The Blanket

Against Suicide Bombing

Carrie Twomey • 19/6/2002

20 people dead so far, mostly teenagers, children - over 50 more wounded, some horrifically. A crowded public bus carrying schoolchildren, with their schoolbags left behind to identify them.

Shalom Sabag was driving in front of the commuter bus at the time of the blast, the latest in a series of suicide bombings in a 20-month-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation. He rushed to help pull out the dead and wounded.
"Bodies were piled up near the door of the bus," he said. "I took off the bodies of two girls and a man. There was one girl I cannot forget. She had a long braid down her back and she lay on her stomach."
The bus driver sat dead in his seat, his hands still on the steering wheel. Blood dripped down the steps of the rear door. (Michele Gershberg, Reuters)

The Israeli reaction is predictable enough: more incursions into Palestinian areas, more state brutality, more dead Palestinians. Many people hold the state to a higher responsibility, put the onus of standards of behaviour onto the state rather than those struggling against the state, and in doing so explain suicide bombings away. But what is guiding the strategy of suicide bombings? What on Earth is the gain from this murder?

I’ve heard the explanation that suicide bombings demonstrate the weaknesses in Israeli security, that no matter how many rings of steel are thrown down, no matter how many curfews, clampdowns, checkpoints, raids and arrests, the Israeli state is still vulnerable. There is a logic to that thinking, if one excludes the aftermath of the bombings themselves. Surely there must be a way other than blowing up children, teenagers, workers, women, civilians to breach Israeli security.

How exactly do suicide bombings help the Palestinian people? They only bring more of the wrath of the Israelis down upon their heads - again, children, working people, poor people, women, civilians. It creates the desperation that leads to more young people wanting to kill themselves in a futile attempt to end the misery they and their people endure. And it continues, and continues and…

What is it those who are deciding this strategy want?

Recently talks were held between some of the players in the Irish peace process with those in the Middle East, about using what is happening here as a model for a solution to the conflict.

The most important lesson - especially from the Republican perspective - was likely not even touched upon. The lesson learned that those who are driven - through oppression, through despair, poverty, misery - to fight for their people need not be told they have limited options in how to do so. They do not have to kill for their people to gain their freedom. They do not have to kill themselves. Isn’t that what we have learned here? That all these lost lives need not have been lost had the political path been taken from the start? That young volunteers did not have to choose between jail and death; other options were and now are available.

What we have learned from the Irish peace process is that leaders lead for all sorts of reasons - not always in the best interests of those they are leading. Suicide bombs are not going to move the Israelis. They will continue to destroy the lives of everyone, Israeli and Palestinian alike. And for what? 30 years on, will it all have been worth it?



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"People were flying in the air and there was blood everywhere," said Yakir Barashi, 14, who had just stepped off another bus in south Jerusalem. "I'm afraid to go on a bus, to go to school. I saw one kid with nails cutting into his entire body."

Index: Current Articles

20 June 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Against Suicide Bombings

Carrie Twomey

The Power to Force Respect
Anthony McIntyre


Ciarán Irvine, decentralisation, and "Eire Nua"
Seaghan O Murchu

Why the Earth Moved

Ciarán Irvine


16 June 2002


Zionism, Palestine & The Spirit of the Warsaw Ghetto

Brian Kelly

Avoiding Park Benches
Anthony McIntyre


A Case For Change
Ciarán Irvine


The Terrifying Power of Life and Death
Brendan Hughes



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