Hamas: leading their people to death

Ernest Hemingway had great advice for writers. “Write one true declarative sentence,” he said. “Then write another.”

By that standard, Papa Hemingway would be proud indeed of Sami Abu Zuhri’s literary prowess.

Sami Abu Zuhri is a Hamas spokesman. He summed up the current situation in Gaza perfectly. And he did it in two true declarative sentences.

“We ( Hamas) aren’t leading our people to destruction. We are leading them to death.”

That wasn’t wasn’t Israel’s Prime Minister who said that. That was an official Hamas spokesman, and he said it without apologies. Two true sentences.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed.

Each and every one of those deaths, since Hamas rejected the Egyptian cease fire proposal which the Arab league endorsed, was completely predictable, tragic beyond word, and absolutely, one hundred percent preventable. Because Israel accepted that same cease fire proposal, immediately and unconditionally. All the killing could and would have been stopped immediately, right then and there.

But as Sami said, that’s not where Hamas is leading the Gazan, Palestinian people. And that sentence by the way is neither “Posturing , spin, amelioration and explanation.”

I use that last phrase because a reader of my last posted article, “ To The Last Drop of Others’ Blood” wrote in response, “The truth is shame, horror, death. The rest is posturing, spin, amelioration and explanation”

As a writer by trade, I can, to a degree, appreciate the rhythm of that sentence. As they used to say on the American Bandstand programs of my misspent youth, “It has a good beat and you can dance to it.”  But with the greatest respect, it is not “ the truth” of this conflict.

An event occurred yesterday, which may, in the parlance of our time, provide a teachable moment.  Israeli forces, operating in Gaza, yesterday were approached by what they suspected was a female suicide bomber. They ordered her to stop. She did not and they, in retrospect, chose the correct course of action.

They shot her.

And she exploded. Or rather the suicide bomber vest that would have killed them all exploded.

This was not the first suicide bomber Israeli forces encountered since entering Gaza.

The first one was a donkey.

It appeared loaded down with an unusual load on its back and was beaten by its “handler" in order to urge it forward, toward the Israeli troops. The “Handler” was a Hamas operative, who, having dispatched the donkey, promptly disappeared, quite literally, according to what I heard, down a rat hole.

In retrospect, those Israeli troops also chose the correct course of action.

They shot the donkey.

It too exploded, or rather the donkey-sized suicide vest, with enough explosives to murder dozens of people, exploded.

I bring these two incidents up because, while I have no first hand knowledge of Hamas’s evolving policy of using beasts of burden as unwilling suicide bombers, I have, at least second hand knowledge of Hamas’s past and evolving policy regarding using women as female suicide bombers. I know the world’s leading expert on female suicide bombers.

Dr. Anat Berko has a PHD in criminology and advanced degrees in psychology. She speaks fluent Arabic, and her parents were Jewish refugees from Iraq, where their family had lived for several thousand years, and from which they were expelled in the wake of the Israel / Arab  conflict which made some 800,000 other Middle Eastern Jews, refugees as well. (Ironically that is almost the exact number of Palestinians who became refugees in 1948 as a result of the same conflict.).

Dr. Berko carried out the most comprehensive study of female suicide bombers and their handlers ever undertaken. She interviewed almost every female suicide bomber in Israeli custody. These were women whose suicide belts failed to detonate or who were caught before they could carry out their attacks. Her two books, “The Path to Paradise: The Inner World of Suicide Bombers and their Dispatchers” and “The Smarter Bomb: Women and Children as Suicide Bombers” have become classics on the subject.

What Dr. Berko found was that the majority of female suicide bombers were motivated by other than ideological or religious reasons. Nor were most of them motivated by the desire for revenge or even hatred of Israel.

The majority of female suicide bombers were unwitting, unwilling, or chose the path of so-called “Martyrdom” as the lesser of two evils with which they were presented. There is a saying on the Palestinian street in regard to female suicide bombers. I hope I would not be accused of “spin, posturing or amelioration,” by saying that this particular expression betrays a somewhat sexist attitude amongst those who use it. With regard to female suicide bombers the Palestinian street saying is, “ Shahida o Sharmuta?” Freely translated it means, “(was she) a martyr or a whore?”

The reason Palestinians might say that about one who had ostensibly committed the highly praised (when it comes to men) act of “ Martyrdom” is because they know that in many if not the majority of instances, the female suicide bomber was approached by operatives of one terrorist organization or another and told that she had been seen with men other than male relatives and had thus “dishonored” her family. In such an instance she would either be the victim of an “honor killing” to be carried out by her father, brother or another male relative, or she could choose to become a suicide bomber, strap on an explosive vest, blow herself up with as many Jews as possible, and thus die not a whore, but a martyr who would be admitted to Paradise where she would sit at the right hand of the prophet, and where, by the way, she could choose her own husband, as opposed to being forced into a heavenly marriage with someone not of her choosing.

Another category which provided fertile ground for female suicide bombers were victims of rape and incest from within their own families. One girl was raped repeatedly by her cousins, another by her brother. Both saw the “suicide” part of suicide bomber, as preferable to the hell on earth in which they were living.

To be sure there were women so enchanted with the religious notion of Paradise and its advantages over earthly life (such as not having to take care of children, never having a period, and marrying the mate of one’s own choice) that they became suicide bombers for religious reasons. Others had seen relatives killed by Israeli soldiers and wanted revenge, and others, while not religious, were motivated by nationalistic reasons. But as noted these were far less in number than the women who were unwilling martyrs, or those choosing martyrdom instead of honor killing, or as a means of escaping an intolerable life.

But what I remembered was that Hamas, had, at least at one time, a firm policy against using female suicide bombers. Indeed Dr. Berko had once interviewed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, one of the founders and the spiritual leader of Hamas until his death in 2004, at the hands of the IDF.

Dr. Berko interviewed the Spiritual Leader in 1996. “At that time,” Dr. Berko told me this morning, “Yassin said ‘I’m against sending women (as suicide bombers) because they have a special role. It is to give birth to children. There is not equality in Islam. Suicide bombing, that’s not a job for women. And then, too we have enough men to be suicide bombers. So we are against it. We don’t use them.’”

“What happened to make Hamas change its mind?” I asked.

“In 2002, there was the first female suicide bomber,” Dr. Berko told me.  “She was not from Hamas. But it got a lot of good publicity for the organization that sent her. It got good media attention, and Hamas felt they had to compete with the other terrorist organizations who were getting all the attention because of the female suicide bombers. So Hamas didn’t want to be left behind.”

“And that’s why Hamas changed its mind. Because it was effective media?!”

“Yes,” she said, “Hamas had to compete with the other terrorist organizations.”

We will probably never know what motivated the female suicide bomber who exploded prematurely thanks to an Israeli marksman. But we absolutely know the motivation of the terrorist army of Hamas and its political wing as well, which dispatched her and the donkey, and which has turned their own people into human shields,  and which celebrate their deaths because of the great media attention it brings them.

That is the truth, the shame, the horror. It is not my, or Israel’s or anyone else’s posturing, or, Heaven forbid, amelioration.

We know it because Sami Abu Zuhri, the Hamas official spokesman told us so, in two declarative, Hemingwayesque sentences.

“We are not leading our people to destruction. We are leading them to death."