||Challenging myths and presenting facts about
MURDER AND FASHIONABLE FALLACIES
By Prof Shlomo Avineri -
… A response to Cherie Blair and others who
seek to explain the suicide bombers…
|London - published on 6 May 2003
Beyond Images Ref: 41
In June 2002 Jerusalem and Northern Israel were struck by several
large suicide bombings, killing 50 people. Immediately after
one of the attacks (a Jerusalem bus bombing which took the lives
of many students and schoolchildren), Cherie Blair, the wife
of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, stated (in an off-the-cuff
comment) that when people [i.e. Palestinians] have no hope,
what is left for them to do but blow themselves up?
That comment prompted the following article in The Jerusalem
Post newspaper, dated 21 June 2002, by Prof Shlomo Avineri,
former Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, noted
historian, and Professor of Political Science at Hebrew University.
Cherie Blair, the wife of Britain’s Prime Minister is
only the latest of many well-intentioned but morally obtuse
individuals to indirectly “understand” Palestinian
suicide murderers by suggesting – as she apparently did
– that when young people have no hope, what is left for
them but to blow themselves up in an act of mass carnage, taking
with them the lives of dozens of innocents?
Those who make such statements – and they include practically
all the Arab political elite – then go on to condemn suicide
This is a kind of moral bankruptcy, and needs to be condemned
as such. Yes, many Palestinian youths feel at a dead end, and
many are desperate. But, and this is the crux of the matter,
are they the only desperate young people in the world?
Are there not millions – nay, tens and hundreds of millions
– of young people all over the world who have no economic
or social hope, let alone “a political horizon”
[the expression used by the international community to describe
a renewed peace process – Beyond Images] ? Are Jenin
and Nablus refugee camps the only places where abject poverty
and destitution rule supreme?
And if young, and not so young, people from these legions of
the Damned of the Earth started, out of despair, blowing themselves
up in the streets of London, Paris, Rome or Berlin, would well-meaning
Western intellectuals express the same lame empathy –
if not indirect apology – for their murderous rage ?
Moreover, there have been, in recent memory, other young people
who might have felt desperate – who could be more desperate
than the Jewish people after the Holocaust?
And yet these young people did not go about killing innocent
European children on buses in ravished post-1945 Europe because
they felt desperate.
Nor were they encouraged by their leaders to do this: on the
contrary. When there were individual cases of Jews taking revenge
on suspected German war criminals (not innocent civilians, mind
you) Jewish public opinion went against it.
Nor did Indian patriots or Egyptian nationalists go around
blowing themselves up on the streets of London. And when the
Irgun [Jewish underground group, pre-1948 – Beyond
Images] hanged two British sergeants in retaliation for
the hanging of Jewish terrorists, the majority of the Jewish
community in Palestine viewed it as a despicable murder.
Yes, Palestinian youth may be desperate. But don’t they
have an alternative, like turning their despair into a constructive
force instead of a fascist-like fascination with death?
Young Palestinians could – like young Indians or young
Jews in British Palestine – try to help their people by
alleviating their suffering, by building houses for refugees,
by offering to help out in schools and hospitals.
This is what the Greek Cypriots did after the Turkish invasion
of the island, what people in Bosnia and Kosovo are doing now.
Some might even think to ask why none of these desperate Palestinian
youths has seriously questioned the catastrophic leadership
of Yasser Arafat, who missed a historic opportunity at Camp
David in 2000 of coming back from the negotiations with a Palestinian
But for some strange reason that social scientists, historians
and theologians fail to explain, only among Palestinian youth
– and among the relatively well-of Egyptians and Saudis
who committed the September 11 massacres – have justified
feelings of frustration, anger and alienation transformed themselves
into a murderous rage.
Why? Some serious questioning is in order, in place of the
moral blindness that talks about despair leading to terrorism.
Anyone who uses such language is, whether he or she realises
it or not, complicit in murder. By understanding, one condones.