Friday, June 21, 2002

Instapundit described Palestinian culture as a "psychotic death cult".

Other than the Borgestinian aspects of this, the question remains... why?

Well, perhaps this might shed some light. It's a story about the slideshow that prompted Blair's wife to talk about the "desperation" of the Palestinians... the quote that so enraged the Echo Chamber.

Some choice quotes:

-Additionally, sixty percent of the Palestinian population live on less than two $US a day - sixty percent of men are now unemployed.

-In Nablus, a slide showed the local dentist - behind him was his "surgery" - bombed by F-16's, demolition completed by Caterpillar bulldozers.

-Mrs Sabri, a seventy year old widow with cancer, gazed bleakly out from another frame. Her family had four times been turned back at check points trying to take her to hospital. Finally, they put her on a donkey, transporting her through a circuitous, secret route, rendering her utterly exhausted. Another patient needing dialysis three times a week has to walk twelve miles through the mountains to evade the checkpoints, said Sir Andrew.

-Maysoon, aged twenty one, went into labor during the night, her husband set off to drive her to the hospital. At a checkpoint, he was shot dead, Maysoon was shot twice in the back, stripped naked and left in the road for two hours, until an ambulance finally arrived, her screams having been heard by locals. Her baby was born in the hospital elevator. Her survivor guilt and trauma are so severe that her family fear she will commit suicide or become a suicide bomber. (fear? I thought they were a psychotic death cult. Demos)

-Ahmed is twelve: "calm, together and determined to kill Israelis." His best friend was shot dead in front of him by an Israeli soldier. Fifty three percent of Palestinian children suffer from trauma symptoms.

Then again, they're Arab animals. They deserve whatever they get. And anybody who thinks otherwise is a filthy terrorist-lover. And an Anti-Semite to boot.

Nine months, and we've been reduced to this.

Edit: no, actually, I think I'm going to comment further on this, if only because the article that Instapundit linked to needs a little analysis, and InstaPinion didn't provide it.

The basic point of the article is that it's becoming increasingly simple in Palestine to convince young, intelligent people to commit suicide attacks... that death is seen as a method of empowerment, especially by those who think that there's nothing left for them but martyrdom. One of the aspects of the article that wasn't touched on was that it was from the perspective of a young girl who was actually going to become a suicide bomber, but backed out when she decided it was stupid. Predictably, she did it because she was traumatized over the loss of her fiance (who was, yes, a terrorist, but she insisted that he solely targeted military personnel, something that the Israelis dispute). She didn't quite buy the hype:

I look at the sky," Ms. Ahmed recalled this week, speaking English as she described a kind of awakening. "I look at the people." She said she remembered a childhood belief, "that nobody has the right to stop anybody's life."

Ms. Ahmed, a rare exception among suicide bombers, turned back. Her companion, Issa Badir, confided second thoughts to her, she said...[b]ut he ultimately went ahead, killing himself and two Israelis. Issa, the son of a lawyer educated in Wisconsin, was just 16, one of the youngest suicide bombers

In some respects this is encouraging.. it shows that there is still doubt of the morality of their actions on the part of both repentent suicide bombers (such as Ms. Ahmed) and those who actually attack (such as Mr. Badir).. which may imply that the impulse is less powerful than some fear. The important aspect, though, is that it's becoming increasingly secular, and therefore becomes more and more disconnected with Islamic militancy. Disrupting the chain of beliefs and actions that lead to secular bombing should be simpler than disrupting the religiously-motivated one, because the prospect of martyrdom and the fear of some sort of afterlife reprisal for "chickening out" won't necessarily steel their resolve. Still, it is profoundly disturbing.

Still, it's important to remember that there are a number of elements that lead to these attacks, and religiosity is only one of them. Part of it is, of course, desperation... if life becomes unbearable, one becomes more open to the suggestion that death could be the answer, especially if convinced that that death will lead to a glorious afterlife and help "your people". (this isn't new, of course, just the current strategy for harnessing that belief). Another part is explored here:

Such pressures within Palestinian society are intense. The "infrastructure of terror," as the Israelis call it, has fragmented into small cells throughout the West Bank, each fighting its own parallel war. Separate, mid-level leaders emerge briefly, to be cut down by Israel and swiftly replaced. Such men are more than willing to seize on emotional turmoil, weakness of character or zealotry, to give someone a lethal backpack and to send him on his way, Israeli intelligence agents said.

Palestinian intelligence officials say the speed with which bombers are now primed makes intercepting them almost impossible. It used to be that during the long preparation, word of a planned attack might get around.

Israel rejects such accounts, saying Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority is either cooperating or doing nothing to stop the suicidal killing.

This, of course, is why the Israeli calls for Arafat to "reign in the terrorists" are utterly ludicrous... if cell-based, horizontal terrorist organizations were so easily crushed the Israelis would have already done it. The Israeli government knows that Arafat has no authority over these people; there is no hierarchy to exploit, as it has been largely disrupted. If the Palestinian terrorists were trying to engage in the large-scale and complex attacks like Al-Qaeda, then that would be different, but suicide bombing doesn't require much except access to the explosives, to the target, and to a willing bomber; all three easily available without the resources of, say, Hamas.

So, how to stop (or at least reduce) the bombings? Well, you need to disrupt one of these three elements: either disrupt access to the explosives, the target, or the bomber. The former is practically impossible; anybody who's watched Fight Club knows that explosives are pathetically easy to make with the right knowledge, and trying to keep that knowledge under wraps is impossible. Trying to disrupt access to the target is, of course, why Israel is building their wall, has all their checkpoints, and are currently invading and occupying sections of the territories... an arrested or dead terrorist loses access to all three, but principally the target. (After all, he could simply become the bomber). The measures that attempt to prevent access to the target, though, are creating more and more possible bombers, and with that are increasing the accessibility of the third element: a bomber.

This is, of course, the element that those that are calling for either a Palestinian State or at least less repression are trying to disrupt. If you remove that sense of desperation and hopelessness, then fewer bombers become available. If you create the impression that there are other ways of changing your environment and your situation, you remove yet more bombers. If you reinforce the idea that terrorist bombing is wrong and that vengeance will only create more vengeance, then you remove yet more potential bombers from the pool. Yes, you'll still have the hardcore extremists, but those are far simpler to track and predict than a random teenager who has lost their fiance... and they may be dissuaded as well by others that don't want to deal either with the repercussions or the loss of that person. (Secular interests can outweigh religious ones). Besides, there would be more people who, like Ms. Ahmed, morally object to the bombings, not having had their own personal grievances outweigh their moral qualms.

If we are to stop the terrorist bombings, we must stop characterizing those that engage in them as either animals or drones. They are (extremely damaged and dangerous) people, and while I can and do condemn their actions and those that push them into it, I remain alarmed by their dehumanization. The Hutus, the Germans, the Iraqis, the Italians, heck, even the Mongols were human beings as well, and any strategy used to defeat them needs to recognize that simple fact. After all, the point is not to try to build up one's sense of moral righteousness or to demonstrate your solidarity with the victims, but to end the attacks and ensure peace in the region. In the end, nothing else matters.

Edit: Needless to say, I wasn't expecting this kind of response... this was mostly prompted by the harshness of Privateer's rhetoric, rather than a desire to delve deeply into this issue. I'd encourage those who come to this post to read the posts that follow it as well, if only because nobody's opinion is encapsulated in a single post, especially in this case and with this post. One point I'd like to make clear, however, is that I don't either absolve the Palestinians for their actions nor believe that desperation is the sole reason for suicide bombings, but that the perception of desperation and hopelessness (whether it truly exists or not) is a contributory factor. Even if the Palestinians no longer thought their situation desperate and hopeless, it wouldn't stop suicide bombings, because the bombers motivated by extreme religious fundamentalism would still remain... but as I said and still believe, they would be much easier to predict and track than some random teenager, and if other Palestinians understood that suicide bombings are not "resistance" but profoundly against their secular interests, they may encourage their friends, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews to turn away from Intifada and back towards rapproachment.

The question is how, or even if, the Palestinians will come to believe that. Occupation may accomplish that... I don't discount that option out of hand, and I actually think that "the wall" isn't necessarily a bad idea (considering Palestinians are currently forbidden from entering Israel as it is, and if Palestine did become a state it would have a fully militarized border). What I object to is, as I've said, the dehumanizing and simplistic rhetoric that I've been seeing, including the idea that the Palestinians have become a "psychotic death cult". While comforting, such simplistic descriptions are inherently useless.

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