above her grave as a protective spirit.

In the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds alike, female suicide bombers are a rarity. The only exceptions are cult-like groups led by charismatic leaders, such as Sri Lanka's guerrilla group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which has launched more suicide attacks than any terror group in the world. How do the Tigers recruit female terrorists? The strategy is simple: Get them while they're young. Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tigers' leader, personally brainwashes preadolescent boys and girls, many of them war orphans. By the time they're teenagers, they have become human time bombs. Girls and women participate in 30% to 40% of the Tigers' suicide attacks, including the 1991 killing of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and an unsuccessful 1999 attempt on Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga that cost her an eye.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has copied the Tigers' strategy of using the mass media. Marcus showed me recordings of programs from Palestinian state-controlled television. In one of the most disgusting vignettes, a boy is shown clutching a toy car. He gazes at the camera, drops the toy and picks up a rock to throw at Israelis. Then the same shot is shown, this time with a girl holding a doll. She, too, rejects her toy in favor of a rock. In another vignette, a boy is being interviewed by a reporter. The interviewer asks the boy if he wants to become a martyr. He says yes. She asks if he is afraid to die. He pauses and stares at her, not knowing what to say. She shakes her head from side to side slightly, signaling the expected response. "No," he then says, defiantly.

Mohammed Durra, the 12-year-old killed as he was held by his father during an October 2000 firefight between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen, has been turned into a recruiting tool for child martyrs. In one Palestinian television clip, the boy is shown in what is depicted as a "children's paradise."

The television station of the radical Lebanese Islamic movement Hezbollah identified Sunday's bomber as a female student from An Najah University in the West Bank city of Nablus. If the report of her age is correct, then she probably was exposed to this brand of vile propaganda since she was an adolescent. It is no accident that she turned to violence once she outgrew her dolls.

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