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2/2/04 - PARENTS OF SUICIDE BOMBERS - 2004-01-21

Palestinian terrorist groups continue to instigate suicide attacks against Israel, killing and wounding Israelis as well as Palestinians. Many governments have condemned these attacks. But what do the Palestinians think? What, especially, do the families of the suicide bombers think?

The stereotype is that of a family that praises its dead son or daughter as a martyr. And this has often been the case -- although one wonders what a mother or father must really think when a child throws away his or her life in a murderous act that only causes more grief, bitterness, and hatred. Are such parents really proud? Or only playing a role forced on them by social pressures?

In any event, this reaction may be getting less common. Palestinian parents and others are beginning to speak out more against the terrorist groups that push young people into becoming suicidal murderers.

Bilal al-Masri is such a parent. As the New York Times newspaper reports, Mr. Masri’s fifteen-year-old son Amjad was shot to death recently by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Nablus. The Israelis say Amjad was throwing large rocks at the soldiers, an account that some Palestinians dispute.

In an apparent attempt to get revenge, another son of Mr. Masri, sixteen-year-old Iyad, obtained a belt of explosives and set out to be a suicide bomber. But Israeli troops closed in before he could carry out an attack. Iyad detonated the explosives and killed himself without harming anyone else.

Who are the terrorists that sent Iyad on this suicidal mission? No one would say, but to Bilal al-Masri, those terrorists are responsible for Iyad’s death. “My son was in shock after his brother’s death,” Mr. Masri told the New York Times. “He was not conscious of what he was doing.” The terrorists, says Mr. Masri, “were supposed to understand [Iyad’s] situation and not to let him do such a thing, even if he asked.”

Many other Palestinians in Nablus are saying the same thing. They say that those responsible for sending Iyad to his death should be held accountable. They are right.