In another place, Bis’s story might have served as a warning, deterring others from traveling down a dark path. So it speaks to the moral obscenity of the prevailing culture in the Palestinian territories that her life has instead become a lesson of inspiration and a model for other children to follow. “I hope you will walk the same path we took and God willing, we will see some of you as martyrs,” Bis told schoolchildren who came to cheer her return home. In response, the children chanted, “We will give souls and blood to redeem the prisoners. We will give souls and blood for you, Palestine.” In another society, this yearning for death and murder among children would be unimaginable. In Palestinian society, it is routine.
That Bis would urge children to follow in her footsteps is not surprising. She herself was encouraged to become a suicide bomber by her parents. Her mother in particular has said that she is happy with the choices her daughter has made. “This is Jihad, it is an honorable thing and I am proud of her,” she has said. Any attempt to understand the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must grapple with the phenomenon of parents celebrating their children’s desire to become murderers.
Nothing could justify the actions of Bis and others like her, but one of the more unfortunate consequences of the recent prisoner exchange is that it has validated their methods in the eyes of many Palestinians. By making such a large concession, the Israeli government has indirectly rewarded the strategy of anti-Israel terrorism and violence that resulted in Gilad Shalit’s capture and ensured that it will continue. Whatever the merits of the deal, for the likes of Wafa al-Bis it is proof that the Palestinian cause demands death and terrorism. “You have to know that Palestine will never be liberated through negotiations,” she has said. In this belief, too, she is all too representative of a culture gone horribly wrong.
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