Op-Ed: A Psychiatrist Talks About PA Children's Indoctrination
Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldThe writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards...
“In both the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas-ruled territory of Gaza there are carefully planned, widespread campaigns of incitement of children. Due to this indoctrination children start even viewing positively their involvement in terrorist actions in which they risk their lives. This process of incitement should be better documented. Thereafter it should be analyzed how this fits into the broader picture of Palestinian and Muslim genocidal ideology. Finally, methods of detoxifying brainwashed children should be discussed.”
The psychiatrist and pathologist Dr. Daphne Burdman, who is quoted above, was assistant clinical professor of pathology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. army.
She remarks: “This incitement process has been poorly covered by the international media. Thus Westerners are largely ignorant of the sinister development of these profoundly ‘successful’ programs. These are based on both familiar and innovative techniques of persuasion and indoctrination. Similar ones were used to maximum effect by totalitarian regimes including Nazi Germany, the Soviet KGB, and Chinese intelligence services. There is increasing evidence that some of these sources have inspired and trained the Palestinian Authority.[i]
“This incitement of Palestinian children has led to widespread hatred and an urge to violence. Palestinian leaders incite children to undertake such violent actions against Israelis even when it is likely that they will be injured or killed. They are promised to become martyrs who will be admired as heroes in Palestinian society and will find a place in Paradise with Allah. Thus encouraged, children’s natural fears are reduced. They then desire to be in situations where they risk injury or even death.
“This mass indoctrination of children is based on a carefully planned campaign that draws on strongly held cultural beliefs and deep-seated psychological mechanisms. The incitement uses a multimodal methodology, preaching Palestinian nationalism, martyrology and, under Hamas, emphasizing worldwide hegemonic shar’ia. The campaign utilizes the media, schools, and the street as well as religious figures.
“Indoctrination in the Palestinian areas is far broader than textbook and television sources, encompassing general societal elements including newsprint, parents, teachers, methods of teaching with encouragement and praise for adherence, and strong disapproval for less devoted students. Imams are extremely influential in successfully emphasizing the goals of jihad and martyrdom. Summer camps, and the naming of streets, playgrounds, and soccer teams for martyrs, help maintain the ambience throughout society.
“Among the psychological factors determining indoctrination, the transmission of emotion is the ultimate weapon.[ii] Hatred in this context is paramount, and abhorrence of the Jews, and to a lesser extent of the Americans, is transmitted. In patriarchal Palestinian society, manipulation of children’s emotions thus draws on fear of displeasing Allah.
“Studies show that the frequent background drumbeat in the Palestinian Authority TV clips augments explosive states of physical tension and heightened suggestibility. This idea of conversion to self-destruction is a mystery for the Western mind.
“Hamas and Islamic Jihad hear from clerics in mosques about youngsters who seem particularly ready for martyrdom. These are then given a lengthy course of spiritual studies and military-type training. They are also taught that dying as a suicide bomber will open the doors to Paradise for themselves and their families.[iii]
“It is noteworthy that the suicide-bombing phenomenon tapered off considerably after March 2002, due both to the markedly more efficient prevention by IDF targeted killings and preemptive actions, and to the construction of the security fence in strategic locations. The policy of the Palestinian Authority was unchanged but became less and less successful.”
When asked about the possibilities to detoxify Palestinian childrens’ minds Burdman says: “Even when violence between Palestinians and Israelis stops, Palestinian children’s state of mind will not change by itself. Once one has been taught that suicide attacks will open the doors to Paradise for oneself and one’s family, much more is needed for detoxification. The problem is all the more acute if one grows up in an authoritarian society where there is little if any independent thinking.”
“Rectification of the martyrdom indoctrination will be lengthy and complex. From professional experience one learns that it is questionable whether it can be successful. The best that we can hope for is a gradual attrition of Palestinian indomitable nationalism and Islamist hegemonic hopes. In the absence of external forces this might be a possibility, but at the present time, with a rising crescendo of expressed international Islamist expansionism both violent and nonviolent, the immediate outlook appears bleak.”
[i] Joel Fishman, “Ten Years since Oslo: The PLO’s ‘Peoples War,’” Jerusalem Viewpoints, 503, 1-15 September 2003. On Arafat, see also Ion Mihai Pacepa, Red Horizons (Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway, 1987), 14, 19, 23.
[ii] Daphne Burdman, “Education, Indoctrination and Incitement: Palestinian Children on Their Way to Martyrdom,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 15, No. 1 (2003): 109-113, note 10 regarding elucidation of psychological factors determining successful indoctrination.
[iii] Nasra Hassan, quoted in Daniel Pipes, “Arafat’s Suicide Factory,” New York Post, 9 December 2001.