Understanding the Death Worship of the Palestinian Suicide
It's Aspiration, not Desperation
by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
"I always wanted to be the first woman who sacrifices
her life for Allah. My joy will be complete when my body parts fly in all
These are the words of female suicide terrorist
Reem Reyashi, videotaped just before she killed four Israelis and herself
two weeks ago in Gaza. What is surprising about this horrific statement is
that she put a positive value on her dismemberment and death, distinct from
her goal to kill others. She was driven by her aspiration to achieve what
the Palestinians call "shahada," death for Allah. She had two distinct goals:
To kill and to be killed. These independent objectives, both positive in
her mind, were goals greater than her obligations and emotional ties to her
two children. This aspiration to die, which contradicts the basic human instinct
for survival, is at the core of the suicide terrorism fervor. Only when this
death worship component is recognized as a basic tenet of Palestinian belief
will it be possible to understand the challenges Israel and the world face
from suicide terror.
Palestinian society actively promotes the religious belief that their deity
craves their deaths. Note the words of a popular music video directed at
children, broadcast hundreds of times on PA TV, which depicts the earth thirsting
for the blood of children: "How sweet is the fragrance of the shahids, how
sweet is the scent of the earth, its thirst quenched by the gush of blood,
flowing from the youthful body."
This conviction that the deity thirsts for or craves human death as tribute
and sacrifice has its roots in ancient beliefs.
The Bible cites ancient cultures of the Land of Israel: "Their sons and
their daughters they sacrifice to their Gods" [Deut: 12]. Even the Israelites
were drawn to it: "And they built altars to give their sons and daughters
to Molech which God did not command nor consider this abomination [Jeremiah:
Deut 12:28 "Be careful to obey all of these
commandments. If you do what is right in the eyes of the Lord your God, all
will go well with you and your children forever. 29 When he destroys the
nations in the land where you will live, 30 don't follow their example in
worshiping their gods. Do not ask, 'How do these nations worship their gods?'
and then go and worship as they do! 31 You must not insult the Lord your
God like that! These nations have done horrible things that he hates, all
in the name of their religion. They have even roasted their sons and daughters
in front of their gods. 32 Obey all the commandments I give you. Do not add
to or subtract from them. TLB
2 Kings 23:10 Then the king (Josiah) destroyed the altar of Topheth
in the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom, so that no one could ever again use
it to burn his son or daughter to death as a sacrifice to Molech. TLB
Jer 32:35 And they have built high altars to Baal in the Valley of
Hinnom. There they have burnt their children as sacrifices to Molech-something
I never commanded and cannot imagine suggesting. What an incredible evil,
causing Judah to sin so greatly! TLB
As recently as 500 years ago, South American
tribes used to leave children to die on mountain tops as presents to their
gods. The common denominator driving human sacrifice cults was the belief
that the deity craved the death of innocents.
This is precisely the belief that the leaders of Palestinian society are
inculcating in their people. Moreover, Palestinians have been taught on PA
TV by their religious leaders that they are born for the very purpose of
dying for Allah: "The believer was created to know his Lord and to uphold
Islam to be a shahid, or intend to be a shahid. If the Muslim does not aspire
shahada, he will die as in the Jahiliya [pre-Islam faith]. If we truthfully
request it of Allah, He will grant us its rewards even if we die in bed."
This message is of paramount significance. The Muslim is born in order to
die the right death, according to Palestinian Islam. Death need not be the
termination of life to be prevented, but can be transformed into the ultimate
achievement, on the condition it is for the deity. Those who do achieve this
death are promised rewards by religious leaders on PA TV: "All his sins are
forgiven from the first gush of blood; he is exempted from the torments of
the grave (Judgment)... he marries 72 Dark-Eyed [Virgins or Maidens of
Paradise]... on his head is placed a crown of honor, one stone of which is
worth more than all there is in this world."
EVEN CHILDREN are not spared the indoctrination that the deity wants their
deaths. A telling example is the story of 14-year-old Faras Ouda, a boy elevated
to heroism by the Palestinian leadership.
Yasser Arafat regularly singles out Ouda as
a role model for children, addressing children on TV once as "peers, friends,
brothers and sisters of Faras Ouda," another time telling them "This generation
represented by your colleague, the hero Shahid, Faras Ouda!" Yet another
time he said, "We are saluting to the spirit of our hero Shahid Faras Ouda,
Faras Ouda, Faras Ouda!"
What was Faras Ouda's great accomplishment that Arafat elevated him to
archetypical role model? The boy's goal in life was to die for the deity,
as reported in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al Jadida: "On the day of his death
Faras Ouda left his home with a slingshot, after having made himself a wreath
decorated with photos of himself and having written on it 'The Brave Shahid
Faras Ouda wanted to die for the deity, achieved it, and thus became Arafat's
Palestinian mothers have been taught to aspire to death for Allah for their
children. A mother explained recently on PA TV why she expressed joy
upon hearing of her son's death: "A mother makes sounds of joy because she
wants him to reach shahada. He became a shahid for Allah Almighty. I wanted
the best for him; this is the best for [my son] Shaadi."
PA ideology rejects the value of 'life' that other societies hold supreme.
As expressed by a senior historian, professor Issam Sissalem, in a lecture
on PA TV: "We are not afraid to die, and do not love life."
Like their adult role models, Palestinian children have learned to see dying
for the deity as their goal in life. In a chilling talk show interview on
PA TV, two 11-year-old girls explain cheerfully and eloquently what they
and their young friends desire:
Walla: "Shahada is very, very beautiful. Everyone aspires to shahada. What
could be better than going to paradise?"
Host: "What is better, peace and full rights for the Palestinian people or
Yussra: "Of course shahada is sweet. We don't want this world, we want the
Afterlife. We benefit not from this life but from the Afterlife... Every
Palestinian child aged, say 12, says "Oh Lord, I would like to become a
Public opinion polls indicate that Yussra and Walla represent an overwhelming
majority of Palestinian children who embrace this belief. According to three
different polls, 70 to 80 percent of Palestinian children aspire to
In the ancient world, there was widespread belief that the deity wanted humans
to die as the ultimate form of worship. People gave their children to the
deity of Molech and the Baal. This ancient belief has now returned to plague
the world. The world had assumed that the Palestinian suicide terrorist was
facing a dilemma of having to choose between the "value" of killing Jews
and the value of life. Clearly, this is false.
Killing Jews is one "value." Death for deity is itself a value, indeed, a
value greater than life. Seeking shahada is not desperation but aspiration.
As the mother explained her joy after her son's death: "I wanted the best
Itamar Marcus is director of Palestinian Media Watch. Barbara Crook,
to view the TV quotations