This has been a century of mass indoctrination. Murder by highly sophisticated methods of programming in Nazi Germany, Hirohito’s Japan, the USSR, Red China and Cambodia and now Radical Islam, assure an assembly-line production of “suicide bombers” by the Palestinian Authority.

The policies of these totalitarian dictatorships have invoked a glorious mythological past or a future Utopia.

Palestinian leaders quote nationalism and Jihad in accordance with Koranic teachings, as they understand them. Jihad means “striving”, which Islam has intepreted in two different ways – for moral and spiritual excellence, on the one hand, yet on the other hand, since the Iranian Khomeini revolution of 1979, as an armed struggle to unite the world under Islam, an interpretation reactivated after relative dormancy for three or four hundred years.

That youths are ready to become human bombs has been achieved by a longstanding deliberate campaign of indoctrination directed at children, based on fundamental psychological mechanisms, a system of hypnotic indoctrination which was introduced upon the genesis of the Palestinian Authority a decade ago. Thereafter a further few days after enlistment with a terrorist group, completes the process.

The message of Palestinian Authority education is clear: Jihad to reclaim the land of Israel which was once under Islamic rule during the Ottoman Empire.

Psychologically we know that behavior is modulated by its outcome. Successes will bring rewards and therefore promote that behavior, while failures will discourage it. Human praise is one of the most effective rewards. In schools there is ample praise from teachers and peers for participating in the group beliefs in martyrdom as declared by a charismatic leader like Arafat. Self-proclaimed would-be martyrs receive the highly motivating reward of societal acclaim, while the ultimate reward for the martyrdom act is life everlasting in Paradise with 72 virgins. Financial bonuses provide rewards to families. The message redounds from all sides, from Arafat, mosques, schools, military youth camps, and all official avenues of Palestinian Authority media – television, radio, websites etc. All this, grafted onto basic societal acceptance of traditional Koranic teaching, is more readily psychologically acceptable, even though militant Jihad had until recently been relatively quiescent for centuries.

In the schools, memorization and rote repetition of poems and songs extolling self-sacrifice, and role modelling provided by teachers and peers transmits not only the verbal message but also the emotional excitement which strongly reinforces the message.

Group influence in general society (as in terrorist groups) is extremely important, encouraging conformity of thought and behavior. That this is an authoritarian society using strict disciplinary measures was noted by a Palestinian psychiatrist. Prohibition against freedom to criticize under authoritarianism leads to venting of suppressed emotions by their displacement onto “scapegoats” such as Israel.

Film is extremely important in programming new beliefs, in the P.A. blatantly promoting martyrdom. Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation television clips, airing up to 20% of broadcasting time, illustrate techniques which induce light trance and increased suggestibility. In fact a technique of inducing trance in young children is by having them imagine a television screen showing their favorite program. For light trance, sleep is not necessary. The scripts of “I am the martyr mother”… ” Do not be sad, For my country Martyrdom !… ” have accompanying visuals such as youths going off to confront Israeli tanks, Mohammed Al Dhura playing happily in Paradise, with background blending of new scenes, colors, and the music heard at Martyrs’ funerals, the constant drum beat with underlying chant of “Shaheed”, Shaheed… “, then a beautiful woman, Aida, narrating, as two huge red roses are closing, “How sweet is the fragrance of the Martyrs… How sweet is the scent of the earth, Its thirst satisfied by the gush of blood, Flowing from the body of youth.” The medium of smoothly unfolding co-ordinated visual and auditory effects is extremely effective in increasing suggestibility, (the individual’s level of susceptibility to external suggestion). Constant rhythmic drum beating has a long record of success from primitive tribal rites onwards, in which trance with increased suggestibility even induces experiences of “possession”. The PA film clips are rich with rhythmic drumming and the associated increased suggestibility.

Suggestibility is further increased by strong emotional arousal especially of fear and hate, as most effectively used by the Palestinians. Arousal of fear was intrinsic to John Wesley’s hellfire and damnation conversions, while Pavlov in 1903 found that his dogs who had inadvertently suffered extreme fear lost their conditioning but were very rapidly reconditioned to new behaviors resulting from their increased suggestibility. Hitler well knew and at his rallies deliberately stirred up intense emotional excitement and refractory vicious hatred.

Involving such profound psychological mechanisms, future eradication will be laborious and complex. Meanwhile, sinister techniques of Palestinian programming proliferate. As recently reported, terrorist gunmen are now actively training schoolchildren in “guerrilla warfare”.

Once terrorist activism is curtailed by military means, long term de-programming in the context of democratization is essential. Criminalization of current indoctrination programs is crucial. International brokers such as the Quartet and future moderate Palestinian governments should be willing to demonstrate their sincerity by actively promoting this in future peace negotiations, while the Israeli government should insist on this point. Also essential are the leadership and counsel of truly moderate Islamic clergy, and economic policies to rebuild the economy.

Palestinians are increasingly recognizing the damage done to Palestinian society by the present regime. In deprogramming, this reality needs to be subtly but continuously addressed while presenting a competing, healthy, ideal such as recalling the “Golden Age of Islam”.

Textbooks will need extensive revision together with an overhaul of education. Authoritarianism characterized by absolutist attitudes will necessitate re-education to develop the capacity to weigh conflicting factors, prioritize, negotiate and compromise. Authoritarian personalities exhibit lack of empathy. Complex measures exist by which this can be encouraged. In this connection the subjugation of women in Arab societies with consequent pathological family dynamics, has a powerful effect on children. The emancipation of women is of utmost importance. The program will be multifaceted and will use legitimate techniques.

In depth experiences often initiated by children themselves acting scenarios, researching issues, visiting memorials, debating, use of film etc. are all far more effective than book and rote learning.

It is problematic whether an international consortium will support re-education and de-programming. However, awareness is the first step.

Hopefully action will follow.

Note: P.B.C., T.V. film clips were made available by Palestinian Media Watch.

Dr Daphne Burdman is a psychiatrist recently retired from the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace.
Tel: (02) 644-9370
Cellphone: (052) 359-3244