by Louis René Beres (June 2015)
Originally published in August 2003
Even now, in the midst of steadily escalating violence against Jews, supporters of the so-called Road Map refuse to understand the core origins of Palestinian terrorism against Israel. Projecting their own very generic conceptions of Western history upon the contemporary Middle East, these supporters of “peace” are still imprisoned within standard explanatory frameworks of economic disenchantment and rising expectations. Clinging stubbornly to what they had first learned in Political Science 101, they ignore what is already right before their eyes; explicit, stark, and thoroughly unambiguous:
Palestinian terrorism is ultimately a conscious and current expression of primal blood sacrifice, the blood of “The Jews.” For these terrorists, violence against “The Jews” is always an expression of what must be held sacred.
Among these Arab terrorists, violence and the sacred are inseparable. To understand the rationale and operation of Palestinian terrorism against Israel, therefore, it is first necessary to understand PLO/HAMAS/ISLAMIC JIHAD conceptions of the sacred. From these pertinent ideas, it will become clear that Arab terror against “The Jews” is, at its heart, always a primitive or primal form of religious worship.
In the representative words of Othman Abu Gharbiya, Deputy Chief of the National and Political Guidance Bureau of Fatah (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida): “We must always be prepared to sacrifice our blood, as in the beginning….and as we will continue to sacrifice. Fatah is a movement of blood sacrifice….Our people gave the world a chance, and unless the world takes this opportunity, violence and havoc will come.”
For a while, Palestinian terror violence and havoc seemingly had been on hold. Now it has resumed, predictably, with a fury and a voluptuousness all its own. Soon, even Sharon will discover that – for Israel’s enemies – the only alternative to complete Jewish surrender is more Arab violence and more Jewish corpses.
For the Palestinians, including even the new Prime Minister and his “moderate” allies, all diplomatic settlement is patently subterfuge. Only one path can truly fulfil the will of God concerning “The Jews:” Jihad and Sacrifice.
Speaking to Palestinian security forces in Gaza two years ago (2001), Yasser Arafat remarked: “They will fight for Allah, and they will kill and be killed, and this is a solemn oath….Our blood is cheap compared with the cause which has brought us together….but shortly we will meet again in heaven….” Central to this revealing remark is the duality of sacrificial behavior; the fighters “will kill and be killed…..” Victory for the Palestinian people will come when both the Jews and the Arab “martyrs” suffer death. But while death for “The Jews” will be final and unheroic, a tangible confirmation of inherent Jewish limitations, death for the Palestinians will be only a temporary inconvenience on the way to immortality.
Significantly, it is only by killing Jews, and subsequently being killed by Jews, that authentic freedom from death can be realized. This is the true meaning of Islamic terrorism against Israel; the “bottom line” rationale. It is a form of sacred violence oriented toward the sacrifice of both enemies and martyrs. Always, it is through the purposeful killing of Jews, that the Palestinian embarked upon jihad can buy himself free from the penalty of dying.
That is no small reward.
Once Israel under Sharon has finally understood that terrorism is an activity related to sacrifice, it will be on the way to effective counterterrorism. Until now, this is an understanding – like certain other aspects of Israeli security planning – that has lent itself to insubstantial thought. For the future, Palestinian terrorism should be approached, at least in part, as a violent and sacred act of mediation between Arab sacrificers and their deity. With such a newly informed approach, Israel could at last begin to fashion its counterterrorist strategy upon more suitably serious intellectual foundations.
A short while ago, Yasser Arafat pledged: “The Palestinian people are prepared to sacrifice the last boy and the last girl so that the Palestinian flag will be flown over the walls, the churches, and the mosques of Jerusalem.” Here, the PLO Chairman was not speaking of a purely political kind of sacrifice. Rather, pointing toward death in the context of “holy war,” it is a sacrifice wherein palpable disappearance will befall only “The Jews.” and where “the last boy and the last girl” will find only eternal life.
For the Palestinians who now regard terrorism as sacrifice, it is a sacred violence that rewards doubly. Killing the despised Jew while simultaneously killing death for the Muslim, Palestinian sacrificial terror represents the altogether optimal fusion of religion and politics. Moreover, such terror also fulfils the timeless function of sacrifice, which is to quell violence within the community, and to prevent intra-communal conflicts from erupting or overflowing.
What lessons can be learned from this for more effective Israeli counterterrorism? One answer emerges from a more general investigation of sacrifice. Looking over several thousand years of history, all sacrificial victims are invariably distinguishable from nonsacrificeable beings by one essential trait: between these victims and the community a crucial social link is missing, so that they can be sacrificed without fear of reprisal.
The practice of sacred violence via sacrifice is always one that can be undertaken without risk of vengeance. In sacrifice, the victim, who lacks a champion, is struck down with impunity.
Ironically, this feeling of immunity from Israeli and Jewish vengeance now permeates the Palestinian terrorist community. When the Israeli “post-Zionist” Left responds to each act of terror with self-criticism and degrading submission, the Jewish nation of terror victims reinforces the PLO/HAMAS/ISLAMIC JIHAD idea that Arab forces are engaged in authentically sacrificial behavior. Revolted by a stooped-over people that continues with a fraudulent “peace” no matter what, and that even scrapes its own flesh and blood from sidewalk altars without inflicting decisive punishment, these Arabs believe ever more strongly that what they do absolutely must be sacred.
For Israel’s Palestinian “partners in peace,” terrorism is a form of blood sacrifice. It will not cease in response to any further Israeli “redeployments” urged by the Road Map. It will assuredly not end if a Palestinian state is declared in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. It will end only when the doctrinally despised Jew has left every inch of “Palestine,” which includes the entire State of Israel, or when Israel finally learns how to combat the very considerable attractions of “blood sacrifice.”
Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue. He is the author of many books and articles dealing with terrorism, international relations, international law, art, literature, and philosophy. Professor Beres’ recent articles on war and strategy were published in the Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School), International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, and Parameters: Journal of the U.S. Army War College. His columns have appeared in several dozen major publications, including The New York Times The Jerusalem PostHa’aretz; The Washington TimesThe AtlanticU.S. News & World Report. Professor Beres’ tenth book, Israel’s Nuclear Strategy: Surviving amid Chaos, will be published later this year. He was born in Zürich, Switzerland, at the end of World War II.
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