For Palestinian youths, stone throwing is a rite of passage
publiziert: Mittwoch, 4. Okt 2000 / 18:41 Uhr

Gaza City - Until a few days ago, Shadi Abu Daqa, a middle child among 18 siblings, never stood out in a crowd. Today, the 16-year-old brick carrier is basking in the glow of Palestinian admiration, after scaling an Israeli army tower and tearing down the Israeli flag in the middle of a firefight.

1 Meldung im Zusammenhang
Young rock throwers are the front line in Palestinian clashes with Israeli soldiers, and they compete to outdo each other in acts of daring that cost some of them their lives. Some turn up because of peer pressure, others are driven by personal grievances against Israel. And a few, like Shadi, manage their very own moment in the spotlight. "I was always seeing this Israeli flag on the army post," Shadi said of the Israeli banner atop a deserted watchtower on the edge of a base in Netzarim in the Gaza Strip, the scene of ferocious firefights for several days. "It looked strange to me. I always wanted to take this down and put a Palestinian flag in its place," said Shadi, who looks even younger than his age. Like many Palestinian teen-agers and young men, Shadi headed for the streets last week following the controversial visit by hawkish Israeli politician Ariel Sharon to a Jerusalem holy site revered by Muslims and Jews. From his home in Abassan, a village in southern Gaza, Shadi took a 10-shekel (dlrs 2.50) taxi ride to Netzarim, where the Israeli military defends a small Jewish settlement. On the first day of clashes, he was hit by a rubber bullet in the left leg, and on the second day he was hit in the right leg. Both wounds were slight, and he returned for a third day of action. "I don't know where the courage came from," he said of his decision to head for the flag pole. But when another Palestinian youth tried and failed to take down the flag, Shadi raced to the pole, which exposed him to the nearby Israeli troops. After tearing down the blue-and-white flag amid the shooting, he tossed a stone at an Israeli soldier who was involved in the firefight. "I ran, then I heard the fire from his gun," he said. "I was injured. But because of the (Israeli) helicopter and the dust in the place, the soldier stopped, and I kept running until a Palestinian policeman picked me up." Suffering wounds at the hands of Israeli forces is widely seen as a badge of honor by Palestinians, and those killed are often remembered with posters that are plastered on cars and buildings. Shadi wound up in the hospital after he was shot in the leg for the third time _ this time with a live bullet _ but his exploits were captured by television cameras, and he's become a minor celebrity among Palestinians. This urge to participate in the confrontations runs deep, even among children. In the West Bank town of Nablus, Mahsouz Hamoud said her 6-year-old son Muhammad kept asking to go to the nearby Joseph's Tomb, where firefights have erupted on an almost daily basis. Muhammad's father took him to the area Tuesday, and afterward, "he was really proud and really happy so he could tell his friends about the demonstrations."

Hamoud said her son has even picked out a picture of himself that he would like to go on his "poster" if he were killed. Despite the obvious dangers, some parents actively encourage their children to take part in the street clashes. "If I had 20 children I would send them all down (to fight)," said Taman Sabeh, a 50-year-old woman in Nablus, who was attending the funeral of an activist on Wednesday. "I wouldn't spare any of them. We're not scared of death." The Israelis argue that Palestinian political leaders cynically use the kids for the political gain that comes with pictures of youths confronting heavily armed soldiers. The issue has become even more complicated in the current round of violence, because mixed in with the waves of young stone throwers are Palestinian militants firing automatic rifles at the Israeli troops. Souad Hosam, a 38-year-old Palestinian housewife, said stone throwing has become such a rite of passage for youths that it's futile for parents to try to hold their kids back. "How can we stop them when they see what happens to their friends?" said Hosam, who lives in Nablus, a chronic trouble spot. "They're angry and upset and they want to express themselves." "This is their life. No school, no work, just stone throwing and coming to funerals. There's nothing else for them to do," she said.


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