One of the most basic facts about our current Clash of Civilizations remains unrecognized. The true rationale of Arab/Islamic suicide bombing terrorism does not lie in politics. It is, more than anything, an example of religiously based blood sacrifice, a primal ritual designed to enlist divine assistance in Jihad. Expressed in the recurrent slaughter of carefully selected innocents, especially Jews, suicide bombing is never about land or rights or justice or national self-determination. For the pious murderer, it is rather a distinctly private and irremediably cowardly attempt to secure both public adulation and personal immortality.
The terrorist’s welcomed “martyrdom” is not posthumous. Not at all. The individual suicide bomber regards fiery death here on earth as only a momentary inconvenience. For him or for her, such inconvenience is clearly a small price to pay for perpetual hero worship and glorious life everlasting.
No doubt, in the unending war between Israel and Arab/Islamic terror, Palestinian hatred of Jews is generally deep and far-reaching. But if the religiously despised Jew did not exist, Arab/Islamic terrorists would surely have to invent him. As we can see in recurrent news reports on the growing wave of intra-Palestinian violence in Gaza, whenever there are tactical difficulties in terrorizing Jews, Arab murderousness turns inward.
For the terrorists, suicide bombing is a communal safety valve. In a grotesque spasm of perverse creativity, it serves to protect the fractured Palestinian community from its own violence, of which there is always a great deal. Arab/Islamic terrorism, therefore, serves the critical interests of Palestinian social solidarity. Although it is probably true that the Palestinians could invent virtually any other enemy to serve as a convenient deflection from their own incessant eruptions into violence, selecting Jews for the victim role is indisputably most consistent with various theological expectations and prescriptions.
Palestinian terrorism, we see, is a profoundly religious ritual of human sacrifice. Interestingly, in all such ritualistic killing, the victims must bear a basic resemblance to the “sacrificers.” At the same time, this resemblance must never be carried too far, lest it diminish their ferocious ardor. Understood in terms of Palestinian suicide bombing – terrorism against Jews, this evokes a clear paradox. The Arab terrorists must acknowledge that their intended Jewish victims are also human, but just barely.
In Euripides’ Medea, the principle of human substitution of one victim for another appears most starkly. Because the true object of Medea’s hatred – her faithless husband Jason – is out of her reach, she substitutes her own children. Moreover, Medea prepares the death of her children exactly like a priest preparing for sacrifice. What is most important, Medea’s sacrifice reveals the following overriding truth about violence, a truth that is now being revealed with unusual clarity in “disengaged” Palestinian Gaza: Violence will accumulate until it overflows its confines and floods the surrounding areas. A principal function of sacrificial Arab/Islamic suicide bombing is to stem this rising tide and to redirect intra-communal fear into more “proper” channels.
This is not to deny that terrorizing Jews is always a compelling and non-cancelable religious obligation. Such Arab/Islamic terror is nothing so trivial as a narrowly political or military operation. Rather, and this is a point that must never be forgotten, all those terrorists who employ suicide bombing believe in their hardened hearts that violence and the sacred are one and the same.
For the Palestinian terrorists, sacrificial violence against Israel has two categories of victims. One category is the “vile, infidel Jew.” The other is the “glorious martyr” who kills the despised Jew and who thereby earns eternal fame by “dying for the sake of Allah.” This “martyr” need not fear personal death in sacrificing himself as a suicide. On the contrary, by choosing to “die” in this way he actually buys himself free from the penalty of dying: “Do not consider those who are slain in the cause of Allah, as dead,” says the Koran. “They are living by their Lord.”
“Strive for death, and you will receive life,” believes the Palestinian terrorist who would sacrifice himself as well as the hated “Jew plunderer.” Significantly, a series of articles on Palestinian “martyrs” (the Shuhada) in Al-Istiqlal implicitly acknowledges a basic human sameness, but also presumes a substantial difference from the Jews, whom they allege seek life at all costs. In essence, this is an unfounded and most ironic polarity, as the main rationale of the “suicidal” Arab/Islamic terrorist is to avoid death. For this “martyr,” what is always absolutely crucial is to obtain a “seat in Paradise” and to be saved “from the torture of the grave.”
Israeli officials who would now understand Arab/Islamic terror against Israel, as a form of sacrificial religious worship should seek ways to disabuse intended “martyrs” of their primal liturgy. But this would be far beyond the scope of operational possibility. Palestinian terror-violence takes shelter in religion, but, reciprocally, this religion also allows Palestinian terrorists to combine ecstatic bloodletting with internal harmony.
Celebrated “martyr” Samy Rahim’s words speak volumes about the true nature of Arab/Islamic suicide bombing: “Every day on which the sun rises and no Jew is killed, nor any martyr has died, will be a day for which we will be punished by Allah.” This punishment will arise because both obligatory aspects of sacrificial terror will have been neglected, the sacrifice of the Jew and the sacrifice of the murderer. The two-sided nature of terror/human sacrifice is also found in the Charter of Hamas: “…the Palestinian problem is a religious one, to be dealt with on this premise…. ‘I swear by that who holds in His Hands the Soul of Muhammad! I indeed wish to go to war for the sake of Allah! I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill.'”
In the prevailing Arab/Islamic terrorist view, victory for the Palestinian people will come only when both the despised Jews and the Arab “martyrs” suffer death. But while death for the Jews will be final and un-heroic, death for the suicide will be only a temporary detour on the way to eternal life. Only by killing Jews and subsequently, being killed by them, can true freedom from death be realized.
The PA/Hamas-appointed clergy, preaching recently on the Temple Mount, said:
“Palestinians spearhead Allah’s war against the Jews. The dead shall not rise until the Palestinians shall kill all the Jews All agreements with Israel are provisional.” The Arab/Islamic terrorist solution for “the Jews” is incontestably a Final Solution. Before Israel can set itself finally upon a firm course of collective survival, it will first have to understand that this genocidal solution is a deeply religious form of human sacrifice.
Copyright, The Jewish Press. All rights reserved.
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on Israeli security matters and Arab/Islamic terrorism. The Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, he is author of nine major books, including four of the very earliest works on nuclear terrorism.