“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem,” says Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus, “and that is suicide.” Nowhere is Camus’ observation currently more correct than in the darkly reciprocal relationship between Israel and Hamas. Here, an imperiled Jewish State that wishes deeply to endure, is ordered to accept a “Roadmap for peace” that is manifestly suicidal. Here, Israel’s principal Islamic terrorist adversary, now the elected government of an aspiring Palestinian state, expressly chooses and endorses suicide as its modus operandi. The result of this odd relationship is an ironic synergy of suicides and an uneven mutuality between irreconcilable enemies that can ultimately assure life to a sovereign “Palestine,” but can offer only death to Israel.
There now exists in the Middle East a dramatically unequal reciprocity of suicides. Palestinian suicide bombers aspire to immortal life. They are urged on by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas-appointed clergy’s recurrent refrain in the mosques: “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.” Even today – even after the murderous exploitation of ordinary Palestinians by their corrupt leaders has become generally understood – thousands of young Palestinians are eager to become suicides. In their publicly longed-for martyrdom, dying in the act of killing Jews is merely a temporary inconvenience. Much more importantly, and in an obvious paradox, this suicide is expected to bring them a true and heroic freedom from death.
Israelis do not share the Palestinian commitment to immortality through homicides and suicides. Unlike their mortal enemies, they do not plan to murder other human beings in order to live forever. Yet, it is the Israelis, not the Palestinians, who are now urged authoritatively toward disappearance. Seeking to stay alive, the citizens of Israel are now told firmly by the so-called “Quartet” to accept surrender policies that would absolutely compel national suicide.
Presently there is an apparent mirror image between Israel and the Palestinians. Yet Israel, at least until now, sees only one side of this suicidal reciprocity, the individual self-destruction of Islamic terrorists. The Hamas authority, on the other hand, sees not only the temporary “deaths” of individual Muslims but also the required collective disintegration of a despised Jewish state. For Israel, this unacknowledged reciprocity will soon trigger further territorial concessions, while for the Palestinians the acknowledged reciprocity will confirm the course (victory over the unbeliever) they already hold sacred.
For Israel, suicide is something innately wrong, something “crazy,” something only a mad enemy would actively choose as a strategy of confrontation. For the Palestinians, suicide (homicide) against Jews is the very highest form of political engagement, a divinely-mandated road to redemption that rewards doubly, because the enemy infidel cooperates in his own meaningless dying. For Israel, which does not yet understand that a reciprocal suicide is the objective of PLO/Hamas/Islamic Jihad, its own Quartet-inflicted dismemberment may continue to appear realistic. For the Palestinians, who understand that this reciprocal suicide is altogether asymmetrical (after all, only Israel gets to die), the martyrdom of young Arabs will be perfectly sensible. For Israel, still largely unaware that world politics move in the midst of death, individual enemy suicides could ultimately push the Jewish State to effectively renounce its national life. For Hamas and its allies, profoundly aware of the connections between death and world politics, Israeli complicity in rejecting Jewish national life in the Middle East will elicit more and more individual Muslim suicides. At some point, they shall reason, when Israel is no more, the one-sidedly lethal reciprocity will be complete.
Camus’ meditation on living or not living – on the implications of suicide – has tragic and vital meaning in the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians. In the final analysis, this meaning must extend to associated questions of enduring or not enduring, and to related matters of rebellion. Should Israel now begin to yield, not only to the temptation to endure, but also to the corollary obligation to reason, it might still have a chance to understand the true messages of reciprocal suicide. Rejecting the chimera of a Road Map, that paradise of debility now being drawn by President Bush and the Quartet, the Jewish State could finally begin to revolt against annihilative world politics.
There are, even in our endless fantasy world of peace processes and road maps, crimes of passion and crimes of logic. Today, at a moment when many governments are immobilized by various fears of living and dying, Israel is confronted by both kinds of crime. What is more, Palestinian crimes of terrorism surrounded by passion and often approved as “freedom fighting” by Europe, Russia and the entire Arab/Islamic world, are animated by logic. This logic of suicide is not an oxymoron, as even death that is self-inflicted can play a survival role of enormous political importance in the struggle against “infidels.” Israel must try to understand this particular logic while there is still time, to acknowledge that metaphysical rebellion is an Israeli imperative. They must recognize that the suicidal death of its individual enemies can produce not only the reciprocal deaths of many more Israelis, but also its own reciprocally collective death.
LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and articles dealing with Israeli strategic studies and international law. The Chair of Project Daniel, his work is well known to Israel’s political, military, academic and intelligence communities. Professor Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.