The April 17 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv included the usual breakdown of casualties – the steadily rising number of dead and of those casually described as “merely wounded.” But what, exactly, does it mean to be in the second category? Consider just a few of the carefully documented medical answers.
X-rays of suicide bombing “survivors” routinely show hundreds of metallic fragments, ranging in size from millimeters to whole nails, grotesquely embedded in the victims’ bodies – literally from head to foot. Palestinian terrorists have repeatedly transformed objects that had originally been created for constructive use into the deadliest of destructive projectiles. Nails, screws, nuts and ball bearings are packed by the suicide bombers into their explosive vests to maximize their lethal effects and to inflict unimaginable pain and suffering on the penetrated persons. With a furious indifference to civilized human behavior, these transformed objects – soaked in rat poison – are propelled with the force of bullets to enter skin, flesh and bone.
The nails fly head first, presenting themselves in a strangely surreal, yet orderly, arrangement within the victims’ bodies. Many are embedded “only” to the depth of their entrance sites. Others burrow their way more deeply and lodge under the skin, where the examining physician can actually touch and feel their presence. Others must be removed after hours of meticulous exploration. Still others enter the body, far deeper, perforating and lacerating vital organs at random. CT scans of these victims’ heads show blood, air, metal and bone fragments displacing normal brain tissue.
The “lucky” patient who survives the initial explosive insult may often require extensive surgery to repair damaged organs. Others may sustain fractures, burns, amputations, vascular injuries, paralysis, blindness or brain damage. A collapsed lung or perforated colon – what would ordinarily be considered a major injury – is now taken as a blessing for these “merely wounded” victims of Palestinian terrorism.
Although some of the victims recover physically and return to a “normal” life, many more require a lifetime of ongoing rehabilitation. Some are assuredly impaired permanently. All suffer serious psychological effects that need to be treated. Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety affect not only the victims of the attack, but all of Israeli society. Many reports have indicated a dramatic rise in the use of prescription antidepressants and sedatives. How could it be otherwise? Israelis live in a society under constant attack by those who cry out ecstatically: “When the martyr dies a martyr’s death, he attains the height of bliss….”
The Palestinian martyr’s unheroic weapon has now literally and figuratively penetrated the hearts and souls, as well as the bodies, of an entire nation. Too often television and print media are unable or unwilling to transmit the full human measure of this violation to viewers and readers. The result is that too few people are able to understand the true horror of the Palestinian suicide bomber. For them, Israeli wounded are little more than a statistic. In reality, however, the “merely wounded” suffer a medically indescribable death-in-life.
All life moves in the midst of death, and the denial of death is some of humankind’s most persistent preoccupation. Nowhere is this more distressingly apparent than in the generally unrecognized calculations of an aspiring Palestinian suicide bomber. This terrorist gleefully chooses self-immolation, fused with mass Jewish homicide, only because this is his or her presumed path to eternal life. It is only because he or she fears death beyond any normal measure of cowardice that the Palestinian suicide bomber chooses to end life here on earth.
The physical pain experienced by the “merely wounded” Jewish victims of suicide bombings is enlarged by the destruction of language. This destruction, which cannot be captured in radiographic images, produces a visceral reversion to pre-language human sound. Thus it is that we hear, following every instance of Palestinian suicide bombing, those palpable moans and cries and whispers that are fully anterior to learned speech.
The language fashioned by the Arab/Islamic suicide bomber is the language not of unreason, but of anti-reason. Created by the deliberate social derangement of goodness – a perverse celebration of cruelty as the essence of religious worship – this language absolutely immobilizes any residual prospects for “peace.” Yet, in the final analysis, it is not really Palestinian barbarism that invokes and makes necessary endless warfare, but rather the stupefying cowardice of contemporary “civilization.”
In Israel, America and Europe, leaders remain oblivious to the danger. Uttering the same old empty phrases and tired clichés, their public meanings of “peace” seethe with inept allusions and crude equivocations. How transparent they are in their persistent failure and how endless must be all of our Jewish tears. We Jews who witness the terrorism-inflicted pain of our brothers and sisters in Israel steadfastly seek to share their sorrow, but this Jewish pain is simply too great for sharing. Confronting an enemy who claims to love death, but only in the context of unparalleled Arab/Islamic cowardice, we still seek a proper balm for Jewish wounds and proper words for Jewish healing. For now, that is all that we can do. Soon, perhaps – or so at least we continue to hope – the rest of our “civilized” world will join us in audibly recognizing that there can never be any justification for the suicide bomber, and in raising their voices together with ours to finally and unhesitatingly curse his human and cosmic villainy.
LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many major books dealing with terrorism and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.