In all world politics, but especially in the Islamic Middle East, the ultimate form of power is power over death. Directed toward Jews, the violence of Palestinian terrorism is always “sacred” violence, and it is always oriented to eternal life for the terrorist. Unlike most other terrorists, the Palestinian movement fighters openly aspire to immortality. Paradoxically, that is why they enthusiastically commit uniquely homicidal forms of suicide.
Urged on first by Arafat, and now by Abbas-lieutenants and his appointed clergy in the mosques, these terrorists believe fully that by dying in the religiously mandated act of blowing up Jews, they will buy themselves freedom from the penalty of their own personal deaths. As for their fiery self-immolation…. it is assuredly a small matter, really only a momentary inconvenience on the Islamic “martyr’s” glorious journey to union with Allah. Identifying the PLO as “a father, a brother, a relative, a friend,” the Hamas Charter instructs: “We (all Palestinians) know the Palestinian problem is a religious one, to be dealt with on this premise…. `I swear by that (sic) 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.'”
For other terrorists, suicide is usually something “crazy,” and not a proper tactic to be used for revolutionary confrontation. For the Palestinians, however, suicide in the act of murdering Jews represents the very highest form of political engagement, a correctly Islamic method warranting very high praise. How different, just for example, was the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru, a Latin American terrorist group that took 74 hostages at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru on December 17, 1996.
After the MRTA kidnapper’s initial demands were rejected by the government, the terrorists threatened to blow up the entire embassy as an act of suicidal desperation. Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori’s response was to say simply: “There cannot be peace talks or agreements while terror is being used as the principal argument.” Again, the terrorists threatened: “If the government doesn’t cede, we will die with all the hostages.” Five months later, on April 22, 1997, all the hostages were rescued, and not a single one had been harmed. Unlike Palestinian terror groups, who seek to inflict gratuitous harm on noncombatants – often by filling bombs with nails, screws and razor blades – the more typical MRTA organization had rejected suicide terrorism.
“Nail in brain; nail in heart.” For a time, such graphic labels attached to X-Rays in Israeli hospitals, had become routine. Several years ago, a victim of Palestinian suicide terror arrived at Rabin Medical Center in Petach Tikva with nearly fifteen nails and metal fragments embedded in his body. One of the “merely wounded,” this thirty-one year old man presented with multiple shrapnel penetrations along the left-side of his body, second and first-degree burns on the left side of his face and chest, on his hands and on his left leg. His injuries required five types of surgery. After regaining consciousness, he was weaned from a ventilator and now – in 2009 – still faces additional years of painful rehabilitation.
What kind of search for “national self-determination” inflicts such harms upon defenseless noncombatant populations, and then cheers the most awful casualties in gleeful ceremonies conducted with their own young children? What kind of an America could ever accept such harms as understandable or even permissible? Is there any reasonable way in which a sitting president of the United States could justifiably equate the search for self-determination of such a people with the victims of the Holocaust?
Palestinian terror seeks national self-determination, but shouts endlessly to the world that even after statehood, – a statehood eagerly sought by President Obama – violence would continue against “The Jews.” Significantly, every map of every Palestinian group features a new Arab state (the 23rd) that incorporates all of Israel. Therefore, not only Hamas, but also “moderate” Fatah, has already exterminated Israel cartographically..
Terrorism has brought suffering throughout the world, but Palestinian terrorism in particular will remain fiendishly unique even where it is manifestly counter-productive. Given the opportunity, it is probable that, ultimately, Palestinian terror groups will seek to exploit the particular horrors that still lie latent in weaponized pathogens and/or fissile materials. Earlier, in Latin America, groups such as MRTA and Sendero Luminoso (“Shining Path”) had resorted to bloodshed in a more-or-less class-based fight for social, economic and political equality. But their violence was plainly instrumental, and their ultimate goals had nothing to do with genocide. In Peru, moreover, whenever Sendero Luminoso exploded bombs in cars and buses, the citizens themselves had uniformly condemned the terror.
If undertaken by Palestinians, who would openly condemn bioterrorism against Israel? Certainly President Obama would, but to what end? The proper position of any American president seeking peace in the Middle East must be to prevent war and terror, not to use American resources only after the fact to help bury dead Israelis.
All Palestinian terror groups are relentlessly determined to use violence against noncombatants, even on those occasions where it is plainly unsuitable for political gain. To these organizations, “Palestine” refers to all of Israel proper, as well as to Judea, Samaria and Gaza. As for Palestinian civilian populations, they still regularly applaud even the most heinous forms of anti-Jewish terrorism. When, several years back, two lost Israelis were lynched outside a PA “police station” in Ramallah, a mob of literally thousands danced a frenzied bacchanal on top of the mutilated bodies. This is undeniable. We know this because of the heroic film work done that day by an Italian television crew in the area.
What defensible human emotions can move a mob of “ordinary” Palestinians to torture, gouge out the eyes, beat and then burn two utterly helpless human beings? What, one must inquire, was more incomprehensible that October morning in Ramallah, the elbows-deep-in-blood attacks launched by a desensitized people, or the spontaneously twisted celebrations of the multiple Arab bystanders?
Arab women as well as men could not contain the ecstasy of their cruel involvement. What kind of human beings can commit the horrors that Palestinian mobs inflicted on that terrible day upon Vadim Norjitz and Yossi Avrahami? While the answers to these questions are complex, they have a great deal to do with understanding the incessantly distinctive barbarism of Palestinian terror groups, a barbarism that now frequently manifests itself in intra-Palestinian battles between Fatah and Hamas as well.
Latin American terror groups have sometimes fought for human improvement and survival, but then seemed to look ultimately toward some forms of reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. Palestinian terrorists, on the other hand, fight only to expunge an entire people, the Jews, from (at a minimum) the face of the Middle East.
Whatever the rhetoric of the moment, Palestinian terrorism is never really a plea to Israel to relieve material needs, but rather a hideous demand to die so that certain Muslims can realize their alleged spiritual wants. Citing a major hadith (an Arabic term that refers to the oral tradition by means of which sayings or deeds attributed to the prophet Muhammad have been handed down to Muslim believers), King Sa’ud once informed a British visitor to his court: “Verily, the word of God teaches us, and we implicitly believe it, that for a Muslim to kill a Jew, or for him to be killed by a Jew, ensures him an immediate entry into heaven and into the august presence of God Almighty.”
Palestinian terrorism now based solidly upon fanatical religious hatreds and intentionally wanton killings, bears no close resemblance to other forms of contemporary terror violence. Starkly medieval, it seeks the death and dismemberment of individual Jews and, cumulatively, the annihilation of the Jewish State. There can, therefore, be no justification for its manifold crimes and harms; President Obama’s plea for Palestinian statehood will only hasten genocidal terrorist goals.
Mr. President, for Mahmoud Abbas, as well as earlier for Yasser Arafat, “Palestine” can never be allowed to coexist with any Jewish State. Rather, religiously and ideologically, it must be raised triumphantly upon the ruins of Israel, an irremediable objective that could imperil not only Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem, but also New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
Louis René Beres was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and is author of many books and articles dealing with terrorism and international law. He has on occasion been associated with certain federal agencies on issues of counterterrorism, and has contributed to such Department of Defense publications as Parameters and Special Warfare. In Israel, Professor Beres was Chair of Project Daniel. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.