Friday, September 01, 2006

1-Sep-06: When Does "Disproportionate" Lose All Proportion?

Hizbollah has recruited over 2,000 children aged between 10 and 15 to serve in its armed gangs. The Mahdi Scouts youth organization, affiliated with Hizbollah, is training them. (You can see them listed here in a global catalogue of scouting organizations. Someone should notify the editors.)

The influential independent Egyptian magazine Roz Al-Yusuf exposes this in its August 18, 2006 edition. An investigative article by Mirfat Al-Hakim titled "Hizbullah's Children's Militias" says the children are selected by Hizbullah recruiters based on a single criterion: "They must be willing to become martyrs."

The invaluable MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) published this on Thursday. (MEMRI may be the single most important window we non-Arabic speakers have into that world. More power to them.) Here's an excerpt:
"The children are educated from an early age to become martyrs in their youth, like their fathers, and their training is carried out by the Mahdi Scouts youth organization... [This organization], which is affiliated with Hizbullah, teaches the children the basic principles of Shi'ite ideology and of Hizbullah's ideology... The first lesson that the children are taught by Hizbullah is 'The Disappearance of Israel,' and it is always an important part of the [training] program... "The Mahdi Scouts organization was founded in Lebanon on May 5, 1985... According to the organization's website, the number of [scouts] who had undergone training by the end of 2004 was 1,491, and the number of scout groups which had joined [the organization] was 449, with a membership of 41,960. According to the organization's most recent statistics, since 2004, 120 of its members have been ready to become martyrs.
"The organization's goal is to train an exemplary generation of Muslims based on the [principle of] 'the rule of the jurisprudent' [a founding principle of the Islamic Revolution in Iran], and to prepare for the coming of the Imam Mahdi [the Shi'ite messiah]. Its members, including the children, undertake to obey their commanders, to bring honor to the [Muslim] nation, and to prepare themselves for helping the Mahdi [when he comes]."
"A Nation With Child-Martyrs Will Be Victorious"
According to the article, Na'im Qasim, deputy to Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, said in an interview on Radio Canada: "A nation with child-martyrs will be victorious, no matter what difficulties lie in its path. Israel cannot conquer us or violate our territories, because we have martyr sons who will purge the land of the Zionist filth... This will be done through the blood of the martyrs, until we eventually achieve our goals."
More than anything else, this depressing revelation highlights the critical need for a total overhaul of the way education is managed and delivered in the Arab world.

But as threatening and upsetting as this is for us Israelis, if we were Lebanese we would be sickened, revolted - and determined to remove the individuals and institutions responsible for letting this malevolent, cancerous growth appear in the midst of our society. The silence from the Arab world on this and similar subjects is deafening.

On our side of the fence, we view the education of children as one of the highest responsibilities we have. That, along with keeping them safe and well, is a paramount obligation. In fact, almost everything else tends to be dwarfed by it. Perhaps this is what the disproportionality argument between Israel and our neighbours is really about.

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