Dangerous to label young Palestinian terrorists as innocent “children”

by Stephen Flatow

(JNS) — I’ve written previously about the folly of treating violent Palestinian Arab teenagers as if they are innocent children. Now we have yet another real-life example of the dangers involved.

A terrorist named Nasser Abu Hamid was recently in the news because he died of cancer while in Israeli custody, and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas immediately praised him as a “martyr” and a “hero.”

Abu Hamid was in jail because he was involved in the murders of seven Israelis (two of them U.S. citizens) and five Arabs whom he accused of helping Israel. Among other acts of savagery, he was involved in the notoriously brutal lynching of two Israelis who strayed into Ramallah in 2000.

As Palestinian Media Watch has documented, Abu Hamid began his life of violence at a very young age. He was first arrested at age 11. At age 15 he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for his part in the mass “intifada” violence of 1987.

Released early in 1990, at age 17, he quickly resumed his terrorist ways by murdering a number of Arab “collaborators,” for which he was sentenced to life in prison.

After being granted early release again, Abu Hamid would go on to commit additional murders. But for now, I want to focus on the important question of what he did before he was 18.

The matter of his age is important for several reasons. First, because when young Palestinian Arabs engage in violence against Jews, the international news media often depicts the attackers as children instead of terrorists. Second, because even some members of Congress have fallen into the trap of seeing young Palestinian terrorists according to their age, not their deeds.

In recent years, Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) has repeatedly introduced a bill that would prevent U.S. aid to Israel from being used to arrest “Palestinian children.” Any Palestinian under 18 would qualify as a “child,” according to the bill.

Not surprisingly, openly extremist groups such as American Muslims for Palestine and the Council on American-Islamic Relations endorsed the McCollum bill. Several church groups that are hostile to Israel also endorsed it, such as the American Friends Service Committee (the Quakers), the Presbyterian Church USA and the National Council of Churches. So did two Jewish organizations that claim to be pro-Israel — Americans for Peace Now and J Street.

J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, hailed McCollum’s legislation as “groundbreaking” and evidence of “an overwhelming trend.” Fortunately, it’s not an “overwhelming trend” at all. Only 25 of the 193 Democrats in the House of Representatives endorsed the bill, which is dead at the moment. However, McCollum or her colleagues could revive it at any time.

I understand that any compassionate person would be concerned by the treatment of innocent children. But Nasser Abu Hamid was not an innocent child. Neither are the many other Palestinian Arabs under the age of 18 who have committed murder.

Does anybody remember Ayyat al-Akras? In 2002, at age 17, she carried out a suicide bombing in a Jerusalem supermarket, murdering two shoppers — one a teenage girl — and wounding 28 others.

How about Aamer Alfar? He was just 16 when he blew himself up in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market in 2004, murdering three Israelis and injuring 32.

IDF statistics for the period 2000-2003 list no less than 29 suicide attacks carried out by Palestinian Arabs under the age of 18, in addition to 40 attempted suicide bombings and 22 shooting attacks by teenagers under 18.

If Congresswoman McCollum and J Street had their way, Israel would have been penalized if its security forces arrested any of those murderers or would-be murderers — including Nasser Abu Hamid.

In the American judicial system, juveniles who commit certain heinous crimes are tried as adults. Terrorism surely qualifies as a heinous crime, and its perpetrators deserve appropriate punishment, even if they are younger than 18. Israel should not be punished by the media, members of Congress or the Jewish left for following this sound American principle.

Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.