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May 21, 2001
Why Do Palestinian Children Grow up to be Suicide Bombers?

By Ramzy Baroud*


Israeli troops raided a workplace on Sunday, May 20, located near a border area separating the West Bank and Israel, known as Beit Shaimish. They rounded up Palestinian workers who were accused of entering Israel to work without permits.

According to Wikalat news agency, the workers were transported to an unknown destination and were severely beaten by the laughing and jeering troops.

Three of the Palestinian laborers, who apparently challenged the siege to secure money for their families are currently in a Palestinian hospital in the town of Beit Jala, suffering from serious wounds.

Two of those who were seriously wounded, Khadir Berah 26, and Yahay Berah 25, were brothers from the village of Al-Khadr, while the rest of the workers came from the area of Bethlehem.

The wounded laborers narrated the events to the Palestinian news agency WAFA, saying that after receiving heavy and unexplained beatings and insults, and while some of those seriously hurt were bleeding and barely able to move, amused Israeli soldiers decided to prolong the tragic episode.

Adding insult to injury, Palestinian laborers were forced to mimic animal voices; a few were forced to walk fast on their hands and knees, and others were ordered to run back and forth as Israeli soldiers jeered and laughed.

The story is tragic and depressing, but a common one.

Since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in late September, nearly one third of the Palestinian population was left without any means of income. Most of those who still had jobs lost a substantial amount of their monthly earnings, while, according to a recent survey conducted by the Palestinian Bir Zeit University, almost all of the population was in one way or the other, hurt financially.

Besieged Palestinian workers were left without income; while some helplessly watched their impoverished families' condition worsen, others chose the risky path of entering Israel in search of jobs without permits.

Bethlehem workers who endured unforgettable humiliation were most likely some of those who chose this risky path to maintain a living.

But more tragic is the significance behind the date in which these workers were beaten and abused, Sunday, May 20.

Exactly 11 years ago, also on a Sunday, May 20, 1990, a group of Palestinian laborers were lined up by an Israeli solider as they waited for transportation back to Gaza.

The terrified laborers who gathered in an area southern Israel known as Rishon Lezion (known to Palestinians by its Arabic name Oyon Qara) handed their ID cards to the Israeli soldier.

The solider ordered the distressed laborers to kneel down and face the ground and unexpectedly showered them with a barrage of bullets, killing seven and wounding many.

Back in the West Bank and Gaza, grieving Palestinians took to the streets and cried in vain, denouncing Israel's latest massacre.

In between the massacre of 1990 and the incident of 2001, many massacres were committed, and the perpetrators were hailed by Israelis as heroes, yet the pain of the victim was never acknowledged.

And now as Israel has upgraded its military strategy to the use of F-16 warplanes against Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps, the Beit Shaimish experience is perceived as news of little interest, hardly even mentioned by the Western media.

But for those dignified men who were forced to mimic animal voices while suffering from broken ribs and bleeding jaws, the incident can never be forgotten nor can the pain be eased.

Following the massacre of Rishon Lezion which is now remembered as Black Sunday, many other Palestinian workers were gruesomely killed.

And following the Black Sunday massacre, 12 other Palestinians were shot dead and nearly 1200 wounded in following days as they rushed to the streets displaying anger and grief.

The never forgetful Palestinians also remember the burning of three Palestinian laborers while they slept in a tent in Israel during the 1987 uprising.

Working in Israel nowadays is similar to walking through a field of landmines. But when children's lives are on the line, desperate Palestinian workers are willing to take such risks.

Every one of those who was killed, left behind children who will grow, and become the strong and determined men and women leading the ongoing Palestinian uprising.

And it is likely that the recent victims of Beit Shaimish also have their own children who must comprehend the depth of the tragedy.

Those too will likely take to the streets, attempting to convey their rage by chanting angry words and throwing rocks.

Others who might feel that rock throwing is not a sufficient act that would restore the dignity of a dying father who was forced to walk and talk like an animal, might choose a more extreme path to avenge that stolen dignity.

The world today stands mainly apathetic to the fate of Palestinians who are enduring Israel's war crimes almost every day.

And yet the same indifferent world today is likely to rise up tomorrow and ask in animosity and anger, "why do Palestinian children grow up to be suicide bombers?"

Ramzy Baroud is an international journalist and the managing editor of Middle East News Online (middleeastwire.com/).