August 11, 2004


Where have all the bombers gone?: Israel's killing of Ahmed Yassin was supposed to have been followed by rivers of blood on Israel's streets. It didn't happen. Here is why. (Erik Schechter, Aug. 5, 2004, THE JERUSALEM POST)

When Israel assassinated Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin this past March, critics warned that it would produce more men like Mukdi. But for all the talk about rage and root causes, there has not been a single suicide bombing in the past four-and-a-half months. That is because these terrorist acts are just a tactic of war, one that is on the decline. [...]

According to terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp, Hizbullah (The Party of God) was the first militant group to adopt suicide bombings. The radical Lebanese Shi'ite group took its inspiration from the Islamic Republic of Iran, which, during its war with Iraq, sent thousands of youngsters racing across minefields with the keys of Paradise tied around their necks.

At the time, the Party of God was an obscure, little militia in a country filled with militias. But it drew worldwide attention when in October 1983 a water delivery truck laden with plastic explosives rammed into the US Marines barracks in Beirut. Two hundred and forty-one servicemen were killed in the earth-shaking blast.

Not long afterwards the Americans withdrew from Lebanon.

The Palestinians picked up the tactic from Hizbullah when then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin expelled 415 militants to southern Lebanon in December 1992. Says Barghouti, "The suicide bombing was a new method to fight the occupation. We had weapons, but the idea was not around before 1993."

But if suicide bombing is the tactic, what is the overall strategy?

According to Steve Niva, a Middle East studies professor at Evergreen State College, Hamas and Islamic Jihad aim for "some kind of deterrent effect so that Israel would refrain from or reconsider certain actions, like cracking down on the Islamic movement, assassinating its leaders, etc."

With the IDF's big guns silenced, the terror groups would be able to push the army out of all the territories and consolidate their gains under a hudna, or temporary cease-fire. And if Israel could live with that scenario, then the suicide bombings would be a thing of the past - or so the argument goes.

Col. (res.) Shaul Shay, author of The Shahids: Islam and Suicide Attacks, thinks otherwise. He believes that, no matter what, the fundamentalists will try to hammer away at Israeli society with suicide bombers because it is seen as soft and fragile: "They see this as an effective tool to destroy the state."

And Fatah? Once thought the moderate force in the territories, it has jumped on the bandwagon because, after September 2000, the killing of Israelis proved very popular among Palestinians. Back in the Tel Mond jail, Sarahneh says, "It does not make a difference: Fatah, Hamas, we all want to liberate Palestine. I am now sitting in Palestine."

Hasn't the tactic most likely died out because the stated strategic goal has been achieved? They're getting an independent and unoccupied Palestinian state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2004 11:12 PM

Sic transit gloria.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 12, 2004 12:23 AM

Um, hasn't it died out because Israel has pretty systematically wiped out the leadership of most of the local terrorist groups? Despite the rhetoric of the Western left, eliminating one terrorist leader doesn't cause 10 more to spring up--it does in fact dissuade, and more importantly removes the necessary expertise for planning significant operations.

Posted by: brian at August 12, 2004 5:01 AM

(sarcasm) Yet another example that violence, at least western-imperialist-zionist-blood-for-oil violence never solves anything. (As opposed to leftist violence, which is always understandable, a force for positive change, justifiable without any examination, etc, etc, etc) (sarcasm off)

Posted by: BC Monkey at August 12, 2004 9:37 AM

I'm with Brian. I think the tactic is fading because of counter measures (such as assassination of leaders, the security wall, etc.). Note that Israel recently claimed to have stopped 90 suicide bombing attempts in the last few months. So the Palestinians are still trying, they're just not succeeding.

Besides, the goal was never an independent and unoccupied Palestinian State, but Judenrein (or, in Arafat's case, money and power). No one seems to object to the occupation of Lebanon by Syria, only by Israel.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at August 12, 2004 1:36 PM

Yes that's the figure I heard, 90 or so foiled attempts. The tactic hasn't died out, the Palestinians are just getting beaten, their leaders killed and their suicide terrorists blocked by the wall.

The WILL to murder Jews is still raging strong, it's their capacity that's degrading.

I've been saying this since the wall was first started, 1- the wall goes up, 2- the palestinians can't kill jews anymore, 3- they start slaughtering each other. I believe this has already begun.

Posted by: Amos at August 12, 2004 1:56 PM

You would think that suicide bombers would be a wasting asset, but that does not seem to be the case in Palestine or Iraq.

You would think that unproductive suicide bombing would be an even faster wasting asset. That does not seem to be the case, either.

It seems just possible that the decline in effective bombings lately has a merely technical, not political, religious or social, cause.

The one a day or two ago, where the bomber apparently got flustered because he was confronted with an unexpected, impromptu and temporary checkpoint may be a clue.

You wouldn't think -- I wouldn't have, anyway -- that uncertainty would matter that much to someone with a bomb strapped to his belly, but they really are not like us.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 12, 2004 4:43 PM


Where are they?

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2004 4:50 PM

Apparently, they are in the West Bank, eastern Afghanistan, Indonesia and Iraq.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 13, 2004 2:10 PM

Where? When was the last successful suicide blast? How many in the past two months? Their moment may be over.

Posted by: oj at August 13, 2004 2:18 PM

It'll be over when they change. What evidence do you have that they've changed?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 15, 2004 2:08 PM

Where are they?

Posted by: oj at August 15, 2004 2:15 PM