Saturday, April 16, 2005

How to Make a Suicide Bomber 

Originally published in the Old Gold and Black, Wake Forest University, November 21, 2002.

Twelve Palestinians lie dead in the streets of Gaza and Ariel Sharon claims success. Twelve Israeli lives in Hebron, cut short in retaliation. A mother has lost her son, a young man is rendered fatherless, and a sister becomes an only child. Israelis in Hebron are calling for more violence and making blunt allusions to a previous massacre of Palestinians as a way of saying, “be prepared”. Palestinians are worried, but promise that should any massacre come, it will be revisited upon those who deliver it. The cycle of violence continues; Arafat sits snug in Ramallah while Sharon and Netanyahu bicker in Jerusalem. Nothing gets done and the status quo of suffering and violence, on both sides, is preserved.

Imagine for a moment that this is your life. Envision for a minute that if you leave your dorm room past six o’ clock in the evening to visit a friend, or to pick up some small thing at Sundry, that you will be shot on sight. Hear the low grumbling outside your window? That’s a tank rolling by, escorting bulldozers to knock down Davis dorm. You breathe a sigh of relief; they did not come for you, this time. It is quiet. You used to have a roommate, but they were killed in a missile attack while shopping. You go to bed that night sweating and wondering if you will see the next day. Before drifting off to sleep, the last refuge left to you by a world turned to a cesspool, you look at the rifle in the corner and know it would only take a second to be set free. Anger floods in once again, and you sleep, tormented by your dreams of a reality far worse.

Speaking with Professor Ken Hoglund, who has spent much time in Israeli and Arab communities as well as talked face to face with leaders of Hamas, I asked the question why there are so many suicide bombers. Is it because in their religion, martyrdom guarantees them the highest order of paradise in the afterlife? He responded, “No. In the end, no one kills themselves for a belief. They kill themselves because death has become preferable to life.” If they can drag a few enemy souls with them when they go, then its all the better. At least they will be remembered as a patriot.

Israeli journalist Uri Avnery agrees, as he writes, “The reason for this can be summed up in one word: rage. Terrible rage, that fills the soul of a human being, leaving no space for anything else.” This rage that clouds the mind red and haunts the sleep of children is blind to reason. Try being born into a situation where this rage is all you know. Live twenty years with this fury constantly in your soul. Eventually someone holds out a gun to you and asks you if you’d like to fight. There is only one possible answer. Soon, even that will not satisfy as the rage builds and your life becomes so terrible, that only death will cure you. Yet, even in your death, you can strike a blow against the people who have made your life worth nothing. You strap on dynamite and take your last bus ride to the city.

That is how you make a suicide bomber. The formula is simple. Combine equal parts occupation, inequality, and violence. Stir. Bake twenty years. That’s it. Repeat as necessary. It is horrifically easy and it is being done as we speak. The suicide bombers of tomorrow are today’s children. They see what is happening around them and they do not understand. It will not be long though, before understanding does not matter.

With this dichotomy in place, it seems peace does not stand a chance. Every time a gun goes off, every time a bomb explodes, it pushes peace back a step farther. Marwan Barghouti, General Secretary of Fatah on the West Bank and an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council has said, “Want peace? End the occupation.” I could not agree more. If a separate Palestinian state will bring peace, I’m for it. If bi-nationalism is the eventual, peaceful resolution, I’m for it. More importantly though, the world community needs to come together and take steps to eliminate situations where death has become preferable to life.

No one wants more suicide bombers, especially Israelis and Palestinians. I suppose it is dangerous giving out the formula to make a suicide bomber. However, by doing so, you also how not to make one and to stop the situations that are creating them. It is time to stop everything that is causing the rage to build and fester. Peace will only occur when the cycle of violence is broken. What life would you rather have? Look out your window at this campus. Would you rather have that life, or the one described above? Does not everyone deserve that same chance?


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