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*Editor’s Note: This is the eleventh installment in ‘Setting The Record Straight,’ the most recent series of articles from Jewish Press Online contributor, Alex Grobman, PhD 

From 1994 to 2003, there were more than 100 suicide attacks. No attempts were made against Americans, Europeans, or Christians, or against Jews living outside of Israel. Suicide attacks accounted for only three percent of all terrorist incidents from 1980 to 2003, yet they amounted to 48 percent of all casualties, making the typical suicide terrorist attack 12 times more lethal than any other types of terrorism observed by political scientist Robert A. Pape. [1]  


Suicide bombings, which “rocked the Jewish state,” and “transformed the lives of its people,” were initially seen as a horrific aberration in the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict, an example of religious extremism that most Palestinian Arabs rejected. But then an unnerving new realization occurred: “The acceptance and legitimation of the practice among all Palestinian [Arab] political and military factions.” [2]  

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Joseph Lelyveld reported that a poll conducted in June 2001, considered accurate and reliable by Israeli and Palestinian Arab analysts, found that 78 percent of the Gaza residents approved of the suicide attacks launched against Israel or on its borders in their name. “In Gaza, in other words, support for bombings staged in support of the Palestinian [Arab] cause has become a cultural norm,” Lelyveld concluded. [3]   

Of the eight Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflicts, the second intifada was the seventh and the “third bloodiest,” asserts Samuel M. Katz, a Middle East security and international terrorism expert. Most wars are waged to attain political goals or to seize other countries’ land. Yet, Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat and the Hamas leadership had no plan to force political concessions from Israel, establish new territorial realities, or offer a pragmatic solution to end the carnage that was never even recognized as a total war. One objective seemed to be to inflict as much pain and suffering in Israel as they could. [4] 

In pursuit of the goal of causing the greatest harm to Israel, the Palestinian Arabs deliberately planned attacks that would produce a catastrophic number of deaths without the slightest fear of international censure or retribution. The terrorists never wore uniforms and did not conduct their activities in the open. Often, they hid among the local population, using civilians as human shields. [5]  

The support of suicide bombings was not an impulsive decision by the Palestinian Arabs. At the beginning of the second intifada, known as the al-Aqsa Intifada, which erupted on September 29, 2000, in the Old City of Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, the Arabs used the same strategy employed by Hizballah to force the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to leave southern Lebanon—a combination of ambushes, drive-by shootings, and assaults on IDF outposts. The goal was to convince the Israeli public to regard these areas as liabilities and to compel the government to vacate them. [6]  

Yasser Arafat Confirms Ultimate Objective 

Yasser Arafat confirmed this goal and to drive Jews out of Israel in a discussion about the use of political warfare, its implication, and potential threat, in an interview in the Lebanese daily, An-Nahar on August 2, 1968. Historian Efraim Karsh who found the interview, said Arafat outlined the strategic objective of the organization as “the transfer of all the bases of resistance” in Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip, and areas which Israel took control during the [1967 Six Day] war, “in order to transform in stages the opposition into a popular revolutionary army.”  Therefore, Arafat said, the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization] could “hinder immigration and encourage the emigration of Israelis from the country … ruin tourism … weaken the Israeli economy in forcing Israelis to budget a large part of their resources for security purposes … the creation and maintenance of an atmosphere of tension and anxiety which would cause the Zionists to understand that they could not live in Israel,” — in a word, disrupt the Israeli way of life.” [7]   

In an address entitled “The Impending Collapse of Israel,” Yasser Arafat addressed a secret meeting of leading Arab diplomats in Stockholm’s Grand Hotel on January 30, 1996, at which he reportedly declared: There will be a massive influx of Arabs to “the West Bank and Jerusalem,” and that the psychological warfare the Palestinian Arabs will conduct against the Israelis will precipitate a massive emigration of Jews to the United States. “We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem” and claimed,”[Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin involved in negotiation of 1993 Oslo Accords] have already promised us half of Jerusalem. The Golan Heights have already been given away, subject to just a few details.” [8]  

Additionally, Arafat alleged that half of the Russian immigrants to Israel are actually Muslims, and after the expected civil war in Israel erupts, these Muslims will fight for a united Palestinian State.” He then said: “We of the PLO will now concentrate all our efforts on splitting Israel psychologically into two camps. Within five years, we will have six to seven million Arabs living on the West Bank and in Jerusalem. All Palestinian Arabs will be welcomed by us. If the Jews can import all kinds of Ethiopians, Russians, Uzbeks and Ukrainians as Jews, we can import all kinds of Arabs to us.” He added that the PLO plans “to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian State. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion; Jews won’t want to live among us Arabs.” [9]  

In an appeal for pan-Arab support, he assured the Arab diplomats: “I have no use for Jews; they are and remain Jews! We now need all the help we can get from you in our battle for a united Palestine under total Arab-Muslim domination!” [10] 

Information Ignored by Shimon Peres Government 

The information, which was confirmed as accurate, was disregarded by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Israel Television’s (government-sponsored Channel One) “premier Arab Affairs reporter and commentator,” wrote in his column in The Jerusalem Report of April 4, 1996: “The government of Israel already has, for example, full confirmation of the accuracy of the words Arafat has been quoted as saying in his meeting with Arab diplomats in Stockholm. He spoke there, as reported [by Arutz 7 Radio], about the ‘psychological pressure’ and ‘demographic pressure’ that will cause Israel to crumble in the end, and its Jews to run for cover. For reasons of momentary convenience, the [Peres] government chose not to challenge Arafat on his vision of the New Middle East. In the Israeli press, the item was pushed to the bottom of the inside pages.” [11]  

Peres continued refusing to act on Arafat’s duplicity and continuing efforts to destroy Israel. While signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, on the White House lawn, Shimon Peres remarked: “I could almost sense the breeze of a fresh spring, and my imagination began to wander to the skies of our land that may have become brighter to the eyes of all people, agreeing and opposing. On the lawn, you could almost hear the heavy tread of boots leaving the stage after a hundred years of hostility. You could have listened to the gentle tiptoeing of new steps making a debut in the awaiting world of peace.” [12]  

Peres assured his listeners that: “A higher standard of living is a precondition for mitigating the tensions among the Middle Eastern countries,” he said, adding that he wanted to fight poverty in the region “as if it were a military threat.” [13]   

Arab Perspective  

The Oslo Accords were viewed by the Palestinian Arabs as the first stage in Israel’s total defeat explains Bassam Tawil, a scholar based in the Middle East. By allowing the PLO to acquire control over large areas of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, the Israelis signaled they were “caving in to the violence and terrorism of the First Intifada.” [14]  

After Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but not until the IDF destroyed 21 Jewish communities and forcibly expelling more than 8,000 Jews from their homes, this was viewed as another Israeli defeat. The expulsion occurred after five years of the Second Intifada (September 2000 – September 2005), in which 1,100 Israelis were killed from homicide bombings, rocket attacks and other acts of violence. [15] 

Hamas leadership claimed their campaign of rocket attacks precipitated Israel’s flight from Gaza, which later facilitated their win in the Palestinian Arab parliamentary election on January 25, 2006. The lesson they learned Tawil says is: “Why bother negotiating when terror will do the trick?” [16]  


[1] Robert A. Pape, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (New York: Random House, 2005), 50, 6. 

[2] Gal Luft, “The Palestinian H-Bomb” Foreign Affairs  Volume 81 Issue 4 (July/August 2002): 5-7. 

[3]  Joseph Lelyveld, The New York Times Magazine (October 28, 2001); Pape, op.cit. 48-50. 

[4] Samuel M. Katz, The Ghost Warriors: Inside Israel’s Undercover War Against Suicide Terrorism (New York: Berkley Caliber, 2016), ix-x.  

[5] Ibid. xi-xii; Luft, op.cit. 

[6] Luft, op.cit. 

[7] Interview with Arafat, An-Nahar, Beirut, August 2, 1968 in Joël Fishman and Ephraim Karsh,  La Guerre d’Oslo (Paris: Editions de Passy, 2003). 


[9] Yedidya Atlas, “Stockholm Revisited,” Israel National News (May 10, 1996); 


[11] Ibid. 

[12] Shimon Peres, “Address by FM Peres to the United Nations General Assembly-28-Sep-93,” Israel Foreign Ministry (September 28, 1993); Shimon Peres, The New Middle East (New York: Henry Holt, 1993), 35-36; 115-117; 2; Geoffrey R. Watson, The Oslo Accords: International Law and the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreements (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Guy Ziv, Why Hawks Become Doves: Shimon Peres and Foreign Policy Change in Israel (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2014); Richard Landes (2019), “Oslo’s Misreading of an Honor-Shame Culture,” Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, 13:2, 189-205; Kenneth Levin, The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege (Hanover, New Hampshire: Smith and Kraus Global, 2005). 

[13]  Peres, The New Middle East, op.cit. 

[14] Bassam Tawil, “Palestinians: Israel’s Goodwill Gestures Send Wrong Messages,” Gatestone (June 2, 2017). 

[15] Ibid, Alex Grobman, “’Can’t Buy Me Love:’ The Folly of Woflensohn and Zuckerman and the Green Houses of Katif,” Israel National News (September 27, 2005). 

[16] Tawil, op.cit. 





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Dr. Alex Grobman is the senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society and a member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. He has an MA and PhD in contemporary Jewish history from The Hebrew university of Jerusalem. He lives in Jerusalem.