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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘suicide’

PLO Faction Spokesman Fails in Suicide Attempt

Monday, March 10th, 2014

The spokesman for a faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) tried to kill himself with a knife on a main street in Ramallah on Sunday, sources told the Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency.

The man reportedly cut his neck with a knife but passersby saved him. He was reported to be in serious condition in a Ramallah hospital.

No details were released on his identity, the name of the faction and the reasons for his attempted suicide, but Israel has not been blamed – yet.

 

Jihad Tourism

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Originally published at The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

For 20 years I studied and interviewed Islamist mujahedeen (jihad fighters) imprisoned in Israeli jails, examining their inner worlds and discovering the obsessive thoughts leading them to carry out terrorist attacks. They were addicted to fantasizing about an alternative reality, describing their compulsions in metaphors similar to those used by obsessive gamblers and drug addicts. They likened them to “worms” (duda in Arabic) burrowing into their brains and driving them to seek not another game of cards or a fix, but dead Israelis, Americans, Europeans, or anyone else they considered infidels. They did not try to resist their compulsions or consider that their actions might be wrong, because they felt completely controlled and manipulated by the concept of jihad, which dictated their behavior in every sphere of life.

The findings of my research indicated that the jihadists’ obsessions created what are known as “overvalued ideas,” that is, false or exaggerated beliefs sustained beyond reason or logic. One often repeated, was the vision of what awaited the shaheed (a martyr for the sake of Allah) in the Islamic paradise after death. The sensations of the release of tension and relaxation come only after the terrorist act, when the perpetrator looks at the people he murdered. Even suicide bombers whose explosive belts failed to detonate or who were arrested before they could carry out their missions described a transcendent sensation, a smile as they approached their targets.

They spoke of their inability to control their impulsive behavior, harmful to themselves and others.

They described the mujahed‘s [the jihad fighter's] search for meaning in his life, how he turns his back on civilization and everything it represents. Many of them felt rejected by their immediate surroundings, either because of feelings of inferiority, marginality or guilt for things they had done (or not done) that brought dishonor to their families, or simply because they could not integrate into society as productive, contributing citizens. Those who had been exposed to Western society had strong feelings of inferiority, jealousy and rejection, especially because of differences in life styles, sex roles, confidence and other personal attributes. Some of them noted unbridgeable gaps between culture and science. One dispatcher of suicide bombers spoke of the great differences in capabilities, culture and economic condition between Christian and Muslim Arabs. For the mujahedeen, people are either good or bad, and that conceptual polarity directs their course.

Terrorists are also frustrated and alienated by those who rejected them, leading them to announce that as mujahedeen they “reject the rejecters.” A similar sensation has been noted in criminological studies as a criminal behavioral dynamic, and because the criminal is rejected by a normative society and cannot integrate into it, he declares war on it. Generally speaking, there is no psychopathology among Muslim terrorists. That is, none of them can be diagnosed as having a recognizable mental illness, even those who attempted to carry out suicide bombing attacks. What remains to be examined is whether or not there is a collective pathology, and if it is a question of a society, many of whose members find it difficult to suppress violence and control their urges and anger.

Jihad, a holy war against the infidel, is the personal duty of every Muslim, and if he does not wage it, he will die as a religious hypocrite, someone who only outwardly practices Islam but does not truly believe, and be damned for all eternity. The terrorists I interviewed told me that waging jihad is, for the mujahed, the way to partake of Allah’s mercy for themselves and the members of their families, and to go directly to paradise without the Islamic “tortures of the grave” and without undergoing a painful examination by angels before they are allowed to enter.

Exhilaration and ecstasy accompany jihad fighters in their search for arenas of excitement around the globe. They look for places where they can rape and kill with impunity and fight the infidel in the name of Allah, reaching the pinnacle of masculinity and honor reserved for the shaheed. Superficially, they may seem to be fighting for an ideal, but in reality, even in suicide bombing attacks, there is an element of desire for reward, both in this world and the next. The overwhelming desire of many Muslim adolescent boys, even those educated in the West or who are converts to Islam, especially those living in countries where there is no real governance, is excitement. To that end they stream into confrontation zones like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Libya, Iraq, Africa (such as the recent terrorist attack in Kenya), and Syria to experience the mission, the excitement and promise of being a shaheed as the ultimate in self-realization.

Frustration, alienation and a sense of inferiority accompany the increase in the pace of modern life, and the gap between East and West continually grows. The deprivation, restrictions and solutions imposed by Islamism lead people to seek a group to which they can belong and which will help them channel their negative feelings for the other, the different, the “infidel,” feelings which are common to all. In addition, the need for adventure and excitement has helped create a kind of “jihad tourism” especially but not exclusively relevant for young Muslim men, including those born in the West. Today in Syria there are jihadist fighters from 60 countries, among them converts to Islam, who star in videos and help the jihadists recruit supporters and spread propaganda. Jihad tourism is a subculture of fun and excitement, a festival of violence, similar to the Western criminal and gang subcultures. The jihadist lifestyle allows them to shake off the confines of the disintegrating patriarchal family. As opposed to ordinary criminals, whose social status is lowered when they are classified as felons, the Islamic terrorists feel they are performing good deeds for the sake of Allah, raising their status. They act on violent impulses, are unrestrained in their aggression and try to impress those around them by taking risks, hoping for admiration and praise. They butcher people of all ages, use both sarin gas and hatchets, behead, rape and mutilate their “enemies” with no regard for the fact that until recently the enemy was a neighbor, or at least shared their language and culture.

In their “extreme jihad journeys” they become accustomed to violence and atrocities, or as one of the men I interviewed said, “we find the smell of blood natural; even as young children we saw sheep being slaughtered in our yards.” In addition, they receive religious justification from various fatwas, religious edicts issued by sheikhs such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s religious authority. The jihad tourists live like wandering adventurers, generally finding it difficult to integrate into the mainstream of modern life. Instead they choose a path of murder and violence while embracing simplicity and even primitiveness. Having different aspirations, they do not have to compete with the West, seeking instead to destroy it while hoping to recreate the past in preference to joining the future. Before he was killed by the Americans, the terrorists I interviewed often praised Osama bin Laden and the simple life he lived in the caves of Tora Bora – an illusion, because bin Laden lived a life of relative comfort in Pakistan.

The waves of jihad tourism and terrorism targeting mainly Christians and Jews in the West have spun out of control and are not susceptible to the restraints of family, culture, religion or society. Violent jihad tourists are now overwhelming entire countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. The atrocities currently being committed in Syria would not embarrass any legendary serial killer, and there are thousands of such jihad tourists there, Sunni and Shi’ite, and even Western converts to Islam, who torture and kill innocent civilians.

It is the high season for jihad tourism, and while the mujahedeen continue their activities in Iraq, the trendy watering hole is currently Syria, where Bashar al-Assad’s friends and foes alike indiscriminately slaughter innocents of all ages and sexes. They surf on waves of blood, and the operatives of the Al-Nusra Front, a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, slaughter both members of the Assad regime and of secular rebel organizations who fighting the same regime.

The goal of Western educational systems is to provide the tools necessary for functioning in society. In the Islamic countries, however, children are taught from infancy that the family and clan are the foundations of their lives and dictate their behavior. Islamic society binds its members in chains, and the individual has no choice but to submit to group pressure. Drowning in blood and violence, his only justification is seeking the death of a shaheed.

And recent conflicts show that the West provides plenty of jihad tourists despite our education and opportunities. For some, especially converts to Islam, waging jihad in foreign lands can be exciting and revolutionary and a chance to prove the depth of their new devotion.

With all of this in mind, I would like to propose calling murder for the sake of Allah “shahadamania,” which might make it easier for the West to understand and fight the syndrome. It refers to the obsession for istishhad [martyrdom for the sake of Allah] and includes feelings of transcendence and euphoria after killing the infidel, the capitulation to instinct, the inability to function in daily life, and jihad as a good and even altruistic deed in this world to qualify for a hedonistic afterlife.

The Only Commonality Is Mass Killing

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Originally published at The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Aaron Alexis murdered 12 people and injured at least eight more at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard before he was shot and killed by law enforcement professionals. It is tempting to compare Alexis to a suicide bomber, especially now that we have heard rumors he opened a website under the name “Mohammed Salem.” However, clear thinking demands that temptation be resisted. Let me explain why.

As an Israeli criminologist who has studied suicide bombers for almost two decades—making extensive observations of and conducting numerous interviews with those who failed, as well as with those who dispatch the bombers, with family members of suicide bombers and decision makers and elites in their society— I can say with confidence that the differences between mass killers in the West such as Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris at Columbine, and yes, Aaron Alexis at the D.C. Navy Yard, and suicide bombers are categorical and insurmountable.

After the Sandy Hook tragedy, Eric Lankford, an American criminal justice professor, sought to show that America’s lone shooters have more in common with suicide bombers than is commonly believed. But his op-ed piece, “What Drives Suicidal Mass Killers” (New York Times, 12/19/12), is fundamentally flawed. America has certainly suffered enough with the recent Sandy Hook, Aurora and other tragedies, but clear thinking demands we realize that even if someone is characterized as a “shaheed” (a martyr for the sake of Allah, including suicide bombers), the differences between mass killers in the West and suicide bombers are categorical and insurmountable.

The overriding distinction between the two is their native cultures: the suicide bomber’s education and attack preparations are diametrically opposed to that of mass killers, as is their socialization. Suicide bombers are radical Islam’s celebrated heroes, its darlings, whose acts are viewed by the larger culture as exemplary and heroic; in contrast, the West’s mass killers are aberrant individuals isolated from their resolutely life-affirming culture.

Specifically and most importantly, Western culture in general, and American culture in particular, cherishes life. American children are raised in the belief in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; they are raised to embrace life and respect the lives of others. Clearly there are a disturbed few who kill others, but those are not the heroes of the American people: their murders and subsequent own deaths do not bring honor to their families or elevate them in their society’s collective memory.

But that is exactly what does happen in radical Islamist culture. In Gaza, for example, children collect cards of shaheeds, the same way American children collect baseball cards. It is absurd to think that anyone would propose National Park Stadium be renamed Aaron Alexis Stadium, and the absurdity illustrates and emphasizes the difference between American mass killers and Muslim suicide bombers whose names emblazon schools, sports teams, stadiums and public squares.

The Western mass killer’s acts are motivated by individual pathology rather than by collective ethos. The individual’s aberrant thoughts trigger the plan for a mass killing. The suicide bomber is not driven by psychological pain, although he is selected because others see him as weak or vulnerable. A culture that celebrates death and declares to the West that “we love death as you love life” is the petri dish in which suicide bombers develop.

Another distinction is that suicide bombers are not lone gunmen, instead, they are merely tools in a comprehensive, well-advertised terrorist production, manipulated to achieve political goals. To understand the significance of the difference, try to imagine Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris as inanimate objects whose owner chooses not only the location of the killings, but also the date, the weapons and even the victims. The suicide bombers’ locations are chosen by others to ensure that the greatest possible damage will be inflicted; the bombers usually have little or no advance notice. A suicide bomber, in contrast to Adam Lanza, will never embark on his mission by first killing his own mother—the most significant and beloved person in his life.

The mass killers choose their victims, the locations and the timing of their deeds, usually planning their acts meticulously over a long period of time. For the suicide bomber, his body is the murder weapon. His death is the only way to achieve his true goal: to enter paradise physically, where 72 virgins and the rivers of wine await him, and spiritually, by bringing honor to himself and his family. All this is possible only if his corporeal being merges with the bomb fragments to bring death to others, an ideal far removed from Western moral conceptions of life and afterlife.

A Western mass killer’s death is not a precondition for the mass murder; the deaths of those they have selected is what matters. The suicide bomber, however, is on a mission aimed at propelling himself toward a better future in the afterlife, where he will be able to enjoy everything he was unable to enjoy or achieve while living. America’s mass killers have no future: they will be vilified and not celebrated, and in contrast to radical Islamic culture, their families will suffer ignominy and isolation. We have already heard the anguish suffered by Aaron Alexis’s mother, who, in a public statement, expressed deep sorrow over the pain caused by her son. She also said she was glad her son was in a place now where he can no longer do any harm to anyone.

The West’s mass killers have no recruiters, handlers or dispatchers, all of whom are essential in a world where suicide bombers are the logical means to achieve the collective end. In the United States, anywhere and at any time, the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” does not elicit the answer, “A mass killer (or suicide bomber).” However, the Gazan child for example, will not answer “fireman,” “policeman,” or even “I’m going to work in an office like Daddy.” The virtually guaranteed answer is “shaheed,” and his mother will likely cheer.

Radical Islam’s suicide bomber is the manipulated tool of an aberrant death-glorifying culture, while the West’s mass killer is an aberrant member of a robust, life-affirming culture. There are similarities between the two, but it is a mistake to put them on the same level. To blur the distinction is to insult America.

He Murdered his Daughter

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Guest Post by Suzzane Handler

Mental Illness is one of those subjects that is still pretty much taboo to talk about in the Orthodox Jewish community. And that can lead to tragic consequences. No more tragic than what happened in Cheyenne, Wyoming almost 80 years ago.

I think it is high time we start the conversation. I can think of no better time to do so than during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva. The following was sent to me by Catherine Goldberg whose opening words introduce Suzzane Handler. She wrote a book about her Orthodox grandfather – a man who murdered his own daughter.

My name is Catherine Goldberg. I’m a big fan of Emes Ve-Emunah and look forward to learning something new everyday every time you post. It always makes me think. I just wanted to share something I’m working on and I thought your community may be interested in.

I found this book called The Secrets They Kept. (It is) about an Orthodox Jew who murdered his youngest daughter who was schizophrenic instead of having her committed.

I got in touch with the author (whose) name is Suzanne Handler and she’s fabulous. We talked about how there’s a big stigma in the Jewish community that bad stuff like schizophrenia or abuse doesn’t happen to us. We both agreed this is not a safe way to think. There’s a lot of guilt and shame associated it with and when that’s internalized that can be really dangerous.

Secret keeping, especially throughout generations is devastating. (T)his book… says it’s OK to talk about this, and by sharing your story we can begin to move forward.

We also talked about what this has to do with forgiveness and Yom Kippur. Suzanne had to forgive her family for keeping this horrible secret from her. I think once she did forgive her family her quality of life improved significantly.

Maybe Yom Kippur is a good time to talk about this and how it relates to mental illness in the Jewish community.

In hopes of raising awareness, Suzanne sent me a little piece that she wrote about her story. She’s hoping that her story will get people talking.

The reason why I was so drawn to this is because a good friend of mine was schizophrenic and committed suicide during our senior year of college. He was Jewish too and I was really torn between this idea that Jewish law says you can’t mourn a suicide and realizing this kid was sick. We’ve made a lot of progress on how we approach mental illness but not enough. It would be amazing if by spreading Suzanne’s story I could raise awareness and money for schizophrenia research or something.

The following was written by Suzzane Handler:

What would compel a devout Jewish father to take the life of his own child?

On June 28th of this year, The Intermountain Jewish News (IJN) ran a feature article detailing the dramatic events contained in my book, The Secrets They Kept: The True Story of a Mercy Killing That Shocked a Town and Shamed a Family. For your convenience, I have provided the link to that piece below. Chris Leppek, assistant editor of the IJN and the person who wrote the article, has granted permission for his story to be reprinted, with the caveat that his name and that of the paper be appropriately cited. He does so in the hope that thoughtful discussions regarding the stigma of mental illness in our society will follow.

Here is a brief summary of the story: In 1937, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, my maternal grandfather, Sam Levin, shot and killed his 16 year-old daughter. The girl, Sally, had been diagnosed with dementia praecox (mid-century term for schizophrenia) and was to be sent to an insane asylum, presumably for the rest of her life. Declared incurable and a danger to herself and others, Sally begged her father to end her life, as well as his own, in a joint murder/suicide pact. On August 16,th of that year, my grandfather, exhausted and desperate from grief and indecision, finally agreed to Sally’s last wish. The girl died within the hour; my grandfather lived and carried the burden of his shame and sorrow to his grave.

Due to the stigma of mental illness then, as well as now, and the nature of my grandfather’s unimaginable crime, this story remained a secret in our family for over 70 decades. Following years of research and soul searching, I have now, at long last, come to the place where understanding meets forgiveness.

I am humbled that The Secrets They Kept: The True Story of a Mercy Killing That Shocked a Town and Shamed a Family, has sold over 8,000 copies and is currently #1 in Mental Health and #7 in Jewish Interest in the Amazon Virtual Book Store.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Reading the Mind of God

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

I am beginning to believe that reading the mind of God is a predilection of Haredi  rabbis. At least a certain type of Haredi rabbi indigenous to the holy land. Increasingly it seems that tragedies are attributed to ‘the evil of the day’. Which almost always is connected to sex.  Which makes me wonder about the Gemarah’s s statement ‘Avira D’Ara Machkim’ – that the mere air in the land of Israel makes one wise.

Here is the latest one from a letter in Hamodia republished in Rafi’s blog, Life in Israel. It was signed by Rav Shmuel Littman.  I have no clue who that is. But it seems obvious to me by what he writes that he a Haredi Rav. Although certainly not a moderate.

His problem? Mixed seating on buses. He has determined that mixed seating on buses is the cause of their being bombed by suicide bombers.

Rav Littman can now confidently join the ranks of all those others that blame every tragedy on their myopic biases of what plagues the Jewish community. They ‘know’ that that the biggest tragedy facing Klal Yisroel is the lack of a ‘proper approach’ to sex. No matter what the tragedy, some element of that is pointed to as the reason God found it necessary to send us a message. In Rav Littman’s case he is telling us that God found it necessary to tell us about the importance of segregating buses by blowing up a few of them killing and maiming all the innocent people aboard.

How did he determine this great piece of ‘wisdom and insight’? Isn’t it obvious? There hasn’t been a suicide bombing ever since Mehadrin buses were implemented in the Haredi neighborhoods. Here is how he put it:

As soon as these chariots of kedusha started running, the suicide bombers stopped.

That is what is protecting us. Why does he bring this up now? He is worried.  Israel’s supreme court has made Mehadrin buses illegal.  Although segregating the sexes may still be done on a voluntary basis – no one has the right to tell a passenger to change their seat.  So if a woman sits in the front of the bus in the so called (unofficial) men’s section, no one is allowed to ask her to get up and move to the rear – even if they do so politely. This – says Rav Littman ‘compromise(s) the safety of our nation’.

Rav Littman almost begs people to take heed, arguing that even married couples should not object to sitting apart for the ‘short’ bus ride. They need to talk? – he asks? They can do it when they get home, for Pete’s sake!

Of course an elderly couple where one of them needs the support of the other because of health or medical issues does not occur to him to be an issue. Maybe he thinks that Tznius issues require that an elderly couple like that simply stay home. What if they need to see a doctor? Well I suppose they can just take a more expensive cab.  That they live on a fixed income is certainly no issue when it comes to the Kedusha that is generated by those who worship the concept of the Mehadrin bus.

Like the Kedusha of those valiant Haredi Kannaoim who beat women up that violate said Kedusha by sitting in the men’s section of a relatively empty bus.  Or the dozens of other similar incidents were women were subjected to all manner of violence and/or  humiliation for doing that.

If this attitude weren’t so tragic, it would be funny. How anyone could claim to know the mind of God and thereby imply that the victims who were so brutally and suddenly murdered in bus bombings because buses in general were not sex segregated. How can anyone know – or believe so strongly he feels the need to warn us – that God’s wrath will descend upon us and start blowing up innocent people again if we don’t all adhere to Mehadrin bus rules voluntarily.

Need I add that the lack of ‘Kedusha’ that happens when a woman is occasionally found in the ‘men’s section’ of a bus is minuscule (if it exists at all) compared to the lack of Kedusha in the way the many rabbinic  leaders handle sex abuse?

MKs, Australia, Challenging Israel on ‘Prisoner X,’ Black Prisons

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

An inquiry has now been ordered into the way Australian diplomats handled the imprisonment of Ben Zygier-Alon, “Prisoner X,” in Israel, Australian media report (Foreign Media: Ex-Mossad Agent Committed Suicide in Israeli Prison). Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr has ordered the review after learning that an Australian diplomat in Tel Aviv had been told by Israeli authorities about the jailing of Zygier-Alon in 2010.

But said diplomat chose not to pass the information on through appropriate channels.

“Prisoner X” was found dead in his isolated, high-security cell in late 2010.



Australia’s Foreign Minister had said earlier that his office not aware of the man’s suicide under false identity until his parents asked for help in bringing his body back to Australia. He was buried in a Jewish cemetery in Melbourne.

An ABC report said Zygier had been living in Israel for about 10 years before his arrest in early 2010 and was married with two children. At some point he was recruited by Mossad.

It was not clear why he was arrested in 2010, but he was taken to Ayalon Prison in Ramla. There he was held in isolation until his suicide in December 2010.

A heated debate took place on Tuesday in the Knesset during the speech of Justice Minister Yaakov Ne’eman, over the story of an attempt by the Prime Minister’s office to clamp down on publication of a story that exposed Israel as running a “black prison” type operation where at least one prisoner disappeared only to reappear after committing suicide in his cell.

“It was published today that an inmate with an Australian citizenship has committed suicide in one of Israel’s prisons under a fake identity,” the Arab Ra’am-Ta’al party MK Ahmed Tibi inquired of the Minister. “He was registered under an identity other than his own. Do you know about the case? Do you confirm the fact that an Australian citizen committed suicide in prison, under a false identity, and without publicity for the fact that he was a prisoner and detained in a prison in the state of Israel?”

Meretz Chairman MK Zahava Gal’on also posed an inquiry to Ne’eman: “Mr. Minister, I want to hear your view about the fact that journalists volunteer to censor information at the request of the authorities. Does it appear proper to you that the prime minister’s office would assemble the Editors’ Committee to prevent publication of an episode that could embarrass Israel?”

The Editors’ Committee is an informal forum of the editors and owners of the main Israeli media. It meets regularly with the prime minister, cabinet members and senior officials, for “background” information. In past years, the committee championed the self-censorship of the Israeli media, with the understanding that the information reported to the committee would not be published, even after it appeared in another source.

Obviously, any attempt to repress information in the age of the Internet is both delusional and makes the PM’s office and the Editors’ Committee look like a relic from a 1960s spy novel.

Gal’on continued: “Is it permissible to conduct clandestine arrests in Israel in the name of security needs?”

Gal’on reminded the minister that she was the one who revealed the existence of interrogation facility in Camp 1391, Israel’s secret Guantanamo Bay. The Guardian described it, in 2003: “Facility 1391 has been airbrushed from Israeli aerial photographs and purged from modern maps. Where once a police station was marked there is now a blank space. Sometimes even the road leading to it has been erased. But Israel’s secret prison, inside an army intelligence base close to the main road between Hadera and Afula in northern Israel, is real enough.”

At the time, MK Ga’on appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court, which ruled unequivocally, as she put it Tuesday: “that you cannot keep people in secret detention and that this will not happen again in Israel.” Then she continued: “And now we hear that in a country that claims to be a proper democracy, journalists are collaborating with the government without a directive from the High Court that there is clear and imminent danger to state security, that hidden prisoners commit suicide and no one knows about their existence.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/mks-australia-challenging-israel-on-prisoner-x-black-prisons/2013/02/13/

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