If A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet, Why Name It After A Terrorist?

I have spent the last year studying towards a Masters of Counterterrorism degree. I have learned the history and dynamics of terror organizations, the tactics utilized by a variety of organizations and I’ve studied a number of ways to try and counter the growing phenomenon. I learned that ideology, psychology and religious justifications all contribute to terrorist motives and that terrorists are constantly evolving their methodology and modus operandi to suit the current climate. This education acted as a solid foundation for my understanding of the modern terrorist strategy, and in combination with my own personal experiences I was also able to draw my own conclusions about terrorism and more importantly, counterterrorism. I developed a strong belief that the answer to countering terrorism lies in education and in shaping the minds of the young population towards an open-minded and holistic view.

So, when I read that a municipality in the West Bank named a local school after Salah Khalaf, I was furious. Khalaf, for those of you who don’t know, is the former head of the Palestinian terror organization Black September, a group responsible for carrying out a substantial number of deadly terror attacks in the 1970s, including hijacking of airplanes and the murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Some may argue that I am blowing this out of proportion, that a name of a school cannot possibly bare enough influence to impact the future decisions of its students. But I would disagree. This is just one aspect of a larger strategy aimed at influencing students towards a specific belief.

Let’s think about this example for a second. On September 24, the Palestinian Authority (PA) unveiled the school’s new name at a cornerstone-laying ceremony where a PA governor announced that the school was named as such in order to honor the memory of a “great national fighter”. This means that from the jump, students had a positive correlation with the namesake. Students then walk into the school everyday, reading the name Salah Khalaf over and over again. They are then be taught about the honorability of the man and will learn to correlate his actions with praise and positivity. Salah Khalaf will become a role-model for students.

Here’s the thing. If this was a singular, unique example of what occurs in the West Bank, this argument would be moot. But it’s not. This is the fourth Palestinian Authority school named after Salah Khalaf alone. The PA has also named three schools after Dalal Mughrabi, the leader of the Coastal Road Massacre, the most lethal terror attack in Israeli history. There are three schools named after Abu Jihad, the former head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s terror wing, and two schools named after Shadia Abu Ghazaleh who was involved in many terror attacks in Israel. Naming schools after terrorists is a clear strategy used to incite hatred and violence and to commend terrorist actions.

While I do not claim that the PA is the only entity around the world that uses the educational system to influence children and incite them to violence, I do think it serves as an important example and a reminder of where counterterror effort should lie. Reforming an educational system is no easy task, it requires a lot of work and the cooperation of government entities, but I do think it is imperative to put emphasis on helping broaden children’s minds and presenting multiple narratives. For anyone who thinks this may be incorrect, think about it this way… if a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, why would the PA continue to name schools after terrorists? I can’t help but understand this as a calculated, tactical move aimed to engrain a particular viewpoint in the minds of young children.