Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Does Israel Hope to Spark a New Wave of Suicide
By Stuart Littlewood
Redress, Al-Jazeerah, ccun.org, March 22, 2010
Stuart Littlewood looks at how Israel’s incessant abuse of
the Palestinian people’s rights and freedoms, and its trampling on their
dreams, lie behind almost every act of suicide bombing.
”Here in the West few of us can fully comprehend what turns a bright,
intelligent person into a suicide bomber. But then, we don’t have a jackboot
on our throat. We don’t have our front door battered down in the middle of
the night by military thugs, our family abducted, our home bulldozed and our
The suicide bomber wrote that he began to live the day he came to know he
was to die. Where did he get this passion to kill? – Mahesh Bhatt
Here in the civilized West we hate suicide bombers with a passion.
We’re taught that the proper way to blow fellow humans to smithereens is
to do it from 40,000 feet.
Or failing that, send Apache helicopter
gunships at street level firing their laser-guided missiles and 30mm cannon.
Or failing that, turn loose our main battle tanks to shred and vaporize
the “enemy”, reduce their homes to rubble with depleted uranium (DU) shells
and spread birth defects for generations to come.
Nowadays we don’t even
have to leave home to do it. We can train our really brainy chaps to steer
armed drones to the target from the comfort of an armchair.
F-16s, Apaches, drones and tanks – that’s the ticket. Awesome hardware gives
any murky mission a moral superiority that gets nods of approval from the
governing élite in the drawing rooms of London and Washington.
is not acceptable is delivering the high explosive in person, all the way to
the target, and looking your enemy in the eye as you push the detonator.
That simply isn’t cricket.
“There can be no justification, under any
circumstances, for taking innocent lives through terrorism." Those were the
very words used by Liberal Democrat Party leader Charles Kennedy in 2004,
when he sacked British MP Jenny Tonge from her front-bench spokes job for
suggesting she might consider becoming a suicide bomber herself if she had
to live through the situation the Palestinians were in.
from Israel's B'Tselem
make the Palestinians’ situation clear. Between 2000 and the start of
Israel’s "Cast Lead" blitzkrieg on Gaza in December 2008, the Israelis’ vast
standing army, equipped with the most advanced weaponry American money can
buy, killed 4,790 Palestinian civilians in their homeland. Of these, 952
Yes, 952 young Palestinian lives horribly snuffed out
and their parents desolated...
In response Palestinians, with their
garden-shed weapons, killed 490 Israeli civilians, including 84 children. In
this vicious game of murder the Israelis were leading the Palestinians by 11
Those were the “circumstances” in which Kennedy sacked Jenny
Terrorism most foul
During the Cast Lead onslaught – the foulest act of state terrorism for
decades – Israel slaughtered at least 350 more children, and Gaza has been
under daily attack ever since. So the "most moral army in the world" must
have blown to bits, shredded, incinerated or smashed with snipers’ bullets
at least 1,400 youngsters in the last nine and a half years. The numbers
left maimed and crippled don't bear thinking about.
"Israeli policy is to grind the Palestinians into poverty and
helplessness, to take away everything they own and let them rot in a
In their study, Palestinian Suicide Bombers: A Statistical Analysis, Sean
Yom and Basel Saleh found that many Palestinian suicide attackers had been
on the receiving end of violent encounters with the Israeli military,
resulting in injury to themselves, or arrest, or a close family member being
From October 2000 to March 2004, over 2,800 Palestinian
fatalities and 25,600 non-lethal injuries were inflicted by the Israeli
armed forces. Revenge, often fuelled by deteriorating economic prospects and
the imposition of harsh policies, provided recruiters with a ready supply of
volunteers. Persuading individuals not to support or participate in violence
would necessarily involve “improving the structural health of Palestinian
Fat chance of that. Israeli policy is to grind the
Palestinians into poverty and helplessness, to take away everything they own
and let them rot in a Zionist-prepared hell. Far from allowing the health of
Palestinian society to improve, they tighten the screw of oppression
further. In the period covered in the study they deliberately destroyed some
4,700 Palestinian homes while continuing their normal programme of
slaughter, dispossession, abduction and all the other atrocities they are
Since 1967, according to the
Israeli Committee Against House
Demolitions (ICAHD), Israel has demolished in total 24,145 homes in the
occupied territories, including 4,247 (a UN figure) destroyed during
Operation Cast Lead. Palestinians tend to have large families. Consider how
many homeless have been created.
Professor Robert Pape’s
comprehensive analysis, Dying to Win, based on his work for the Chicago
Project on Suicide Terrorism, advances the idea that suicide terrorism
exerts coercive power “to compel modern democracies to withdraw military
forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland...
The bottom line, then, is that suicide terrorism is mainly a response to
Occupation includes control of territory, as in
Gaza, not necessarily military occupation.
And of course, when it
comes to Israel, we’re not talking about a democracy but a vile ethnocracy.
Religion has little to do with it. Pape dismisses the often-repeated
view that Islam is the root of the problem. “Rather, the taproot is American
military policy.” And the notion that Islamic fundamentalism is bent on
world domination is “pure fantasy”.
Many suicide bombers are simply
motivated by the desire for revenge. According to one researcher, harsh
state repression "should not be perceived only as a reaction to suicide
bombing" but "often precedes and is a major cause of suicide bombing."
One Saturday night in 2001
blew himself up at the entrance to a disco in Tel Aviv, killing 21 teenagers
and injuring 132. Hotari was one of nine children from a poor Palestinian
family living in Jordan and had been in the West Bank for two years hoping
to find a better life. He left a message saying: “If we don’t fight, we will
suffer. If we do fight, we will suffer, but so will they.”
bombing was cited by the Israeli government as one of the reasons for
building the Apartheid Wall.
In 2003 a female Palestinian lawyer,
Hanadi Tayseer Jaradat, aged 29, killed 21 civilians at Maxim restaurant in
Haifa. She acted to avenge the killing of her brother and a cousin (some
sources say her fiancé) by Israeli security forces.
Aziz Rantissi, co-founder of Hamas, warned: "Israelis will have no stability
and no security until the occupation ends. Suicide bombers are Israel's
future." Rantissi was assassinated in 2004 in a helicopter attack on his
car. A mother and her five year-old daughter were killed in the attack and
four other bystanders wounded.
How much can a person take before
Arrest, detention without due process, constant humiliation,
homelessness, unemployment and other family suffering at the hands of the
Israeli army are not the only spur. Yahya Ayyash, nicknamed “the Engineer”
and regarded as the father of suicide bombing, became Hamas’s chief bomb
maker and for several years topped Israel’s most wanted list. From a
relatively well-off family, he gained a BSc in electrical engineering at
Birzeit University and planned to study for a Master’s degree in Jordan but
the Israeli authorities wouldn’t allow him to.
Thwarted in his
life’s ambition Ayyash joined Hamas. “Don’t get sore, get even” might have
been his motto. He used household chemicals to manufacture an explosive brew
called Mother of Satan. His devices were used in a number of “massacres” and
he quickly achieved hero status, narrowly escaping capture many times. It is
claimed he was responsible for the deaths of around 90 Israelis, a high
price for the occupier to pay for robbing this youngster of his rights to
travel and study – rights we in the West take for granted.
"The [Israeli] regime’s leaders, seeing the Israel brand image plummet,
are now pulling every dirty trick imaginable – even to the point of trying
to annex sacred Islamic heritage sites – in a frantic bid to provoke a third
initifada (uprising) and cast themselves once again as the victims of
Eventually in 1996 Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service,
eliminated Ayyash by persuading a relative to give him a rigged mobile phone
that exploded when he used it. Some 100,000 people are said to have turned
up at the funeral. Forty more Israelis were then killed in retaliatory
Yet Israelis still revel in targeting Palestinian students.
Five years ago they forcibly removed four Birzeit University students from
their studies in the West Bank and unlawfully sent them back to the Gaza
Strip. All four were due to graduate by the end of that academic year.
There was an outcry from around the world and the Israeli military
agreed to let them return to Birzeit, but only on condition that they signed
a guarantee to permanently move back to the Gaza Strip after completing
their studies. This revealed for all to see Israel's plan to separate the
West Bank from the Gaza Strip, even though the two areas are internationally
recognized as one integral territory. Under international law everyone has
the right to freely choose their place of residence within a single
territory. Ten years ago around 350 Gaza students were studying at Birzeit,
but today there are almost none and the racist regime blocks Gaza students
from reaching the eight Palestinian universities in the West Bank.
was no surprise to learn last Christmas that Berlanty Azzam, a fourth year
Business Administration student from Gaza studying at Bethlehem University,
was suddenly “deported” by the Israeli military back to Gaza. Berlanty, a
Christian girl, had lived in the West Bank since 2005 and resisted all
temptation to visit her family home in Gaza in case she was prevented from
returning to Bethlehem.
The 21-year-old was only a few weeks from
graduating when she was arrested after attending a job interview in
Ramallah. In a deliberate attempt to rob her of her degree “the most moral
army in the world” blindfolded and handcuffed her, loaded her into a jeep,
drove her to Gaza and dumped her in the darkness late at night.
the case of another university honours student in her final year, Israeli
soldiers frequently rampaged through the Bethlehem refugee camp where she
lived, ransacking homes and arbitrarily arresting residents. They took away
her family one by one. First her 14-year-old cousin and best friend was shot
dead by an Israeli sniper while she sat outside her family home during a
Next the Israelis arrested her eldest brother, a 22-year-old
artist, and imprisoned him for four years. Then they came back for her
18-year-old brother. Then they came again to take her youngest brother – the
“baby” of the family – just 16. These were the heartbreaking circumstances (Mr
Kennedy please note) under which this student was studying for her degree.
Luckily, she had the guidance of caring university teaching staff
to keep her on the straight and narrow. The “most moral army in the world”
may have robbed her brothers of an education, but she was determined to
Although Palestinians take their education seriously,
not all students cruelly obstructed by the Israelis react as Yahya Ayyash
did. However, there must be a limit to how much injustice and frustration a
young person can take before he/she snaps.
Modern suicide bombing
appears to have started in 1980 in the Iran-Iraq war when an Iranian
youngster exploded himself against an Iraqi tank, but it was Hezbollah’s
devastating attacks two years later in Lebanon which attracted world
attention. US forces and the Israeli invader were soon expelled. The
technique was then exported throughout the Middle East and beyond.
The threat of suicide bombing has receded in the Holy Land while Israeli
military atrocities escalate. The regime’s leaders, seeing the Israel brand
image plummet, are now pulling every dirty trick imaginable – even to the
point of trying to annex sacred Islamic heritage sites – in a frantic bid to
provoke a third initifada (uprising) and cast themselves once again as the
victims of terror. Something has to give. Many Palestinians will snap, and
no-one will be surprised to see another Ayyash emerge.
Here in the
West few of us can fully comprehend what turns a bright, intelligent person
into a suicide bomber. But then, we don’t have a jackboot on our throat. We
don’t have our front door battered down in the middle of the night by
military thugs, our family abducted, our home bulldozed and our land
The moral to the story is surely this. You mess with
other people’s rights and freedoms, and trample on their dreams, at your
Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free
Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For
further information please visit