Bomb blasts killing 15 Israelis and 12 Frenchman in Pakistan has once again catapulted the controversial issue of “suicide bombing” or martyrdom operations under the spotlight.
“May God be the witness that you are martyrs.. You died to honor God’s word. (You) committed suicide? We committed suicide by living like the dead.”
This poem, glorifying the martyrs who blew themselves up in defence of their land of Palestine, has struck a chord with Arabs and Muslims in particular. The heroic resistance of the Palestinian youth, male and female, has captured the hearts and minds of the ordinary oppressed throughout the world.
Remarkably, it was written by the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Great Britain, Ghazi Alghosaibi. This has caused considerable consternation in the West by generating controversy over the issue of martyrdom (ishtish-had) or as the West calls it ” suicide bombing”.
The Western world in general endorsed the sentiments expressed by the American president George Bush calling the “suicide bombers. murderers, not martyrs”, as representing some horrible new form of terrorist warfare.
It is the West’s collaboration with illegitimate and despotic ” Muslim leaders ” such as Egypt and Pakistan and its virtual occupation of Muslim land in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, that provokes Islamic liberation fighters to retaliate by any means possible to free themselves from bondage.
America and the Western world’s muted response to Israel’s invasion of Jenin, Ramallah, Nablus, Bethleham and Tul Qarem in effect sanctions the massacres and war crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people.
The myth of Israel’s victim-hood is consistently propagated by the regime to justify its illegal and increasingly brutal occupation of Palestine. The repetitive and distorted picture of Israel as a victim, rather than the perpetrator of terrorism, can only emerge from a pre – supposed pro-Israeli agenda, which focuses principally on the killing of Israelis by Palestinian human bombs, while completely blocking out consciousness killing of Palestinians by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).
Israel’s justification of its invasion rests in the wake of the martyrdom operation that killed 28 people in the resort city of Netanya during the Passover. One needs to view, however, the entire spectrum of violence by all the protagonists and then apportion appropriately with whom the major responsibility for violence lays.
A study conducted by Nafeez Ahmad, a British political analyst and researcher, cites statistics endorsed by the Israeli Human Rights group, B’ Tselem: The number of fatalities from the first intifada in December 1987 until January 2002, includes a total of 2,166 Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli security forces and settlers. In the same period, a total of 454 Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinians.
Thus, the approximate ratio of fatalities between the Palestinians and Israeli’s is 5:1. In other words, Israeli violence resulting in death against Palestinians is approximately five times that of Palestinian violence resulting in death against Israelis.
Statistical data on the number of injuries on both sides is an even more damning indictment of the Israeli role. The total number of Palestinians seriously injured by the use of life ammunition, rubber/plastic bullets, teargas, shrapnel and bomb fragments amount to 18,761. The total on the Israeli side is 427. Thus the ratio of casualties between the Palestinians and the Israelis is a shocking 44:1. In other words Israeli violence against Palestinians resulting in civilian casualties is 44 times that of Palestinian violence against Israelis.
Then one needs to bring into the equation the daily humiliation and degradation of Palestinians, demolition of their homes, eviction, uprooting of trees, lack of excess to water, electricity, employment, schools, clinics and hospitals.
The only logical conclusion one can draw from this analysis is that the statistical data proves very clearly that Israel bears overwhelming responsibility for violence and terrorism in this conflict, as a matter of record.
There is of course a critical factor obfuscated by the West – that the Palestinians are a resistance force fighting an oppressive and occupying Israeli force. The right of resistance is sanctioned by international law, the UN charter and the Geneva Conventions. The human bombs by courageous martyrs are a response to decades of repression and de-humanization.
It seems almost incomprehensible for ordinary Westernized people to grasp the awesome psychological and human dimensions surrounding the concept of ‘ishtish-had’ or martyrdom. This form of struggle by tormented Palestinians is vilified because it has challenged the myth of invincibility of the world ‘s fourth most powerful army – the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).
Hamas’s military wing Ezzeddin Al-Qassam Brigades, have been the main group associated with the planning and execution of martyrdom operations. These operations which recently target civilians are considered an aberration from Hamas and for that matter, Islamic Jihad’s fundamental position of hitting only military targets. Hamas officials emphasis that these operations represent an exception is necessitated by the Israeli insistence on targeting Palestinian civilians and by Israel’s refusal to agree to an understanding prohibiting the killing of civilians on both sides, an understanding comparable to the one reached between Israel and Hizbullah in southern Lebanon.
The first martyrdom operation came in response to the massacre of Muslim worshipers as they kneeled in prayer in the Ebrahimi mosque in Hebron at dawn by a Jewish settler Dr Baruch Goldstein. Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, Hamas spiritual leader who offered Israel a truce, explained that his movement does not endorse the killings of civilians, but that it is sometimes the only option it has to respond to the murder of Palestinian civilians. Israel has spurned Hamas offer.
In the final analysis, self-defense and self-preservation is a religious and moral duty of the first order, however unorthodox and unaesthetic the means employed to achieve them may appear to the Western world. If the world is so concerned about Jewish civilians getting killed by martyrdom operations, then it should pressurize the racist Israeli Zionist regime to stop massacring and brutalizing innocent Palestinians, including children, which would lead to the saving of Jewish lives as well.
The rage exhibited by thousands of mourners whenever Israel terrorizes, annihilates and butchers Palestinians is a testimony that armed resistance is a true expression of the wishes of the Palestinians whose daily encounters with occupation, humiliation and oppression, reinforces their conviction that only the language of force pays off.
The struggle of the Palestinians is a life and death struggle for survival. Without any Apache helicopters, no tanks, no air force, no navy and no army, they have courageously resorted to resist oppression and occupation with the only weapon available to them – martyrdom.
(Mr. Firoz Osman is Secretary of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)