Holy Qur'an, Surah Al-Baqara,[2:19
Bassem Eid, Director; Tyler B. Evans, MPH (Researcher/Editor)
The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG)
P.O. Box 19918
Jerusalem 91198, Via Israel
This paper outlines the background, the need, and the recommendations that the PHRMG has made to bring an end to the merciless practice of suicide attacks (SAs). The goal of this project is to draw attention to its practice, its harms, the reasons for its popularity, and to promote dialogue of this issue amongst the Palestinian community in order to bring an end to such an egregious means.
The PHRMG strongly condemns SAs, and it is the position of this paper to argue against the needless killing of civilians on both sides of the political divide. This paper explores the motivations behind undertaking such actions, the legal context in which these crimes are committed, the responsibilities of the Palestinian legal system in upholding HR, and the role that humanitarian organizations can play in eliminating public support for this callous practice.
Researching the SA phenomenon is imperative as there is little accurate information available concerning the real motivations behind carrying out a SA. This is a topic that typically evokes emotional - rather than objective responses. The subject of SAs is controversial because it is difficult within the religious community to come to a consensus as to whether or not SAs are in violation of Islamic scriptures.
It is also a challenging subject when discussing this subject in the political context. There are arguments on both sides as to whether it is an effective tool in the arsenal against occupation. Many Palestinians, who in practice may disagree with SAs, rarely vocally oppose its occurrence, thereby allowing this practice to persist with impunity. Despite the myriad difficulties in conducting research of this nature, we feel that this topic cannot be ignored when evaluating the HR situation in Palestine. Therefore, an organized effort must be made to educate the public about the social, emotional, and legal ramifications of undertaking such actions.
The practice of SAs is a violation of international law, and the Palestinian government must be held responsible for upholding the principles of HR. According to international humanitarian law (IHL), the guidelines are salient - the killing of civilians is illegal. However, the situation gains complexity when trying to decide what actually constitutes a "civilian". The presence of Israel as a military state further obfuscates this theoretical simplicity.
Analyzing the causes that drive young Palestinian men and women to commit SAs is a daunting task. Notwithstanding this difficulty, this paper attempts to delineate the basic profile of SAers. Several contextual factors are discussed - including the historical background and motivational factors. Moreover, the opinions of Palestinian and Israeli professionals will add to the overall analysis.
The purpose behind defining both the rationale and motivations behind SAs is twofold. First, to hopefully reduce the number of further attacks. It is hoped that this task may be addressed by publicly confronting such motivations and subsequently dispelling them. Second, is to prevent false labeling of SAers with specious psychological definitions that prove effective only in leading the media, the public, and government officials astray. Therefore, PHRMG asks that Palestinian professionals in particular take note of our research and become more outspoken against the practice of SAs. Indeed, the Palestinian voice is often missing or inaccurate on such sensitive matters.
This paper conclusively eliminates numerous specious correlations and stereotypes surrounding SAers - including that of being psychologically disturbed, mentally incompetent, poverty-stricken, and driven by religious fervor. We have shown that an insightful analysis portrays the average SAer as a rational actor living in an irrational world, and thus susceptible to modification. Indeed, SAers appear to be driven by strong nationalistic zeal, systematic oppression by a population whose culture is significantly different from their own, an ensuing feeling of helplessness and despair, a devout hatred for a neighboring tangibly occupying force, and a false assurance by organizations as well as a manipulation of religious scriptures to more easily guide such individuals towards imminent self-destruction.
We have also conclusively demonstrated that Islam - and its underlying ethos - is not inherently responsible for SAs. Islam is a religion and culture that promotes peace and understanding. Unfortunately, it is the work of manipulative theologists with significant influence who often obscure the benign messages enshrined in the Qur'an.
The matter of public support has also been addressed. SAs, quite simply, would naturally cease to exist if they materialized in a vacuum. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It is largely the fault of both political and religious leaders who continue to advocate its utility as well as the media's known bias and social construction that this epidemic persists. While some leaders and media journalists have altered their path on this subject - a majority still either blatantly supports the use of SAs or sends mixed messages, which simply complicates the complex. The PHRMG, therefore, calls upon both its political and religious leaders and media representatives to bring this matter into center stage and seriously educate the population on the ramifications of such a futile and egregious means.
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