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Why the Palestinians’ gun culture should concern us

Click photo to download. Caption: A post from the Palestinian Fatah political party's Facebook page shows children holding rifles. Credit: Palestinian Media Watch.
Click photo to download. Caption: A post from the Palestinian Fatah political party's Facebook page shows children holding rifles. Credit: Palestinian Media Watch.

Another Palestinian teenager was shot to death last weekend.

You didn’t hear about the latest killing? Maybe that’s because she was shot by Palestinians, not by Israelis. That kind of news, it seems, is not fit to print.

Ilaa al-Araj, age 16, was shot in the head by gunfire that erupted during a wedding in Balata, in Palestinian Authority (PA)-controlled territory.

Palestinian Arabs bring their shotguns to weddings because it is a staple of their culture to fire guns in celebration on such occasions. It’s a “common practice,” according to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an. In 2006, Ma’an recalled, three young Arab girls were killed by such gunfire at a wedding in the PA city of Jenin.

Jews like to use noisemakers and musical instruments to express their joy at weddings. Many Palestinians apparently prefer guns.

The Boston Globe didn’t consider Ilaa’s death newsworthy. Nor, for that matter, did the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, or, it seems, any major American daily newspaper.

Why the silence?

For editors who are hostile to Israel, it’s a non-story. Can’t blame the Israelis, no point in reporting it. As one editor told me, “a dog biting a man is not news.” It’s the same reason that American newspapers almost never report on so-called “honor killings”—when Palestinian Muslims murder their  female relatives on suspicion that the women violated some Islamic moral stricture (such as speaking to men). 

For editors who want to make the Palestinians look good—so that Americans will sympathize with their cause—the story is a problem. It makes Palestinians look violent and reckless. These editors want Americans to think that the Palestinians are “just like us.” Acknowledging cultural differences might undermine that agenda.

For anyone concerned about Israel, however, the death of Ilaa al-Araj should be big news. In addition to the natural humanitarian sympathy we all feel any time an innocent person loses his or her life—especially at such a young age—there is also a powerful, life-and-death lesson for Israel.

The PA’s territory is awash in guns. Tribal clans have them, terrorists have them, criminals have them. Guns are an acceptable feature of Palestinian life.

Even though the PA regime has one of the largest per capita police forces in the world, the PA police make no serious effort to confiscate the guns. The PA makes no effort to discourage this gun culture. On the contrary, the PA’s schools and media teach young Palestinians that those who use guns—to kill Jews—are heroes and martyrs.

It’s bad enough that Palestinian society is already rife with such attitudes. Now try to imagine what would happen if the Obama administration and the United Nations force Israel to accept the creation of an independent, sovereign “Palestine.” Israel would be faced with an entire state rooted in a culture of guns and violence. For real peace, that culture must be transformed—not next year, but now.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is chairman of the Alisa Flatow Memorial Scholarship Fund (www.alisafund.org), which provides financial assistance to students wishing to study in Israel.

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