Following Israel’s attack on a UN school in Gaza, the world is in an uproar. To some degree, this broadly felt anger is understandable. After all, schools are supposed to be peaceful refuges. And even if Hamas was storing weapons in the school (unknowingly or otherwise, UN officials have allowed their buildings to become prime arms depots for terrorists), the IDF must have been aware of the risk to civilians.
If IDF personnel exceeded their rules of engagement, they should face justice. Nevertheless, though an objective investigation should now take place, I’m confident the IDF will be cleared of deliberately targeting civilians. It’s not what they’re about.
On the flip side, though, when it comes to Islamic extremists attacking schools, deliberate intent is a given. Consider what happened yesterday in Kano, Nigeria.
As students lined up to enroll at a college, a suicide bomber rushed forward and blew them up. Thus far, all the evidence points to Boko Haram. They’ve been at their usual political activity in recent days: On Sunday, Boko Haram replicated their ISIS brethren and destroyed a church.
Boko Haram, a.k.a. FindKony2012 Part Deux, is a group of psychotic Salafi jihadists who like to kidnap young girls, burn alive or slit the throats of students, and massacre without mercy. Back in May, a Twitter campaign, #BringBackOurGirls, temporarily brought global attention to the group. But then the twitterati remembered that Justin Bieber is more interesting.
Unfortunately, Boko Haram aren’t alone in their war on education. In fact, a shared intolerance for intellectual (or humorous) inquiry unites Islamic terrorists.
And Sunni jihadists have a special disregard for any social benefit, however urgent, that education might proffer. Unsurprisingly, ISIS loves to kill innocent students. Somalia’s al-Shabaab (responsible for the Westgate Mall massacre) provides another example. In 2009, al-Shabaab decided to attack a graduation ceremony for newly trained Somali doctors. This was their gift to an impoverished country chronically lacking in medical staff.
How about the Pakistani Taliban (TTP)? It’s become fashionable in the West to claim that the TTP are driven to extremism by drones — that if America just left them alone, Pakistan and the West would both be a lot safer. Except that the TTP aren’t simply obsessed with attacking international airports and minority religious groups. One of their favorite activities? Firing rockets at buses full of schoolgirls. Such action is “obligatory in Islam,” they claim.
The jihadist war on education is a long-term problem. Case in point: the Beslan school siege of September 2004. After seizing the school, Sunni fanatics booby-trapped the building with explosives. In the ensuing Russian rescue attempt, hundreds of elementary- and middle-school children were killed.
Then there’s Hamas. To some in the West, Hamas is a flawed but justified resistance movement striving to liberate Palestinian children. Others understand the truth: that, as Bernard-Henry Lévy notes, many of Gaza’s children live to die as Hamas slaves. Where the Japanese used the romusha to build railways of death, Hamas uses children to build tunnels for the same purpose. Those that live longer? They get to become human shields.
These atrocities are inexcusable. Yet, neglecting reality, ours has increasingly become the age of hashtaghypocriosophers: those who are subjectively and temporarily enraged, and then forget. Those with attention spans confined in 140-character prisons.
To be sure, some, like David Miliband, tweet perspective. But even with what Assad is doing at this very moment — starving his people into submission and drowning their children — the dictator has largely escaped Western Twitter rage. Devoid of humility and in denial of the facts, through selective attention we afford his evil the pretense of comparative righteousness. The consequence is clear.
Their littered victims thus forgotten, Hamas leaders can recline in their luxury-hotel rooms. Ceasefires breached with utter gall, they nevertheless rest peacefully in Doha, grateful for the ignorance of those who care enough to retweet.
But not enough to think, or remember.