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He who allows oppression shares the crime.
- Desiderius Erasmus



Understanding Suicide Bombers


Àine Fox


Living under occupation is something that Irish nationalists can understand and sympathise with. Irish people historically have had many links with other oppressed nations like our own. When we look at conflict situations we often see what others elsewhere cannot, as their experiences do not equate to the same outcome - where their basic human rights have been denied and when armed conflict has been utilised as a last option and gateway to freedom. As we are all aware of, one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter and now in this age of waging ‘wars against terror’ the plight of the Palestinian people is being lost among international rhetoric.

To understand people’s actions you have to understand the situation. It is the occupation of a people's land and the genocide of a nation. Problematic though this situation is as there are those who object to factual truths thus denying millions of people the right to return to their land and homes. Instead they are exiled to neighbouring countries to live in refugee camps. However if a person is of Jewish faith regardless of their nationality they are permitted Israeli citizenship and a right to live in the region with many bonuses including free housing and exemption of taxes for a set period. The bulldozing of Palestinian homes - as quoted from Amnesty International - 'Houses and infrastructure have been shelled and demolished without regards for the rules of the fourth Geneva Convention -which prohibits collective punishments including the destruction of property.'

Accompanied by the extension of Israeli settler villages on areas that have been in possession of the Palestinians for thousands of years previous are the cutting off water supplies and destroying crops. And these are only a few examples and merely the tip of the iceberg of the terror the Palestinian people have had to face against an occupier that is funded generously by the USA government to the tune of almost 5 billion dollars a year, three quarters of which is spent on armoury and weapons. The Palestinian people have no access to any similar international funding revenues.

The international community are planning with anticipation another attack on Iraq for not fulfilling UN Security Council resolution in regards to weapons inspection. Israel has not responded to over a hundred UN resolutions from over five different councils in regards to Palestine and its occupation by Israel. Yet there is no international pressure or threat of attacking Israel. Deemed as one of Americas allies, yet they did nothing to aid the so called post September 11th " War against Terrorism". The only thing Sharon did to impact at this time of U.S. need was to escalate his own so called war. Still the US continues to support Sharon’s administration.

The international picture depicted is one of Israel under attack and their military actions nothing but retaliatory. This scenario can be understood if we look to how the British government treated and still does "Bloody Sunday" where attacks on civilians were covered up by a fabric of lies. Those murdered, depicted as terrorists regardless of so called proof, forensic or otherwise. This is the approach taken by the Israeli government in its daily practices in Palestine. Ariel Sharon has been quoted as saying 'Palestinians are animals that walk on two feet'. Israeli Air Force spokesperson stated recently on a BBC News interview that the Apache helicopters missiles where the most surgically effective weapon Israel had in eliminating the Palestinian people, stating also that most people out on the streets of occupied territories at times of attack were gunmen. This, despite the thousands of civilians including the newborn and the elderly who have fallen victim to murder at the hands of IDF.

During Sharon’s election bid for Prime Minister his campaign focus was on security for the Israeli people. The period from Sharon has taken power has proven to be one of the most brutal in decades and suicide bombs have increased and currently are occurring on an almost daily basis, decreasing the security of the Israeli people.

The disinformation however continually delivered by the government in connection with a variety of killing scenarios, international journalists, observers and clergy have been murdered by IDF (Israeli Defence Forces). Disinformation in the north of Ireland it’s almost a characteristic of the terrain. Even though we have an elected cross community representation we are still witness to the disinformation given to us by the so called powers that be - in Palestine’s case those powers are the Israeli government headed by a ruthless murderer, who is currently wanted for war crimes against the people of Shabra and Shatilla in which he constructed the massacres of over three thousand people - Prime minister Ariel Sharon.

The Palestinian people have lost their land, their homes, their lives, their human rights and ultimately their freedom. They are out numbered, out gunned and internationally unsupported. Their leader, Yasser Arafat, (at time of writing) is being held at force by armed IDF personnel in his Ramallah headquarters. Ariel Sharon delivering an ultimatum that he can leave Ramallah only if he agrees to go into exile - that is, he has to leave the country. The little resources the Palestinian Authority have are continually bombed including their emergency services and hospitals and even their policemen. After bombing them into almost non-existence the Israeli government well then beseech the Palestinian authority to fight against alleged terrorists such as Hamas; to arrest and imprison them even though the holding facilities have also been destroyed. The Israeli power structure will place the responsibility for peace consistently on the Palestinian people yet continue to assassinate their leaders and murder their children as well as a multitude of others.

When retaliation finally meets the Israeli structure in the form of ‘suicide bombs’ the world hears immediately and condemns them outright. The condemnation of a variety of massacres the Palestinian have suffered are still to be heard. The ongoing occupation of their land is forgotten as the basis of this conflict and instead mainstream media outlets will have us believe that the basis of conflict are the attacks by Palestinians against Israel.

This disinformation needs to be addressed; the mindset of people oblivious to the suffering and terrorism the Palestinian nation face at the hands of a brutal Israeli regime should be echoed around the world. The state of Israel exists mainly because of the events of World War 2 when Hitler attempted to eradicate their people - today they are doing the same to those who rightfully own the land on which they live. A single line in the Torah stating that they are the promised people and this is their promised land is the claim, which they stick to as they do onto others what was done onto them. The attempted genocide of an entire nation. Thousands have died and further thousands will also die as daily Israeli forces are taking over more and more Palestinian land and attacking with greater force than before.

So what would motivate a person to be a suicide bomber?

Placing ourselves within the context of another, this concept known as empathy may not always be possible. To fully empathise with a person one has to accept and understand where the individual is coming from - firstly being their experiences and the causal factors which led to the series of actions/attitudes displayed. In the case of a so called "suicide bomber" how do you empathise with someone who chooses to arm him/herself with explosives and then strategically place themselves to cause death and injuries to both themselves and those within their close vicinity, Be it military targets or civilian?

We therefore have to firstly look to where the person ‘is at’. So folks imagine you living in a refugee camp, your family holding deeds to land and keys to a home that is occupied by Israeli citizens. Your schools are regularly bombed, friends and family have been murdered by IDF and also by the Israelis who occupy the settlement villages. In one situation an Israeli settler shot dead an 11-year-old Palestinian child for throwing stones and was given 6 months community service by a court. There are instances in which young children throwing stones at tanks have been shot dead. Children in the refugee camp in which you live have been snipered off while at play injured for life or killed. You are stereotyped and deemed as a terrorist because of your appearance and where you live. You carry an ID card so IDF know you are Palestinian, you cannot move freely and if stopped trying to cross a checkpoint, which are heavily armed, you will be murdered. If and when arrested you are made to line up blindfolded and have numbers written on your person to detach you from any identity. This is reminiscent of occurrences during WW2 when Jews were assigned numbers and also symbols depicting who they were, similarly to strip them of any identity or personage.

You have little or no access to an education system and employment structures. Life chances are at an all time low. The young people around you are dying, living in exile or working within their communities to protect their families. It is these instances of the innate need to protect that - like our own struggle in the North of Ireland - brought young people to organised groups who are willing to take up arms to protect their people against the relentlessness of aggressors and also to engage in armed conflict with their aim being freedom. (Freedom of course being a subjective concept as what it is defined by one may differ from the definition of another)

The force with which the Palestinian people face daily in comparison to the weapons and technology they own is like placing the Irish army to battle it out with the entire US war machine. Stones Vs Tanks - who do you, think usually, will win? So with little access to arms or the technology that the aggressors use against them including Apache helicopters and F16 fighter planes supplied courtesy of Uncle Sam, what will you do next? You have no way out of this world of terror and death you have experienced from birth and you have made the choice to protect your people (or well maybe some readers may have joined the exiles - though not I), when as a nation of people you are faced with losing everything you have ever had or wished for, those around you who have chosen to fight for freedom will do so within whichever means possible.

To understand the context of the individual or groups is essential before one can make an honest conclusion as to whether a suicide bomber is a fundamentalist wacko as the Israeli and world media would have you delightfully believe or are they people who have suffered more than you or I could ever imagine that feel they have no way out but to commit themselves to fighting for their freedom in whichever means they can. Let us not forget that the world did not understand why Irish republicans made the choice to use their bodies as weapons - political weapons and starve to death on a hunger strike to prove to the world they could fight back by whatever means necessary. As hundreds of Turkish prisoners and their supporters are currently doing in Turkey to highlight their treatment and conditions. With over 80 people dead their death fast continues. The International community fails to intervene here also.

For organised groupings as Hamas or Al-Jihad the use of individuals as weapons is effective against the Israeli structures - highlighting that they can cause an impact on their aggressors, regardless of how much they try to eliminate them. For a person to sacrifice their life for this scenario is overwhelming. There are no tanks there are no planes there are no vast supplies of weapons and ammunition. There are however individuals referred to as martyrs who will carry out their task, their final mission, because they believe in no other effective technique. Reminiscent of Japanese Kamikaze pilots during WW2 who chose/ or were ordered to fly their planes into selected targets. These soldiers were revered by their nation, they were viewed as heroes who where willing to make a noble sacrifice. Their enemies, mainly American, did at times state having respect for the conviction of the kamikaze pilots.

Moralists will argue that to take ones one life in this manner is wrong, it is goes against many religious beliefs held including that of Muslim faiths. But the moralists have never had to live with what the Palestinian people do every minute. An old Native American Indian saying: 'You cannot judge any man unless you have walked at least a mile in his moccasins'.

We cannot ignore the causes of a problem - without occupation and oppression suicide bombers would not exist. If one is looking to manage a conflict and cease suicide bombs occurring the answer is not to isolate the leader of the people, ask for ceasefires and then assassinate rebellion leaders. The answer is not rolling into the West Bank and Jerusalem and further devastating the region and its people. This will bring nothing but enhanced bitterness and another generation of potential suicide bombers and fodder for trigger happy IDF soldiers;.

Sharon and his administration do not want peace they never did if we are to believe that actions speak louder than words. And peace seeking actions to one's knowledge excludes daily bombings and shootings from land, air and sea on an entire nation of people that he claims are terrorists. The perceived terrorists are a nation of people who have stated that they want peace - but who are not going to sacrifice every right they have as a human beings to get there.



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