Beyond Images Challenging myths and presenting facts about Israel 
Palestinian “desperation”: does it explain the suicide bombing campaign?
London - published on 14 January 2003
Beyond Images Ref: 27

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“The Palestinian suicide bombers are desperate because of Israel’s policies, and their attacks are therefore inevitable…”


Those who make this claim almost always condemn suicide bombing attacks but then go on to say that they are caused by desperation which is Israel’s fault. Sometimes this argument is used as an explanation; sometimes as an excuse. Bu there is a basic flaw in the argument. To claim that “desperation” is behind suicide bombings ignores the stated goals and the method of operation of the groups which plan them.

Elimination of Israel is the goal

  • Most suicide bombers are sent by Hamas, the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, and Islamic Jihad. The proclaimed goal of these groups is to eliminate Israel, which they regard as an alien, colonial entity, and to replace it with an Islamic state. The mass killings of civilians which they orchestrate are not acts of spontaneous, personal despair, but carefully planned actions designed to inflict massive violence on the Israeli people and bring about Israel’s surrender to their demands.

Recruitment and Indoctrination of suicide bombers
  • The culture of the “suicide martyr” is promoted by Palestinian spokesmen, in mosques, newspapers, and on websites and television. Suicide bombers have come from various sections of Palestinian society - students, graduates, security officials, teenage boys and girls, and older, well-educated professionals. Some recruits have been suffering from serious or terminal illness when they were recruited, or from psychological problems.

  • Recruits need to be convinced that an act of mass killing furthers Palestinian interests, is a noble act, and that he or she will reap spiritual blessing. Above all, the recruit needs to be indoctrinated into thinking that the ends justify the means (no matter how horrendous those means are).

  • The ideologists who recruit and indoctrinate suicide bombers are highly determined and calculated in their actions.

Training and equipping the bomber

  • Suicide bombers need to be trained in how to wear, conceal and detonate explosive belts. Their attacks are often rehearsed in training sites. The belts they wear are often packed with screws or ball bearings to add to the suffering of the intended victims. In some attacks, they have been disguised as Israeli soldiers, or as orthodox Jews. None of this is within the prior knowledge or “spontaneous” instincts of “desperate” individuals. They are guided by experienced and ruthless bomb-making “engineers”.

Planning and carrying out attacks

  • Suicide attacks need to be planned and timed. Who to attack? When and how? What are the obstacles? Those who plan the suicide bombings provide the recruits with meticulous instruction on how to carry them out.

  • Recent suicide attacks on an Israeli pizzeria, disco, pool hall, and ice-cream parlour (many other examples could be given) were not random acts based on “despair”, but pre-meditated decisions made by the bomb planners in order to inflict maximum shock and devastation on civilian Israeli society.

Claiming responsibility and glorifying the bombers

  • One or sometimes two Palestinian groups typically claim responsibility for suicide attacks. Videos and press releases profiling the killer are prepared for release to the media, and the family receive words of comfort and support that the killer is a “hero” of the Palestinian people (these practices have curbed in recent months due to an Israeli decision - much criticised internationally - to punish the families of bombers who could be shown to have been involved in the act).

Financial compensation for the family

  • It is well-known that Iraq has in the past sent financial compensation packages to the families of suicide bombers. In April 2002, a TV appeal in Saudi Arabia raised millions for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Far from being financially deterred from being a suicide bomber, recruits are reassured of the financial compensation which awaits their family.

Beyond Images Conclusion: the manipulation of despair

The suicide bombings are not the inevitable result of the Palestinians’ situation. The bombing campaign is not based on Palestinian despair, but based on the manipulation of that despair by single-minded Palestinian groups whose aim is mass murder of Israelis for political ends.