The following is from the London Guardian’s Weblog:
“He wanted to be a martyr” by Seth Freedman, January 30, 2007
“The family is very proud of what Muhammad did. He always wanted to be a martyr.” You’d be forgiven for thinking that the word martyr is Arabic for lawyer or doctor, judging from the context it’s used in above.
With all the rhetoric, accusations and hyperbole flying around in the wake of yesterday’s bombing in Eilat, perhaps the most chilling quote is that of the older brother of suicide bomber Muhammad Faisal Saksak.
His words echo similar sentiments from his mother, and also the dead man’s wife. Leaving aside the complete lack of humanity or empathy from the murderer’s family to the victims of the assault, their myopic view of the road to salvation can be summed up by the newly-widowed Nadia Saksak:”Why shouldn’t I feel [proud] when I know that he died for the sake of Palestine and al-Aqsa?” she asked haughtily.
F16 fighter planes answered her question for her last night, in a language that she is more than capable of understanding. A swift bombing campaign was launched by Israel in response to the slaughter, as well as massive troop reinforcements on the Egyptian border.
Within hours of the carnage, the IDF announced plans to target the heads of Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations in the West Bank and Gaza, guaranteeing that Saksak’s actions will produce exactly the opposite effect in terms of advancing his people’s cause.
Leaving aside the punitive measures that the army will inflict on all residents of Gaza, the damage done by Saksak runs far deeper, and will take far longer to repair. A suicide bombing – especially in a civilian location – unites the right and left of Israel in knee-jerk revulsion and disgust at the savagery of our “enemies”.
While I still stand by all my left-leaning political views, I am that bit frostier to the cause of a people who flocked by the dozen to congratulate the family of the bomber at their home.
And there is absolutely nothing that will sway me from the viewpoint that suicide bombing is one of the lowest forms of “freedom fighting”.
It was very sweet of the United Nations to condemn the bombing, though the statement by Alvaro de Soto that “it hadn’t any justification” alarmed me. Why clarify the point? Is he suggesting that this differentiated from murderous attacks on Israelis that can be justified? The comment is the latest in a long line of suspicious remarks about suicide bombing – from Cherie Blair to Jenny Tonge and beyond.
The reticence of politicians to condemn outright the violent struggle of the Palestinians alarms many of Israel’s supporters, and often causes them to become further entrenched in their virulent defense of the country. This is counter-productive to any progress being made in the peace process, since the further polarization of both sides, plus the fear and suspicion felt by all, are particularly inclement conditions in which to do business.
Yet Saksak’s family still think their son died for his people – a people who will find themselves even more under the cosh than before. The suggestion that they will ever win their struggle through violence is flawed, even more so since the events of the last year.
Many Israelis are finding themselves leaning towards the right again, feeling that all the overtures their government has made have been met with nothing short of derision by the Palestinians. The ceding of the settlements in 2005 is often blamed for the Qassam attacks on Sderot, while the withdrawal from Lebanon is linked by many to the sparking of hostilities by Hizbullah last summer. The Israeli right seize on any violence perpetrated by the Palestinians as evidence of the need to treat them with an iron fist, and the left go silent on days like today.
Internecine fighting over the weekend in Gaza horrified Israeli onlookers, aghast that political scores are settled with guns and knives – are these “politicians” meant to be our partners for peace? Is it any wonder we’re not jumping into bed with Hamas when they can’t even sort out their political wranglings without gunning down the children of Fatah leaders?
And then you get this gem from an Islamic Jihad spokesman: “The operation has a clear message to the Palestinian rivals. It is necessary to end the infighting and point the guns toward the occupation that has hurt the Palestinian people.”
Couldn’t they have put up a billboard instead? Is this really the message they want to send to the Israelis, and the world at large? Three Israelis have to die so that Hamas and Fatah can be reminded what it is they exist for in the first place? It’s a frightening time to be a peacenik.
I still don’t tar all Palestinians with the same brush. I still don’t believe that Israel is even close to behaving with decency or respect towards the Palestinian people. I still don’t believe that we’re too far down the line of war for peace ever to take hold. But, when I read the words of Saksak’s family, my empathy – for their plight, for their struggle, for their people – cooled markedly.
“The family is very proud of what Muhammad did. He always wanted to be a martyr.” Words that will reverberate for a long time to come.