Israeli propaganda experts have tried to spread the myth that recent Palestinian suicide bombers represent some horrible new form of terrorist warfare. In point of fact, suicide missions and terror tactics are as American as apple pie.
Throughout history, young men have sacrificed their lives for causes they felt reflected the survival of their nations.
The defenders of the Alamo were on a suicide mission. They had the option of escape, and knew that defense meant certain death. They chose death. For the greater good of Texas.
In World War II, suicide missions were routine. Military officers sent men on missions where the chances of return were negligible. They were committing lives to the cause of defeating Nazi Germany.
Joe Kennedy, Jr., the brother of President Kennedy, left on a mission where he knew the prospects for return were doubtful. His aircraft was so dangerous when he left England that Kennedy never even made it to the coast of France.
My own father, a British commando, repeatedly was sent on missions where the prospects for his survival were poor.
The men who landed on D-Day knew that being chosen for the first wave assault meant their chances of survival were nil. The Marines who landed at Iwo Jima could see the carnage in front of them, yet still committed themselves to virtually certain death.
The ability of humans to commit themselves to missions where death is almost assured stems from the common belief in individual sacrifice for survival of the greater good.
Why should Palestinian sacrifices be viewed in any different light?
If anyone motivates and controls Palestinian suicide bombers it is Ariel Sharon, not Yasser Arafat. Sharon repeatedly screams he is “at war.” Being at war means that extreme measures such as terrorism are tolerated, when these same measures would be intolerable in a non-war situation.
Is it so hard to believe that young Palestinians would sacrifice their lives to kill Israelis when they see Israelis killing their family and friends, and when they witness a brutal and endless Israeli occupation?
It is unfortunate the concept of “terrorism” has been distorted to demean and confuse the public concerning the legitimate military origins of targeting civilians.
Terrorism has always been a routine American tactic. We fire bombed Tokyo. Was everyone who was killed a Japanese soldier? Obviously not. We fire bombed Dresden? Was everyone at Dresden a Nazi? Obviously not. Yet our policy makers believed that killing innocent civilians would demoralize Japan and Germany and shorten the war. Who complains today about this terrorism? No one. We accepted extreme acts as necessary to defeat extreme enemies.
During the “Viet-Nam War,” we justified dropping poison on civilians, and conducing terrorist operations both inside South Viet-Nam and in North Viet-Nam. It was only when young America fought the United States Government to a standstill that America’s terrorism against Viet-Nam ended.
Had Viet-Nam attacked America? Of course not. We justified terrorizing Vietnamese by claiming it was for the greater good of “peace” and “freedom.”
After we used terrorism against Vietnamese, they used it against us. And ultimately we withdrew. Should Palestinians ignore the lessons of history?
Despite the efforts of Israeli spin doctors to delude Americans into thinking that Palestinians were “offered everything” in 2000, Palestinians see an endless occupation without the opportunity for a viable state.
The Israeli government manifests no intention of ending the negotiations and withdrawing to its own borders. Sharon screams he is at “war.” And he has made himself at war.
Under these Israeli-created conditions, suicide missions are completely understandable and, as grotesque as it may seem to us comfortably at home, thoroughly justified as a tactic of demoralizing Israelis and defeating and ending the Israeli occupation.
What is surprising is not that young Palestinians have dedicated themselves to killing Israeli civilians but that they have waited so long, and so patiently, before doing so.
The idea that Israel could negotiate forever, while occupying Palestine and building “settlements” is abhorrent to reasonable persons. My own co-religionists, Episcopalians, are horrified at the Israeli occupation of the Holy Land.
The victims of the occupation now demand to be heard over the cocktail chatter of politicians and diplomats with their endless “negotiations” and “confidence building” steps. Thus, the world can expect more and more extreme military activity, all justified by Ariel Sharon’s cries that he is “at war.”
It is likely, and painfully obvious, that only when Israel faces extinction will it negotiate in good faith for its own survival. Until them, the world can expect suicide bombers and more and more extreme weapons and tactics to be deployed by Palestinians to force Israelis to withdraw and settle on mutually acceptable terms.
In closing, it is worthwhile remembering that “Sharon’s War,” began with Palestinians throwing stones, and Israelis killing children in response. When Israelis persisted in killing stone throwers, Palestinians resorted to small arms. When Israel escalated with tanks and invasions, Palestinians recently began to deploy anti-tank weapons. The intercepted weapons shipment in January reflected the reality that unless President Bush imposes adult supervision on Israeli and Palestinian leaders, children will continue to die and tactics and weapons will continue to escalate.
Palestinians are entitled to believe that giving their lives in the hope it will bring their country freedom is a noble pursuit and a great sacrifice. Few of us are capable of committing, or even understanding, such a sacrifice. It reflects desperation. But it should also be a canary warning for the west. As long as the west allows Israel to employ war tactics as a means of controlling a colonial area, the occupied people have a result to respond to war with war, and terror with terror.
Point not the finger of blame, Mr. Sharon, for you are responsible for suicide bombers. And they will not stop until Israel itself faces defeat. Suicide bombers will be Sharon’s legacy to Israel.
Andy Martin is a Radio Talk Show host in Palm Beach, FL, USA.