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Sunday, April 11, 2004

From the Anti-World: Sick Game Indoctrinates Palestinian Children and "keeps them off the streets"

Intifada sticker album all the rage

Palestinian children from the al-Ain refugee camp in the northern
West Bank city of Nablus flip through a sticker album. While kids
worldwide collect pictures of Hollywood stars or football champions,
the craze in the restive Palestinian city of Nablus is a sticker album
depicting scenes of the bloody intifada.(AFP/File/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

Yahoo/AFP: NABLUS, West Bank (AFP) - While kids worldwide collect pictures of Hollywood stars or football champions, the craze in the restive Palestinian city of Nablus is a sticker album depicting scenes of the bloody intifada.

While Jewish organisations and the Israeli media see the "intifada album" as part of an attempt to inculcate a "shahid (martyr) culture" in children, many Palestinians here believe it has done more to cement unity around their cause than all the official speeches. [just a difference of opinion, just another point of view . . .]

The cover sports a picture of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem with the words "Intifada album" written in flaming stones while the back is a less aggressive watercolour of the disputed holy site [?] by David Roberts.

The well-crafted glossy album is dedicated by the governor of Nablus and bears 229 numbered rectangles where the players have to stick the pictures. Prizes such as televisions, computers or cash will be awarded to the first who complete the album.

"My favourite is the number one picture, because you can see Al-Aqsa mosque and there's a masked fighter holding a gun," said Ibrahim Aswad, a 12-year-old from Nablus' refugee camp of Ain Beit al-Ma.

"I like these stickers because they show places we know and I also know some of the people on the pictures," said his friend Saleh, who carries his dog-eared, beat-up album everywhere he goes and has already collected 212 cards.

Abu Yasser, who owns a little convenience store and is the neighbourhood's intifada cards retailer, points to a copy of this season's football sticker album gathering dust on the bottom shelf.

"It may be sad, but the kids don't care about football here. Our soap opera is the intifada," he said. "What is happening in this conflict affects all of us, so this is like a big collective photo album for the Palestinian people".

"I don't mind the scenes of violence in the album, at least this game keeps them off the streets," said the father of four, who admits the intifada game has become a favourite family activity.

Since he launched the game at the end of 2003, Majdi Taher said that 40,000 albums and 12 million stickers have been sold.

The cost of an album is half a shekel (10 cents). The stickers, which are sold in boxes shaped like tanks "to remember the suffering they bring us", go for one shekel a packet of 10.

From his squalid workshop in central Nablus, Taher, who employs 28 people for the project, would not reveal his turnover but admitted that "business is good".

Plans are afoot to expand to other Palestinian cities and export the album to Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Taher, a 38-year-old supporter of the Islamist movement Hamas who used to import candies, told AFP that the Pokemon cards inspired him to create the intifada sticker album back in 2002.

But he was arrested in April 2002 during Israel's "Operation Defensive Shield" in the West Bank and was only released after 18 months in administrative detention.

"It is amazingly successful. It is not just played by children, but also by parents and grandmothers," he said.

A twice-weekly one-hour program on Nablus TV entirely dedicated to the album is smashing local audience records. Addicted card collectors make trade offers for missing stickers while others test their knowledge by organising quizzes.

Taher said pictures of suicide bombers or political leaders were deliberately dropped from the collection, which mainly features news photographs of Israeli tanks, soldiers and checkpoints, Palestinians being detained and wounded children.

Yet the captions often glorify "martyrdom" and contain sometimes strong anti-Israeli language.

"O Nazis, because of you the mother mourns her son," reads one caption accompanying a picture of a Palestinian woman weeping after her boy was shot dead by Israeli troops.

"Let me die a martyr, my glorious homeland is calling," says another.

When asked whether his album could not be interpreted as incitation [I think he must mean incitement] to violence, Taher said children needed no prodding to be involved in the conflict.

"There is no escaping the everyday reality of the intifada. In other countries, children have other games. Here it's politics and war. There's no other choice, Palestine is under occupation," he said.

"There is no Disneyland here, the children relate to what they see around them all the time."

I truly can no longer tell what's worse: what the Arabs do to their children, or the extent to which the media laps it up.

Meanwhile, back in America . . .

Silly little infidels!