Oussama Ben Laden Time DDC_4918 , cc: flickr, By Abode of Chaos
Researches show a direct connection between the feeling of humiliation and inequality, the military oppression and the inferior status which characterizes the discriminatory regime in the West Bank and, to a lesser extent, the status of the Palestinians in Israel. The lack of concern in cases of humiliation on the part of the army and the settlers also strengthens this motivation.
Shaul Kimchi and Shmuel Even are researchers at the Yafo Centre for Strategic Studies, an Israeli military related institute for research into matters of security. Their research “Who are the Palestinian suicide terrorists?” can throw light on not only the motivation driving the terrorists, the suicide bombers, but also reveal the contribution of the harmful policies of Israeli governments to the recruitment of Palestinian terrorists: The occupation regime in the territories, the domination of the settlements, the attitude to collective and individual human rights, the humiliation of the Palestinians, etc.
It should be pointed out that these researchers are not classic devotees of human rights’ movements. Some of their recommendations even jar the ear of someone who believes in the promotion of human rights. Even so, a logical and careful analysis of their findings yields a clear world view which must lead to critical conclusions, from a surprising source, in relation to the Israeli security policy. The research shows that in many cases and aspects infringement on human rights harms security and promotion of human rights makes a clear contribution to security.
So, where and how does Israel’s security outlook harm the security of its citizens?
First, the research presents the main reasons given by past research literature on the motivation for terror. The research provides the chief motivation for terror, of which the main points will be presented and analyzed here:
“Psychological damage: Trauma, despair and revenge – according to this viewpoint, the suicide bombers are motivated mainly by psychological damage, i.e. trauma, problems of personal identity, feelings of humiliation and victim hood, that brought about a desire for revenge at any price. Iyad Serge, a psychiatrist from Gaza, explains the activities of suicide bombers as primarily a result of psychological damage and the desire for revenge [c.f. Miller (1996), Dickey (2002) and Sarraj (2002a, 2002b)]; the suicide bombers and those planning to become suicide bombers were children during the first intifada (1991). As children they suffered great trauma. As adults, their personal anger was merged into the national identity of humiliation and defeat, and they avenge this defeat on both a personal and national level. This despair comes from a situation which is getting worse and worse…Margalit (2003) also thinks that the main driving force behind suicide bombers is the revenge against Israeli mistreatment, and also that this revenge receives a lot of support and acclamation from the Islamic world.
Comment: Here we see a direct link between the military regime of discrimination in the West Bank and a chief source of motivation for many terrorists – revenge, despair, trauma.
“Honour – the idea of honour is mentioned in more than one piece of research dealing with terror in general and with the terror of suicide bombers in particular (Telhami,2002; Denny, 2003; Sarraj,2002a;2002b; & Ateek 2002; Post). According to this interpretation, Palestinians under Israeli occupation feel so humiliated that making war in the form of self-sacrifice is seen as a preferable way to restore one’s honour both on a personal level (action) and on a social level (Palestinians as a society).”
Comment: Here too there is a direct link between the feeling of humiliation and inequality, the military oppression and the inferior status which allows the discriminatory military regime in the West Bank to operate, and also, to a lesser extent, the status of Palestinians in Israel. Also, the lack of concern displayed by athourities when soldiers and settlers humiliating Palestinians can provide motivation for terror.
“Suicide bomb terror as deviation – …a different psychological explanation is given by Oliver (2001), who calls the bombers of the Twin Towers “Islamikazi” and asserts that suicide bombing is connected to two mental conditions which are contradictory: Depression and aggression directed outwards. Similarly, Myslobodsky (2003) sees in suicide bombing part of the psychopathology which is expressed in suicide. In his view, depression – both on a personal and social level – is a key factor in the attempt to understand the phenomenon of suicide bombing…”
Comment: How much weight do such psychological considerations have, given that – with the military framework of discrimination and the continuing conflict – it is easier for such disorders not to be treated and to be a convenient background for recruiting suicide bombers.
“Group processes – suicide terror is explained by a group process, in which the individual loses his personal identity for the good of the group…the result is that the candidate becomes an agent of the identity of the group – perceived as threatened – and he tries to repair this identity for himself and for the group. The killing of oneself and of others is not important. What is important is that the action of blowing oneself up brings self-worth and attention to group identity.”
Comment: Group identity so rigid as to be a pathology is more likely to develop in a situation of group oppression, discrimination and conflict and where there is wide separation, both of cultural and geographical, between different ethnic groups, leading to the formation of identity in opposition to the antagonized other.
There is also the classic interpretation which gives Islamism as the reason for terror: “In this version,the religion of Islam and its interpretation of religious commands and fulfilling the will of God are the chief explanation for acts of terror, including suicide bombings. Suicide attacks are not seen or defined as suicide but as self-sacrifice – Istshahad – an act of sacrifice in the service of Allah. The act of sacrifice is explained as part of Jihad (holy war for Islam). In addition, for the one who sacrifices himself there awaits a place in heaven with seventy virgins (described as “black-eyed”), and he also ensures a place for his family members in heaven (a detailed survey of Islam and the phenomenon of martyrology is found in Israeli 2003. On world religious terrorism, see Stern,2003)…
The researchers provide sources for the wide support that central Muslim religious figures give to suicide attacks, but they express reservations: “even so, there is disagreement on the issue of suicide attacks between religious figures within Palestinian society (see, for example, Ateek,2002).”
Comment: It is possible that religious extremism plays a deciding role in motivating terrorism. On the other hand, other facts show that the inclination towards religious extremism is often connected to the kind of regime under which people live: for illustration, among Palestinian citizens of Israel in the last elections there were seven mandates for secularists as against three for relatively moderate Islamist party. This is the count: The secular movements Hadash and Balad (if we take out the Jewish mandate of Hadash) received together six mandates; Ra’am-Ta’al – receive four mandates, in this partnership the Islamist Ra’am’s force is estimated to be three mandates (the secular Ta’al won one in the past as an independent party). That is to say, Palestinian citizens of Israel give 30% of their votes to a moderate Islamic party. The Palestinians in 2006 gave about 43% of their votes to an extremist Islamic party, Hamas – according to Wikipedia.
Another explanation in the literature is that terror is a useful policy tool: Pape (2003) researched all the suicide attacks that occurred in the world from 1980 until 2001. In his view, existing explanations for the phenomenon do not answer a key question: Why? For example, the religious-Islamist explanations do not explain why the world leaders in suicide terror are the Tamils, a group which proclaims the ideology of Marxism/Leninism (and are not Muslims0. The psychological explanations are also hidden by the wide range of socio-economic backgrounds of the suicide bombers. In Pape’s opinion, which is different from the preceding explanations, suicide terrorism operates according to the logical strategy of the leaders of the organizations, a strategy which plans to pressure modern liberal democracies to make significant territorial concessions. Moreover, in the last ten years there has been an increase in the use of suicide bombing because the terrorists have learnt that suicide bombings pay off. [In his view] the success of suicide bombings in achieving political goals is the main reason for the widening use of this form of terror.”
Comment: If the researcher is right, it implies the importance of a policy of “Tough Fairness,” in other words support for human rights collective rights should be important for their own sake, stemming from a moral basis for proper human conduct. And, on the other hand, it strongly suggest avoiding policy change under the pressure of terrorism. Principles of justice and not the pressure of terrorism should be – and should be seen to be – the main reason for granting rights and initiating political dialogue.
“Bloom (2004) emphasizes two factors which contribute to and encourage suicide bombing in Israel:
Competition between different organizations for prestige and popularity, and widespread support of the Palestinian public. Suicide bombing, for the Palestinian organizations, is the ultimate way to oppose the occupation. The occupation and its negative consequences are an inseparable part of the motivation for suicide bombings. The conclusion to be drawn is that there is no military solution to the problem, only a political one, and until that solution she predicts that the use of suicide bombing will grow.”
Comment: Apart from the researcher’s conclusions on the necessity for a political solution, it seems that we can see here the great importance of alternatives to terrorism; of ways to opposing the discriminatory military regime in the West bank without violence, i.e. civil disobedience in cooperation between Palestinians, Israelis, international activists and the media is desirable. In the film “Budros” which is about the civil disobedience around this Palestinian village, we can see the local Hamas man confessing about the shift in his worldview caused by the joint civil struglle with Israelies in the village.
Apart from the above summary of scholar literature, in their own current research on the Palestinians, the researchers identify a kind of motivation for terror that they call: The revengeful proto-type. According to the evidence, this motivation characterizes about one-fifth of Palestinian terrorists who failed in their mission and were interrogated. They describe the revengeful prototype figure as follows:
“The proto-type represents suicide bombers whose main motive is basically psychological: The desire for revenge. The revenge can be on a personal level (for a family member/friend who was killed) or general revenge against Israel for what it has done to the Palestinians. There are cases where the source of the desire for revenge is personal trauma that the individual suffered (after personal injury or as a result of injury to someone close), and in other cases the source of the desire for revenge is injury to people the individual does not know (the death of a specific baby) or the generalized desire to punish the occupier Israel for the occupation and the humiliation of the Palestinians.”
“The necessary conditions for this proto-type are the desire for revenge with a background of one or more of the following events: (A) Death or serious injury to a family member or another person who is close. (B) Trauma connected to the Israeli occupation (personal humiliation or witness to the humiliation of a family member). (C) Difficult experience (either physical or psychological), that the individual suffered over the years, which is connected to the Israel-Palestine conflict.”
Comment: It is clear that the infringement of human rights makes a large direct contribution to the motivation of this kind, that in the research was found to be the main motivation for a fifth of suicide bombers [who failed] and were interrogated. It should be pointed out that, apart from the direct revengeful type described above, one can conclud from the reaserch that the form of oppressive regime in the West Bank contributes indirectly to terror in a more roundabout way – in that it contributes to the extremist nationalist and religious worldviews.
The researchers conclude: “The scope of the problem of suicide bombers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the possibility that we are talking about different proto-types whose path of recruitment and necessary conditions for activities are different, strengthen the view that there is not a single solution to the problem. One can assume that the cessation of suicide terror attacks depends on different factors, and what suits one proto-type figure does not necessarily suit another. For example, one may argue that progress towards a political solution and the end of open support for suicide attacks on the part of the Palestinian Authority would reduce suicide attacks of the fanatical nationalist kind and to a certain extent also those of the exploited kind – but it would not necessarily prevent the activities of suicide bombers of the fanatical religious kind…
It is possible to think of steps to move terrorists from a certain proto-type figure in order to reduce the use of suicide bombings. For example, one may assume that reducing friction with the Palestinian population (road blocks, curfew, closure of routes) would lead in the long run to a reduction in the number of candidates for suicide of the revengeful father type… Such steps must provide conditions that would give the Palestinians hope of a political solution in the future on the one hand, and the feeling that there is no chance of achieving anything by continuing in the use of suicide bombers on the other hand.” [My emphasis – Y.M.]
Clear thinking does not allow one but inferring, based on this research, that many of the actions of the security apparatus in fact harm security and contribute to terror. Whereas many of the practices of activists present an alternative channel of resistance to the military regime not involving – and morally opposing – terrorism and are introduceing a civil ethos to the parties to the conflict in the West Bank.