Just over a week ago, 17-year-old Atallah Muhammad Rayyan approached a female Israeli soldier, not much older than he, at the Ariel junction in Samaria. He was armed with a knife, and his aim was to kill her. Instead, a fellow soldier shot and killed Rayyan.
A mere three days later, a similar incident took place at the Gush Etzion junction in Judea. An unidentified Palestinian approached an Israeli soldier. Civilians were nearby, waiting at a bus-stop. He had fashioned for himself a makeshift spear by tying a knife to a stick, and as he drew closer he drew the weapon and broke into a jog. The soldier opened fire, killing him on the spot.
Within hours of each attack the Palestinian Authority’s propaganda machine was in full swing, recasting Rayyan and the unnamed assailant not as terrorists but as innocent victims of Israeli belligerence.
Rayyan was “executed,” official P.A. TV reported; he “died as a martyr after being shot by the occupation’s soldiers while he was at the junction.”
A post on Fatah’s official Facebook page read: “The [Palestinian] children are dying from the bullets of [Israeli] soldiers who are filled with hatred towards everything Palestinian.” It, too, cast Rayyan as innocent, claiming: “All that Atallah did was to cross the road quickly.”
Of the other assailant, official P.A. news reported: “A young person whose identity is still unknown died as a martyr after the occupation’s soldiers shot him south of Bethlehem. Our reporter said the occupation forces at [Gush] Etzion Junction shot the young person while he was in the area.”
This whitewashing of attempted murder reached the very top of the P.A.—Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh himself fed the libel.
“The [Israeli] killings of young Palestinians have also expanded according to the policy of shooting to kill, or the policy of summary execution,” he said, adding: “Last week, we lost two martyrs who were shot by the occupation at the two checkpoints of the colonies Ariel and Gush Etzion.”
No mention of the fact that the two were killed in the act of attempting to murder others; no, they were executed merely for “crossing the road,” for “being in the area.”
This is fake news, P.A.-style.
In a sense, however, these two young Palestinians and others like them are indeed victims—not of Israel but of the P.A. itself.
From a young age, Palestinian children are taught that the highest achievement they can aspire to is to be killed in this manner, in the attempt to carry out terror attacks.
Every day when Palestinian girls enter their high school in Bethlehem, the P.A. reminds them with a plaque at the entrance that their role model is a suicide bomber who was their age, 17-year-old Ayyat al-Akhras, who murdered two and wounded 28 when she blew herself up outside a supermarket on March 29, 2002.
Fatah holds up children who are killed seeking “martyrdom” as heroes, encouraging others to follow their example. Last June, Fatah spokesman Osama al-Qawasmi said: “This is the land of Palestine. Whoever remembers Faris Ouda and ‘the children of the rocks’ knows that this people is great.”
Ouda was just 14 years old when he set out to attack Israeli soldiers. According to the official P.A. daily, on the day he was killed, before heading towards the areas where Palestinian and Israelis were involved in fighting, Ouda left a wreath around his picture in his room, with the words: “The brave Martyr Faris Ouda.” The P.A. daily wrote that Ouda had said to his mother, “Don’t worry, mother, martyrdom (shahada) is sweet.”
Ouda can perhaps be forgiven for believing this; a schoolbook currently in use in P.A. schools teaches fifth-graders that terrorist murderers are society’s “heroes”—”the best of the best”—and that “everyone wants to be like them.” P.A. educators teach children that these “heroes” fearlessly sacrifice their lives, and that whoever does not desire to do so is a coward: “Bravo to the heroes, and scorn to the cowards!”
This teaching isn’t only given at school level; students at Al-Quds Open University were told by Fatah Central Committee member and Fatah Commissioner Abbas Zaki in 2018: “Those who die [naturally] are the cowards. But real men approach death with a smile.”
The examples are seemingly endless, and the message is clear: The Palestinian Authority weaponizes children, inciting them to attack Israeli soldiers, who are forced to kill them in self defense, only to then twist the narrative to make it seem as though the children are victims of Israeli aggression.
In doing so, they further incite hatred for Israel among the Palestinian population, propagating a self-propelling terror cycle.
Donna Rachel Edmunds is Director of Press and Public Affairs and Nan Jacques Zilberdik is Senior Analyst at Palestinian Media Watch.