Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

1285SUICIDE BOMBERS: Palestinian Christian perspective

Expand Messages
  • ummyakoub
    Oct 1, 2003
    • 0 Attachment
      SUICIDE BOMBERS: A Palestinian Christian perspective

      We Hold These Truths
      http://www.whtt.org/whtt.shtml?rpr/SuisideBombShabeel.htm



      What is theologically and morally wrong with suicide bombings?
      A Palestinian Christian perspective


      by Naim Ateek


      The issue of Palestinian suicide bombings has become a familiar topic
      to
      many people throughout the world. It is easy for people, whether
      inside
      Israel/Palestine or outside to either quickly and forthrightly
      condemn it as
      a primitive and barbaric form of terrorism against civilians; or
      condone and
      support it as a legitimate method of resisting an oppressive Israeli
      occupation that has trampled Palestinian dignity and brutalized their
      very
      existence.


      As a Christian, I know that the way of Christ is the way of
      nonviolence and,
      therefore, I condemn all forms of violence and terrorism whether
      coming from
      the government of Israel or from militant Palestinian groups. [1]
      This
      does not mean, however, that all Christians believe in nonviolence.
      On the
      contrary, so-called Christian nations in the West have waged some of
      the
      bloodiest wars in history and have been responsible for the worst
      atrocities
      and violations of human rights.


      Having said that clearly, it is still important to help the readers,
      whether
      Palestinians or expatriates, to understand the phenomenon of suicide
      bombings that tragically arises from the deep misery and torment of
      many
      Palestinians. For how else can one explain it? When healthy,
      beautiful,
      and intelligent young men and women set out to kill and be killed,
      something
      is basically wrong in a world that has not heard their anguished cry
      for
      justice. These young people deserve to live along with all those
      whom they
      have caused to die. This article is, therefore, addressed to all
      people of
      conscience urging them to work for a speedy termination of the illegal
      occupation of the Palestinian territories. Such an act will, most
      certainly, bring this tragic phenomenon of suicide bombing to an end
      and
      ensure security for both Israel as well as Palestine.


      Since this article is intended for a broad and diverse readership, it
      has
      not been easy to decide on the best format. It generally follows the
      principles of liberation theology thus moving from context to
      theology. Be
      that as it may, the hope is that it will inspire the reader to become
      an
      "aggressive" advocate for the RIGHT OF BOTH PEOPLES to live in
      freedom and
      security. So far, this right has been denied to the Palestinians,
      hence the
      resistance to the occupation with all its multi-faceted forms
      including
      suicide bombings.


      THE BACKGROUND


      The Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank
      and
      the Gaza Strip took a very important turn since the early 1990's.
      Young
      Palestinian men, and more lately women, [2] started to strap
      themselves with
      explosives making their way to Israeli Jewish areas whether crowded
      with
      soldiers or civilians and blowing themselves up killing and injuring
      dozens
      of people around them. Between the beginning of the second intifada
      in
      September 2000 and until Wednesday, June 19, 2002, Palestinian
      militants
      carried out 56 suicide bombings in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank
      including
      Jerusalem, as well as inside Israel killing, according to Israeli
      statistics, 225 Israelis including soldiers, men, women, and
      children. [3]
      In the same period, the Israeli army killed 1645 Palestinians
      including
      police, men, women, and children.


      To discover the root causes one needs to consider the background.
      For the
      last thirty-five years, the Palestinians have been engaged in
      resisting the
      occupation of their country. The whole of the Gaza Strip and the
      West Bank
      including East Jerusalem came under Israeli occupation in the war of
      1967.
      It has not been a benign occupation as Israeli propagandists claim.
      It has
      been an oppressive military domination. Today over three million
      Palestinians are longing for independence and freedom. Instead, most
      of
      them are under siege and are subjected to curfews and humiliation.
      Israel
      has been consistently confiscating their land and building exclusively
      Jewish settlements on it, restricting their movements, demolishing
      their
      homes, devouring their water resources, and controlling every aspect
      of
      their life.


      The Palestinians have tried through different methods to shake off the
      occupation but to no avail. For many years they have worked through
      the
      international community to bring an end to the Israeli occupation but
      they
      have been unsuccessful. Indeed, the United Nations has been
      powerless to
      implement its many resolutions on Palestine. In 1987, the
      Palestinians rose
      up in a largely nonviolent uprising to shake off the occupation and
      achieve
      independence. Although this first intifada caused many people in the
      world
      to become aware of the Palestinian plight, it did not bring about the
      desired result.


      After the Gulf War, the Palestinians went to the Madrid Conference in
      October 1991 with the hope that it would lead to the implementation
      of UN
      resolutions 242 and 338. Instead, the negotiations took a circuitous
      route
      and opened the way to the Oslo Peace Process in 1993. With
      enthusiasm on
      the part of many, and skepticism on the part of others, most
      Palestinians
      entered the Peace Process with the hope that it would lead them into a
      negotiated settlement with their Israeli neighbors. People expected
      that
      the presence of the Palestinian Authority with its democratically
      elected
      leadership would certainly enhance that process. Instead, Oslo led to
      entrenching the Israeli domination system, the deterioration of
      Palestinian
      economic life, increase in the confiscation of their land, and the
      deepening
      of their oppression.


      With the apparent failure of the Peace Process, the second intifada
      started
      in September 2000 using nonviolent as well as armed resistance
      against the
      occupation. Israel heightened its intransigence and intensified its
      oppressive policies. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems that the
      second intifada was also indirectly pointed at the Palestinian
      authority
      that failed to deliver a just peace. Or at least, it was a defiance
      of its
      authority. Most of its active perpetrators were extremist militant
      Palestinian groups who were critical of Arafat's policies. In other
      words,
      it is possible to say that the anger of the people was directed not
      only
      against Israel but also against the Palestinian Authority that seemed
      unable
      to curb the injustice. With the increase of Palestinian resistance,
      there
      has been an immeasurable increase in Israeli oppression. Every
      aspect of
      Palestinian life worsened as the Israeli army escalated its malevolent
      policies against them. It has become a slow but steady process of
      strangulation of hope, greater despair, and deepening hate. Without
      understanding this background, it is difficult to grasp the evolution
      of the
      phenomenon of suicide bombings.


      THE UNDERLYING CAUSES: An attempt to understand but not to justify
      Historically speaking, the Palestinians did not begin their
      resistance to
      the occupation with suicide bombings. These came at least 25 years
      later
      when the political and security situation deteriorated considerably;
      and
      when it became certain that the international community is powerless
      to
      implement its own resolutions. There were no suicide bombings before
      the
      Oslo Peace Process. It is the result of despair and hopelessness that
      started to set in when an increasing number of Palestinians became
      frustrated by the deepening Israeli oppression and humiliation. As an
      illustration, one can cite the story of Abdel Baset Odeh who blew
      himself up
      in the Park Hotel, Netanyah last March 2002 killing 28 Israelis and
      tourists
      and sparking the largest Israeli incursion in the West Bank since
      1967 -
      Operation Defensive Shield.


      Six months before, Odeh was prevented by the Israeli authorities from
      crossing into Jordan to get married to his fiancée from Baghdad. The
      Israeli Shin Bet (security intelligence) kept sending after him. He
      refused
      to go because he suspected, as often happens, that they would
      blackmail and
      pressure him into becoming an informer. He was 25 years old, ready to
      get
      married, start a family, settle in Jordan, and enjoy life. When
      everything
      was shut in his face and his future plans were shattered by the
      Israeli
      army, he turned to suicide bombing. His father attributed his son's
      action
      to humiliation and a broken heart. His family first heard about the
      bombing
      from the TV. [4]


      Such stories abound in the Palestinian community. They all include
      one or
      more basic elements resulting from humiliation by the army, and/or
      seeking
      revenge for the killing or injury of a relative or a friend,
      desperation and
      frustration from the oppressive Israeli occupation, unemployment and
      confinement, imprisonment and torture, hopelessness, racism,
      discrimination,
      as well as other reasons.


      In other words, these young people were not born "terrorists". No
      one is
      born a terrorist. They were born in the image and likeness of God.
      They
      were born human beings with love of life and freedom. All of them,
      with no
      exception, were born under the Israeli military occupation. The only
      Jews
      they knew were Israeli soldiers carrying guns and dehumanizing them.
      It was
      in the crucible of the occupation that they were shaped and formed.
      And if
      Israel labels them as terrorists, they are, after all the product of
      its own
      making.


      Moreover, these young Palestinians did not blow themselves up because
      they
      simply wanted to commit suicide. Before 1993, they were resisting the
      occupation of their country through the traditional methods available
      to
      them. All they wanted was the end of the occupation and the
      establishment
      of their own state along side the state of Israel. However, with
      increasing Israeli oppressive and punitive measures against them --
      the use
      of helicopter gun ships to assassinate Palestinian leaders, F-16
      fighter
      planes to kill people and destroy homes, the mushrooming of military
      checkpoints to control and humiliate people, closures and siege of
      Palestinian cities and towns, army incursions into Palestinian areas,
      and
      much more -- suicide bombings came to be perceived as a more potent
      tool of
      resistance that can reciprocate the pain and hurt they were
      experiencing.
      And as they were driven deeper into despair, their desire to hit back
      in any
      way possible grew in intensity. From a Palestinian perspective,
      therefore,
      the real sequence of the cycle of resistance has been this: Israeli
      occupation, Palestinian resistance, greater Israeli oppressive
      measures, and
      greater attempts on the Palestinian side to increase the resistance,
      and the
      vicious circle goes on.


      Besides the basic political injustice and the oppressiveness of the
      occupation, there are four major areas that constitute the breeding
      ground
      for suicide bombers. To begin with, many young men have become
      permanently
      unemployed. Even when other older men were able to find employment
      within
      the pre-1967 borders in Israel, most young men were barred from
      entering
      because Israel considered them a security risk. During the second
      intifada,
      the unemployment rate soared to an alarming 75% in some quarters.
      This led
      to the fact that approximately 65% of the Palestinian population was
      living
      below the poverty line. It has been extremely difficult for many
      people to
      find any form of work. Unemployment creates frustration and
      despair, and
      could lead to extreme action.


      Moreover, it is the young men more than others who are humiliated,
      harassed,
      and provoked by the Israeli soldiers. Some of the worst humiliation
      takes
      place at checkpoints. The occupied areas have become infested with
      them.
      Some reports have mentioned more than 180. [5] Many of them have
      become
      permanently fixed, others are arbitrarily mounted at whim. The
      occupied
      territories have been literally segmented into numerous small cantons
      where
      it is impossible to move from one area to another without running into
      military checkpoints. It takes hours to pass through areas that
      normally
      take a few minutes. Humiliation is perhaps one of the worst methods
      used by
      Israel to dehumanize the Palestinians. It is clearly a policy that
      strips
      people of their self worth and dignity. It is directed at all
      echelons and
      age groups of Palestinian society.


      Furthermore, there is hardly any Palestinian family in the West Bank
      and the
      Gaza Strip that has not experienced some kind of pain or injury. Many
      families have lost their loved ones - a spouse, a sibling, a child, a
      relative, or a close friend. The level of bitterness and hatred keeps
      rising daily. Almost every aspect of Palestinian life is controlled
      by the
      Israeli army and many people have lost the ability to dream of a
      better
      future or envisage a better life. Therefore, the desire to avenge
      their
      wasted life, take revenge against the occupation, and at the same
      time take
      away with them as many Israeli lives as possible becomes an objective.


      There is another group of young Palestinian men and women that must be
      mentioned. Many of these have been arrested and tortured in Israeli
      prisons
      and "concentration" camps. In fact, Israeli prisons have become the
      "factories" for creating and "manufacturing" collaborators. [6]
      Young men
      are detained for indefinite periods of time and are pressured into
      becoming
      spies and collaborators. They are simply trapped and some of them do
      not
      know how to shake it off. This phenomenon causes some of them to
      exist in
      constant self-contempt and scorn for having betrayed their own people.
      Forced collaboration has stripped them of their self worth. They are
      ready
      to become suicide bombers in order to purify and redeem themselves and
      express their utmost loyalty and patriotism for their country and
      people.


      To sum up, these young people's daily life has become an experience of
      death. It is vividly symbolized in the daily funerals of their
      colleagues
      that they have to attend. Indeed, many of them feel that Israel has
      practically pronounced a death sentence on them. It is only a matter
      of
      time. Death is surely coming to them whether through a slow economic
      strangulation, or harsh political negation, or daily personal
      dehumanization. Since they have been stripped of their human
      dignity, their
      only possibility for existence is to exist as slaves under an Israeli
      apartheid system of domination. They feel they have no options and
      very
      little to lose. Consequently, they are willing to give themselves up
      for
      the cause of God and the homeland (watan) believing that with God
      there is
      so much to gain. [7]


      From the perspective of those who believe in and carry out these
      suicide
      operations, there is a simple and plain logic. As Israeli soldiers
      shell
      and kill Palestinians indiscriminately, Palestinian suicide bombers
      strap
      themselves with explosives and kill Israelis indiscriminately. [8]
      They
      perceive every Israeli as the enemy who has robbed them of their land
      and is
      responsible for their misery. If Israel can carry its incursions
      with the
      most sophisticated American-made war machinery, the Palestinians
      carry out
      their resistance with even the most elementary crude homemade
      explosives.
      If Israel drives its tanks to destroy and devastate Palestinian
      areas, the
      suicide bombers use their own bodies as tanks and shells to destroy
      and
      devastate Israeli areas. If the oppressors have the heart (or should
      one
      say lose the heart) to kill women and children and to make the life of
      Palestinians miserable, the suicide bombers are not going to spare
      Israeli
      lives as well.


      Moreover, Sharon has insisted repeatedly that Israel is involved in a
      war
      with the Palestinians. In war, soldiers give themselves up on behalf
      of
      their country whether their country is the aggressor or fending
      aggression.
      Officially speaking, some countries argue that the Palestinian suicide
      bombers are not proper soldiers that belong to an internationally
      recognized
      state and their resistance, therefore, cannot be considered
      legitimate.
      Some Palestinians would, however, argue that if what is going on is a
      war as
      Israel claims it is, then in war the whole nation is mobilized and
      different
      militia groups become engaged in resisting the occupation of their
      country
      as happened in France during the 2WW. Furthermore, in war, most
      armies and
      militias do not always comply with codes of war ethics and many
      civilians as
      well as military are killed. [9] Some have argued that the suicide
      bombers
      are also fighting a war and killing as many of the enemy as they can
      so that
      the psychological warfare can create panic and fear as well as
      contribute to
      weakening and capitulation. In this same vein, how does one view the
      US
      atomic bombing of two major cities in Japan during the 2WW and the
      killing
      of over 170,000 most of them civilians?


      The militants go on to argue that what they are doing is precisely
      like a
      soldier in battle who carries a heroic act by storming a club within a
      military camp and blowing himself up killing soldiers as well as
      women and
      children who happen to be enjoying a party. If one looks at it in
      this
      context of warfare, then it happens all the time. No war has been
      free from
      such acts and its actors were labeled heroes and were awarded medals
      posthumously. They were not called terrorists. In the West such
      acts are
      deemed heroic, but in Islam, due to the close ties between God and
      country,
      they are given a religious character and the people involved are
      considered
      "shuhada" (martyrs); their act is martyrdom and its prize is paradise
      rather
      than a human military medal. When one considers it from this angle,
      then
      being engaged in war and the defense of one's homeland, these
      militants
      would argue, the suicide bombings could be a legitimate way of
      resistance.


      A MUSLIM PERSPECTIVE
      The suicide bombings become a more powerful phenomenon when their
      religious
      underpinnings are emphasized. According to Hamas leader, Khaled
      Mash'al,
      there are three main reasons, namely, the religious, the nationalist
      or
      patriotic, and the humanitarian. The latter means that the suicide
      bomber
      sacrifices himself in order for his people to live. [10]


      It is difficult to determine whether the religious dimension followed
      and
      enhanced the political decision for its use or whether the religious
      significance preceded and prompted it. It is most likely that both
      went
      hand in hand since any Palestinian killed by Israel whether a
      militant or an
      innocent bystander was regarded as a martyr. Consequently, groups
      like Hamas
      were referring to these acts not as suicide bombings but as "martyrdom
      operations" and " martyrdom weapons" [11] . Nationalism and faith
      have been
      fused together and imbued with power. People regarded the suicide
      bombers
      as martyrs and that paradise awaited them. Their rewards include
      forgiveness, companionship with the prophets, friends of God in
      heaven, and
      intercession on behalf of their families on the Day of Judgment.


      In one of the sermons preached by Sheikh Isma'il al-Adwan and
      broadcast on
      Palestinian TV, the Sheikh said, "The shahid, if he meets Allah
      (Arabic for
      God), is forgiven his first drop of blood; he's saved from the grave's
      confines; he sees his seat in heaven; he's saved from judgment day;
      he's
      given seventy two dark-eyed women; he's an advocate for seventy
      members of
      his family." [12] Be that as it may, these martyrs believe they are
      fighting for the cause of God and their place in heaven is, therefore,
      guaranteed. An important quote from the Qur'an in this regard
      is, "Count
      not those were slain in God's path as dead, but rather living with
      their
      Lord, by Him provided." [13]


      Other Muslims argued strongly that Islamic law forbids the killing of
      non-combatants and therefore, the killing of innocent Israelis is
      wrong.
      Imam Yahya Hendi is a Qur'anic scholar who is the Muslim chaplain at
      Georgetown University. In his website [14] he gives a Qur'anic view
      of
      Jihad, martyrdom, and terrorism and violence. On Jihad, he
      emphasizes the
      personal form of jihad which is the intimate struggle to purify one's
      soul
      and spirit from sin. This Jihad takes precedence over the physical
      jihad in
      which Muslims wage wars against oppression and transgression. He
      quotes the
      verse "Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not
      transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors." [15] This
      verse
      speaks of a defensive war that is waged to stop the aggression but
      not to go
      beyond it. "The idea is that justice prevails. You don't fight
      because you
      enjoy fighting, but because there is an oppression." The implication
      being
      that it does not involve the killing of civilians.


      On martyrdom, Imam Hendi says clearly that those who die in the
      service of
      God are martyrs, ".though that service needs to be of a different
      sort than
      that provided by terrorists." He gives a number of
      illustrations. "Suppose
      I'm on the pulpit teaching and giving my sermon, if someone shoots me
      because of what I'm saying about God, the Qur'an says I'm not really
      dead
      because I'm with God. If I'm feeding the poor, and calling for
      justice, I
      can't be called dead. My soul is alive and God sustains me.. So to
      claim
      martyr status, all terrorists have to do is convince themselves that
      they
      are fighting for 'justice,' which is, of course, highly
      subjective..[Terrorists] think if they hurt Americans, they serve the
      cause
      of justice. They use these [Qura'nic] verses". Imam Hendi says that
      the
      Qur'an has many verses about martyrdom that must not cause harm to
      others.
      He quotes prophet Muhammad as saying, "Do not attack a temple, a
      church, a
      synagogue. Do not bring a tree or a plant down. Do not harm a horse
      or a
      camel."


      Finally, Imam Hendi has a section on terrorism and violence. He
      clearly
      states that, "the Qur'an doesn't condone terrorism, though Muhammad
      was the
      leader of a military force and therefore used violence.. While there
      are
      passages in the Qur'an, like the Old Testament of the Bible, that
      celebrate
      military victory, the overall gestalt of the Qur'an promotes a more
      restrained view.. '.We ordained for the Children of Israel that if
      any one
      slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in
      the
      land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone
      saved a
      life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people' [16] .
      This
      passage places a great value on the sanctity of a single life. 'If
      you kill
      one person it's as if you kill all humanity'" says Imam Hendi. He
      ends this
      article with the words, "the Qur'an goes one step further in chapter
      8,
      verse 61, 'But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also)
      incline
      towards peace, and trust in Allah." [17]


      Hamas Perspective
      The suicide bombings have been carried out by four militant
      Palestinian
      organizations. These are: Hamas, Al-Jihad Al-Islami (Islamic
      Jihad), Kata'
      ib Al- Aqsa, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and
      the
      Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The first two are
      religiously based while the third is mainstream and connected with
      Fatah.
      The latter two are left wing and secular. It is significant to point
      out
      that the Popular Front did not carryout any suicide bombing except
      after
      Israel assassinated its secretary general Abu Ali Mustafa on 27
      August 2001.
      [18]


      A variant Islamic view is expressed by Khaled Mash'al, one of the
      leaders of
      Hamas. In the same interview on Aljazeera satellite TV station on
      June 29,
      2002, Khaled said that had the international community done justice
      to the
      Palestinians, there would have been no reason for it to resort to
      martyrdom
      operations. He considered these operations as very effective. He
      mentioned
      several reasons. The cumulative number of casualties and losses which
      Israel cannot continue to sustain; their impact in causing the
      emigration of
      Jews out of Israel; the rise of the unemployment rate in Israel and
      the
      worsening of its economy; the low morale of the people; but most of
      all, the
      fact that the Israeli army does not have a weapon that can match these
      operations.


      In other words, militant Islamic groups saw the suicide bombings as a
      powerful weapon that inflicted not only a heavy human toll but also a
      psychological trauma affecting a large segment of Israeli society and
      exposing Israel's vulnerability. Indeed, the suicide bombings shook
      the
      Israeli state and caused widespread panic and terror. Consequently,
      Israel
      heightened its media warfare against the Palestinians, locally and
      internationally, comparing its predicament to that of the United
      States in
      its fight against terrorism; and comparing Palestinian "terrorism"
      with that
      of Osama Ben Laden and his Al-Qa'ida network. Israel did not mention
      its
      illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and domination of a
      whole
      nation. Therefore, many people in the West, especially in the United
      States
      fell in the Israeli trap not discerning the great difference between
      what
      has happened in the United States on September 11 and what is
      happening to a
      people who have been subjected to a harsh and brutal occupation.


      In fact, it is important to point out that with the tremendous
      imbalance of
      military power between the Palestinians and Israel, some Palestinian
      militants have commented that due to the effectiveness of the suicide
      bombings there has been a relative balance of fear. The casualties
      on the
      Palestinian side was approximately four times higher than on the
      Israeli
      side but the suicide bombings brought an equalizing effect in the
      spread of
      fear and terror within Israel thus raising drastically the number of
      Israeli
      casualties. For those who believe in the armed struggle, such
      statements
      are considered significant. It reflects that the weak are not as
      weak as
      they seem to be; and the strong are not as strong as they think they
      are.


      Mash'al mentioned that 120 persons have already given themselves up
      for the
      sake of God and the homeland. Half of them were university graduates
      and
      most of the rest are graduates of high school and only few who only
      finished
      primary school. Another Hamas leader reported on TV that 75% of all
      the
      Israelis killed by Palestinians were killed through suicide
      bombings. And
      if Israel wanted to call it 'terrorism', so be it. Did not Yitsak
      Rabin,
      the late Prime Minister of Israel, himself call terrorism the weapon
      of the
      powerless?" [19]


      EFFECTS AND OUTCOME
      Although Israel was deeply hurt by suicide bombings, the consequences
      that
      the extremists were hoping would happen did not take place. One can
      ponder
      the following:


      1. Israel had many more options than the Palestinians thought
      they did.
      As it turned out, Israel had a good number of military options; and
      due to
      its successful media campaign, everything it did was justified as
      self-defense. In spite of its gross violations of international law
      including the perpetration of war crimes, it got away with it and
      managed to
      escape the censure of the international community. Israel did not
      exhaust
      all its options, while the Palestinians had very few.


      2. The West Bank is not southern Lebanon. Hizballah was, indeed,
      successful in driving the Israeli army from southern Lebanon after 22
      years
      of occupation. According to the 1919 Zionist map, southern Lebanon was
      clearly envisioned as part of the future Israeli state. So was most
      of the
      eastern side of Jordan. Israel recognizes, however, that not
      everything
      envisaged is realizable. It made its calculations and withdrew from
      Lebanon. Undoubtedly, Hizballah's resistance played a crucial role,
      but
      there were other factors. The West Bank is different. Religious
      Jewish
      settlers and right wing Zionists find strong biblical and historical
      roots
      in the West Bank and it will not be easy to evict them from there.
      The
      presence of the illegal settlements is one of the most difficult
      issues in
      the struggle for peace.


      3. The United States is the only great world power today and has
      an
      unflinching commitment to the well-being and security of the state of
      Israel. It will come to its rescue politically, militarily, and
      economically whenever it is needed.


      4. Israel was successful in its media campaign internationally.
      Many
      countries in the world are against suicide bombings.


      5. The Israeli society did not crumble economically in spite of
      hardships.


      6. The vast majority of the Israeli people, perceiving the
      struggle as a
      fight for the very existence of the state of Israel, supported Sharon
      and
      his right wing policies.


      PALESTINIAN CONDEMNATION


      Although suicide bombings were condemned by some Palestinians
      including the
      Palestinian Authority, they were accepted popularly by many as a way
      of
      avenging the Israeli army's daily killings of resistance fighters and
      innocent Palestinians. And while the American government rushed to
      condemn
      suicide bombings and expected the same from the Palestinian Authority,
      Israel's killing of Palestinian leaders and ordinary civilians did
      not abate
      and passed as self defense and was un-condemned publicly by the United
      States.


      Be that as it may, it is important to reiterate clearly that the
      Palestinian
      community is not totally in support of the suicide bombings.
      Although there
      are Palestinians who are sympathetic, many have denounced them. On
      Wednesday, June 16, 2002, 58 Palestinian men and women, Muslims and
      Christians, among whom are well known personalities, signed a public
      statement published by the most read Arabic daily, Al- Quds asking
      for a
      halt to all suicide bombings. They made it clear that such
      operations only
      widen and deepen the hate and resentment between Palestinians and
      Israelis.
      It also destroys the possibility for the two peoples to live in two
      states
      side by side. The statement mentioned that the suicide bombings are
      counterproductive and will not lead to the fulfillment of the
      Palestinian
      national aspirations. It only allows Israel to justify its increasing
      vicious attacks on Palestinian towns and villages.


      The statement was published in the paper on five consecutive days
      before it
      was transferred to the website with hundreds more signatories. Over
      500
      people expressed their desire to see a termination of any suicide
      operations.


      ISRAELI REACTION
      There were voices inside Israel that were calling for more drastic and
      severe measures to curb the suicide bombings. One of those was
      Gideon Ezra,
      the deputy public security minister who openly on television on
      August 19,
      2001, called on his government to execute the families of Palestinian
      suicide bombers. He argued that if potential suicide bombers know
      that
      their families will be wiped out then they will refrain from
      committing the
      act. Apparently, Ezra was basing his suggestion on a Nazi practice
      that
      used to arrest and inflict suffering on the families of those who were
      suspected of undermining the state. Historian Moshe Zimmerman of the
      Hebrew
      University has stated that under the Nazis if someone shot a German
      soldier
      and was not caught, fifty people would hang. Shockingly, Ezra's
      words did
      not draw any protest or criticism from the Israeli government. [20]
      Certainly, not all the voices inside Israel are as extreme as Ezra.


      By contrast, there are courageous voices that called on their Israeli
      government to examine its harsh policies against the Palestinians
      that breed
      suicide bombings. In one case, Rami and Nurit Elhanan lost their 14
      year-old-daughter who was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber in
      September 1997. In spite of the tragic loss, the parents became
      actively
      involved in peacemaking. They blamed the Israeli occupation calling
      it "a
      cancer that is feeding terror". "Israel is becoming a graveyard of
      children. The Holy Land is being turned into a wasteland." "Our
      daughter
      was killed because of the terror of Israeli occupation. Every
      innocent
      victim from both sides is a victim of the occupation." In spite of
      the
      fact that Rami's grandparents, aunts, and uncles perished in the
      Holocaust,
      he said, "The pain of losing our beautiful daughter is unbearable,
      but our
      house is not a house of hate.". Nurit said, "Hamas take power from
      the
      anger of people. If you restored people's dignity, honour and
      prosperity by
      ending occupation, Hamas would lose power". The couple established
      the
      Bereaved Family Forum with Izzat Ghazzawi, a Palestinian whose 16-
      year old
      son Ramy was killed by Israeli troops. [21]


      Another example is that of Shamai Leibowitz who on June 27, 2002
      wrote a
      letter entitled, "An Israeli Officer's Response To President Bush".
      He
      introduced himself in the following way, "I am an Orthodox Jew and a
      criminal defense attorney in Tel Aviv. I am also a tank gunner in
      reserve
      duty, and part of a group of 1000 soldiers who have refused to serve
      in the
      occupied territories. Many of them were imprisoned in military jails
      in the
      past few months." Then he added the words, "Now that President Bush
      has
      enlightened us with his new 'Plan' for the Middle East, we can only
      wonder
      how long it will take him to realize that his plan is useless and
      meaningless..". "His [Bush's] failure to understand that no progress
      can be
      made while a whole nation [Palestinian] is being brutally occupied is
      the
      basic flaw in this policy.. Bush fails to comprehend that the suicide
      bombings are a product of mass starvation and humiliation of the
      Palestinian
      people. Bush's aides are doing us so much harm by refusing to
      acknowledge
      that only an immediate end to the Israeli occupation will bring an
      immediate
      end to the Palestinian uprising."


      "We are now witnessing a situation in which 3.5 million people have no
      future, no hope, no vision, other than to become terrorists and
      avenge the
      continued harassment and shelling by the Israeli army's helicopters,
      tanks
      and artillery. While Bush has never set foot in this region, we have
      been
      living here, watching how the Palestinians were trampled and denied
      basic
      rights on a daily basis, besieged and occupied in every possible
      way. Our
      Jewish sources teach us that where there is no justice, there is no
      peace..
      Most Israelis know deep in their hearts that once we stop humiliating
      and
      oppressing this nation, we will return to become a safe and secure
      democratic Israel living next to a viable Palestinian State.". [22]


      A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE
      The dictionary's definition of martyr is "one who chooses to suffer
      death
      rather than renounce a religious principle; one who makes great
      sacrifices
      for a cause or principle; one who endures great suffering." From
      their
      political and religious perspective, the suicide bombers have made the
      supreme sacrifice, the offering of themselves for their faith (in the
      way
      they understand God) and for their homeland.


      In Arabic, the verb "shaheda" means to witness. "Shahid" is a martyr
      that
      is a person who has suffered death as a witness to his faith or the
      principles he/she stands for. In the Palestinian struggle, it has
      been used
      to refer to those Palestinians killed by the Israeli army as well as
      for
      those who voluntarily sacrificed their life for Palestine. The death
      of a
      "shahid" including those suicide bombers became a cause of pride for
      the
      family though that in itself does not lessen the pain and grief of
      their
      loved ones. [23]


      In English the word for martyr is derived from the Greek "martus" and
      like
      the Arabic simply means, a person who has given himself up as a
      witness.
      It was first used in the early Christian centuries to indicate the
      witness
      for Christ of the early apostles. When Christians were persecuted
      the word
      started to refer to those who underwent some form of suffering for
      their
      faith. Eventually, it was used exclusively for those who died for the
      Faith. [24]


      In discussing suicide bombings from a religious perspective, it is
      worthwhile to reflect, though briefly, on the story of Samson. His
      story
      occupies four chapters in the book of Judges (13-16). Many
      Christians have
      been held spellbound when they, as children or adults, heard its
      fascinating
      details. It is a story of a strong young man who rose up to save his
      people
      who were oppressed by the coastal powerful neighbor, the Philistines.
      [25]
      Obviously from the perspective of the Israelites he was regarded as a
      hero
      and a freedom fighter while from the perspective of the people of
      power,
      namely, the Philistines, he was, in today's language, a terrorist.


      According to the story, Samson was very successful in his brave
      adventures
      against his enemies. Eventually, he was captured by the Philistines
      and
      tortured. They pulled out his eyes and kept him in jail. In order to
      celebrate their victory over their archenemy, Samson, the Philistines
      brought him to a big event attended by three thousand men and women
      including their five kings. His final act of revenge took place when
      he
      pushed the two main columns of the building and pulled it down killing
      himself and all the attendees. Samson's final prayer seems very
      similar to
      the prayer of a suicide bomber before he blows himself up. "Lord God,
      remember me and strengthen me only this once, O God, so that with
      this one
      act of revenge I may pay back the Philistines for my two eyes." [26]
      Our purpose can well be served by a barrage of questions.


      Read in the light of today's suicide bombers how do we evaluate the
      story of
      Samson? Was not Samson a suicide bomber? Was he acting on behalf of
      the God
      of justice who wills the liberation of the oppressed? Was God
      pleased with
      the death of thousands of men and women of the Philistines? Are we
      confronted with many similar stories today in the experience of
      suicide
      bombers? Is it legitimate to tell the story today by substituting
      the name
      Ahmad for Samson? Is it possible that the God of justice is as
      active today
      in working out the liberation of the oppressed Palestinians through
      the
      likes of Ahmad? Is the dynamic under which God operates that of Jew
      versus
      other people or is it that of oppressor versus oppressed? Do we see
      the
      divine involvement of God in one story and not the other? Is the
      story of
      Samson legitimate because it is written in the Bible while the story
      of
      Ahmad is rejected because it is not and therefore he is condemned as a
      terrorist? Do we have the courage to condone both as acts of bravery
      and
      liberation or condemn both as acts of violence and terror? Is not
      injustice
      considered injustice whether inflicted by the ancient Philistines
      against
      the Hebrews or by the modern state of Israel against today's
      Palestinians?
      Or do we hold a theology of a biased God who only stands with Israel
      whether
      right or wrong? [27]


      Although some people in our Palestinian community admire the
      sacrifice of
      the suicide bombers and view it as the penultimate in the offering of
      oneself for the sake of the homeland and the liberation of the
      people; and
      although we understand its deeper motivation and background, we
      condemn it
      from both our position of faith as well as a legitimate method for
      resisting
      the occupation. Our reasons are based on the following points:


      1. We condemn suicide bombings because they are a crime against
      God.
      Ultimately, it is only God our creator who gives us life and who can
      take
      it. Therefore, the sixth commandment, "you shall not murder" applies
      as much
      to murdering oneself as it does to murdering others. If it is a
      crime to
      shed another person's blood, it must be equally criminal, if not more
      seriously so, to shed one's own blood. If the second greatest
      commandment
      is to love our neighbor as we love our own selves, then to kill
      oneself is a
      greater sin since it eradicates the basis for loving the other.
      Suicide is
      a sin against God who has blessed us with the gift of life. [28]
      Those who
      love God do not kill themselves. Moreover, those who love God do not
      kill
      themselves for the sake of God. Indeed, they should be ready to die
      and
      even be killed for God's sake, but they will not do it themselves.


      Christian history is full of examples of people who suffered torture
      and
      death rather than renounce their faith and love of God. In the New
      Testament, we have only one case of suicide and that was Judas
      Iscariot.
      [29] Although we understand the reasons behind his suicide, we
      believe
      that he committed a sin. Instead he should have repented of his
      crime in
      betraying Jesus and would have certainly received forgiveness. It is
      true,
      we do not find anywhere in the Bible a condemnation of suicide but the
      implication is that it is God who gives and takes life. Later on, the
      church condemned it. Inference was made from passages such as I
      Corinthians
      6:19- 20 where Paul writes, ".do you not know that your body is a
      temple of
      the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are
      not
      your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in
      your
      body". And Ephesians 5:29, "For no one ever hates his own body, but
      he
      nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the
      church..".
      [30] The person who has committed suicide was considered the only
      true
      atheist who has no faith or hope in God and who has totally given up
      on
      life. Probably this is why traditionally the church did not allow
      those who
      committed suicide to have church burials. Taking one's own life was
      considered a sin against a loving, creator God.


      One can look at it from another angle. According to the Gospels,
      Jesus
      Christ knew that he was going to die in Jerusalem. ".The Son of Man
      must
      undergo great suffering, and be rejected.and killed..". [31] Yet he
      did
      not try to escape from danger but set his face to go to Jerusalem
      where he
      was killed. We believe that he voluntarily offered himself for the
      sin of
      the world. We see his death as vicarious and redemptive. He
      said, "No one
      has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's
      friends." [32]
      This means that to give oneself on behalf of others is the greatest
      sacrifice of all. Christians believe that this is precisely what
      Christ has
      done. He died for us. Although one offers oneself to die, he does
      not pull
      the trigger and kill himself. He is open to sacrificing himself for
      the
      cause but he is not the one who does it.


      2. We condemn it because we believe that we must refrain from
      inflicting
      suffering or death on others. From a Christian point of view, the
      tragedy
      lies in the fact that these young men and women do not only kill
      themselves,
      they cause the death of others many of whom are civilians and
      innocent. We
      must hasten to add that we equally condemn the state of Israel's
      killing of
      Palestinians. Indeed, it constitutes the underlying cause of the
      conflict.
      Be that as it may, from our position of faith we say that even when
      the
      cause for which a person kills himself/herself is noble, as it is in
      the
      case of Palestine, nothing justifies the killing of innocent people.
      Christ
      accepted suffering on himself and did not inflict it on others. When
      we
      intentionally inflict suffering and death on others and generate
      untold
      suffering on their relatives, we are sinning against God and neighbor.


      In fact from a New Testament perspective, when Christians suffer, it
      should
      make them more compassionate for the suffering of others rather than
      bitter
      and vengeful. The greatest form of bravery is, therefore, to bear
      suffering
      rather than to inflict it. In the struggle for civil rights in the
      United
      States, Martin Luther King Jr. recognized the heavy price that needs
      to be
      paid for freedom but refused to accept any violent method to achieve
      it. He
      said, "Rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom,
      but it
      must be our blood".."King insisted on the teaching of Jesus and
      Gandhi that
      unearned suffering is redemptive. The willingness to suffer is the
      utmost
      expression of human freedom". [33] If the choice is between
      inflicting
      suffering on others or bearing suffering, it is better to accept
      suffering
      on oneself rather than inflict it on others. This is tantamount to
      taking
      the high moral ground in the conflict, the very thing that we as
      Christians
      must take. Furthermore, for the Christian, suffering endured can
      serve as
      evidence to Christ's victory over suffering and death. [34] It can
      also be
      a way of exposing the evil and the injustice that must be resisted.


      3. We condemn it because we believe that when we are confronted by
      injustice and evil, we must resist it without using its evil
      methods. We
      must endure suffering when inflicted upon us by unjust governments.
      We bear
      it but do not accept, submit, or succumb to it. Nonviolent
      resistance is an
      important tool for using against the enemy. Violence only breeds
      violence.
      Some Christians have developed nonviolent direct action as a method of
      resisting unjust governments and systems. Martin Luther King Jr.
      expressed
      it well when he wrote: "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it
      is a
      descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
      Instead of
      diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder
      the
      liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through
      violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact,
      violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence
      multiplies
      violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
      Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate
      cannot
      drive out hate; only love can do that". [35]


      The Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is evil and unjust. It
      must be
      resisted for the sake of both the oppressed as well as the
      oppressors. It
      is our faithfulness to God that drives us to work for justice and for
      the
      ending of the occupation of Palestine. But it must be carried out
      through
      nonviolence no matter how long it takes. It is only nonviolence that
      can
      guarantee the restoration of the humanity of both when the conflict
      is over.
      Moreover, nonviolent resistance contributes to a speedier process of
      reconciliation and healing because it does not impinge on and violate
      the
      human dignity of people.


      4. For the Christian, the supreme example is Christ. "When he was
      abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not
      threaten; but
      he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly." [36] This is not
      passive resignation. It is total surrender to the God of justice who
      established this world on justice and who is going to make sure that
      injustice does not have the last word. This does not mean, however,
      that we
      must not combat injustice and resist it, but it means total surrender
      and
      faith in the God who will ultimately vindicate us. Archbishop
      Desmond Tutu
      has often said that this is a moral world and God will not allow
      injustice
      to continue. [37]


      We condemn suicide bombings because they are trapped with the same
      violent
      logic exercised and perpetrated by the Israeli government. It is
      based on
      the law of revenge expressed in "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a
      tooth".
      Although it is very difficult for us as humans, we are still
      encouraged as
      Christians to seek a higher law. "Beloved, never avenge yourselves,
      but
      leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, 'Vengeance is
      mine, I
      will repay, says the Lord'. No, 'If your enemies are hungry, feed
      them; if
      they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you
      will
      heap burning coals on their heads'. Do not be overcome by evil, but
      overcome evil with good." [38]


      5. It is probable that Prime Minister Sharon (and the right wing
      religious extremist ministers and settlers around him including some
      Christian Zionists) believes that the war against the Palestinians
      can be
      justified biblically because he is doing exactly what Joshua did in
      the Old
      Testament. Therefore, as Joshua's actions pleased God so must
      Sharon's
      actions. Similarly, the suicide bombers believe that by blowing
      themselves
      up and killing those around them they are fighting in the cause of
      God by
      ridding their land of the injustice inflicted on it by "infidels,"
      and so
      earning for themselves a place in paradise.


      Our basic problem with both lies in their concept of God. We reject
      any
      understanding of God that reflects war, violence, or terrorism. The
      God
      that we have come to know in Jesus Christ is a God of peace, mercy,
      and
      love. Moreover, God is a God of justice, but God's justice is not
      expressed
      in violence or in terrorizing people. God's justice is expressed
      supremely
      in love, peace, and forgiveness.


      6. In the midst of the injustice, suffering, and death inflicted
      on us,
      we believe that God in Christ is there with us. Christ is not in the
      tanks
      and jet fighters, fighting on the side of the oppressors (although
      many
      Jewish and Christian Zionists believe that), God is in the city of
      Gaza, in
      the Jenin camp and in the old city of Nablus, Ramallah, and Bethlehem
      suffering with the oppressed. [39] God has not abandoned us. We
      reject
      suicide bombings because, from a Christian perspective, they reflect
      feelings of total despair and hopelessness. We must never lose
      hope. Our
      hope must be anchored in God who is ultimately our savior and
      liberator.
      The words of the psalmist are very apt to our situation, "I say to
      God, my
      rock, 'why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully
      because
      the enemy oppresses me?' As with a deadly wound in my body, my
      adversaries
      taunt me, while they say to me continually, 'where is your God? Why
      are you
      cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in
      God;
      for I shall again praise him, my help and my God'". [40]


      7. We condemn suicide bombings because they practice, in essence,
      collective punishment against people many of whom are civilians.
      They are
      guilty of the very things Palestinians detest in the Israeli
      government.
      When suicide bombers commit collective punishment, they become what
      they
      loathe. One of the most hated and resented acts of the Israeli army
      is its
      exercise of collective punishment against the Palestinians. It is
      possible
      that the protagonists of suicide bombings would say that collective
      punishment is not intentional or deliberate. It is an unfortunate
      collateral that comes with the resistance. This is basically the same
      rationale that Israel gives when it imposes curfews, siege, and
      closures on
      hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Whatever justification the
      government of Israel or the perpetrators of suicide bombings may
      have, the
      end result is what counts. Innocent people are harmed and killed.
      When the
      Israeli army incarcerates whole towns for long periods of time or a
      suicide
      bomber blows himself up in a market place and indiscriminate killing
      ensues,
      both are collective punishment directed at largely innocent people.
      Consequently, the basic principle must be affirmed: it is unjust and
      immoral
      to punish people collectively.


      Moreover, if the Israeli government carries out collective punishment
      frequently, that should not be an excuse for Palestinians to follow
      suit.
      The old question expressed by Abraham to God regarding the
      destruction of
      Sodom and Gomorrah continues to persist today, "Will you indeed sweep
      away
      the righteous with the wicked?" [41] When that is done, it is a
      crime. To
      punish people indiscriminately, including the elderly and the sick,
      women
      and children, is one of the most savage and brutal behaviors
      exercised by
      people of power in the past as well as in the present.


      In its primitive religious form, one can find examples in the Old
      Testament
      where God warns the ancient Israelites that he will punish
      the "children for
      the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation".
      [42] In
      another story, Achan disobeyed Joshua's order and out of greed took
      some of
      the spoils of war that were forbidden. Although Achan confessed his
      sin, he
      was taken, at the command of God, "with his sons and daughters, with
      his
      oxen, donkeys, and sheep, and his tent and all that he had.and all
      Israel
      stoned him to death; they burned them with fire, cast stones on
      them..".
      [43] Tragically, acts of collective punishment have been wrongly
      attributed to God by humans in order to justify their own beastly
      behavior
      against their fellow human beings. Such acts, basically contradict
      our
      concept of the God of mercy and love. Even God's justice is not void
      of
      mercy.


      At the time of the exile, several hundred years later, many people
      believed
      that God did not deal with them justly; that they were suffering for
      the sin
      of others. They could only express it in the words of a popular
      proverb,
      "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set
      on
      edge". [44] Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel began to articulate a
      different
      theology that essentially said, only "the person who sins shall die".
      [45]
      It was a reversal of long held beliefs. Unfortunately, throughout
      history,
      people in power, whether religious or not, continued to exercise the
      indiscriminate punishment of people and justify it by giving it divine
      sanction.


      In modern times, the United Nations' Fourth Geneva Convention clearly
      prohibits collective punishment. Article 33 of the Convention makes
      it
      clear that "No protected person may be punished for an offence he or
      she has
      not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all
      measures of
      intimidation or terrorism are prohibited." We know that the
      government of
      Israel practices collective punishment in order to control and bring
      the
      Palestinians into submissiveness -- the extended curfews, the
      detention of
      large numbers of people for lengthy periods for alleged offenses, the
      destruction of homes, and many other techniques. Suicide bombings
      whether
      deliberate or not perpetrate collective punishment. They are
      punishing all
      Israelis for the evil policies of their government. Some
      Palestinians, as
      already indicated, might justify it due to the heavy oppressive
      nature of
      Israel's occupation; or link it to human nature's propensity to
      retaliate by
      inflicting as much pain and damage against the enemy. In spite of
      all of
      that, it is important to lift up the moral and ethical principles of
      international law, namely, that collective punishment is wrong and
      must be
      stopped at all cost.


      8. Although people may be ready to die for their faith or even
      for their
      country they need to do everything they can to stay alive and witness
      in
      life rather than kill themselves. So long as they are alive, they
      have the
      opportunity to witness to the truth. Indeed, they need to remain
      faithful
      until death [46] but they must not give up on life and kill
      themselves.
      Their life is a gift from God and they must not destroy it. We must
      live the
      life we have to its fullest. Christ has come so that we might have
      life and
      that we might have it abundantly. [47] To end one's life abruptly
      is to
      end the opportunities God presents us with, and the possibilities of
      contributing to the building of a better society. Standing before
      Pilate Je
      sus said, "For this I was born and for this I have come into the
      world to
      bear witness to the truth". [48] People in power tried to kill the
      truth
      by killing him, but he did not kill himself. When they killed him,
      the
      truth could not be silenced. It was revealed and exposed more widely.


      We reject suicide bombings because we believe in life before death as
      well
      as life after death. In spite of the despairing situation, these
      young men
      and women deserve to live. Many times, even though life around us is
      difficult and frustrating, one can give and receive joy and love with
      family
      and friends. Even in the darkest of hours, it is possible to find
      some
      beauty and inner peace. Many times when things are very gloomy, it is
      possible to find some contentment in the service of others. Life can
      always
      offer new opportunities and it is worth living.


      CONCLUSION
      Our faith motivates and drives us to act justly, love mercy, and walk
      humbly
      with God. [49] We cannot condone suicide bombings in anyway or,
      for that
      matter, any use of violence and terror whether perpetrated by the
      state or
      militant groups. By the grace of God, we must always try to take the
      high
      moral ground in any conflict. We must not allow ourselves to succumb
      to
      hate or walk the road of vengeance and malice. As we continue to
      struggle
      for justice, peace, and reconciliation in Israel/Palestine, we must
      keep
      lifting up the prophetic vision of a world without violence. A world
      where
      people (Israelis and Palestinians) will "beat their swords into
      plowshares,
      and their spears into pruning hooks; [where] nation shall not lift up
      sword
      against nation, neither shall they learn war any more". [50] This
      vision
      is realistic and achievable. Israelis and Palestinians can live
      together in
      peace if Israel will be willing to share the land with them and
      accept the
      establishment of a viable Palestinian state.


      Unfortunately, the present policies of the government of Israel, and
      those
      internationals that support those policies, do not lend themselves to
      such a
      peace. In fact, Israel is creating Bantustans (homelands,
      reservations) for
      the Palestinians and an Israeli form of apartheid that is much worse
      than
      what was practiced in South Africa. Today it is Israel that is
      creating and
      breeding extremism on the Palestinian side. Indeed, the occupation
      of the
      West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip continues to
      be the
      root cause of the violence and terror. This cycle of terror
      perpetuated
      today is simply shutting the door on the future for both people. It
      is
      killing not only the present but the future. We must guard against
      murdering the future. That will only shut the door to healing and
      reconciliation.


      Ultimately, there cannot be room for hate if we want to live
      together. And
      live together we must. The sooner we put an end to the occupation the
      better our life will be. Ending the occupation will certainly end the
      suicide bombings. All peace-loving people, whether people of faith
      or not,
      must exert greater concerted effort to work for the ending of the
      occupation. Ultimately, justice will prevail, the occupation will be
      over,
      and the Palestinians, as well as the Israelis, will enjoy freedom and
      independence.


      How do I know that this will take place? I know because I believe in
      God.


      The Revend Dr. Naim Ateek is the director of the Sabeel Ecumenical
      Liberation Theollogy Center in Jerusalem.


      ----------------------------------------------------------------------
      ------
      ----


      [1] The American State Department defines terrorism as "Premeditated,
      politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant
      targets by
      subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to
      influence an
      audience". In the American definition, terrorism can never be
      inflicted by
      a state. This is a useful definition because, as Brian Whitaker
      writes, "it
      gets the US and its allies off the hook in a variety of situations.
      The
      disadvantage is that it might also get hostile states off the hook -
      which
      is why there has to be a list of states that are said to 'sponsor'
      terrorism
      while not actually committing it themselves." Under the State
      Department
      rules, if Palestinians attack a Jewish settlement with mortars it is
      considered terrorism. If, however, the Israelis rocket attack a
      Palestinian
      community it is not because Israel is a state and states can never
      inflict
      terrorism (www.guardian.co.uk), May 7, 2001. To say that states
      cannot
      inflict terrorism, betrays a lack of understanding of the depth of
      evil in
      our world and the direct involvement of many states in violence and
      terrorism. One wonders, is there really a clean and
      civilized "terrorism"
      committed by states and a dirty and barbaric "terrorism" perpetrated
      by
      militant groups? Palestinian daily experience has shown that it is
      the
      Israeli state injustice perpetuated through violence and terrorism
      against
      the Palestinians that has created and prompted its Palestinian
      counterpart.
      Ultimately, it boils down to whose definition it is. As Brian
      Whitaker has
      written in the same article that a more honest definition of
      terrorism is
      this: "Terrorism is violence committed by those we disapprove of".


      [2] Out of 105 suicide bombers, three have been women.


      [3] Suzanne Goldenberg, "A Mission to Murder: Inside the Minds of the
      Suicide Bombers," The Guardian (UK), June 11, 2002. Since June 11th,
      the
      statistics have changed. As of August 1, 2002, 241 Israelis have been
      killed by suicide bombers; and total Israeli casualties are 593
      (www.idf.il/daily). Number of suicide bombers who have died is 105
      (www.phrmg.org). Total Palestinian casualties as of August 1, 2002
      are 1682
      (www.miftah.org/report.cfm).


      [4] Khaled Abu Toameh, "Love and Hate," in The Jerusalem Report, May
      20,
      2002, p. 27.


      [5] In an article entitled, "The Growing Hardships of Traveling in
      the West
      Bank," The Applied Research Institute, Jerusalem (July 2002) had
      given the
      following statistics on checkpoints: On the West Bank, 34 permanent
      checkpoints and 150 road blocks; in the Gaza Strip, 7 permanent and 7
      road
      blocks. See www.ari.org


      [6] The Phenomenon of Collaborators in Palestine, PASSIA
      Publications, March
      2001.


      [7] Apparently, some suicide bombers volunteer while others are
      recruited.
      The desperate political situation makes it relatively easy to have
      scores of candidates. The preparatory stages are in effect
      accomplished by
      the Israeli army itself. It starts when these young people are
      traumatized,
      then brutalized, and eventually dehumanized by the impact of the
      occupation.
      Once they reach that stage, they become easy recruits.


      [8] Some militant Palestinians would object to the use of the word
      "indiscriminate". They would say that they do not target children. A
      Hamas
      member stated, "There is nothing easier than putting a bomb in a
      school or
      sending a person with an explosives belt into a school, and the fact
      that
      Hamas has never done so, is evidence that they do take moral
      considerations
      into account.but in Israel, all of the civilians are soldiers,
      really. That
      's how we see it.." Amira Hass, "Driven by vengeance and a desire to
      defend
      the homeland," Ha'aretz, July 16, 2002, p. 4.


      [9] Scholars tell us that civilian deaths average 50% of all deaths
      in any
      given war. In the 1980's the percentage jumped to 74% and in the
      1990's to
      90%. It is estimated that in the 20th century 109 million people were
      killed in the different wars, approximately half of those were
      civilians.
      Walter Wink, The Powers That Be (Doubleday, 1998), p. 137.


      [10] Al-Jazeera TV on 29 June 2002 in the "Open Debate" program with
      Khaled
      Mash'al.


      [11] See "Hamas Perspective" later.


      [12] Akiva Eldar, "Ask Clinton what he thinks about Camp David," in
      Haaretz,
      August 21, 2001. In an unpublished paper, Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway of
      Alquds
      University maintains that the reference to the "seventy virgins" is
      neither
      mentioned in the Qur'an nor in the most authentic compendia of
      Hadith. It
      is, however, found in Mu'jam Al-Tabarani.


      [13] Qur'an 3:169


      [14] www.alhewar.org; e-mail: alhewar@...


      [15] Qur'an 2:190


      [16] Qur'an 5:32


      [17] www.beliefnet.com


      [18] Amnesty Report in Al-Quds newspaper, 11 July 2002, p. 22.


      [19] Arno J. Mayer, professor emeritus of history at Princeton has
      written
      in the wake of September 11, ".in modern times, acts of individual
      terror
      have been the weapon of the weak and the poor, while acts of state and
      economic terror have been the weapons of the strong.." Quoted by Gore
      Vidal,
      Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace: How We Got To Be So Hated (Nation
      Books,
      2002), p. xi.


      [20] Akiva Eldar, ibid.


      [21] Alexandra Williams,"Our daughter was killed by a suicide
      bomber. But
      it is the terror of Israel's occupation that is to blame for her
      death," The
      Mirror (London), 25 June 2002.


      [22] Shamai Leibowitz, "An Israeli Officer's Response To President
      Bush,"
      June 27, 2002, www.zmag.org. See also "The ethics of Revenge", a
      moving
      speech of Yitzhak Frankenthal, chairman of the Families Forum given
      at a
      rally in Jerusalem on Saturday, July 27, 2002, outside Prime Minister
      Sharon
      's residence. magazine@.... Frankenthal's son Arik was killed
      by
      Palestinians. He also blames the Israeli occupation. He writes, "We
      lost
      sight of our ethics long before the suicide bombings. The breaking
      point
      was when we started to control another nation". He adds, "The
      Palestinians
      cannot drive us away - they have long acknowledged our existence.
      They have
      been ready to make peace with us; it is we who are unwilling to make
      peace
      with them. It is we who insist on maintaining our control over them;
      it is
      we who escalate the situation in the region and feed the cycle of
      bloodshed.
      I regret to say it, but the blame is entirely ours".


      [23] One of the criticisms voiced by Israel against the Palestinians
      and
      some Arab countries and especially Saudi Arabia has b<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)