Today’s Palestinian Arab terrorist has changed from being a preeminently secular and tactical soldier, to one that is committed to sacred violence.
Prof. Louis Rene Beres
Recently, Mohammed Deif, leader of Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, summed up his organization’s underlying objective: “Our soldiers yearn for death, the way the Zionist soldiers yearn for life.” Although this succinct summary was more than a bit misleading – after all, Arab terrorists “yearn for death” only because they associate “martyrdom” with personal immortality – a suffocating ambiance of death is still their preferred geostrategic context. Always, for necrophilous Hamas terrorists, nothing is better than to be surrounded by rotting human corpses.
Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the umbrella terror group was first formed in 1964. Significantly, that was three years prior to the Six Day War, hence, three years before there were any so-called “Israel Occupied Territories.”
What was the PLO seeking to “liberate,” during those three particular years? This is not a difficult question.
The answer was (and remains) all of Israel, all of the micro-state that is still identified on both Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas maps, as “Occupied Palestine.” But, today, despite an enduringly bitter “bipolar” schism between the two principal surviving Palestinian factions, there are compellingly new requirements for permission to join in the holy exterminatory battle against Jewish Israel. More precisely, today, all prospective Arab “liberators” must first accept and meet a qualifying litmus test of Islamic purity.
Now, only Jihadists, only those who are properly in Ribat (religious conflict, fighting for “Islamic land”), are invited to participate in the divinely-mandated “armed struggle.” The overall Arab fight, it follows, has changed from being a preeminently secular and tactical conflict, to one that may wittingly ignore all of the more ordinary and usual strategic imperatives. This all-consuming “struggle,” routinely expressed as terror, is founded upon certain overriding commitments to “sacred violence.” At its heart, it offers a present-day expression of religious sacrifice.
Here, today, in the Arab Middle East, looking beyond Operation Protective Edge, terrorism, as sacrificial practice, becomes a sacred expression of religious obligation. In these largely faith-based cultures, sacrifice derives, in part, from a desperately hoped-for conquest of personal death. Above all, and this key point can’t be stressed too often, by adopting such practice, the Jihadist terrorist expects, often desperately, to overcome his own terrifying mortality.
In Islam, “martyrdom” has always been closely associated with Jihad. Unequivocal and celebratory invocations for such sacrificial killing can be found in the Koran (9:111), and, more explicitly, in the canonical hadith. “Do not consider those who are slain in the cause of Allah as dead,” instructs the Koran, “for they are living by their Lord.”
For the Hamas terrorist, it is by killing Jews, and subsequently being killed by Jews, that a true freedom from death can be earned. Much earlier, Yasser Arafat’s own personally-appointed clergy, preaching on the Temple Mount (August 11, 2000), had reaffirmed a basic religious precept: “Palestinians spearhead Allah’s war against the Jews. The dead shall not rise until the Palestinians shall kill all the Jews….”
“The dead shall not rise until the Palestinians shall kill all the Jews.” Think about this! Can there be any more potent understanding of the “Middle East Peace Process?”
Israel confronts a real and still-expanding mega-threat of unconventional war and unconventional terrorism. Faced with opponents who are not only willing to die, but who might actively and ecstatically seek their own “deaths,” Jerusalem should quickly understand the critical operational limits of ordinary warfare, national homeland defense, and strategic deterrence.
Palestinian terrorism is vastly more dangerous today, than it was during Israel’s early years. Yes, there were Fedayeen (“self-sacrificers”) even then, but their dominant motives were more pointedly nationalistic, and, much less “Islamic.”
For Israel, there is likely little point to deterring would-be Palestinian suicide bombers with systematic threats of lethal reprisal. Instead, to effectively dissuade this sort of suicide-bomber, Israel must somehow learn to confront the prospective murderers with a palpable anticipation of authentic suicide. Here, the Arab terrorist could calculate that his fervently sought-after explosion of Jewish bodies will bring not an ecstatic entry into paradise, but rather an irreversible slide into the eternal darkness, into oblivion, into death.
What is the overall correct strategy for Israel? To begin, Israel’s strategic and intelligence communities will need to identify new and promising ways of deterring non-rational (Jihadist) adversaries. Simultaneously, especially as Palestinian statehood is currently being validated by steadily-calculated increments of recognition in the U.N. General Assembly, these planners will need to avoid the potentially lethal fallacy of accepting a Palestinian state because it has ostensibly agreed to “demilitarization.”
By ignoring core roots of Palestinian terrorism, peace programs will only detour the Jewish State with their contrived “Two-State Solution.” Should Prime Minister Netanyahu yield to assorted pressures, and, following Operation Protective Edge, still agree to follow this determinably fatal cartography, he will have overlooked or at least underestimated the doctrinal origins of Israel’s most recalcitrant enemies. Should he choose, instead, to reject the Road Map’s twisting highways to nowhere, the Prime Minister will then have understood that Israel’s current struggles with Palestinian terrorism are not about land, “settlements,” or “self-determination.”
They are about “God.”
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