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, May9, 1998)
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 Fatah security forces in Gaza, August 2001
Israel and the United States still think of counter-terrorism as a narrowly military and geopolitical task. What both fail to realize is that Arab/Islamic terrorism in general, and Palestinian terrorism in particular, are driven by religious notions of sacrifice. As these notions are common to both Fatah and Hamas, the developing Bush/Rice/Olmert plan to aid the former against the latter is misconceived. This plan will fail promptly and calamitously.
In public, Fatah leader and Palestinian “president” Mahmoud Abbas has abandoned the plain language (above) of Othman Abu Gharbiya and Yasir Arafat. This is understandable, because neither the Americans nor the Israelis could discover any usable pretext for aiding Fatah if its leader were more honest about enduring religious meanings. In private, Abbas remains beholden to all those who commit to the murder of “infidels” as divinely mandated. He has no choice.
Although Palestinian “suicide bombing” terrorism can sometimes prove useful in political, strategic and tactical terms (to wit, former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s “disengagement” from Gaza), its true rationale lies elsewhere. It is a primal example of blood sacrifice, a sacred ritual designed to enlist divine assistance inobligatory Jihad. Expressed in ritual slaughter of innocents, Palestinian suicide bombing is never really about land or rights or justice or peace or self-determination. Rather, for the pious murderer and his celebrants, it is an attempt to elicit both public adulation and personal immortality.
The terrorist’s “martyrdom” is not posthumous. He regards his fiery death here on earth as only a momentary inconvenience. For him (sometimes also for her), such discomfort is a small price to pay for perpetual hero worship and life everlasting.
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, the terrorists would have to invent him.
For them, 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 Jews are maimed and burned by suicide-bombers – whether by Hamas’ “military wing” or by Fatah’s Al Aqsa “martyr’s brigade,” it makes no real difference – elements of dissension within the Palestinian community are drawn conveniently to the sacrificial victims. Such terrorism thus serves the very compelling interests of social solidarity.As soon as Fatah and Hamas began to slow their attacks against Israelis, they started to slaughter each other.
In human sacrifice, the victims should bear a basic resemblance to the killers. But this resemblance must never be carried too far, lest it diminish the sacrificer’s murderous ardor. This evokes a paradox. The Fatah or Hamas terrorists must acknowledge that their intended Jewish victims are also human, but just barely.
In Euripides’ Medea, the substitution of one sacrificial victim for another appears starkly. Because the true object of Medea’s hatred – her faithless husband Jason – is out of reach, she substitutes her own children as objects of her rage. Medea prepares the death of her children exactly like a priest preparing for sacrifice. And Medea’s sacrifice reveals the following overriding truth, one that should be at the very top of the list for Israeli and American officials now wrongfully convinced that Fatah will act differently than Hamas: 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.
For all Palestinian terrorists, sacrificial violence against Israel must have two distinct categories of victims. One category 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 buys himself free from the horror of mortality: “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 both the Fatah and Hamas terrorist. Each presumes a very basic human sameness, but both also emphasize a vital difference from Jews. The Jews, they allege, fear death above all. This is an unfounded and ironic allegation, as the main rationale of the “suicidal” Palestinian terrorist, is always to avoid death. For this “martyr” what is uppermost, 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 search for immortality. But this strategy would lie far beyond the scope of operational possibility. Palestinian terror-violence takes shelter in religion, but, reciprocally, religion also allows Fatah/Hamas terrorists to combine ecstatic bloodletting with internal harmony.
As Israel and America continue to mistakenly project their own Western, rational model of geopolitics upon Palestinian terrorist thinking, celebrated “martyr” Samy Rahim’s words speak truthfully about the nature of both the Fatah and Hamas enemy: “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 “martyr”. The two-sided nature of terror/human sacrifice is also codified 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.’”
Before the open civil war erupted between Fatah and Hamas, the jointly appointed clergy, preaching on the Temple Mount, sermonized: “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.”
This Palestinian terrorist view still favors only a Final Solution for Israel. It is a view shared by both Fatah and Hamas. Aiding and arming the former to destroy the latter therefore misses the point. Only when Washington and Jerusalem begin to see that their common enemy is rooted in the Islamist-based linkage of terrorism to human sacrifice, can they finally embrace a real progress.
Copyright, The Jewish Press, July 20, 2007. All rights reserved.
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on Israeli security matters, terrorism and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.