January 8, 2003
“Shahidim are the most noble among us and we have to
follow their path because they have sacrificed themselves for the defense of the
homeland. We have to go in their path until we achieve our goals – an
independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem its capital.”
January 7 marks the annual ‘Palestinian Martyrs’ Day.’ The above is a quote
from Dr. Raid Al-Hadari, a member of the Palestinian Authority Legislative
Council, speaking in PA Chairman Yassir Arafat’s name.
Palestinian television ran a special 10-minute feature on the day
featuring pictures of dead babies with uncovered faces and celebrating “the
most noble, who have sacrificed themselves for the glory and the independence
of Palestine…defending Muslim and Christian holy places.”
Over the past two years, according to Palestinian television, there have been
over 2200 Palestinian Martyrs, of which over 532 are children.
It should be noted that this figure includes suicide bombers and suicide
attackers, leaders of terrorist organizations, as well as innocent bystanders
caught in crossfire and skirmishes with Israeli soldiers. The Palestinian Authority
makes no discrimination between those who have sought their own death and
innocent bystanders, despite ostensibly condemning suicide attacks.
Martyrs’ Day is a central feature of the calendar in many Arab countries.
For Hizbullah and the Lebanese it is November 11, Iraq, December 1, and Syria,
May 6. Often, Martyrs’ Day embraces what are perceived as general ‘Arab
causes.’ For example, two years ago, one of the main Palestinian universities,
An-Najah, in Nablus, accused by the Israelis of being a hotbed of
fundamentalism, made special mention of ‘Iraqi martyrs.’
Mr. Salah Almasri, the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, affirmed
the unity of the Palestinian-Iraqi blood, the Iraqi role played in favor of the
Palestinian issue, and the present financial support Iraq is giving for Al-Aqsa
Uprising martyrs’ families. Palestinian martyrs are celebrated all over the Arab world.
Often, on official Palestine television, pro-Arafat and pro-Fatah (Arafat’s faction)
propaganda is used. This particular feature underlined the fact that 18 leaders
of the Fatah movement alone have become martyrs. Presumably this increases
the legitimacy and practical involvement of Fatah in the Palestinian struggle.
Special verses were composed to glorify the martyrs who were praised for
resisting colonization and defending the homeland. “We are not afraid to die to
achieve our independence and our goals.”
Pictures and names of martyrs have been appearing over Palestinian television
over the past few days. No mention was made of suicide bombings specifically,
but much was made of the glory of martyrdom and how it is a central feature of
the Palestinian struggle for independence.