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Tuesday, June 21, 2005


"We are not going to give them the joy of killing us quietly at no cost'

This story from one of my favorite Palestinian journalists was written in September 2002. Israeli hasbara would have one believe that Palestinians blow themselves up because they "hate Jews," and they get a lot of mileage from this deception. The Zionists in Germany called Hany Abu Assad's Berlinale Award winning Paradise Now anti-semitic, merely because it portrays suicide bombers as human beings, not monsters. Khaled Amayreh takes a dispassionate look at suicide bombing.

Why the bombings?
Israel's racist oppression is the main reason behind increasing in suicide attacks during the second year of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, writes Khaled Amayreh

The continuation of Palestinian "suicide bombings" or "martyrdom operations" have set the tone for the second anniversary of the Al-Aqsa Intifida.

Yet, despite the constant recurrence of these bombings, our knowledge of this, largely enigmatic, phenomenon remains rudimentary and superficial at best.

Questions as to what makes young men and women in the prime of their life blow themselves up aboard buses packed with soldiers and civilians, and what actually goes on in their minds as they push the button, remain largely unanswered.

But when answers are found, they hardly ever find their way to television screens and the front pages of newspapers, especially in the US and other Western countries where the Jewish stranglehold on the media is conspicuous.

Since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation two years ago, as many as 100 martyrdom operations have occurred. As a result, more than 236 Israeli soldiers, settlers and civilians have been killed, along with the 108 Palestinian bombers who carried out the bombings.

The latest bombing took place on 19 September, when a young Palestinian, whose identity has not yet been revealed, blew himself up aboard an Israeli passenger bus, killing himself and five other Israelis, including a newly arriving settler who had come all the way from Scotland to live on occupied Arab land in the West Bank.

Prior to that bombing, seven weeks had passed during which not a single bombing took place. Yet, within the same period, the Israeli army gave itself a free rein to kill and maim Palestinian civilians.

More than 45 Palestinians, including an entire family in Gaza and seven children in the West Bank, were wiped out by Israeli artillery shells. In some cases, as in Hebron, Israeli soldiers carried out extra-judicial executions of four quarry workers, because, as the Israeli army spokesman put it, they "looked suspicious".

Israel, its supporters and apologists around the world, have sought, somewhat successfully, to demonise and vilify the suicide bombings and with them the entire Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice. This demonisation became especially intense and acquired a strong momentum after the 11 September terrorist attacks in the US. Gruesome televised images enabled Israeli spin-doctors to de-contextualise the bombings by distracting attention from root-causes, namely Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

Thus, Israeli officials and propagandists told the world that Palestinians were blowing themselves up because they hated Jews so much that they were willing to kill themselves to vent their feelings. The world was also told that the suicide bombings were rooted in Islam, which glorified martyrdom and death for the sake of God. This scandalous distortion of reality eventually made its way into the speeches of some American officials who accepted Israeli propaganda at face value, lumping the Palestinian struggle for freedom together with the 11 September terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

For their part, the Palestinians argued that the suicide bombings were only a reaction to Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people.

Indeed, virtually all Palestinian leaders argued that Israel, under the leadership of Ariel Sharon, a war criminal by any standard, was only offering the Palestinians the choice between dying as non-combatants, or killing themselves as suicide bombers in the streets of Israel.

"They are going to kill us anyway," argued the father of a suicide bomber recently, adding that "we are not going to give them the joy of killing us quietly and at no cost. We will let our blood mix with their blood, our limbs with their limbs and our death with their death."

Nearly 240 Israeli soldiers, settlers and civilians were killed in Palestinian martydom operations over the past two years.

Even some Israelis are beginning to realise that Israel is somewhat responsible for the increase in suicide bombings.

Uri Avnery, a prominent Israeli thinker and columnist, has repeatedly blamed Israel for pushing the Palestinians to use their bodies as bombs. "When tanks run amok in towns, crushing cars, destroying walls, tearing up roads, shooting indiscriminately and causing panic amongst a whole population, it induces rage and creates suicide bombers," he wrote in a recent article.

"When soldiers crash through a wall into the living room of a family, terrifying them, ransacking their belongings, destroying a lifetime's hard work, and then continue into the next apartment and wreak havoc there, it induces rage and creates suicide bombers," Avnery added.

Palestinians have long argued that Israeli oppression has reached genocidal proportions, so much so that life for the vast bulk of Palestinians has become a virtual hell.

In this situation, death as a martyr becomes not only inevitable, but desirable as well, if only to escape extreme suffering and persecution.

Hence martyrdom, with its promises of a life full of heavenly rewards after death, becomes the answer, maybe the only answer.

This is not to suggest that Palestinian bombers are motivated more by promises of an eternal heavenly life than by Israel's diabolic repression.

The fact that martyrdom operations have been carried out by Marxists and followers of secular movements, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Fatah, as well as Hamas, strongly refute Israeli disinformation. In fact, suicide bombers represent a broad cross-section of Palestinian society.

However, trying to justify the bombings has not been an easy task for the Palestinians and their supporters, especially when Israeli civilians and children have been killed and injured.

Some Palestinian secular elements have argued that with the imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians, suicide bombings have become the only remaining weapon available to them.

Indeed, there is much merit in this analysis. Israel has 134,000 army troops, 32,000 air force soldiers, a navy comprising 7,000 navy vessels and 8,000 border police. The reserves for the army alone number 400,000. In addition, Israel has 440 combat aircraft, 3,900 main battle tanks, 130 helicopters, 9,600 artillery pieces and up to 300 nuclear bombs.

Israel has used virtually all of these weapons against Palestinian civilians.

Israeli attacks have reached such levels that the veteran British Jewish MP, Gerald Kaufman, accused Sharon of making the Star of David look like the Nazi Swastika.

And, as the American journalist Charles Reese argued earlier this year, since the Palestinians have no army, no air force, no aircraft, no tanks, no helicopters and no nukes, one has to wonder how these defenceless civilians can threaten Israel's existence.

However, suicide bombings have cost the Palestinians dearly, while it is true that they have given them a deterrant and weapon, inflicting many Israeli casualties. The bombings have given Sharon an added pretext for aggresive action; reoccupying towns, destroying the economy, and, most recently, imposing open-ended collective house arrest.

Some Palestinian intellectuals have called for the cessation of suicide bombings, especially those targetting non-combatants, claiming that they harm rather than benefit the overall Palestinian national cause.

This may be true. However, it is also true that in order for suicide bombings stop, Israel will have to stop its own bombings.

Is Sharon willing to reign in his own troops? This is the crucial question.

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