Jihad:
Palestinian Suicide Bombers

The thing that bugs me most about Palestinians bombing Israeli civilians is that it's counterproductive. Injustice is one thing, but self-defeating injustice really yanks my crank.

When Bush cuts a fat check to himself and his rich friends, that bugs me because it's a hose job. But at least he and his rich friends are getting what they're after. This hose job has a simple honesty to it, even a sort of Darwinian or Dawkinsian or game-theory inevitability. When would-be theocrats hijack the legal system to punish people that behave in ways that violate their current interpretations of ancient codes, it's a hose job, but at least they're advancing their agenda. I try to advance my agenda. They try to advance theirs. No hard feelings.

But when Palestinians blow up Israeli civilians, it's not only butchery but it's counterproductive. It's counterproductive because it's the Palestinians' use of terrorism that prevents the US from siding resolutely with them and their cause. If they gave up the terrorism, Israel's number-one ally would side with them, and they'd get their first independent state ever.

Would the States really side with the Palestinians? Sure we would. We love an underdog, and we like to see ourselves as champions of justice. The Palestinians are the little guy, the side that we would normally align ourselves with. We protected the Bosnian Muslims against their Christian attackers. We backed the blacks against apartheid. We like the little guy, especially when the big guy is being mean. And Israel is plenty mean.

Granted, there are plenty of people in the States who would continue to back Israel regardless of what the Palestinians did. These are the people who think that YHWH gave the Palestinians' land to the Jews. But this reasoning doesn't do well in the populace at large, where it's popular to say "God loves everyone the same."

And that's what bothers me so much about Palestinians blowing up Israeli civilians. As if the slaughter of civilians weren't bad enough, that very slaughter hurts the cause of those commiting and supporting it.

Or maybe not. The Palestinians get a lot of support in their struggle (jihad) from other Muslims as long as it is a struggle against Israel and not a struggle for peace and justice. To extremists in Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, the fact that suicide bombings delay a peaceful settlement of the crisis is not a problem. They don't suffer the fate of the Palestinians. They have nothing to lose by continuing the violence between the Palestinians and Israel. They want the Israelis to suffer and are willing to see the Palestinians suffer, too, if that's what it takes.

So it's not really accurate to say that suicide bombings are counterproductive. They're productive enough for the radical elements that prefer the suffering of Israelis to peace and security for Palestinians. But then, that bothers me, too.

—JoT
November 2003

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