I used to dream of a poster child for the organization I founded – MATCKH (Mothers Against Teaching Children to Kill and Hate). Someone who could put it on the map like Madonna has done for Kabbalah.
I had the perfect image. He would be a man whose ideal suicide mission would be to ram a plane into the twin towers, and who as a child had been bred on a viciously anti-Semitic, hate filled curriculum that produces six-year-old children who idealistically chant “I will blow myself up at the gates of Jerusalem.” And now, having repented, he would point his finger at this educational culprit as the root cause of all the evil being perpetrated by fundamentalist Islamists on Jews, Christians and American interests around the world today.
Wishful thinking? Not really, it turns out.
I started MATCKH in 1998, with the encouragement and support of my dear friend Irene Klass, publisher of The Jewish Press. Even in the midst of the euphoria of Oslo, it was hard to believe that most of the media were ignoring the smoking gun that was the Palestinians’ hate-filled educational system.
At the time, skepticism and disbelief were followed by accusations that Jewish textbooks were surely replete with the same venom and that we, members of MATCKH, were just stooges for the Israeli propaganda machine. Through the years (and with the help of former senator Connie Mack of Florida) we made contact with Palestinian Arab mothers and tried to encourage them, even promising them anonymity and fake identities, to step up and decry the travesty and child abuse that constituted their children’s education. But they were afraid for their lives.
It seemed like a hopeless dream to find anyone willing to risk his or her life to expose this dangerously vile educational system.
Who could have imagined that such a person would materialize at Columbia University, in the Alfred Lerner Cinema, presenting his case to about 100 students? It was just one stop on a worldwide tour, including campuses like Harvard Law School, Yeshiva University, Concordia, and UCLA and to communities in London, Dublin and Chile.
An Omar Sharif look-alike, straight out of central casting, fluent in Arabic and English, a Muslim who had converted to Christianity, Walid Shoebad fit the bill perfectly. A made-to-order poster child, willing to share the horrid story of his brainwashed youth and his terrorist past with any audience that would hear him.
Walid was born a Muslim in Beit Sahour outside of Bethlehem. His grandfather was the Muslim mukhtar (chieftain) and a friend of the Nazi ally, Haj-Amin Al-Husseini, grand mufti of Jerusalem and a friend of Adolf Hitler.
As a religious Muslim who grew up hating Jews, the first song he learned in school was “Arabs are our beloved and Jews are dogs.”
“I used to wonder who the Jews were,” he says, but he repeated the words with the other youngsters without any knowledge of the meaning. He was imbued with the prophecy of Mohammed, which foretold a battle in which the Holy Land would be recaptured and the Jews slaughtered en masse.
He says he “can still see the graffiti I used to pass on my way to school each day – ‘The day of judgment shall not come to pass until a tribe of Muslims defeats a tribe of Jews’; ‘I will knock on the gates of Heaven with the skulls of Jews.’ ”
As a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, he was imprisoned for acts of terror he perpetrated against Israel. After his release his parents, fearing he would carry out his wish to die a martyr, sent him to the United States, where his American mother’s grandfather was the mayor of Eureka in Humboldt County, California.