Contributing AuthorA contributing author.
All Palestinian terror groups share these openly annihilatory goals. According to the Covenant of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement is "universal." All Palestinian groups - whether it be the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its sub-units or any other "revolutionary" faction - share an understanding that "There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad (Holy War)?." As for Israel, all Palestinians have a firm obligation to "obliterate it." The Charter of the PLO mirrors the Hamas Covenant, calling the "nucleus" of the Palestinian movement only those who are "fighters and carriers of arms." All terrorist groups, of course, emphasize violence and the use of force, but the Palestinian groups are distinctive in several important ways. Most significant of all is that, for the Palestinians, violence is generally its own reward. Rejecting more instrumental views of force, Hamas, PLO and all other movement organizations have now come to regard terrorist violence as an end in itself. The root of this dark sentiment lies in their common and all-consuming hatred of "The Jews."
When Haj Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, spoke together with Hitler on Berlin Radio in 1942, he cried out: "Kill the Jews - kill them with your hands, kill them with your teeth - this is well pleasing to Allah." Today the PLO call for annihilation of Israel still remains codified at PA websites and publications, and the Hamas Covenant still calls insistently for the "realization of Allah's promise: `The Day of Judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, killing them.'" In the final analysis, for the Palestinians - as for the Arab/Islamic world in general - the "Zionist Problem" is merely surface manifestation of what is truly intolerable: The "Jewish Problem." In April 2002, a prominent Palestinian "intellectual" wrote in al-Ahram: "We are all, once again, face to face with the Jewish Problem, not just the Zionist Problem; and we must reassess all those studies which make a distinction between 'The Jew' and 'The Israeli.' We must redefine the meaning of the word 'Jew' so that we do not imagine that we are speaking of a divinely revealed religion.... we cannot help but see before us the figure of the great man Hitler, may God have mercy on him, who was the wisest of those who confronted this problem, and who, out of compassion for humanity, tried to exterminate every Jew, but despaired of curing this cancerous growth on the body of mankind."
Directed toward Jews, the violence of Palestinian terrorism is always "sacred" violence. Unlike terrorists in other parts of the world, the Palestinian movement fighters aspire to immortality. Paradoxically, that is why they commit uniquely homicidal forms of "suicide." Urged on by Arafat-appointed clergy in the mosques, they believe fully that by dying in the religiously-mandated act of blowing up Jews they buy themselves free from the penalty of death. As for their fiery self-immolation, it is only a momentary inconvenience on the "martyr's" journey to union with God Almighty. Identifying the PLO as "a father, a brother, a relative, a friend," the Hamas Charter instructs: "We (all Palestinians) know the Palestinian problem is a religious one, to be dealt with on this premise....`I swear by that (sic) who holds in his hands the Soul of Muhammad! I indeed wish to go to war for the sake of Allah! I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill.'"
For terrorists elsewhere in the world, suicide is something "crazy," certainly not a tactic to be used as a proper strategy of revolutionary confrontation. For the Palestinians, however, suicide in the act of murdering Jews represents the very highest form of political engagement, a properly Islamic method that distinguishes it from merely secular forms of insurgency. Consider, for example, the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru, a Latin American terrorist group that took 74 hostages at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru on December 17, 1996. After the kidnapper's initial demands were rejected by the Government, the terrorists threatened to blow up the entire Embassy as an act of suicidal desperation. Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori's response was to say simply: "There cannot be peace talks or agreements while terror is being used as the principal argument." Again, the terrorists threatened: "If the Government doesn't cede, we will die with all the hostages." Five months later, on April 22, 1997, with not a single hostage harmed, the hostages were rescued. Unlike Palestinian terror groups, who seek to inflict gratuitous harm on noncombatants - often by filling bombs with nails, screws and razor blades - the MRTA rejected suicide terrorism as both irrational and inhumane.
"Nail in brain; nail in heart." Such labels attached to X-Rays in Israeli hospitals have now become routine. A recent victim of Palestinian suicide terrorism arrived at Rabin Medical Center in Petach Tikva with nearly fifteen nails and metal fragments embedded in his body. One of the "merely wounded," this thirty-one year old man presented with multiple shrapnel penetrations along the left-side of his body, second and first-degree burns on the left side of his face and chest, on his hands and on his left leg. His injuries required five types of surgery. After regaining consciousness, he was weaned from a ventilator and now faces almost a year of intensive rehabilitation.
What kind of a people inflicts such harms upon noncombatant populations? And what kind of a world accepts such harms as "understandable" and even permissible? Anyone traveling across Europe today will discover that no matter how distinctively murderous Palestinian terrorism becomes, so long as the victims remain Jews, it is all fully pardonable. Palestinian terrorism seeks national self-determination, but shouts to the world that even after statehood, violence must continue against the Jews. Every map of every Palestinian group features a new Arab state incorporating all of Israel. Not only al-Fatah, Yasser Arafat?s faction of PLO, but also the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestine Liberation Front, al-Saika and the PLO itself have already exterminated Israel cartographically.
Terrorism has brought pain and suffering throughout the world, but Palestinian terrorism remains fiendishly unique. In Latin America, groups such as MRTA and Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) have resorted to bloodshed in a class-based fight for social, economic and political equality. But their violence is plainly instrumental and their goals have nothing to do with genocide. In Peru, moreover, whenever Sendero Luminoso exploded bombs in cars and buses, citizens uniformly condemned the terror. All Palestinian terror groups, on the other hand, are determined to use violence even where it is manifestly unsuitable for political gain and - as expressed at Article 15 of the PLO Charter - to achieve "total elimination of Zionism in Palestine." As for Palestinian civilian populations, they regularly cheer even the most heinous forms of anti-Jewish terrorism. When a terror organization linked closely to Arafat took credit for the May 27 Petach Tikvah attack on babies and children at a suburban ice cream parlor, thousands of ordinary Palestinians in Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah cheered the "heroic military operation." And when, in October 2000, two Israelis were lynched outside a PA "police station" in Ramallah, a mob of thousands danced a frenzied bacchanal of authentically orgiastic enthusiasm. What conceivable human emotions can move a mob of thousands of "ordinary" Palestinians to torture, gouge out the eyes, beat and then burn two utterly defenseless human beings? What was more incomprehensible that October morning in Ramallah, the (literally) elbows-deep-in-blood attacks by a desensitized people, or the grotesque celebrations of the Arab bystanders? Arab women as well as men could not contain the hideous ecstasy of their cruel involvement. What kind of human beings can commit the horrors the Palestinian mobs inflicted that terrible day upon Vadim Norjitz and Yossi Avrahami? While the answers to these questions are certainly complex, they have a great deal to do with understanding the distinctive barbarism of Palestinian terror groups.
Latin American terror groups fight for human improvement and survival, but look ultimately toward peace and coexistence. Palestinian terrorists, on the other hand, fight to expunge an entire people, the Jews, from the face of the Middle East. Palestinian terrorism is not a plea to Israel to relieve material needs, but rather a demand to die so that Arabs can realize their spiritual wants. Citing a major hadith (an Arab term which refers to the oral tradition by means of which sayings or deeds attributed to the prophet Muhammad have been handed down to Muslim believers), King Sa'ud once informed a British visitor to his court: "Verily, the word of God teaches us, and we implicitly believe it, that for a Muslim to kill a Jew, or for him to be killed by a Jew, ensures him an immediate entry into heaven and into the august presence of God Almighty." Palestinian terrorism, based upon fanatical religious hatreds and intentionally wanton killings, bears no close resemblance to other forms of contemporary terror violence. Starkly medieval, it seeks the death and dismemberment of individual Jews and the total annihilation of the Jewish State. It follows that there can be absolutely no civilized justification for its manifold crimes and harms.
Prof. Louis Rene Beres is an author of many books and articles dealing with terrorism and international law. He has long been associated with several federal agencies and the Department of Defense on issues of counterterrorism.