Israeli warplanes pounded Palestinian cities, Israel's media spin-doctor,
Benjamin Netanyahu, was being interviewed on the Fox News Channel
where he likened Arafat to Osama bin Laden and accused him of
having "suicide kindergarten camps for kids to prepare the
next generation of suicide bombers" (Dec. 3, 2001). It is
exactly this type of hogwash that leads to innocent Palestinian
and Israeli lives being lost to desperation. Mr. Netanyahu should
be incarcerated for inciting ethnic violence and hatred.
the Palestinian children living in the Occupied Territories, if
there is any hatred toward Israelis brewing in their eyes, it
is not being taught to them by any parent, school, church or mosque.
These feelings, if they exist, come out of the incidents that
occur daily in their lives (Israeli F-16 planes circling above
their homes and dropping missiles which kill a parent, uncle,
aunt, cousin, or schoolmate; their schools being closed; their
inability to play in their yards, etc.). What Israel has been
and continues to create is a generation of Palestinian children
suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a direct result
of the Israeli occupation. Unfortunately, the world has turned
a blind eye to the atrocities conducted by Israel and somehow
has turned the Palestinian child into an aggressor worthy only
to the mini-army of Israeli media spin personalities, one is led
to ask if Palestinians are really human. For 15 months now, Israel's
well-defined whirlwind media effort has been preciously focused
on promoting its insidious campaign to dehumanize the Palestinian
Palestinians are no different than any other people (they have
two arms, two legs and all major organs), we then should take
a step back from the nightly news and media spin and understand
why any Palestinian would commit suicide, let alone take innocent
Israeli lives with his own. Since Palestinians are human, the
sciences apply to them just as they do to the rest of humanity.
Shneidman, a clinical psychologist who is a leading authority
on suicide, and who is sometimes called the Father of modern Suicidology,
has described the ten characteristics of suicide in his book Definition
of Suicide (1985).
The common stimulus in suicide is "unendurable psychological
The common stress in suicide is "frustrated psychological
The common purpose of suicide is "to seek a solution."
The common goal of suicide is "cessation of consciousness."
The common emotion in suicide is "hopelessness-
The common internal attitude toward suicide is "ambivalence."
The common cognitive state in suicide is "constriction."
The common interpersonal act in suicide is "communication
The common action in suicide is "egression" (a way
The common consistency in suicide is with "lifelong coping
these are the findings of science, then why is it that the investigative
reporters of the world do not enter the lives of these bombers
to see if they fit the profile of a suicidal person? Why the immediate
acceptance of the Israeli spin machine that Palestinians, in some
twisted logic, take happiness in killing themselves and others.
Worse yet, why do some try to understand the bombings in terms
of being part of some orchestrated media campaign that can be
turned on or off at will?
we look at the research on suicide and try to understand the mind
of the suicidal individual, the picture should become clearer
as to how these characteristics apply to a Palestinian suicide
Shneidman states in his article "At The Point Of No Return"
in Psychology Today (1987, p.56),
I have learned is not a bizarre and incomprehensible act of self
destruction. Rather, suicidal people use a particular logic, style
of thinking that brings them to the conclusion that death is the
only solution to their problems. This style can be readily seen,
and there are steps we can take to stop suicide, if we know where
this research applies to suicidal individuals and not necessarily
suicide bombers who take additional innocent lives with their
act, through studying the ten characteristics of the suicidal
individual, it certainly seems they apply even more so to the
suicidal bomber. These individuals seek to escape overwhelming
emotional pain. Shneidman terms this "metapain" (hurt
and pain on top of hurt and pain). So, from where does this hurt
and pain come? (If only the answer were as simple as the question.)
Living under Israeli occupation for years with basic human
rights stripped away and collective punishment the norm, would
be the best one-sentence answer that could be offered at this
quote that seems to apply from Shneidman (1985) is, "There
are many pointless deaths but never a needless suicide."
Every suicide seems logical to the individual who commits it.
In a suicidal individual's mind, suicide is the only way out of
an unbearable situation. A person can only cry so long with nobody
listening before his options become constricted and suicide seems
to him the only answer. In working with the "typical"
suicidal individual, the first step is listening and trying to
understand the pain, frustration and hopelessness/helplessness
that he is feeling. "Hopelessness" and "helplessness"
exactly describe the feelings of the Palestinian people living
under occupation. It seems nobody wants to hear the reality of
the situation but at the same time everyone seems so willing to
label, and then be astonished when one of these horrendous acts
is committed. It is past time to look at the reality and begin
to provide other viable options to the Palestinian people. A simple
start to begin with would be giving them their dignity and right
to existence without occupation.
bombers are never ever justified in their actions but those who
want to try to understand may understand their motivation. To
reach a logical conclusion of why these horrific events take place,
one must scratch below the surface that the sustained Israeli
occupation has made thicker and thicker with every passing year
since 1967. Further complicating matters, Israel has been successful
in allowing the passive observer to the conflict to equate the
actions and mindset of the occupied with those of the occupier.
This equality is unfair, illogical and unscientific.
must separate those who carry out deplorable suicide attacks from
the innocent victims of the attacks and from those that politically
plan, fund, and recruit for the attacks. The overwhelming majority
of those who carry out the attacks are no more than normal young
men, either born into Israeli occupation or still imprisoned by
many years of it. They are victims of Israeli policies of dehumanization
and continued military occupation. They lack any means of military
resistance while facing a world-class military machine. As one
of my readers of a past article stated, "[If only the media
would cover] who they were, what their lives were like, who and
what were left behind it would be a whole different story about
public perception of the problem in Israel and Occupied Territories."
innocent Israeli lives, especially those of the children, which
such attacks so abruptly end, are only to be mourned by Israelis
and Palestinians alike. Their memories should serve as an eternal
burden to all sides that without an end to the occupation there
are no winners or losers, only more mourners on both sides.
for those political entities that breed in the desperation that
occupation has created, they take innocent Israeli lives by exploiting
Palestinians in despair while simultaneously stripping their own
people of any political agenda, or even a legitimate armed-resistance
agenda, for ending occupation. They thrive on disruption and chaos
with a clear political goal of complicating any chance for a negotiated
solution. These entities perfectly fit Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon's strategy of ending the potential for a negotiated
peace. Sharon continues to give them, nonstop since his election
to office, ripe grounds to operate from economic despair, closures,
assassinations, etc. Those that facilitate such attacks could
not have asked for a better Israeli leader, one that has given
them a never-ending seven day grace period to kill more Israelis.
US has joined the Israeli media chorus in demanding that Arafat
do more to stop the suicide bombings. Arafat only wishes he had
the power to stop the suicide attacks. He does not, for he cannot
end occupation. Israel, and only Israel, can stop the suicide
attacks by giving back to the Palestinians their freedom, dignity
and a reason to live, by ending 34 years of their brutal military
occupation and 54 years of suffering. To the person who thinks
in absolute terms, this may seem like Israel would be giving in
to a suicide bomber. On the contrary, to the rational, intelligent
human being who knows that the world does not operate on historical
or religious slogans, but rather "reality," this would
be looking at the underlying problem rather than adopting a simplistic
"Band-Aid" approach defined by Israel.
Israel refuses to accept its historical responsibility to end
its terrorizing of the Palestinians, then, sadly, it should not
question why science applies to the Palestinian people. As Palestinians
and Israelis continue to bury, and weep for, their innocent victims,
Palestinians and Israelis alike, the world would be well advised
to remove its head from the sand.
Bahour, MBA, and Leila Bahour, M.S.Ed., L.P.C., are Palestinian-Americans
and brother and sister. Sam is a businessman living in the besieged
Palestinian City of Al-Bireh in the West Bank and frequently writes
on Palestinian affairs. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leila is a counselor at a Psychological Outpatient Counseling
Practice in the US who has worked in the psychological field for
eleven years. She spent a considerable amount of time dedicated
to the research of suicide during her pursuit of her Master's
degree and has treated suicidal individuals daily in her work
over the years.