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Friday, July 17, 2009

Where have all the suicide bombers gone?

From Christopher Hitchens in Slate:
Well, surely nobody will be so callous as to say that there is less despair among Palestinians today—especially since the terrible events in the Gaza Strip and the return to power of the Israeli right wing as well as the expansion of Jewish-zealot settler activity. And yet there is no graph on which extra despair can be shown to have eventuated in more suicide. Indeed, if there is any correlation at all, it would seem to be in reverse. How can this be?

Of the various alternative explanations, one would be the success of the wall or "fence" that Israel has built or is building, approximating but not quite conforming to the "green line" of the 1967 frontier. Another would be the ruthless campaign of "targeted assassinations," whereby Israeli agents took out important leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two organizations most committed to "martyrdom operations." A third might be the temporary truces or cease-fires to which Hamas (but not Islamic Jihad) have from time to time agreed.

But, actually, none of these would explain why the suicide campaign went into remission. Or, at least, they would not explain why it went into remission if the original cause was despair. If despair is your feeling, then nothing can stop you from blowing yourself up against the wall as a last gesture against Israeli colonial architecture. If despair dominates your psyche, then targeted assassinations of others are not going to stop you from donning the shroud and the belt and aiming yourself at paradise, even if only at a roadblock. If despair is what has invaded your mind, why on earth would you care about this or that short-term truce?
Hitchens hints at some motivations that had nothing to do with despair.
There were children among the last wave of suicide-murderers, some of whom lost their nerve and surrendered at the last moment. There were also young women, some of whom, it seems, would otherwise have been killed for "honor" reasons and who were offered the relatively painless alternative of a martyr's fate. Nasty, vicious, fanatical old men, not human emotions, were making the decisions and deciding the days and the hours of death. And the hysterical ululating street celebrations when such a mission was successful did not signify despair at all but a creepy form of religious exaltation in which relatives were encouraged to make a feast out of the death of their own children as well as those of other people. To have added the promise of paradise to this pogrom is to have made spiritual and mental sickness complete; to have made it a sexual paradise is obscene into the bargain. (Women martyrs are obviously not offered the same level of bliss and promiscuity by the Quran.)
Read the whole thing.

My own view is that the 'Palestinians' became suicide bombers out of a desire for religious martyrdom. One did not see the children of the leadership becoming suicide bombers - usually it was the less intelligent people or the ones who were headed for death by 'honor killing' anyway.

What the events of the last few years prove is that there is a military answer to terrorism. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

The picture at the top is from the Seder night massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya.


At 10:19 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Palestinians haven't given up on mass murdering Jews out of moral scruples. Its just too difficult to kill large number of Jews easily today and opportunity targets for martyrdom are few and between. That's where their bombers have gone.

At 4:34 AM, Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

Hitchens' article is somewhat incoherent. He asks a question in the title that he doesn't really answer. He makes a clear case that the cause of suicide bombing was never despair but the rest of the article meanders over various straw men without coming to a clear conclusion.

He also doesn't mention some obvious possibilities. Maybe it's a tactical lull. Hamas or its masters in Syria and Iran may want quiet for a while. Hamas is attempting to gain support in Europe and maybe even in the white house. How would it look if they were busy blowing up Israelis in cafe? Pressure from Egypt. Conflict with Fatah is taking up their time.

Hitchens' comments on despair are OK but he's no genius.

At 4:35 AM, Blogger Ivan said...

For Hitchens all the evil in the world is due to religion. It is no surprise then that he has old religious bogeymen as the leading villians, for it fits his narrative which doesn't distinguish between Islam or Christianity or Judaisim. For him they are all equally culpable. It suits his purpose to create the impression that had it not been for the clerics, things would have been be so peachy between the Israelis and Arabs. Anyone who recalls the suicide bombings starting from (1994?) knows that the Israelis tried all kinds of things, ratcheting up their response from expulsion to house demolisions only to find that the pain threshold for the Palestinians was much higher. In the end under the inspired leadership of Sharon, through methods airily dismissed by Hitchens in the article's introduction, the Israelis won a decisive victory over the Palestinians and their suicide bombers. The victory incidentally deflated the "root causes" crowd who were hoping to see Israel go down on her knees.

At 5:32 AM, Blogger Kae Gregory said...

Terror leadership hiding, disguised as women - hiding behind their own women and children - hiding in the basements of hospitals...
P.T. Barnum was right, people are suckers. But every con has a shelf life, because people learn. It's happening in Iran as well.


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