The Uniqueness of Palestinian Terrorism

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The Uniqueness of Palestinian Terrorism

May 30, 2002
By Prof. Louis Rene Beres, Purdue University
and Alessandra Delgado,Lima, Peru

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 subunits 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 altogether unique 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 terror 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.'" 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 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. Palestinian terror 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, the Arafat 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 grotesquely 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 celebrate even the most barbarous forms of anti-Jewish terrorism. When a terror organization linked closely to Arafat took credit for the May 27 Petah 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."

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 to a major HADITH (an Arab term which refers to the oral tradition by means of which sayings or deeds attributed to the prophet Muhammed 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.

LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is author of many books and articles dealing with terrorism and international law. He is Professor of International Law

Department of Political Science
Purdue University
LAEB Building
West Lafayette IN 47907,USA

Telephone: 765.494.4189
Fax: 765.494.0833

ALESSANDRA DELGADO, a Peruvian student at Purdue University, is studying the history and activity of Latin American terror group

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