|Explosive, yet futile
Something more than illegal settlements, poverty and arrogant Isreali
soldiers are at work here
By William Baker
April 12, 2002
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
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
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
But suicide bombings will ultimately cost the Palestinians far more than proving
that they too can deliver an explosive message.