Leading their people to death

Guest blogger Dan Gordon, a lone soldier in the IDF, sent this post from Israel:

Ernest Hemingway had great advice for writers. “Write one true declarative sentence,” he said. “Then, write another.” By that standard, Papa Hemingway would be proud, indeed, of Sami Abu Zuhri’s literary prowess.

Sami Abu Zuhri is a Hamas spokesman. He summed up the current situation in Gaza perfectly. And he did it in two true declarative sentences.

“We ( Hamas) aren’t leading our people to destruction. We are leading them to death.”

That wasn’t wasn’t Israel’s Prime Minister who said that. That was an official Hamas spokesman, and he said it without apologies. Two true sentences.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed. Each and every one of those deaths, since Hamas rejected the Egyptian cease-fire proposal, which the Arab League endorsed, was completely predictable, tragic beyond words and absolutely, 100 percent preventable. Because Israel accepted that same cease-fire proposal, immediately and unconditionally.

All the killing could and would have been stopped immediately, right then and there. But as Sami said, that’s not where Hamas is leading the Gazan people.

An event occurred July 21, which may, in the parlance of our time, provide a teachable moment. Israeli forces operating in Gaza were approached by what they suspected was a female suicide bomber. They ordered her to stop. She did not and they, in retrospect, chose the correct course of action.

They shot her.

And she exploded. Or rather the suicide vest that would have killed them all exploded. This was not the first suicide bomber Israeli forces encountered since entering Gaza.

The first one was a donkey. It appeared weighted down with an unusual load on its back and was beaten by its handler in order to urge it forward, toward the Israeli troops . The handler was a Hamas operative, who, having dispatched the donkey, promptly disappeared, quite literally, according to what I heard, down a rat hole. In retrospect, those Israeli troops also chose the correct course of action.

They shot the donkey.

It too exploded, or rather the donkey-sized suicide vest with enough explosives to murder dozens of people exploded.

I bring these two incidents up because, while I have no firsthand knowledge of Hamas’ evolving policy of using beasts of burden as unwilling suicide bombers, I have, at least secondhand knowledge of Hamas’ past and evolving policy on using women as suicide bombers. I know the world’s leading expert on female suicide bombers.

Anat Berko has a Ph.D. in criminology and advanced degrees in psychology. She speaks fluent Arabic and her parents were Jewish refugees from Iraq, where their family had lived for several thousand years and from which they were expelled in the wake of the Israel-Arab conflict that made some 800,000 other Middle Eastern Jews refugees as well. (Ironically, that is almost the exact number of Palestinian Arabs who became refugees in 1948 as a result of the same conflict.)

Dr. Berko carried out the most comprehensive study of female suicide bombers and their handlers ever undertaken. She interviewed almost every female suicide bomber in Israeli custody. These were women whose suicide belts failed to detonate or who were caught before they could carry out their attacks. Her two books, “The Path to Paradise: The Inner World of Suicide Bombers and their Dispatchers” and “The Smarter Bomb: Women and Children as Suicide Bombers,” have become classics on the subject.

What Dr. Berko found was that the majority of female suicide bombers were motivated by other than ideological or religious reasons. Nor were most of them motivated by the desire for revenge or even hatred of Israel.

The majority of female suicide bombers were unwitting, unwilling or chose the path of so-called “martyrdom” as the lesser of two evils with which they were presented. There is a saying on the Palestinian street in regard to female suicide bombers: “Shahida o sharmuta?” Freely translated, it means “(Was she) a martyr or a whore?”

The reason Palestinians might say that about one who had ostensibly committed the highly praised (when it comes to men) act of “martyrdom” is because they know that in many (if not the majority of) instances, the female suicide bomber was approached by operatives of one terrorist organization or another and told that she had been seen with men other than male relatives and had thus dishonored her family. In such an instance, she would either be the victim of an “honor killing” to be carried out by her father, brother or another male relative, or she could choose to become a suicide bomber, strap on an explosive vest, blow herself up with as many Jews as possible, and thus die not a whore, but a martyr who would be admitted to Paradise, where she would sit at the right hand of the prophet, and where, by the way, she could choose her own husband, as opposed to being forced into a heavenly marriage with someone not of her choosing.

Another category that provided fertile ground for finding female suicide bombers were victims of rape and incest from within their own families. One girl was raped repeatedly by her cousins, another by her brother. Both saw the “suicide” part of suicide bomber, as preferable to the literal hell on Earth that they were living.

To be sure, there were women so enchanted with the religious notion of Paradise and its advantages over earthly life (such as not having to take care of children, never having a period and marrying the mate of one’s own choice) that they became suicide bombers for religious reasons. Others had seen relatives killed by Israeli soldiers and wanted revenge, and others, while not religious, were motivated by nationalistic reasons. But as noted these were far fewer in number than the women who were unwilling martyrs or those choosing martyrdom instead of honor killing or as a means of escaping an intolerable life.

But what I remembered was that Hamas had, at least at one time, a firm policy against using female suicide bombers. Indeed Dr Berko had once interviewed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, one of the founders and the spiritual leader of Hamas until his death in 2004 at the hands of the IDF..

Dr. Berko interviewed the spiritual leader in 1996. “At that time,” Dr. Berko told me this morning [July 22], “Yassin said, ‘I’m against sending women (as suicide bombers) because they have a special role. It is to give birth to children. There is not equality in Islam. Suicide bombing, that’s not a job for women. And then, too, we have enough men to be suicide bombers. So we are against it. We don’t use them.”

“What happened to make Hamas change it’s mind?” I asked.

“In 2002, there was the first female suicide bomber,” Dr . Berko told me. “She was not from Hamas. But it got a lot of good publicity for the organization that sent her. It got good media attention, and Hamas felt they had to compete with the other terrorist organizations who were getting all the attention because of the female suicide bombers. So Hamas didn’t want to be left behind.

“And that’s why Hamas changed its mind? Because it was effective media?!”

“Yes,” she said. “Hamas had to compete with the other terrorist organizations.”

We will probably never know what motivated the female suicide bomber who exploded prematurely thanks to an Israeli marksman. But we absolutely know the motivation of the terrorist army of Hamas and its political wing as well, which dispatched her and the donkey and which have turned their own people into human shields, and which celebrate their deaths because of the great media attention it brings them.

That is the truth, the shame, the horror. It is not my, or Israel’s or anyone else’s posturing or, Heaven forbid, amelioration.

We know it because Sami Abu Zuhri, the Hamas official spokesman told us so, in two declarative, Hemingway-esque sentences.

“We are not leading our people to destruction. We are leading them to death.”

Dan Gordon is a member of the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley.


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