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A deadly development.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip call them amiliyyat istishadiyye - martyrdom operations - but the rest of the civilized world has a more straightforward name for suicide bombings: terrorism.

And just when you thought this barbaric tactic that annihilates and dismembers innocent civilians couldn't get any worse comes news that teenagers in increasing numbers are being recruited to become human bombs. High school freshmen and sophomores are heeding the call to don the dynamite vests and walk into crowded cafes at lunchtime or board buses at rush hour, and by unleashing hell on Earth, ensuring their passage to paradise.

Last week, Israeli soldiers caught 16-year-old Hussam Abdu wearing a vest packed with 18 pounds of explosives at the Hawara checkpoint in Nablus. Two months earlier, Iyad Masri, also 16, died in Nablus after the suicide belt strapped to his waist accidentally exploded. In late February, a group of Palestinian boys - ages 12, 13 and 15 - were caught trying to sneak into Israel with plans to gun down Israelis in the coastal town of Afula. They left behind a note telling their families to celebrate their martyrdom if they didn't make it home.

On Wednesday, The Associated Press reported that militants from Islamic Jihad tried to recruit Nablus ninth-grader Tamer Khweirah as a suicide bomber, luring him with clothes, a cell phone and promises of 72 virgins in paradise. An Islamic cleric in Nablus attempted to persuade the 15-year-old Tamer to carry out a suicide bombing to avenge the Israeli assassination of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmad Yassin.

Palestinian children have increasingly grown to idolize suicide bombers, who are seen as having sacrificed their lives for the Palestinian cause, Dr. Eyad Serraj, a psychiatrist in the Gaza Strip, told The Christian Science Monitor. In a poll last summer, 36 percent of 12-year-old boys in Gaza said they believed that the best thing in life was to die as a martyr.

What prompts such extreme feelings in young people? Middle East News Online offers this explanation: "Without exception, the suicide bombers have lived their lives on the receiving end of a system designed to trample their rights and crush every hope of a brighter future. Confronted by a seemingly endless combination of death, destruction, restriction, harassment and humiliation, they conclude that ending life as a bomb - rather than having it ended by a bullet - endows them, even if only in their final moments, with a semblance of purpose and control previously considered out of reach."

Peace in the Middle East will remain out of reach until an end is brought to the repression and deprivation Palestinians endure under Israeli occupation. But there is no list of grievances, however righteous, that can justify turning children into delivery systems for terrorist explosives.

The social, religious and financial support for suicide bombers in Palestinian society has conferred an unconscionable legitimacy on a barbarous and self-defeating form of resistance. That support now threatens to poison the minds and shatter the lives of a new generation of Palestinian youth. What parents could possibly want that legacy for their children?

Neither Palestinians nor Israelis will be able to bomb their way to independence or security. Until both peoples find the courage to embrace the real tools of diplomacy, they risk consigning their children to a future filled with hopelessness and hate.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Militants recruit Palestinian youth as bombers
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 5, 2004
Words:553
Previous Article:LETTERS IN THE EDITOR'S MAILBAG.
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