From outside one will always triumphantly impress theories upon the world and then fall straight into the ditch one has dug, but only from inside will one keep oneself and the world quiet and true. /FK (Contact: TBONotebooks at fastmail.fm. The Blue Octavo Notebooks welcomes mail, although we cannot guarantee a response. Your email may be posted in part on The Blue Octavo Notebooks unless otherwise requested.) Please enjoy the notebook entries, and thanks for reading.
Sunday, February 08, 2004
What sort of existential space or moral presence inhabits a person who not only murders a group of random strangers but who uses himself—his own body, his own murder—as the means to do so? Do non-human animals experience this sort of cognitive perspective? Is there another species in which an organism will deliberately kill itself as a means of killing others? What other species exhibits behavior in which self-termination is employed as a deliberate facilitation for the immediate killing of others? Are there other species that exhibit this trait of murder-via-self-murder, or is it unique to humans?
This murder by means of murder, in which one’s own death serves as the vehicle by which one deliberately kills other people, opens a space of human experience that is somehow a negation of cognitive awareness. Such a deliberate act of killing is not “human” in the same ways that such terms have been conceived, but yet neither is it non-human behavior, for humans have indeed executed such actions and continue to do so. These actions are something else, though, something within a new cognitive register, something that inhabits a negative space within both the structures of language and the structures of recognition, and that destabilizes those structures.
The suicide bombers—that is, those who use their own (self-) elimination as a means to assault and eliminate other people—force upon us a new space, a new moment, of language. In a psychological and philosophical sense, it forces upon the individual a radically new encounter or acknowledgment with the existential “other” and thus necessitates a new recognition of one’s own self. For the word “suicide” is no longer accurate in such circumstances. This exercise of agency by which “suicide” is used as a tool of deliberate warfare upon random people has (in English, at least) left a hole in the signifying structure of language. A new word is needed for this act of self-murder, for this particular agency (of physical, deliberate violence against both oneself and others) engendered by one’s own self-elimination, since the sphere of such an act is deliberately larger than the (killing) self that carries it out. Unlike suicide, this form of self-murder is not merely an elimination of the self in question, pertaining and immediate only to that specific self. It is both a mode of self-elimination/termination and a means by which to murder other people. Rather than being a concluding moment of forced finality, as is suicide, this self-murder is intended to engender supplemental moments of physicality and termination. That is, suicide denotes a self-contained sphere: Only one person is immediately affected (or is intended to be immediately) by the deliberate act of self-termination. Yet suicide-terrorism extends this sphere, for its essential objective is not the immediate elimination of one’s own self but the simultaneous and subsequent eliminations of other people. Unlike suicide, this form of self-murder is a means—a way of extending one’s agency (to murder, for example) beyond one’s immediate existence—rather than merely an end or a means solely to individual self-elimination. Unlike a person who sets out to kill only himself—that is, a person whose actions in doing so conclude at the moment of his self-inflicted death—a suicide terrorist’s action of termination concludes not at the instant of his death but, on the contrary, multiplies itself at that moment. The suicide bomber thus makes existent an externalized register of experience—his actions of murder—only in the moment of his self-termination, a moment for which he is present but almost simultaneous not present. Action becomes actions; conclusion becomes beginning; a person’s death helps to facilitate actions subsequent and beyond itself. The temporality and morality of self-agency become inverted—turned inside-out, in sense—for it is in ending himself that the suicide terrorist most starkly defines (becomes?) himself and his presence in the world.
“Self-consciousness,” wrote Hegel, “achieves its satisfaction only in another self-consciousness.” Yet how can we understand, and what are we to make of, a self-consciousness that achieves its satisfaction not in another self-consciousness but in the deliberate (and violent) erasure of both itself and as many other self-consciousnesses as possible? Also, in terms of aesthetics, as illusive as such terminology invariably is, just as the crises of representation wrought by World War I (trench warfare, poison gas, etc.) were instrumental in shaping Modernism, and as the crises of representation wrought by World War II (Auschwitz, Hiroshima, etc.) bore post-Modernism, have we, in today’s arena of suicide terrorism, encountered (entered) yet another structure of experience for which modes of language and representation prove insufficient?
And how, per Hegel, can we incorporate such a phenomenology of the suicide bomber into the examination and interrogation of self-presence, of becoming one’s self in the world, that has been so fundamental to several hundred years of philosophy? How do we define such actions in terms of human experience? Can we? To draw upon the terminology of Martin Buber, such a relationship with the world and with other people, especially the random strangers whom the suicide bomber will murder and maim, radically transfigures the moral and existential structures of I-Thou and I-It relationships. For the “I,” in making itself into an object—a human bomb—whose primary and fulfilling function is as a mechanism to end life and terminate presence, both of itself and others, has become an “It,” if even that.
How, a student asked, can I apply a moral philosophy of the “Other” to somebody who is so intent on murdering me, on eliminating my presence from the world, that he is perfectly willing to murder himself in the process?
He did it because he was desperate. Desperate… so desperate. Desperate, indeed, to murder and maim and bludgeon and traumatize as many innocent people as possible.
So: Yet another self-detonating Palestinian terrorist has blown himself (itself?) up in the midst of a crowded civilian area, this time the #19 bus in downtown Jerusalem last Thursday morning during rush hour. As I’ve noted before, we are witnessing something unprecedented in the history of humanity, for never before has this particular tactic—targeting civilians with breathing, thinking, living bombs—been so widely and regularly deployed. Human bombs have been used before, of course, but never in a concerted and sustained campaign almost exclusively against civilians and civilian targets. These are not Kamikaze attacks against military installations or LTTE Black Tiger assassination attempts against political leaders. This is the targeting of civilian areas with the objective of murdering and maiming as many random people as possible, a targeting that has been attempted, if not carried out, regularly and consistently for years. It’s not much of a contribution to civilization, to say the least, yet it has become an almost defining feature of Palestinian nationalism, not least because it has been repeated so many times (and attempted so many more times) and has been supported, for years now, by a majority of Palestinians in the territories. To cite but one example, the bombing of the Maxim Restaurant in Haifa last October was supported by 75% of the Palestinian population in the territories. Earlier opinion polls have repeatedly shown majority numbers favoring the use of suicide bombers against Israeli civilians.
This onslaught of human bombings against civilian targets is a negative contribution to humanity, a subtraction from or a near devolution of human progress. It is disgusting and it must stop. But it is a legacy that Palestinians themselves will have to reconcile, both today, tomorrow, and generations from now, and not simply because this tactic has been so widely supported by Palestinians. This particular movement of national liberation, or whatever one might wish to call it, will always be known, on the basis of irrefutable and undeniable facts, as the very first time in an already craven history of humanity that people—thinking, feeling, breathing human beings—constructed themselves into explosives and then (with widespread support among their populace, no less) regularly and deliberately bombed innocent people in civilian areas like buses and restaurants. (And please do not misunderstand or misrepresent what I am writing: For although, as I’ve already noted, this is not the first time that suicide bombers have been used, it is the first time, and hopefully the last, that suicide bombers—human bombs, even—have been so repeatedly and deliberately employed as tools of mass murder against civilians.) There have been over a hundred Palestinian suicide bombings in recent years, almost every single one of which was directed against civilian targets—buses, restaurants, shopping malls, cafes, pubs, etc.—not to mention all the many self-detonating attacks that failed or went awry or were prevented by Israeli security. To compare Palestinian human-bombs, who have almost exclusively targeted civilian targets like buses and restaurants, to Japanese Kamikaze pilots who targeted gargantuan military battleships—floating fortresses, no less, not public buses—is at best a convoluted analogy and an insult to the Kamikazes, regardless of how one judges their tactics. Attacking massive battleships is hardly comparable to attacking civilian cafes. A list of targets attacked by self-detonating Chechen and LTTE Black Tigers also include a plethora of military and government targets, whereas targets for Palestinian suicide bombings have been nearly exclusively civilian. And the rate and regularity of suicide bombings against civilians targets on the part of the former parties dims in comparison to the pace set by Palestinians, who in the last three years has averaged two to three civilian-targeted attacks per month, to say nothing of all the attacks that failed or were prevented.
This is a history and a reality from which nobody is going to awake as if from a nightmare. It is real, and it leaves humanity with some potentially ugly and difficult questions. Indeed, how will Palestinian history and Palestinian nationalism reconcile themselves to having contributed to human experience the first ever instance of a widespread and popularly supported campaign of suicide bombings directed almost exclusively against random civilians? As I said above, this sorry, repugnant tactic of self-detonating bombers repeatedly and consistently targeting civilians and civilian areas is a tactic so far implemented only by Palestinians. To this day, no one else has ever adopted it. It is, and always will be, a legacy of their nation, their nationalism, and the nascent state of Palestine that not only did they adopt such a strategy but that they were the first people (and, until and unless another group adopts this strategy, the only people) to do so. It is an unprecedented stain upon history, a stain whose malignancy is hardly going to disappear or diminish or become any less repugnant in the years and decades to come. It is a shame and a disgrace that will not, and cannot, be diminished by the years, no matter how peaceful the state of Palestine might one day become. Palestinian nationalism, in adopting this strategy (of the “self-sacrifice” assaults against civilians and civilian targets), has staked for itself a permanent and singular claim: this is, and will always be, the first movement to employ the technique on such a consistent basis and a wide scale. This is an ignominy that Palestinians will have to live with, both today and tomorrow, and neither they nor anybody else are ever going to forget about it. Even if (god forbid) other people adopt this sort of suicide campaign in the future, it will always remain a tactic first implemented by Palestinians. Such a contribution to civilization our world could have done without.
Palestinians of future generations, even if not directly implicated in or witness to the current campaign of Palestinian terror, will have a responsibility to remember and to know that their nation’s heritage was the first, and so far only, to include this sort of sustained campaign of suicide terror against innocent people. What will be the moral impetus and response of tomorrow’s Palestinians in regards to this legacy gifted to them by the Palestinians of today? How will Palestinian history evaluate these elements of its narrative?
If Palestinian terror was somehow an exception or a minority sentiment in this particular movement of nationalism or resistance or whatever one might call it, or even a tactic that was met with any sort of widespread umbrage, or even disavowal, from general segments of Palestinian society, it would be less anomalous in the history of national liberation movements, terrorism, and so on. But this is not the case, and it never has been. In particular, this campaign of suicide bombings against civilians has garnered widespread support among Palestinians, and opinion polls in recent years have shown that large majorities of Palestinians—often exceeding 60%—have supported these self-detonating attacks on Israeli civilians. And criticisms from Palestinians against these repeated and deliberate targetings of civilians by suicide bombers have been tepid, if even that. Indeed, quite often Palestinian criticisms of suicide bombings, as limpid and self-serving as such criticisms usually are, have been raised not in response to the barbarity of these Palestinian crimes against humanity but because suicide bombings damage the Palestinian cause. It is the bad publicity generated by suicide bombings against civilians, rather than the moral implications (savagery?) of these terrorist attacks, that has generated much of whatever Palestinian criticism there has been. Indeed, a recent development in this internecine Palestinian quasi-debate concerns the propriety of dispatching mothers to detonate themselves (thus leaving their children motherless). Yet what is at issue in this new vein of rhetoric is not the craven brutality of suicide bombings but the various modes by which such attacks should be executed. This morbid Aristotelianism, despite all the enlightening distinctions and refinements it brings to one’s appreciation of the phenomena of Palestinian suicide bombings, withers in the face of bombed out Israeli buses. (And why the rat poison, nails, ball bearings, and other grotesque embellishments so frequently appended to suicide bombers, as if the carnage wrought by blowing oneself up isn’t enough but must be supplemented with elements like anti-coagulants that help ensure that victims who survive the initial self-detonation are more likely to bleed to death?) Indeed, there may be thirteen ways and more of looking at a Palestinian suicide bomber—especially if the human bomb in question falls into the category of (young) (female) (parent) as opposed to any of the other categories of Palestinian suicide bombersbut the images and history of such phenomena remain.
One result of all this, of course, is that the red, black, white, and green of the Palestinian flag, regardless of the colors’ original significations, have absorbed the red, black, white, and green of the Sbarro Pizzeria in Jerusalem that was attacked by a Palestinian human-bomb in August, 2001. And that was but one such attack. It is a brilliant but fitting coincidence of history that these four colors should mark not just the bombed out remains (and memories) of a Jerusalem pizzeria but the Palestinian flag itself. Even this symbol of Palestinian nationalism has become yet another element in the symbolism and history of Palestinian terror and terrorism. Interestingly (would anybody say “surprisingly”?), Izz Al Din Al Mussri, the mass murderer who carried out this savage terrorist attack on August 9, 2001, is listed as a martyr on the webpage of the Palestinian Authority’s Palestinian National Information Centre. How anybody could consider as a “martyr” this mass murderer who blew up a crowded pizzeria and whose fifteen victims (not including all the people maimed and otherwise injured) include a two-year-old, a four-year-old, an eight-year-old, a ten-year-old, and several teenagers is debatable, I guess, but it’s telling that this person is considered a martyr in certain circles, including, as evidenced by their own webpage, the Palestinian Authority. And he’s hardly the only self-detonating Palestinian mass murderer listed as a martyr over at the Palestinian Authority’s state information service website. If they’re so opposed to self-detonating suicide bombers, you’d think they’d at least refrain from posthumously bestowing upon the self-detonated one terms like “martyr”….
But a question remains.
Why, of all the people in the world who suffer, including those who confront far worse travails than the Palestinians do, is it only Palestinians who have adopted to such a degree this gruesome strategy of detonating themselves in civilian areas?
Why, of all the oppressions and conflicts and occupations and wars throughout history, especially in the last century, during which so many myriad groups of people have lived under occupations and far worse circumstances, is it only Palestinians who have adopted to such a degree this gruesome strategy of suicide terror? One could cite myriad cases: For example, during the German occupation of France, French men and women did not begin regularly detonating themselves in the midst of German civilians. At the height of World War II, when so many nations and groups—Poles, Slavs, Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and so on—were targeted by the Nazis, none chose as a tactic as resistance a campaign of blowing themselves up in the midst of German civilians. During the Stalinist collectivizations, none of the groups targeted adopted as a tactic blowing themselves up in crowded Moscow cafes or other civilian areas.
The lists of such peoples and nations and groups goes on and on, but it is only when we arrive at one group, the Palestinians, that we find this gruesome phenomenon of a repeated and consistent campaign of self-detonating human bombs employed against innocent people. It’s not much of a contribution to the annals of human history. In fact, it’s an almost sort of reverse evolution in human progress. To say the least, it’s disgusting. And, yes, it must be stopped.
This question, and I have asked it before, both on this blog and elsewhere, and have never received anything even remotely approaching an intelligent answer, is: Why the Palestinians?
Can it be desperation, as the Jenny Tonges and Cherie Blairs and other countless people might have us believe? Hardly. Other people have lived through far worse than the Palestinians have faced, and there are people today who face worse circumstances. Once again, there is any number of examples, not least that thousands of children, on average, die EVERYDAY from starvation alone. Nobody is starving to death in Gaza or the West Bank, yet nonetheless it is ONLY Palestinians who have adopted this gruesome tactic of regularly targeting civilians and civilian areas with human-bombs. The "desperation" excuse doesn't cut it, not least because other people live in worse circumstances than do the Palestinians and haven't started blowing themselves up amongst innocent people. (Indeed, the enthusiasm and verve with which so many Palestinian suicide bombers set off on their missions of murder and mayhem, as evidenced by the pre-detonation videos of their glowing testimonials, also go far in negating the “desperation” excuse.) And, further, why is the destination of choice for such “desperate” self-terminations almost always a civilian area, often a very crowded one? Why must people introduce tendentious pseudo-rationalizations like “hopelessness” and “desperation” into what is, by any standard, a widespread and severe truncation of common human decency? After all, it’s not like there aren’t plenty of military targets around that Palestinian bombers could target instead of restaurants and buses. And what is it about this desperation, or whatever it is that catalyzes Palestinian suicide bombings, that makes its resultant self-detonating impulse so purposeful in seeking out civilian areas, even at the cost of bypassing military targets that are closer and more accessible? And why, of all the people in the world, so many of whom live in worse circumstances, and of all the oppressed peoples of the last century who have lived through so many far worse circumstances, why—WHY—it is ONLY the Palestinians who have adopted this gruesome tactic of routinely targeting civilians and civilian areas with human-bombs?
Indeed, this strategy has not even been reproduced by other peoples. It remains ONLY Palestinians who are regularly and consistently detonating themselves in civilian areas. Not only are Palestinians the progenitors of this strategy but they remain the ONLY people to have employed it.
And before people start setting up their suicidal straw man arguments, let me reiterate (again) that I am not claiming that Palestinians are the first and/or only people to utilize suicide bombers. Other people, and I’ve mentioned some of them, have done likewise, but not almost exclusively against civilian targets, much less in the same sorts of numbers or rates, as have Palestinians. Indeed, compared to the Palestinian campaign of suicide self-detonations against civilians, such attacks on the part of Tamil Tigers and Chechnyan terrorists are notably fewer and farther between.
Also, please spare us any racist or otherwise dehumanizing characterizations of Palestinians. They’re human beings, so explanations and examinations of actions undertaken or supported by Palestinians, in order to be intellectually productive or necessary, should reflect that.
I would be interested in people’s responses. And I’m not interested in tired clichés about how Palestinians blow themselves up because they are desperate, so desperate. I sometimes doubt if anybody really believes this tired line of reasoning, but if you do, or think you do, please explain why this desperation on the part of Palestinians is so radically different from the desperation of all other peoples that to this day Palestinians remain the first and only group to regularly and consistently employ suicide bombers against civilian targets. Please explain how the desperation that engenders this Palestinian suicide terrorism differs from the desperation of groups like Kurds, Black South Africans, Gypsies, North Koreans, Tibetans, and so on, all of whom either live or lived under desperate, oppressive circumstances yet unlike Palestinians never reached a threshold of desperation at which they began routinely blowing themselves up amidst crowded civilian areas. If that’s too broad, then please explain how Palestinian desperation is so radically different from, say, the desperations of all the various peoples brutalized by Germany during World War II, none of whom (unlike Palestinians vis-à-vis Israel) ever took to regularly blowing themselves up in areas crowded with German civilians. If desperation is an answer, even if just a putative one, then how come it is only the desperation of Palestinians, and no one else, that has led to an incessant campaign of suicide bombings against civilians? That is, just what is it that makes today’s Palestinian desperation so different (so appealing?) and so frequently conducive to self-detonations in civilian areas?
Can you imagine the response if some (desperate?) terrorist blew up a bus during morning rush hour in D.C., just a few blocks from the President's residence? Especially if this bombing was hardly the first time such an attack had been carried out in the area? But this is exactly what happened again in Israel a week ago Thursday morning, yet somehow this deliberate act of mass murder against innocent civilians was quickly labeled as part of some "cycle" of violence. But let’s get one things straight: This man—a policeman, no less, who is supposed to uphold the law, not engage in mass murder of civilians—chose to strap shrapnel and explosives to himself; he chose to board a crowded bus at the height of morning rush hour; he chose to sit down in the back of the bus; he chose to trigger his detonation; he chose when to do it; and he chose to murder as many of the people around him as possible. Nothing and nobody forced this Palestinian to execute this act of random, barbaric mass murder. It was not a cycle of violence that created this terrorist attack: It was a Palestinian policeman, and he did it deliberately, knowing full well how his actions would brutally affect the people around him. And he was hardly the first Palestinian to embrace such a plan of action. (On a related note, how many more members of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority and other groups linked to him—Fatah, for example—have to carry out or otherwise be directly implicated in acts of terrorism before people recognize such organizations as the instigators and practitioners of terrorism that they are?)
How one answers the above questions will, I think, say a lot about how one regards the Palestinians as human beings. Are they people, with free will and control over their actions, especially when it comes to supporting terrorism, not least suicide terrorism? Or are their actions less their own fault than of the situation they find themselves in? Knowing that other groups have lived through far worse than the Palestinians have without resorting to repeatedly suicide-bombing civilians, do we nonetheless apply an ethical substandard to them in order to see this campaign of suicide bombings against civilians as some sort of natural result of such situations, even though such behavior is in fact not only anomalous but unprecedented? Do we pervert, even if unintentionally, the experience and humanity of Palestinians by suggesting that they, unlike every other oppressed group in memory, somehow had no other choice or somehow couldn’t help but to begin detonating themselves in restaurants and similar settings, as if such behavior somehow fits a normal pattern?
To not hold Palestinians responsible for their actions, especially actions like suicide bombings against civilians that so many Palestinians have supported, and continue to support, is itself a form of racism and dehumanization. Yet this is exactly what Palestinian apologists do: Palestinian terrorism is the result of the occupation, they moan. It’s the cycle of violence, they wail. What else can we expect of people who live under brutal occupation, they cry. To which, I think, one must say: No, this is not so: It is the fault of the Palestinians who carry out these barbaric acts, along with those who support them, aid them, celebrate them, mythologize them, and otherwise endeavor to place the blame and responsibility on anyone and anything other than Palestinians. It is these people who are racists and ideological oppressors, because they are the ones who insist on portraying Palestinians as having little or no control over their actions, or attributing Palestinian actions to a “cycle,” thus denying Palestinians any sort of existential depth or maturity or self-agency, much less any responsibility for this campaign of terror and mayhem against Israeli society, a campaign that they themselves launched, on their own prerogative. To blame Palestinian actions such as suicide bombings of buses on the occupation or the “cycle” rather than on Palestinian choices and Palestinian behavior, not only diminishes the barbarity of such actions but diminishes the morality and experience of Palestinians. Its effect is to dehumanize Palestinians. And to suggest that Palestinians have so little control over themselves that Israel can provoke or manipulate them into blowing themselves up is to not only place the blame for Palestinian suicide bombers on the victimized party but to negate Palestinians of any sort of rational humanity or self-control. To suggest that somebody can be manipulated into detonating himself in a civilian area strips the person of any intelligence and self-agency, and makes him little more than a trained seal. Yet this excuse—that Israel provokes Palestinians into exploding themselves, as inherently racist and dehumanizing as such a characterization of Palestinian intelligence and morality is—is but one of many such locutions offered, almost by rote, for Palestinian suicide attacks.
For is Palestinian psychology and behavior so haplessly malleable that Palestinians can be routinely influenced—by an enemy, no less—into terminating their own lives? I find it chilling that people who bewail Israel as a racist state so often have no problem stooping to such blinkered, even racist, characterizations and rationales for Palestinian terrorism. Has there ever been another group of people of whom it has been suggested so often that their enemy could provoke them into killing themselves? Rather than employ a dehumanizing caricature of Palestinians that portrays them as desperate pawns with little choice but to detonate themselves in crowded civilian areas, should we not hold them responsible for employing and supporting such actions, just as the world would (maybe) if it weren't Jews they were always murdering? Palestinians are human beings and their actions, especially suicide terrorism, must be addressed and examined as such, not as the result of external factors or in a way that somehow normalizes such actions or bleaches them of any true sense of human agency. For, as we know, such actions, be they in response to oppression and desperation or anything else, are a stunning exception in the history of humanity, and thus cannot be explained or accepted as some sort of predictable or normal outcome to living an oppressed existence. Other peoples have lived through far worse without resorting to regularly blowing themselves up in civilian areas, yet we are expected to believe that these widespread and widely supported actions among Palestinians—a sustained campaign to murder civilians via suicide-bombings—somehow fit into a predictable historical or human norm, despite the fact that no previous example of this particular implementation of terrorism has ever existed.
Why have Palestinians been the first to employ such a strategy, and why have so many accepted the false double standards and hollow pseudo-rationalizations used to “explain” or normalize such actions? Are Palestinians somehow exempt from any interrogation of morality and decency that says boarding a bus or entering a restaurant with the intention of murdering as many random, innocent civilians there as possible is an action—and an action of choice—that is abhorrent and for which there can be no excuse or justification? Would so much of the world have been willing to accept, often in such maudlin terms, the plethora of counterintuitive justifications, false equivalences, and ahistorical rationalizations for the barbarity of suicide bombers had it been Swedes or Canadians or Englishmen being mass murdered for years now by self-detonating human bombs while sitting in cafes, pubs, buses, etc.?
David Grossman has stated the following:
I think something horrible happens to the Palestinian society that idealizes now the suicide murderers. I think they are going to pay a heavy price, because after they will have their state, and when there will be in a conflict inside the Palestinian society about what kind of society we want to have there, what kind of democracy they will have in the Palestinian society, then they will meet those suicide murderers again, inside Palestine. As I said, once this option of action is formulated, it’s there to stay.
A heavy price, indeed. It will be interesting to see how Palestinian suicide bombings will be explained or otherwise intellectually engaged when they are launched not against Israeli civilians but against Palestinians. And there seems little reason to hope that suicide bombings and those who utilize them will simply and conveniently disappear after a Palestinian state emerges. Through their years of widespread acceptance and support of suicide bombings, the practice has become, to whatever degree, a part of Palestinian society. Just as Israelis must live with the daily knowledge that the Palestinian campaign of terror and suicide bombings, of which they and their families and friends are the deliberate, intended targets, still exists, so too must the Palestinians. (And what happens, on the inside, to people who dress children up as suicide bombers?)
How will the Palestinians end the suicide bombings? Will they? Can they? Or, having accepted and widely supported it as a strategy for addressing conflict, is it here to stay? How will Palestinians, whose criticisms of suicide bombings have been practically nonexistent, be able to begin (effectively) criticizing, much less eliminating, the practice if (or when) it appears in the domestic arena of Palestinian politics? Having accepted and supported such measures for so long, it will be interesting to see how (or if) they then find their voices of indignation and abhorrence at suicide bombers should they be employed to influence domestic Palestinian matters. Should Palestinians, somewhat like the peoples of Germany and Japan after World War II, be expected or even required to undergo a process of self-examination, of de-Arafatization and de-Yassinification in the wake of decades of Palestinian terrorism?
Further, the Palestinians, in becoming the first group to adopt such a campaign of suicide terrorism against civilians, will also have to be the first group to deal with the subsequent internal ramifications of such actions and choices, not to mention reconciling themselves to their own history of having employed (and accepted) such tactics. Will this practice be applied to domestic, internal conflicts within the Palestinian state, just as they have been directed against Israelis? The same parties will still be present, and what is to stop them from employing the same strategies against political opponents at home, especially when the tactic has already been met with years of widespread approval as an instrument of pre-state Palestinian foreign policy? I have suspected for a while now that it’s only a matter of time before Arafat or another major Palestinian figure is assassinated by a Palestinian suicide bomber. One logical culmination of Palestinian suicide-terrorism, after all, is for it to be utilized by Palestinians against Palestinians.
Perhaps when a bus full of Palestinians is bombed by a Palestinian suicide bomber, or when a restaurant full of Palestinians is bombed by a Palestinian suicide bomber, the barbarity of such actions will become more stark for certain people, not least because there will be hardly any way to blame such actions on “desperation” and other such factors. But those who cannot accurately place responsibility for Palestinian suicide bombings against innocent Israelis will be hard pressed to offer intelligent commentary when the intended victims of such bombings are no longer Israelis. If desperation and “the cycle of violence” and so on, rather than Palestinian responsibility, can be held accountable for suicide bombings against Israelis, then it will be difficult to hold Palestinians themselves accountable should they begin inflicting such terrorism upon each other (and, as evidenced by the treatment of accused collaborators and their kin, Palestinian domestic terrorism is already well developed). If the suicide bomber becomes a phenomenon within the domestic politics of a Palestinian state, then who, or what, will Palestinian terrorism be blamed on or attributed to then? What will the “cycle” be composed of then? I suspect attempts will be made to blame the country next door (and I’m not talking about Jordan). But hopefully last week’s suicide bombing of the #19 bus in Jerusalem will be the last instance (and attempt) of Palestinian suicide-terror that we ever see.
Perhaps I am a pessimist. Perhaps I am jaded from seeing too many pictures of bombed out Israeli buses. Perhaps I’ve read and listened to too many people “explain” the causes of Palestinian suicide bombers. Perhaps I’ve read too many quotes from Palestinians in support of suicide bombings and not enough in criticism of them. Perhaps I’ve seen too many pictures of Palestinian children dressed up as bombers or being paraded around while toting weapons. Perhaps I’ve read too many stories of people who lost lives or limbs or loved ones in suicide attacks. Perhaps it’s any number of things.
Because I doubt that this most recent self-detonating Palestinian suicide bomber attack on an Israeli civilian target was the last such attack we’ll ever see executed or attempted. I hope it was the concluding explosion in this Palestinian campaign of suicide bombings against civilians. But I doubt it.
After all, unlike every other group in history, Palestinians have adopted and widely supported a tactic of prolific and widespread suicide-bombings against civilian targets, and they have done so because…