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Explosive, yet futile
Something more than illegal settlements, poverty and arrogant Isreali soldiers are at work here

By William Baker
April 12, 2002
The Iranian

Iqbal Latif's article "Martyrdom is for lesser men" raises several persuasive points rejecting Palestinian suicide bombings as a legitimate tactic of war. I might add that proponents or apologists for these suicide bombings have frequently argued that the desperate conditions in the Occupied Terroritores are the explanation for this tactic and its popularity among Palestinians.

Thus, we have seen at least two prominent Palestinian intellectuals advance this thesis recently: Professor Shibley Telhami (University of Maryland) in The New York Times (4-4-02) and Dr. Eyad Sarraj in Time (4-8-02) have both argued the occupation-poverty-despair claim as the explanation for suicide bombing and/or its masive approval among the Palestinians.

Of course, it is hard to deny the socio-economic conditions on the West Bank and Gaza would probably drive even the most rational person to desperate means, nonetheless these claims ammount to more of a rationalization than an explanation. At best they can only be called a very partial explaination.

Why, for example, do we not also see a wave (or frankly any) of suicide bombings in other areas of the world which are also subject to extreme military repression and horrible poverty. Indeed, although acts of terrorism have certainly occurred in such areas, we haven't seen suicide bombings in Chiapas, Mexico or other parts of Central and Latin America which have undergone extreme military repression and abject poverty. Nor in South Africa, Tibet, etc. I don't recall seeing many, if any, suicide bombings carried out by Kurds or Bosnians.

Clearly something more than illegal Israeli settlements, poverty and arrogant Isreali soldiers are at work here. Nor would the apologists' claims explain why middle class individuals would engage in suicide missions as occurred on 9-11 in the US. Indeed, one factor that shocked Americans the most about 9-11 was that at least the leadership of the hijackers seemed to have a great deal to live for from a social class point of view:

Further, if this is a legitimate military tactic as many have claimed or implied, why then are the targets nearly always ciivlian? Rarely are military targets involved and in fact suicide bombers nearly always have to pass directly by tempting Israeli military targets like tanks and clusters of soldiers just to get into ciivlian areas of Isreal. Again, we must conclude something other than military motivations are at work here. Perhaps it is revenge or perhaps understandable envy of Isreal's relative prosperity, etc. To argue, however, that this is acheiving a military end is absurd.

In the Amercian mind, suicide bombing is rapidly being identified as the weapon of choice for Arabs in specific, and Muslims in general. Obviously this is an unfair assumption based on years of ignorance and misunderstanding about these peoples. Nevertheless, unless a real leadership emerges among Palestinian, Arab and Muslims who reject and actively prevent suicide bombings, that perception will remain.

One can understand the desire of these peoples to compensate for the American style of war which has also greatly influnced the Isrealis: massive fire power applied without mercy followed by rapid mobility. The Arab armies have tended to preform fairly poorly against this style of war (but preformed well in stationary-defensive warfare.) So the desire to achieve some advantage over the Western-style of warfare is understandable.

But suicide bombings will ultimately cost the Palestinians far more than proving that they too can deliver an explosive message.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer William Baker


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