The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has just published an extremely interesting study of suicide bombings in Israel: “Suicide bombing terrorism during the current Israeli-Palestinian confrontation” (in PDF). The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center is part of the Center for Special Studies, a non-governmental organization operating in memory of the fallen of the Israeli Intelligence Community and headed by Dr. Reuven Erlich, a retired IDF lieutenant colonel. The study covers 146 bombing attacks killing 518 Israelis during the period September 2000-December 2005.
Everything in the study is worth reading. I was particularly struck by the exposition of the theological basis of suicide bombing discussed in the report:
From the point of view of those who support such attacks, most of whom base their rationale on modern radical Islam, the act is not suicide as the term is generally accepted, i.e., an act of desperation carried out for personal reasons (intihar), which is forbidden by Islam. Quite the opposite, it is an act of martyrdom carried out by a Muslim (male or female) for the sake of Allah (ishitihad). Thus a suicide bomber is referred to as ishtihadi (and not shaheed), that is, one who has knowingly sacrificed himself or herself for the sake of Allah.
Also of interest is the study’s identification of the organizations supporting the regime of suicide bombing, most prominently Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, various Fatah factions, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. According to the report, Syria and Iran are the chief foreign sponsors of the bombings.
Today’s Wall Street Journal carries a page-one story by Karby Leggett on U.S. diplomat Jamie Wolfensohn and the “Latest answer to Mideast crisis: Fix the economy” (subscribers only). Leggett writes:
Mr. Wolfensohn is betting that the Middle East conflict needs not only a political settlement but also an economic one. Prosperity, he believes, will blunt the appeal of extremism and give Palestinians a stake in building a new state after years of nearly continuous violence. He has one eye supporting the efforts of Palestinian moderates in January’s parliamentary elections. The other is on fashioning an economy that could underpin any resolution for the long term.
Mr. Wolfensohn is a special envoy to a group known as the Quartet — its members are the U.S., the European Union, Russia and the United Nations — which was formed to push for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. He’s an important figure at a time when progress appears possible. Asked what will happen if the two sides fail, Mr. Wolfensohn hesitates before answering. “There may not be another opportunity like this for a decade,” he says.
To succeed, Mr. Wolfensohn and his international backers need Israel’s help. Wary of continued terrorist attacks, the Jewish state wants tight control over Gaza’s contacts with the outside world. In many ways, Israel’s desire for tight security is in conflict with Gaza’s economic requirements.
How foolish Wolfensohn’s bromides read in the teeth of the suicide bombing study. For another glimpse of the real world intruding on the fantasies of American diplomacy in Israel’s neighborhood, see Jamie Glazov’s FrontPage interview with David Keyes: “Al Qaeda in Gaza.”