Wednesday, May 02, 2007

# Posted 11:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A PALESTINIAN CULTURE OF DEATH? Three months ago, as part of an extended debate with my colleague 'P', I attempted to answer the question "Why am I pro-Israel?" An important part of my answer to that question was that:
The total number of Palestinian suicide bombers -- both attempted and successful -- seems to be no more than a few hundred. Yet my sense is that there is much broader social infrastructure necessary to support such attacks. There are those who make the bombs. Those who train the bombers. Those who provide the funding. Those who capture the final testament of the bombers on video. How many individuals play such a supporting role? Perhaps a few thousand.

But the two kinds of supporters that frighten me most are the political leaders and the mothers of the suicide operatives. I have heard interviews with parents who swell with pride at the fact that their child gave his or her life in order to kill Israeli civilians. This indicates me to me that tens or hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are part of a soceity that values death and endless conflict much more than compromise and life.
P responded as follows:
For a culture that prides itself on assuming innocence until guilt is proven, we sure are quick to judge and condemn vast groupings of Arabs and Muslims whenever we feel like it. (Never mind that when we make disparaging comments about Palestinians, we are also impugning many Palestinian Christians, Samaritans, Socialists, Communists, secular progressives, etc.)

Instead of answering [David's question], I'm tempted to counter an absurd question (actually a thinly-veiled accusation) with the roughly analogous, "Prove to me that Israel isn't a cult of death and destruction after it just destroyed half of Lebanon and killed about 1,000 innocent people (one-third of them children, six of them U.N. observers or personnel) and then littered vast civilian areas with a million cluster bomblets for no militarily justifiable reason."
P's response raises some very significant questions about the ethics of war, but it never grapples with the fundamental question I raise in my post. I am not interested in whether Israelis or Palestinians have taken more innocent lives. My question is why so many Palestinians seem to celebrate the taking of innocent Israeli lives.

Like 'P', I hope to see the day when Jewish and Palestinian states will live side by side, in peace. Yet I fear that no such day will ever come if enough Palestinians believe in sacrificing their own children in order to kill the greatest possible number of Israelis. Or as Golda Meir put it long ago, “We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us”.

Given how violence and extremism attract attention, I would not be surprised if those Palestinians who do advocate suicide operations get considerably more press coverage than those who don't. Thus, what kind of evidence might be necessary to determine how influential the culture of death and martyrdom is within the Palestnian population?

I certainly can't provide a definitive answer to that question, although I can report on the evidence provided in a new documentary by Pierre Rehov entitled "Suicide Killers". Be warned, this is not a comprehensive portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a very focused examination of Palestinian suicide attacks. Israeli human rights violations are mentioned only in passing. Israelis in this film are primarily victims of terror.

Yet this shortage of context doesn't automatically invalidate the film's evidence that a passion for hatred and death are instilled in far too many Palestinian children.

The film's greatest strength is the extensive footage in which aspiring young martyrs are allowed to explain their motivations at length. In most cases, these would-be martyrs are available for interviews because their attacks failed and now they are in prison. There is one interivew, however, with a young man in a mask now training to become a martyr.

What is most striking about these attempted martyrs is not what they say, but how they say it. They are candid, calm, sincere and articulate. They are not wild, angry, loud or desperate or insane. These men and women have considered very carefully what they would do and whey they would do it.

As one might expect, the bombers' motivation is what they believe to be the message of the Koran. Sacrificing oneself to kill the enemy is pleasing to God, who rewards his servants in heaven.

Considered in isolation, the bombers themselves tells us very little about Palestinian society or culture. Did they become what they are because they are unusual individuals, or because their society values what they have become?

One answer to that question is provide through interviews with the parents and siblings of successful martyrs. Some are saddened by their loved ones' decision. Yet there are also parents who described how they raised their children from the very beginning to become martyrs.

The film also provides footage of young boys in a paramilitary summer camp. A staff member at the camp then explains that it is preparing the boys for struggle and martyrdom. The film also includes footage of various parades in which children are dressed up as martyrs, with white hoods over their faces and fake dynamite around their waists.

What it's impossible to know on the basis of this film is how extensive such behavior is and how the majority of Palestinians feels about it. I certainly would not conclude on the basis of this film that there is a Palestinian culture of death. It's evidence is impressionistic, not systematic.

Yet how can there be even a few score or a few hundred children raised to wear masks and dynamite? As it turns out, one of the proud mothers of three martyrs is known as Umm Nidal and was elected to parliament on the Hamas ticket in 2006. During the campaign, Umm Nidal was very candid about the pride she has in her martyred sons.

What does this mean? Clearly, the most effective and popular political organization in the West Bank and Gaza not only tolerates but takes pride in the perverse ideology of suicide murder. And what does that say about Palestinian culture as a whole? I'm not sure.

In the aftermath of Hamas' victory at the polls, many explained Palestinian voting behavior as a rejection of Fatah's corruption and incompetence rather than an endorsement of Hamas' vicious ideology. Yet Palestinians seemed to be fully aware of what Hamas stood and did not let it deter them.

Personally, I would like to learn more about the messages broadcast by the Palestinian media, clergy, and educational system. Once in passing, the film refers to Palestinian schools that glorify martyrdom. But we see no direct evidence. The film also includes several clips from Palestinian and Lebanese television that are violently anti-Semitic. Although I wouldn't be surprised if the film chose some of the most provocative clips, the simple fact that influential media chose repeatedly to broadcast such terrible hate speech implies that there is a significant audience for it.

This post will not end with any firm conclusions. Yet one cannot dismiss as absurd or racist the hypothesis that Palestinian suicide bombers are the product of their culture and not an exception to it. At the same time, far more evidence is required before reaching the conclusion that a collection of highly disturbing images represents an accurate portrayal of mainstream Palestinian opinion.

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(16) opinions -- Add your opinion

"Did they become what they are because they are unusual individuals, or because their society values what they have become?"

Uh, how about considering some alternatives? Perhaps certain exogenous factors like, say, 40 years of military occupation, are SOMEHOW responsible for producing a culture that is violent, even vicious, in its attitude and behavior toward Israelis?

Palestinians in the West Bank live under veritable APARTHEID, which is to say that Israel bestows on Israelis and Palestinians living in the same territory vastly unequal human and civil rights.

700 kilometers of roads in the West Bank are restricted to Palestinian traffic. Only Israelis can travel on them. 800 Palestinians are currently being held in administrative detention, which means that they have not been charged with any crime.

In 1993 Israel declared that it was moving toward a process of reconciliation with the Palestinians that most people believed would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Since then the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has MORE THAN DOUBLED, thus greatly complicating any future territorial settlement.

Certainly, terror against innocent people is a horrible and completely unjustifiable response to these depravities. But it is obtuse of you to look only at Palestinian culture and society if you're trying to understand where Palestinian hatred for Israelis comes from.
I hate to be flippant, but duh! This is one reason why Americans are overwhelmingly pro- Israel, and have become more so in the last few years.

How many cultures in the world are oppressed or dispossed? How many send their children to blow themselves up? Outside the middle east, only the Tamils. This is not a normal reaction to someone taking your land and treating you badly. American Indians don't try to kill me on the way to work, and they got it worse.

It's sick. I used to sympathize with the Palestinians, but I just can't support people who celebrate sending children to blow up children. No matter how bad they have it, there's simply no justification for that.

Our soldiers aren't trying to die. We want them to come home. What kind of culture is glad that their children won't ever come back?
As an Israeli Jew living this horror day by day I have to say congrats for finally figuring out what Israel is up against.

Don't tell me it's about occupation. If it were, Palestinians would try to carry out more NON-VIOLENT protests, gain more political power or
pressure for more international interference.

Don't tell me it's about patriotism and honor. If it were, Palestinians wouldn't so cowardly seek to hit weak spots like buses, disco clubs or wedding halls.

Don't tell me it's about race or religion. Judaism and Islam are closely related, we are practically brothers for G-d sake. Even the most radical of Muslim leaders state use to blame Zionism, not Judaism in their preachings.

The Palestinians need to lie, portray themselves as the victim in the eyes of the world, when REALLY Israel offered to settle with them so many times that we lost count here. We gave them WEAPONS in 1993, meaning that WE WERE ALREADY THEN PREPARED FOR THEM TO BECOME A STATE! We withdrew from Gaza, just to be hit by more Qassam rockets in further depth of Israel. We stopped the assaults on their terrorist leaders just to get Hamas in power.

The Palestinians do not understand and will not understand any language other than the language of death and destruction.

The only solution is to separate totally, like in Cyprus. I don't want to see, hear or be near them.
Not because I hate them as a race, people, religion or any other bullshit. Only because they blow their children in the heart of my country and their parents are f#$ckin' proud. I hate people that want their children to DIE in the name of whatever.

Welcome to our world, people.
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to me that tens or hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are part of a soceity that values death and endless conflict much more than compromise and life.

Did you ask yourself why this happen?
Did they have this attitude for no reasons?

This an interview with Alison Weir of If Americans Knew. Producers: Paul Chek and John Odam (2006)
May open the doors for your question and in lights your mind to answer why “Palestinians are part of a society that values death and endless conflict
There was a piece on the role of the Palestinian education system in inciting violence and perpetuating a culture of anti-semitism and whatnot in "Terrorism and Political Violence" a few years ago. Needless to say, it did not make encouraging reading. Although many people like to believe that Palestinian actions occur as a natural reaction to Israeli oppression (in fairness, it seems to me that there's little doubt that in some areas the Israelis haven't exactly helped themselves), the reality is that the Palestinian Authority has been operating what amounts to wholesale indoctrination of Palestinian youth and active incitement to violence. It ought to be noted that this comes in direct violation of commitments made to the EU in exchange for financial aid. In fairness, I believe that Abbas has done a reasonable amount to curb the worst excesses and that the situation is somewhat better, but how long that will last under the current regime I'm not sure.

Palestinians have some legitimate beef. However, as John Lynch notes, the reality is that the world is full of oppressed people, many far more brutally and comprehensively than the Palestinians and most of them develop forms of resistance that don't involve the mass dissemination of weird conspiracy theories and deliberately blowing up women and kids in cafes. Too many pro-Palestinians try to absolve the Palestinians of individual agency by suggesting that that is simply what happens when people are oppressed, as night following day. But the historical record simply doesn't support this.

On the flip side, I'd agree with es that a number of Israeli policies make a final territorial settlement increasingly difficult.
Reasons aren't choices. People are not robots. They don't automatically respond to stimulus. Oppression does not equal suicide bombing. Human beings choose their actions. They are responsible for their actions. Anything less and they are not human.

People choose how to react to oppression. The Palestinian choice is death. It does not have to be. They are not mindless animals. They have minds, they have souls. They should be held accountable as human beings rather than be regarded as lab rats in too small a cage exhibiting agressive behavior.

It's not understandable, it's not natural, it's not normal. It's a deliberate choice.

At least give the Palestinians the status of human beings in control of their own actions.
You assume that Palestinians 'celebrate' mass Israeli deaths, hence that there is a broader culture of death in Palestine.

Are Israelis shedding tears when Palestinians are killed (and obviously far more Palestinians than Israelis have been killed, even though, most conveniently, you don't care about the numbers game). Given that Israelis too, certainly in private, and often in public express no remorse and do celebrate Palestinian deaths, why should we NOT assume that they have a culture of death too?

Maybe, and to the commenter above: if you guys are so similar, maybe that's the problem. You BOTH have this culture of death. Don't tell the Palestinians about 'weak spots'- once you've weakened them you give them no option but to hit your weak spots- for god's sake, take a look at the power disparity. It's not like Israelis don't hit at weak spots- how many Israeli versus Palestinian children have been killed btw?

David, you're Jewish and American. And your instinct is to support Israel. Please don't find spurious reasons to do so. Just say you do.
All right, Anne. I do. You can read about it here.

Yet I have found throughout my discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that it never helps to reduce anyone's opinions to their religion or nationality.

Look at the diversity of Israeli Jewish opinion. And if you happen to watch Pierre Rehov's documentary, you'll notice he interviews several Palestinian Muslims who passionately oppose suicide bombing.

Now, Anne, may I ask for a clarification? You write that "Israelis too, certainly in private, and often in public express no remorse and do celebrate Palestinian deaths."

Which Israelis do you have in mind? That is a serious question, not a rhetorical one.

I am aware of certain settlers who venerate Baruch Goldstein and other Jewish terrorists. Yet from what I know, no political party and no member of the Knesset have ever celebrated the murder of Palestinian civilians.

Sadly, there are some MK's like Avigdor Lieberman who talk about the mass expulsion of Palestinians. This is an embarrassment. But it is also very different from running for office like Umm Nidal, by advertising that one has raised three sons to murder Israeli civilians.
Anne, there are Israelis who have been imprisoned for abuse of Palestinians. I'm not sure if the juries or prosecution cry, though.

David, what more evidence on Palestinian popular opinion would you want to see? I doubt you would get very far with your anti-McCain colleagues arguing that while one of the two most effective and popular political organizations in the US not only tolerates but takes pride in opposing abortion, it's hard to say that reflects anything about American culture. Is there anyone arguing the culture of death is not widespread? Even the Palestinian apologists on this thread at least are justifying rather than denying it. At most I suppose there could be disagreement over whether the culture of death is a true majority position or a disproportionately vocal and powerful minority, and I don't see why that distinction would matter.

For the Israelis on the thread: why not just unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state, and declare war on it?
Why would anyone be suprised at the Death Cult culture of the Palestinian Arabs after the founding of Israel when it is the same Death Cult culture that existed before the founding of Israel?

Take a look at the existing photos from the Hebron massacres for some historical perspective.
I find that the best way to end any form of conflict, is to work out who is to blame for the conflict.
Well probably not, but it is soothing for the ego to be absolved of any culpability.
Did you ask yourself why this happen?
Did they have this attitude for no reasons?

What strange questions! Do people ask themselves why Rwandan Hutus might have wanted to slaughter Rwandan Tutsis? Or why Bosnian Serbs might have wanted to slaughter Bosnian Muslims? Or why Sudanese Janjaweed might want to slaughter Darfurians?

By now surely we should all realize that genocidal racist murderousness isn't some kind of bizarre anomaly, but rather a terrible, evil path that societies sometimes choose collectively to take. We can condemn it, and certainly should do our best to stop it, but it's happened far too often to require any special pathological or circumstantial explanations. Palestinians are hardly the first society to devote itself wholeheartedly to murdering their neighbors, and they're very unlikely to be the last.

For the Israelis on the thread: why not just unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state, and declare war on it?
Because unlike what people are used to seeing in the media, IDF stands for Defense Force. It's not declaring war on anyone anytime soon.
The message we might take from this is that religious radicalism is dangerous regardless of the religion. closets
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