There are numerous factors that contribute to Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel, including the history of the region, the Islamic religion, and the difficulties faced by Palestinians because of what they view as “the occupation.” But there is another important aspect of the conflict that cannot be ignored, namely, demographics.
The inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are disproportionately young, and a youth-heavy population is one that is typically marked by violence, rebellion, and social upheaval. In this case, most of the anger is directed towards Israel, making for a situation that could explode at any moment.
Using data from the IndexMundi.com website, we see that the median age of Americans is 37.6 years, Canada is 41.7 years, the UK is 40.4 years, Russia is 38.9 years, China is 36.7 years, and Japan is 46.1 years, using these countries as a point of comparison and reference.
In contrast, in the West Bank, the median age of the population is 22.4 while in the Gaza Strip it is 18.2 years. This is a massive, societal shift.
In Japan, 22.9% of the population is 24 or younger while 39% is 55 or older. In America, 33.1% of the population is 24 or younger while 27.1% is 55 or older.
In the West Bank, 55.4% of the population is 24 or younger while only 8.2% is 55 or older. In the Gaza Strip, 63.8% of the population is 24 or younger while only 7.1% is 55 or older.
Figures like this almost guarantee unrest, and when you add in the constant bashing of Israel that takes place in the mosques, in the schools, and in the media, it is no wonder that so many Palestinian young people are ready to fight against the “evil occupier.”
This is not to excuse Israel’s shortcomings nor is it to suggest that Israel is guiltless in this raging conflict. But it is to say that: 1) the extraordinarily high percentage of Palestinian young people make for a much more volatile situation; and 2) when you factor in the anti-Israel bombardment they are subject to from their earliest days, it is no wonder that terrorists as young as 13 attempted to kill unarmed Israeli citizens in recent days.
Let’s also remember that, like other young people around the world, Palestinian youth are greatly impacted by social media, and the images they see day and night are not just infuriating. They also call for violent action.
Again, this is not to downplay the harsh realities they live with on a daily basis, and while you and I can debate whether those hardships should be blamed primarily on the Palestinian leadership (this is my position) or on the Israeli leadership, in the minds of the vast majority of Palestinians, Israel is the great oppressor.
Add to this children’s school activities and TV propaganda glorifying martyrdom (meaning, dying while killing Jews), military training camps for children during summer breaks, and then the pervasive influence of social media, and you have a recipe for disaster.
How would you feel if your uncle was locked up in an Israeli jail; the leader of your mosque wielded a knife while preaching, calling for an uprising against the Jews; your primary image of Israelis is that of armed soldiers enforcing order in your streets and stopping you at checkpoints; and you hear Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas recounting the “execution” in cold blood of a 13-year-old Palestinian by Israeli soldiers?
Then, you get on Facebook and see a video of this terrified boy lying in a pool of his own blood with this caption: “Israeli Zionists curse a dying Palestinian child as Israeli Police watch.
“Two Palestinian children aging 12 and 13 were shot in cold blood north of Jerusalem today. Medical assistance was not offered, which led to the older child's death. His name was Ahmad Manasra and his last moments were documented in this video.
“A Jewish settler verbally abuses the children while the Israeli police is watching.”
Do you think that, as a Palestinian young person, you would find out that the wounded teen is now recovering in an Israeli hospital and that he was shot only after stabbing one man (together with his 17-year-old relative) and then stabbing a 13-year-old Israeli boy riding his bicycle after leaving a candy shop? (The boy was stabbed more than a dozen times by Manasra and is now in critical condition; police have released video footage of the stabbing after Palestinian denials that the attack had taken place.)
Then, after your blood is already boiling and you are determined to do whatever it takes to destroy these evil Israelis, you find a horrific Facebook video showing you exactly how to stab and kill a Jew.
Now, let’s step back for a moment and read those stats again: In the West Bank, 55.4% of the population is 24 or younger while only 8.2% is 55 or older. In the Gaza Strip, 63.8% of the population is 24 or younger while only 7.1% is 55 or older.
These young people are victims of a tragic cycle of hate, and it will take massive reeducation along with massive efforts at reconciliation to bring this cycle to an end.
That is why, as much as they are responsible for their actions, my heart goes out to them as well, recognizing the hot bed of hostility in which they have been raised.