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Terrorism As Human Sacrifice: The Religious Roots Of Arab/Islamic ‘Suicide’ Bombing


Beres-Louis-Rene

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Fatah is a movement of blood sacrifice. Our people gave the world a chance and unless the world takes this opportunity, violence and havoc will come.

 

Othman Abu Gharbiya, deputy chief of the
National and Political Guidance Bureau
of Fatah (Al-Hayat al-Jadida)


They will fight for Allah, and they will kill and be killed, and this is a solemn oath.Our blood is cheap compared with the cause which has brought us together.but shortly we will meet again in heaven.

 

Yasir Arafat, speech to Palestinian
security forces in Gaza, August 2001

Although Arab/Islamic “suicide bombing” terrorism can prove to be quite useful in political, strategic and tactical terms, its true rationale always lies elsewhere. More than anything else, it is a blatantly primal example of blood sacrifice, an unmistakably religious ritual designed to enlist divine assistance in an inspired jihad. Expressed in the feverish slaughter of carefully selected innocents, suicide bombing is never really about land or rights or justice or self-determination. Rather, for the pious murderer, it is invariably a very private attempt to secure both public adulation and personal immortality. In this connection, the terrorist’s welcomed “martyrdom” is not at all posthumous. The individual suicide bomber regards his fiery death here on earth as only a momentary inconvenience. For him or her, such inconvenience is clearly a small price to pay for perpetual hero worship and life everlasting.

 


To be sure, 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.


For these terrorists, the explosive sacrifice of Jewish men, women and children in buses, playgrounds, ice cream parlors and nursery schools offers not “merely” the promise of eternal life. It also serves to protect the Palestinian community from its own violence. When defenseless Jews are maimed and burned by suicide bombers, all elements of dissension within the Palestinian community are then diverted conveniently to the sacrificial victims. Such terrorism, therefore, serves the compelling interests of social solidarity.


Terrorist sacrifice can eliminate or reduce internal disharmony. Recognizing this, many Arab/Islamic leaders strongly encourage and incite “martyrdom.” The individual suicide bomber, of course, acts for other and more private reasons, but his handlers certainly have very different motives.


In all religious human sacrifice, the victims must bear a basic resemblance to the sacrificer. But this resemblance must never be carried too far, lest it diminish the sacrificer’s murderous ardor. Understood in terms of Palestinian suicide bombing terrorism against Jews, this evokes a distinct paradox. The Arab terrorists must fully acknowledge that their intended Jewish victims are also human, but just barely.


This brings us to the road map, the latest expression of a long-failing “peace process.” For those Palestinian sacrificers who would maintain their uniquely indecent war against Jewish civilians, terrorism will remain the preferred means to quell violence within their own community. Although this function of sacrificial rites is widely known in historical and scientific literature, it is still unrecognized by senior policymakers in Israel and in the United States – the two states most endangered by Arab/Islamic terrorism.


Euripides’s Medea, the principle of human substitution of one victim for another appears most starkly and horribly. 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 should be at the very top of the list for Israeli and American officials concerned about Arab/Islamic suicide terror: Violence will accumulate until it overflows its confines and floods the surrounding areas. The role of sacrificial suicide bombing terror is nothing less than to stem this rising tide and to redirect murderous fear into “proper” channels.


How do we know that Palestinian terrorists actually think of their own violence against Israelis in this way? One answer is that they say so, day after day after day. There is no ambiguity in the Friday sermons or on the PA (Palestine Authority), Hamas and Islamic Jihad websites. Here, it is made absolutely clear that the murdering of Jews is a compelling religious obligation, not to be cancelled. Such murder is assuredly nothing so trivial as a political or military tactic. On the contrary, for those Palestinians who would wield suicide bombing against Israel, violence and the sacred are one and the same.


It is important to understand that for Palestinian terrorists, sacrificial violence against Israel has two categories of victims. One category, of course, is the “vile, infidel Jew.” The other is the “glorious martyr” who kills the despised Jew (it is always the “Jew”, never the Israeli) and who earns eternal glory 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, forever, 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 him/herself 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 who, they allege, fear death and 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 at all costs. 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.”


In practice, Israeli officials who would understand Arab/Islamic terror against Israel as a form of sacrificial religious worship might now seek ways to disabuse intended “martyrs” of their particular brand of immortality. But this would likely be far beyond the scope of operational possibility. Palestinian terror takes shelter in religion, but reciprocally, religion also allows Palestinian terrorists to combine ecstatic bloodletting with internal harmony.


As Israel continues to mistakenly project its own Western rational (essentially via the American model) upon Palestinian terrorist thinking, celebrated “martyr” Samy Rahim’s words speak volumes about the true nature of the Arab/Islamic terrorist adversary: “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 codified in the charter of Hamas, which states clearly: “…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 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 and a confirmation of intrinsic Jewish limitations and unworthiness, death for the Palestinians will be only a temporary inconvenience on the way to eternal life. It is only by killing Jews and subsequently being killed by them that true freedom from death can be realized.


The PA/Hamas appointed clergy, preaching recently on the Temple Mount, spoke as follows: “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 Palestinian solution for the Jews is a Final Solution. Only as Israel begins to understand that this solution is rooted in the ancient concept of human sacrifice, can it truly learn to survive.


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 four of the earliest books on nuclear terrorism.

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About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.


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