The Reality of Suicide Bombing
Most people of good will should be able to condemn not only suicide bombing but ANY act of wanton killing whether it is done by our side (“good guys”) or the their side (“bad guys”). Unfortunately the Israel/Palestine dispute has so polarized people that they have no hesitation in condemning the other side without ever seeking to understand. All too often, seeking to understand the other is seen as taking sides by people blinded by partisanship.
Early in September 2003, I came across an online petition headed, “A Call for UN & World Leaders to Prosecute organizers of Suicide/Homicide Bombings Against Civilians as War Criminals”. Basically, it stated that suicide bombings and acts of terror against civilians are crimes against humanity and genocide. It also reiterated a growing position that suicide bombers are raised from infancy by the parents to become suicide bombers and went further to call that “political, governmental, military and religious organizations and their leaders and supporters be prosecuted by the International War Crimes Tribunal”. Presumably this related to the suicide bombers and not to world leadership.
I tried to engage the promoter of the petition Dr. Edward S. Beck, head of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East in an e-dialogue. I told him I could get a large number of Muslims and Arabs to sign on to the petition if he would broaden the focus from only suicide bombers to include all who kill non-combatants especially women and children. He disagreed so vehemently that after calling me a supporter of terrorism, he abruptly called off the discussion and threatened to report me for harassment if I contacted him again.
The sad reality is that Dr. Beck’s position is no surprise; in fact the voices against suicide bombings are as numerous as they are ill-informed.
Many “Scholars” accuse Islam of promoting Suicide bombings with promises of virgins in Heaven…Heaven supposedly being guaranteed to suicide bombers. These “scholars” fail to explain why there are women suicide bombers. They also accuse leaders like Saddam Hussain of Iraq, Muammer Qaddhafi of Libya and the Saudi rulers of financing and encouraging such efforts by giving $10,000 to the families of every suicide bomber in Israel/Palestine.
Suicide bombers usually load themselves with explosives and crude but effective projectiles (nails etc.,) that indiscriminately tear through bodies of children, women and men. The bombers leave grieving and maimed children and parents whose grief is no less than the grief of any Arab parent or child; the act is senseless, cruel and does nothing to salve the generations of pain between Jews on one side and Christians and Muslims on the other. Indeed, if the bombers wished to demonstrate to the Jews the pain that the Arabs may feel, they fail miserably. Suicide bombing is a heinous crime that is condemned in Islam on at least two counts. Islam absolutely condemns suicide; Islam equally strongly condemns the killing of innocents.
Whosoever kills a human being other than (in punishment) for manslaughter or causing corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all humanity, and whoso saved the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all humanity. (Al-Ma’idah 5:32)
The Quran is equally specific that while the price of one injury is a similar injury to the perpetrator, it pleases God more if the injured should forgive the aggressor.
The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): But if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God: For God loves not those who do wrong. (Ash-Shura 42:40)
Suicide bombing is also not simply a Muslim phenomenon; it has also been carried out by Hindus and Buddhists in India and Sri Lanka. It has also been carried by Muslims against Jews, Christians and on other Muslims as well.
The claim that parents groom their children to become suicide bombers (“martyr”) is a product of an active and fanciful imagination. One has only to see the grieving faces of the families of suicide bombers to see how much the loss of their child meant to them. Most have reacted with shock and surprise that their child would even think of becoming a suicide bomber. Far from grooming their child, most parents have stated that they would have tied the child down if they had known s-he was going to commit such an act.
There have been some Arab families who have voiced support for the “martyrdom” of their child but usually this is bravado born of public exposure where they feel they must say what their society expects them to say. Not long ago, there was a Jewish settler family that lost a child to a Palestinian gunman. When asked, the grieving mother said this loss would never get her family to move out of the settlement even if she had to sacrifice all her other children. She unwittingly provided two sides of the same rhetoric.
There are countries that give $10,000 or a little more but that sum is given to the families of EVERY Palestinian killed in Israel/Palestine. During the three years ending on 29 September 2003, Israelis killed 3,163 Palestinians all of whom got this “bonus”. During the same period not even one percent of these were suicide bombers. Even if we assume that suicide bombers are looking at this bounty as a path to family financial security, one cannot explain how this offsets the loss of the homes that cost a lot more to build. After every suicide bombing the Israeli Army destroys at least the home where the lived suicide bomber regardless of the fact that s-he may have been living in the parents’ home. Sometimes, the Israeli Army destroys surrounding homes as well. In one recent case, the Army was so intent on killing a single Palestinian suspect that they blew up an entire seven-story building while the families watched in frustration and horror. The Israeli Army got their man.
The term “Genocide” is being more and more commonly invoked among supporters of Israel to describe acts by the Palestinians, suicide bombings in particular. The crime of genocide is defined in international law in Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Among the many clauses that can apply to Israel is Section ‘C’ which states, “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. This includes the deliberate deprivation of resources
Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The Genocide Convention was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948. The Convention entered into force on 12 January 1951. More than 130 nations have ratified the Genocide Convention and over 70 nations have made provisions for the punishment of genocide in domestic criminal law. The text of Article II of the Genocide Convention was included as a crime in Article 6 of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The following (in part) are genocidal acts when committed as part of a policy to destroy a group’s existence:
1. Killing members of the group includes direct killing and actions causing death.
2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm includes inflicting trauma on members of the group through widespread torture, rape, sexual violence, forced or coerced use of drugs, and mutilation.
3. Deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to destroy a group includes the deliberate deprivation of resources needed for the group’s physical survival, such as clean water, food, clothing, shelter or medical services. Deprivation of the means to sustain life can be imposed through confiscation of harvests, blockade of foodstuffs, detention in camps, forcible relocation or expulsion into deserts.
Each of the above are actions committed routinely and regularly by various Israeli services such as the Army, Shin Beth, Border Patrol and even the settlers, on the Palestinians All of the above actions are justified as unavoidable because of the threat to Israel’s existence or because of the so-called “ticking bomb” doctrine. It would appear that it is Israel that is perpetrating genocide on the Palestinians.
Why do some Palestinians become suicide bombers?
Palestinians have little left to hope for and literally nothing to lose; they see only deprivation at the hands of their occupiers and no future for their children. Every day is another humiliating experience if not directly at the hands of an overbearing Israeli soldier then simply as another day without options. Most Palestinians have witnessed the killing or beating of one of their relatives at the hands of the Israeli forces. Many Palestinians are forced to serve as spies because they are threatened with jailing or torture of their loved ones or themselves directly; or, they are told that the health care they so desperately need for themselves or their loved ones, will only come if they become informants. Once they begin to work as spies then their lives depend on how well their work is received by their Israeli handlers or they are threatened with exposure.
Almost everything they have of value is either taken away or destroyed by Israel. Even water is piped out by Israeli companies from near villages that are not allowed to dig their own wells and this water is then sold to the same villagers.
Houses are demolished on pretexts of permit violations, while permits are hardly ever given to Palestinians. Orchards are razed for “security” concerns while similar neighboring orchards belonging to Jewish settlers are left alone. The uprooted trees are sometimes removed by Jewish businessmen under the watchful eye of the Army and sold to Jewish homes.
When it is time for harvest, many farmers are kept from reaping the crops by settlers who fire at them or by the Army which declares the areas closed. The latest insult, the wall (called the “fence” by the Israelis) only serves to cut farmers off from more of their fields and orchards. As one Palestinian said, “If they want the security of a wall and safety zones, let them build it on their land!”
Even a calling for an ambulance is a futile exercise because the Army rarely allows ambulances through nor does it allow the sick to be taken to the hospital very easily. There are many, many cases of people dying or giving birth (many stillborn) at the checkpoints because the Army would not allow the person to pass another hundred yards to a waiting ambulance on the other side.
Israeli tanks fire shells at Palestinian homes, shells that disperse steel fletchettes that can pass though concrete walls; shells that take indiscriminate toll of lives of bystanders, of women and children. The Army also positions snipers who are ordered to kill anyone “who poses a threat”, even children “who look 13 years or older”. Children as young as eight years old have been shot holding rocks in their hands or, simply while on their way to school. The Israeli Air Force fires missiles at suspects who may even be innocent with complete disregard for bystanders who in many cases are women and children and are killed in greater numbers than the suspects. Often, even the killing of Palestinians by the Army goes unreported as if it were an inconsequential incident.
During the past three years if this Intifada, 3,163 Palestinians were killed of whom 502 were children, 200 of them under 15 years of age. In the same period 552 Israeli civilians (including some Arabs) were killed of whom 100 were under the age of 18; and additional 226 Israeli soldiers were killed on active duty.
Conducting business is nearly impossible for Palestinians; taking vegetables to the Israel can take days making them unmarketable by the time permission is given by the soldiers to proceed. Shops are shut down for the least of reasons or even destroyed. The Army routinely destroys commercial buildings like workshops under the pretext of destroying “weapons production centers” despite the fact that the workshop has been operating in clear view of any passer-by thus making it virtually impossible to build missiles or mortars as held by the Army. Imports are out of the question as are potential exports to Europe unless layers of Israeli middlemen are involved.
While this is a sobering list of horrors, nothing justifies suicide bombing that takes precious lives whether they are Arab or Jew. Violence escalates to a higher and higher plane as each side “reciprocates” terror with terror. The fact is that each side is a mirror to the other; destroying one side may shatter the mirror but it will not erase the ugliness of the actions that each side commits. Unless one side is successful in a complete genocide of the other, neither side has a choice but to learn to live with each other as equals in the same land and as the brethren that they are. Any other solution is likely only to garner some temporary respite before sinking deeper into incessant violence. Waiting for the “other” to guarantee peace has never been an option; being the more powerful one, Israel needs to be the first and extend a sincere and unconditional hand of peace to all Palestinian factions. The results can bring lasting peace for both sides and for all three religions.
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