Suicides and sling-shots

I’ve always thought that if modern Palestinians employed actual sling-shots, rather than suicide belts, against the occupation, they would gain far more sympathy.

Jarndyce wonders if he has a “famous fan”. His point last year, asking when it is rational to kill yourself seems to be repeated by Timothy Garton-Ash at Comment Is Free. A fascinating point is that suicide bombings occur more frequently against democracies, rather than insurgencies against dictatorships who will deny them the oxygen of publicity. The fact that suicide bombers are not usually poor or uneducated is mentioned in both posts too.

A noticable phrase from the Garton-Ash redux:

Palestinian suicide bombers … preferred “sacred explosions”. “We do not have tanks or rockets,” said one, “but we have something superior – our exploding Islamic human bombs. In place of a nuclear arsenal, we are proud of our arsenal of believers.” That comment reflects another common feature: suicide missions are generally carried out by the weaker side, in conflicts marked by a sharp asymmetry of military force. They are a weapon of David against Goliath.

An ironic metaphor indeed: David was an Israeli, and Goliath a Philistine (in modern parlance, a Palestinian). Further irony in that a more common weapon employed by the intifada is the brick, thrown by teenagers at IDF vehicles. Not so different from the sling-shot David used to defeat Goliath. I’ve always thought that if modern Palestinians employed actual sling-shots, rather than suicide belts, against the occupation, they would gain far more sympathy from their Israeli neighbours, not to mention world-wide.

10 thoughts on “Suicides and sling-shots”

  1. The fact that suicide bombers are not usually poor or uneducated is mentioned in both posts too.

    To be fair, he sources Diego Gambetta’s book for that piece of information, which is also my source (acknowledged in my post, too) for that, and for research that shows that suicide bombers aren’t in fact “suicidal”. What I thought was curious, though, was him mentioning “rationality” twice, even using the phrase “rational choice”, when my post was about rational choice theory.

    Probably just bloggocks, obviously, but hey, it filled a post…

  2. Rob,
    Palestinians do use sling shots against the Israelis! This practice was popularised in the first Intifada, and it is continues to be employed in the second intifada far more frequently than suicide bombings – although, of course, for obvious reasons, it doesn’t garner the same degree of press coverage as suicide bombings.

    Contrary to your claim, Palestinians gained no sympathy from their Israeli neighbours for their use of slingshots in the first or second intifada, so far as I can tell (although intl public opinion was generally sympathetic to its widespread use in the first intifada).

    Israel’s strategy has been – and remains – to respond to any display of resistance to its occupation with crushing military force out of all proportion. One of the reasons why suicide bombings became more widespread in the second intifada, was that certain resistance groups turned to ever-more-desperate measures to express their resistance to Israel’s ever-more-violent occupation.

    To read testimonies of former and current Israeli soldiers working to ‘break the silence’ on Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, visit Breaking the Silence here:
    http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/testimony_en.asp

  3. One of the reasons why suicide bombings became more widespread in the second intifada, was that certain resistance groups turned to ever-more-desperate measures to express their resistance to Israel’s ever-more-violent occupation.

    Indeed! What better way to express ones resistance than murdering innocent civilians in a pizza parlour!

  4. Indeed! What better way to express ones resistance than murdering innocent civilians in a pizza parlour!

    Indeed! and what better way to defend against such attacks than by shooting at kids!

    There must be a way past this paradigm.

  5. Tim,

    I’m not seeking to justify suicide bombings; only to place their development in the context of this conflict. (For the record, I think that suicide attacks are an immoral, desperate and counterproductive form of resistance. But to deny that their employment by Palestinians is anything but an act of resistance against Israeli occupation is sheer blindness).
    Rob’s post to his visit to Hebron is instructive in this regard. The first Palestinian suicide attack actually occurred following US-born Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 30 Muslim worshippers inside the Ibrahimi Mosque / Tomb of the Patriarchs, in which approximately 100 other Palestinians were wounded. The attack took place during Ramadan on Feb 25, 1994. Goldstein was wearing his IDF uniform at the time. (Which is one reason why it resonated when another settler killed several Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Arab city of Shafa’amr last year http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article4096.shtml) In response to the Goldstein massacre, Hamas launched its first ever suicide bombing on April 13, 1994, killing 5 Israelis in Afula.

    To give just one more tast of life under occupation; on Wednesday, Israeli troops invaded central Ramallah to rescue a unit of ‘Mistaravim’ (Israeli secret agents disguised as Palestinians) who were stuck in a building in the Manara during an operation to arrest an Islamic Jihad activist. The Manara is the most central place in Ramallah – in terms of centrality, the equivalent of Picadilly Circus. Needless to say, that didn’t stop Israeli occupation forces invading in the middle of the day with over a dozen armored vehicles, and clearing the area in a matter of moments. Four Palestinians were shot dead by the Israeli army killed and many more were injured. The ambulances carrying the dead and injured screamed past our home on the way to the hopsital. It was all very dramatic; although apparently the Western media didn’t think so – the coverage appears to have been scarce. http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/2A7375D1-8077-4D95-91E5-8CC7DC866431.htm

    Presumably if a foreign army invaded the de-facto administrative capital of another territory elsewhere in the middle of the day to rescue its secret agents, that would merit news coverage. For Palestinians living here, it only exposed – yet again – the meaninglessness of the terms Palestinian ‘Authority’ and Palestinian ‘Government’. Only ‘governments’ under occupation are as helpless as ours.

  6. The first Palestinian suicide attack actually occurred following US-born Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein’s massacre

    I did not know that.

  7. Indeed! What better way to express ones resistance than murdering innocent civilians in a pizza parlour!

    Indeed! and what better way to defend against such attacks than by shooting at kids!

    There must be a way past this paradigm.

    You have missed the point, not for the first time, by a country mile. My issue was with the way that suicide bombings are couched in terms of “expressing resistance”. Suicide bombings are an act, not an expression. Start treating them as acts and you might find your discussions move along paradigm-free.

  8. Don’t worry Tim, others have been ruder.

    I am well aware that terrorism is an act, and not an expression or an ideology. I have explicity stated as much in the past. What gets my goat is precisely that people treat it as an ideology that can be vanquished. The ‘War on Terror’ rhetoric is dangerous and misleading.

    However, the adage “war is the rich man’s terrorism; terrorism is the poor man’s war” rings true for me here. Just as you (rightly) have an issue with people calling suicide bombers “expressions of resistance”, so others have an issue with so called “expressions of defence” (if we can call it that) by the state of Israel. The Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is inhumane, and counter-productive to the stated aim of peaceful co-existance. Whether it is counter-productive to the project of ‘Greater-Israel’ I will leave for others to argue.

    The paradigm I refer to is the discussion over whether it is more or less inhumane than suicide bombing, and whether one justifies the other. As the sun sets over the Dome of the Rock and the Wailing Wall, there are a load of dead people in the morgue. Many are teenagers. Some are combatants. Most are innocent. Any attempt to claim the moral high-ground will always be rebutted by the other side, hence my one-liner response to your one-liner.

  9. Just as you (rightly) have an issue with people calling suicide bombers “expressions of resistance”, so others have an issue with so called “expressions of defence” (if we can call it that) by the state of Israel.

    If you can find me a single example of anyone describing Israel’s actions as an expression, I’d be amazed.

    The Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is inhumane, and counter-productive to the stated aim of peaceful co-existance.

    The Israeli stated aim of peaceful co-existence is very much secondary to Israel’s continued existence, even if unpeaceful. Having seen off no less than 3 invasions from an occupied West Bank (only occupied by Arabs), Israel has every right to believe that should it return the West Bank to Arab rule, it will be used once again as a launchpad for an invasion.

    Israel knows damn well that no matter how well it treats Palestinians they will always face an existential threat from its neighbours, and so it at present has no incentive to treat them better by returning their land for a peace which will never come.

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