The Palestinian Minister for Education, Dr Sabri Saidam has criticised a senior Australian delegation for posing “very explosive and very challenging” questions during a meeting last week in the West Bank. The Australian team was led by Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne, and included former House of Representatives Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, Federal Labor politicians, Tim Watts and Glenn Sterle. Visiting British Labour MPs were also in attendance.
The “challenging” questions put to the Palestinian Education Minister are understood to have related to the Palestinian Authority’s practice of naming schools in honour of Palestinian terrorists.
This is not a recent phenomenon, nor is it confined to an isolated incident. Inculcating the Palestinian youth with fables of the glory and heroism of those who have killed civilians in cold blood is fairly standard practice in Palestinian society.
There are three Palestinian schools named in honour of Dala Mughrabi, who led the most lethal terror attack in Israel’s history, a bus hijacking, in which 37 civilians (including 12 children) were murdered.
Three more schools in territory under Palestinian control are named in honour of the mastermind of the Munich Olympics terror attack, in which 11 Israeli athletes were tortured and killed by Palestinian terrorists. It was recently revealed that one of the athletes was castrated and shot before being left to bleed to death in front of his teammates.
A girls school in the Palestinian town of Tulkarem bears the name of Hamas suicide bomb-maker, Nash’at Abu Jabara, no doubt to be revered for his mastery of electrical engineering.
The young students attending the Artas High School for Girls pass underneath the image of 18-year-old female suicide bomber, Ayyat Al-Akhras beneath which is the inscription, “the heroic martyr.”
Al-Akhras murdered 17 year old, Rachel Levy and Haim Smadar outside a Jerusalem supermarket. Smadar was a security guard employed at the supermarket and became suspicious when he noticed that Al-Akhras had cautioned two Arab workers to leave the scene. His intervention ensured that Al-Akhras detonated her suicide vest while still outside the supermarket thereby limiting the carnage. The security guard gave his life to thwart a far deadlier attack. That is heroism worth cherishing.
No attempt is made to disguise the motivation behind officially naming schools in honour of mass killers. It is intended to inspire the young to emulate their bloody acts, just as students in healthier societies would aspire to follow the examples of their nations’ great leaders, builders and pioneers.
Since September this year, Palestinians have carried out 91 stabbings, 34 shootings and 17 car rammings, all aimed at Jewish Israelis. In the latest attack, a Palestinian armed with an axe, deliberately rammed commuters waiting at a bus-stop in Jerusalem. Doctors could not save the leg of a 15-month-old baby struck in the attack.
In one of the earliest attacks in the current round of terror, a Palestinian lethally stabbed two men walking with their families in Jerusalem’s Old City. A two-year old was also stabbed. In a grotesque display of utter inhumanity, Palestinian shopkeepers mocked and spat upon the wounded wife of one of the murdered men as she ran through the Old City begging for assistance.
In this context, it is entirely reasonable for the Australian delegation to question the continued glorification of death and terror in Palestinian society. It would have been irresponsible to avoid such questions lest the Palestinian Minister feel “challenged”.
His response was to staunchly defend the celebration of those who kills civilians. “One man’s hero is another man’s terrorist,” he told the ABC’s Jerusalem correspondent, Sophie McNeill. Tim Wilson confirmed that during the meeting, the Education Minister referred to a teenage terrorist in whose honour a school was named as a “national hero”. These pronouncements come from a Minister from the so-called “moderate” Fatah faction of the Palestinian leadership, which aspires to lead a Palestinian state.
The Education Minister’s objection to the questions from the visiting delegation is all the more peculiar in light of an incident in August this year. Hamas had sought to rename a school in Gaza, which prompted Education Minister Saidam to angrily intervene, asserting his sole responsibility for the naming of schools in the Palestinian Territories.
“National symbols must not be denigrated in any way,” he said without a hint of irony. “The naming of schools is the responsibility of the Minister of Education.” If Saidam, and Saidam alone, is responsible for the naming of schools in the Palestinian Territories, why the objection to being asked about something he holds to be solely within his ministerial remit?
The contrived outrage shown by the Palestinians in response to legitimate questions is consistent with a long history of projected victimhood. The intention is once again to cast the Palestinians as blameless victims bearing no responsibility for their own actions. The Palestinian leadership schizophrenically portrays itself as powerless and without agency, while at the same time asserting its apparent readiness to govern a sovereign state. The Education Minister exhibited a similar duplicity - at once asserting his sole dominion over the naming of schools yet refusing to be held accountable for deeds that are solely his. His discomfort in response to blunt and honest questions revealed a man badly caught out.