From the article:

Her main motivation in becoming a suicide bomber appears to be religious rather than nationalistic - the fulfilment of a long-held ambition. Even getting married recently hadn't changed her mind.


"Israeli soldiers, of course... are the easier target when they come here, but [I would kill] civilians too because both civilians and soldiers took our land."

But wouldn't she have any difficulty killing people not holding a gun? Wouldn't she feel pity for women and children?

"It is not important because all of them have violated our land. Children are civilians, but they grow up to become soldiers... They are all brought up to hate us. Palestine is only for Palestinians. We must kick them all out in any way we can."

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I failed to see the religious aspect of her motives. What I did see is through adult psychology an individual who can not perceive future for her life nor does she see that she will die tomorrow. I see an individual who is although very constrained she is very depressed. Her ability to take pain and displace the events with emotion is a great concern.

Many martrs are given promises to bring their families food and money, scholarships for their bother and sisters to get education and in the event the authorities find her then the underground militant group will regroup and replace her family.

Brainwashing is a simple form and erasing the effects is even greater. the facid of being a gift from god is not sound reasoning from many good muslims. Don't make the mistake that the Quran nor Islams teachings reward you for taking the lives of others. the Sunni cleric in KSA does not support the media moguals who portray ilucid family behavior. He denounced them and told the owners should be condemend. Although I respect him I feel dismentia has set in and he doesn't always think clearly. If he is clear on his objective that would mean any family member doing ilucid behaviors or acts against the religious background then they should also be condemned.

That would explain why she has failed to include her family, the vary people who nursed her during her childhood illnesses and sat with her while she tried to figure out the problems of her life and they held her hand and loved her freely. No parent and I don't care what country you are from would knowingly give birth to a child their very future is the life of their children and to have the knowledge they gave birth to a human bomb. That makes no sense.

So, this young gal may want to have a child before she extorts and blows herself up. sounds like she was left in an environment that left her feeling valueless and low self esteem.

Where is this so called louse of a husband. If she gives birth then she will ask her parents to take care of it. That gives you your time line of her death. Wouldn't it be more sound thinking to give the child to the father who helped bring the young infant to the world. So, she devalues her husband and he fails to bring his new wife honor of the marriage. I feel her husband is part of her problem.

This young women needs help. You and the likes of you reporters who go out and watch someone being stoned to death is no different than the one throwing the stones!

GET THIS GIRL a youth who has not realized utopia of life HELP! she needs therapy.

What she doesn't realize the so called funding she has been promised will not come. Her family member will follow her to the grave and her mother will rot on the soil and dust of her lifeless child without regard to any form of soul.

No this has exactly nothing to do with religion. This has nothing to do with fascism or nationalism nor does this have much to do with Zionist. It is a propaganda attempt for extorting our youth.

This so called Muslim Scholar Marwan Abu Ras should be forced to live the rest of his life living the pain of these peoples lives for his but holier than now attitude on justification on death! THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR TAKING LIFE IN ANY FORM!
I will repeat the importance of ISLAM, "Islam prohitis you from harming yourself, even to cause a small cut in your finger." PERIOD end of story. don't add to it unless your speaking tongues and those oracles are not of GOD. In'Sha'Allah may peace be with you.

GOD IS GOOD, GOD is Light, follow the rivers as they were meant to move, listen to the trees when the winds swept through them and feel the warmth Allah places on your faces at day break and believe he is the higher power.

one last note; martyrs must pray all the time and they must fast. STOP BRAIN WASHING OUR CHILDREN! work through diplomacy. I have asked you to come to the table.
amera windsfeather
This does sound like a religious motivation or pretext.
As does the very word "martyr." "Martyr" comes from the Greek word for "witness." Witness to what?
Their conception of their religious faith, that's what. As she says "to fight in God's name..."
If that's religious brainwashing, it's still related to religion.

"When she spoke of becoming a suicide bomber, Umm Anas's voice was strong and steady: "This is a gift from God.
"We were created to become martyrs for God," she continued, her eyes burning behind the full face veil.
I take each step carefully because I know I am going to sacrifice myself.
"All the Palestinian people were created to fight in God's name. If we just throw stones at the Jews they get scared. Imagine what happens when body parts fly at them."
I read this article before on the BBC.
My first question is what is the name of the program that trained the female suicide bombers? Is it a big proportion of the population? Did she become a jihadist by choice, indoctrination? We need to learn more about the situation, and how it lead to her and other females to make these decisions (along with males).

I feel like these motives are more integrated with the contemporary struggles and complications of the situation (nevermind that Gaza is already pretty messed up, and the situation is not looking to good for anyone).

I am really interested in seeing how religion and occupation together, and how they effect people.
When she says,
"All the Palestinian people were created to fight in God's name. If we just throw stones at the Jews they get scared. Imagine what happens when body parts fly at them."
All people that fight for a monotheistic religion are fighting for God, What she is doing is no different than the religious, Jewish extremists that commit violence against innocent Palestinians.
I wonder if they both see themselves as fighting for the same God or for a different God.

I agree, the violence and siege over Gaza has effected her greatly, to the point where she will commit violence.
While I agree with windsfeather that she should receive help, the question becomes whether she wants help or not. It may not want to go into any sort of therapy. Depending on who the therapist is, she may see therapy as culturally degrading and a form a colonialization.

However, it really sickened me how she would even go out of her way to want to kill innocent unarmed children claiming that they are in Palestine, and Palestine is only for Palestinians. Is it the little boy's fault that he is living in what is now Israel? Maybe this child's parents are peacemakers.
This is why I hate nationalism, and how nationalists (regardless of which side) claim that this land is for us, and if you are not like us, get out!

The main problem becomes -- "How do we prevent violent extremists like this woman planning to commit acts of violence like this?"
This first step would be to end the siege of Gaza and give people the basic humanitarian needs that they need.
Don't you realize that there are also suicide bombings and genocidal murderers
in places where there is no siege, and no occupation?

As I've posted stories from Iraq, and Darfur, and Somalia, and other places to show it.
The first step is re-education. Before making grand political gestures.

Your cultural relativism will be a problem - for you - in the long run.
If you take the position that therapy for combatting this insanity could be culturally degrading,
you are in effect standing up for their "right" to commit these atrocities, and failing to hold them up to your own standards.
Why? Do you think they are inferior to us and can't possibly be judged by civilized standards?
There are a number of independent scientific/psychological profiles and studies on suicide bombers (not anecdotal stories). The vast majority were motivated to volunteer following events in their own or their family life (relative killed, home demolished, cousine trorured etc) and religious or nationalistic issues came distant as motivational factors (more as generalizations after the personal tragedies of family members). This is ofcourse not speaking about those who recruit them and I think such studies on those who recruit them are important (though technically more difficult). My own guess is that there are varied motivations behind the recruiters from Islamism to nationalism to Zionism (yes, the Mossad and Shin Bet are involved in terrorism occasionally to serve certain political agendas like scuttling peace efforts to allow continued creation of facts on teh ground). You can google for data.
I feel really bad for people that end up being a suicide bomber or killing several people.
For example, there was this documentary about this boy who lived in the West Bank,and was ready to blow himself up at a check point.He gets aressted and gets thrown into jail. This really annoyed me,since he was chastized for his actions, instead of getting psychological help.People need to realize that it was not the boy's fault for thinking or doing these actions. He is living under foreign occupation; most of his family is either already dead or is in a bad state (Mazin explained it a lot better than me). The world doesn't cry,cuz they don't care, so I must die, and show the world how horrible they made my life.

People need to understand that people who end up choosing to do such devastating forms of crimes, majority of them grew up in environments or situations that they did not choose to be in.
For example, I was watching the film with some friends last weekend, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," which is about this man who goes out and kills tons of people with a chainsaw. The film is actually based on a true story, about a man in Texas in the 1950s, who massacred several people (only difference was that he did not use a chainsaw to kill people). I asked my friends what lead up to him committing these atrocities, and they told me how his mother was really strict and overprotective growing up, and how his father would frequently abuse him.

As you pointed out, the incident with the man in Texas was NOT caused by living under foreign occupation.
Same goes for Sunni homicide bombers in Iraq attacking Shiites. What? Do you think the Shiites are occupying the Sunnis?
You cannot so casually absolve people from the responsibility for their own actions and decisions;
and still seem to be missing the extent to which what differentiates these bombers is that they are taught that it is the right thing to do irrespective of occupation, as an offensive tactic.
And you are not distinguishing between the poor souls who explode themselves in their hate for others,
and the very cynical and evil people who equip and motivate them to do it.
They have an offensive motive even where there is no occupation.

So why do you persist in seeing only the part that can be connected to occupation and Israel,
and ignoring those parts that do not?
Islamism, Making Sense of Darfur:

Post Islamism? Questioning the Question (Part 2)
posted by Noah Salomon

The term “Islamism” has two common uses in the study of contemporary Sudan, what I will call “the descriptive” and “the analytical.” Descriptively speaking, Islamism refers to the historical phenomenon of what is called in Arabic al-haraka al-islaamiyya (the Islamic Movement, that is, the plethora of groups which trace their genealogy back to Muslim Brotherhood of the 1940s and 50s and whose members are referred to in Sudan as al-islaamiyyiin, the Islamists, al-kayzaan, (xii) or, naas al-jabha, the people of the National Islamic Front). Here we must agree with Gallab that there have been major intellectual, personal, and military-tactical splits within the movement which have led to a significant recasting of the Islamist message, a reshuffling of its cadre, and even the disappearance of some of the earlier goals of the Islamist state which had been on its agenda. That said, a great number of the Islamists who steered the inqaadh revolution of 1989 have managed to remain in power for the past 20 years (with no sign of disappearing anytime soon), turning up the force of Islamist politics at domestically and internationally strategic moments (as Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban noted in her post), and turning down the same forces when it was politically prudent. Despite the radical changes in the implementation of al-mashru‘ al-islaami (the Islamic Project), it is my contention that due to the maintenance of personnel and the continued mobilization of Islamic politics in both the judicial and executive “branches” of government, it is certainly open to debate whether, in using the descriptive definition of Islamism, we can say that Sudan is in a post-Islamist stage. Instead I tend to side with Einas Ahmed (xiii) that we are not necessarily witnessing a waning of Islamism as a political force, but rather a change in its morphology. (xiv)

If in using the descriptive definition of Islamism we find ourselves on unsure ground as to whether or not we may say that Sudan has entered a post-Islamist phase, when we turn to the analytical definition of Islamism, it seems to me that we are on even shakier ground in answering the question of “post Islamism?” in the affirmative. Analytically speaking, Islamism generally refers to a modern political ideology whose foundations are said to be partially, if not primarily, grounded in the Islamic tradition. If we use Islamism as an analytic category, without any necessary ties to those islaamiyiin who claim the term as their own, we can clearly conclude that Sudan has not entered a post-Islamist stage. Rather, it is my contention that the failure of the Islamic Movement to create a stable state and implement the projects it set out to accomplish, far from signaling the end of Islamism, has instead enhanced the political future of Islam in Sudan (and thus various forms of what we can clearly call Islamism, using the analytic definition) in often surprising directions.

The years in which I conducted fieldwork in Sudan (2003 and 2004, intermittently, and 2005-7, continually) were characterized by an opening of the window of political and journalistic freedom (a window that seems sadly to be closing in more recent months). What I observed in my time in Sudan is that it was precisely the Islamic Movement’s failure to maintain hold of the steering wheel of the ship of Islamization on which they had embarked that was causing new Islamic actors to enter political debate. Thus while the debate occurred in the language of the Islamic Movement, they were not the only party to it. I can cite many examples: the increasingly vocal critique from the Salafi mosques of Ansaar al-Sunna (even in the years after they joined the government) against the Islamic Movement’s obsession with the Islamic state before it has clarified and corrected key matters of religious doctrine in its ideology; the attempt of Sufi movements to ground the unity of the umma in this time of political turmoil within Sufi principles, such as tolerance (tasaamuh) for intra-Islamic religious difference, in the founding of a movement called harakat al-‘itisaam al-watani (the Movement of National Solidarity); the attempt by Muslim members of the SPLM in Tagali (in the Nuba Mountains), in a series of lectures I attended there in a public square, to mobilize Islam for political purposes in a way that would be respectful of the religious diversity of Sudan; or, finally, the resurgence in popularity (xv) of the “neo-Islamist” (to use Mohamed Mahmoud’s term (xvi)) ideas of Mahmud Muhammad Taha, who, while certainly opposed to the reading of Islamic politics of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, saw an important role for “the true” Islam in Sudan’s political future.

Before asking “is Sudan a post-Islamist state?” it seems to me imperative that we address the key assumptions that lie behind the term “post-Islamism” (secularization, privatization, deliberation) as well as the analytical use-value of the term Islamism itself in order to see if such concepts help elucidate the complicated political present of contemporary Sudan. In this process, it is my hope that we as scholars of Sudan will develop our own analytical tools and in so doing contribute not only to future generations’ understanding of post-CPA Sudan but also of engagements with Islamic politics across the Muslim world.

xii. Al-kayzaan means “the cups,” and became a moniker applied to the Islamists after al-Turabi’s famous proclamation “Islam is an ocean and we are the cups [who deliver this water to the people],” (“Al-Islaam huwa al-bahr wa nihna al-kayzaan“).
xiii. Einas Ahmed. 2007. “Political Islam in Sudan: Islamists and the Challenge of State Power (1989-2004)” in Islam and Muslim Politics in Africa, edited by Benjamin Soares and Rene Otayek. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).
xiv. Einas Ahmed uses the term “post-Islamism” herself in this article, but I think it is in opposition to a much more nuanced argument that she develops throughout the piece.
xv. Such popularity is evidenced, for example, by the recent founding of “The New Organization of the Republican Brothers,” (al-tanziim al-jadiid) whose goal was precisely to discuss a public role for Islam on the Republicans’ unique interpretation thereof.
xvi. Mohamed A. Mahmoud. 2007. Quest for Divinity: A Critical Examination of the Thought of Mahmud Muhammad Taha, Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. Pg. 19.

Noah Salomon is a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago Divinity School, currently resident at Columbia University
Yigal, the analogy that I was trying to make about the man in Texas versus people living under foreign occupation in the Middle East is that both the people that committed the suicide and mass murders have had some sort of repression or oppression in their life, that lead them to make "unhealthy choices" if you will.
I know that what is going on in Iraq is very complex, and the onset of the US foreign invasion of Iraq only worsened things for everyone in Iraq, causing much more violence, chaos and instability in Iraq (Not to say that Iraq was not chaotic before the US invasion came, since there was already a civil war between the Sunnis and Shi'ites, along with how the Kurds + other minorities in Iraq were greatly oppressed).
Suicide bomber targets Green Zone entrance

By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press Writer Christopher Torchia, Associated Press Writer –56 mins ago D

Deadly Blasts in Baghdad AP – Iraqi civilians inspect the wreckage of a bus bombing in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Nov. 24, 2008.

BAGHDAD – A woman hiding a bomb under her long robe blew herself up Monday among Iraqis waiting to enter the U.S.-protected Green Zone, where lawmakers plan to vote this week on a pact that would let American forces stay in Iraq for up to three more years.

The morning attack in central Baghdad killed seven people, by an Iraqi count, and came about 45 minutes after a bomb destroyed a minibus carrying Trade Ministry employees in the eastern part of the capital. At least 13 people died in that blast, most of them women; some of the bodies were burned so badly that authorities could not immediately identify them.

Ahmed al-Sayyid, 23, said he was waiting in line with friends at an entrance to the Green Zone, hoping for a job interview with the Iraqi police. A woman in a black abaya, an enveloping cloak, approached the line without drawing the attention of guards, he said.

"Suddenly, she blew herself up about 50 meters from where I was standing. I was horrified and I ran away. But seconds later, I returned to the explosion site, which was filled with smoke, and I could see some wounded people and pieces of flesh," al-Sayyid said.

Guards fired in the air to disperse the crowd after the explosion, he said.

U.S. troops have been instrumental in weakening insurgents, and the latest attacks appeared to bolster the Iraqi government's claim that a hasty American departure could undermine the relative stability that many parts of Iraq have enjoyed since 2007. That argument is key to efforts by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to win parliament's broad approval for the U.S.-Iraqi pact.

The ruling coalition has a majority in parliament and could secure at least a thin majority if the 275-seat legislature votes as scheduled Wednesday on the security deal. Al-Maliki's campaign, however, has run into resistance from lawmakers who either want the Americans to leave immediately or seek to extract political concessions in return for supporting the government.

Wednesday's session in parliament will be the last before the legislature goes into recess for the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha, when scores of lawmakers travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, said Khalid al-Attiyah, deputy speaker of the parliament.

Lawmakers will meet again in the second half of December, he said.

American troops currently operate under the legal cover of a U.N. mandate that expires Dec. 31. If the Iraqi parliament rejects the agreement and the U.N. mandate is not renewed, U.S. and other foreign forces in Iraq would have to be confined inside their bases from the beginning of 2009.

There was no evidence that the attacks on Monday were linked to the contentious debate over the security pact, which sets a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops — from cities by next June 30 and the entire country by Jan. 1, 2012 — and places them under strict Iraqi supervision.

But the bombings amounted to a show of defiance and a reminder of the possibility that attacks could increase as American troop levels fall and the Iraqis assume more responsibility. President-elect Barack Obama has said he wants to withdraw combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office in January, an even speedier timetable than the one outlined in the security pact.

Under the deal, Iraq would have full responsibility for the Green Zone but is entitled to request "limited and temporary support" from the U.S. military in maintaining security. The heavily protected area on the west bank of the Tigris river houses the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government headquarters.

In a news conference last week, al-Maliki said he might relax restrictions on entry into the Green Zone "so the whole of Baghdad can, God willing, be green too."

Monday's suicide bombing at a checkpoint just outside the zone suggested the prime minister's declaration will remain wishful thinking for a while. Seven people died and 13 were wounded in the attack, according to an Interior Ministry official who declined to give his name.

The U.S. military said the bombing killed two Iraqi army members and three civilians. One civilian was injured, it said.

Iraq's intelligence service said the bomber had targeted the checkpoint used by its workers to enter the Green Zone to reach the agency's headquarters, which is inside. The service said female employees, including a pregnant woman, were killed and some of its guards were wounded.

Suicide bombings are associated with the Sunni-led insurgency. Al-Qaida in Iraq has been increasingly using women as suicide attackers because their billowing robes easily conceal explosives. Iraqi police often lack enough policewomen to search women carefully.

The U.S. military said 14 people were killed and four were wounded in the rush-hour bombing of the minibus carrying Trade Ministry workers. An official with the state-owned Iraqi shopping centers company, which is part of the ministry, said 13 ministry employees were killed and three were wounded. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

Police said a bomb had been attached to the bus, which blew up in a Shiite area.

In another attack, a roadside bomb targeted a police patrol near Technology University in eastern Baghdad, killing two civilians, an Iraqi police officer and an official at Ibn al-Nafis hospital said on condition of anonymity. Two police officers were among four wounded people.

Associated Press Writers Sameer N. Yacoub and Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.

Palestinian Suicide Attacks Revisited
Ignoring the psychological impact of Israeli military actions has led to distorted views of suicide attackers
By Basel Saleh

After the September 11 attacks, scholars resolved to uncover the secrets of the human bomb to preclude future attacks. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict represented an opportunity. Palestini-ans in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have included suicide attacks as part of their tactics since 1993, especially after the start of the current intifada in September 2000. Since the 9/11 hijackers and Palestinian suicide attackers share a common religion and ethnic origin, it was essential to examine Palestinian suicide attacks to unravel the mysteries of suicide missions.

But with the exception of a few studies, most research focused on attackers' recruitment and venues of prevention. The policy implications derived from these studies centered on two counterinsurgency tactics: intercepting the funding for militant organizations and smashing their leaders. But these tactical responses don't address the root causes of terrorism. Even after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, suicide attacks spread to Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Spain, Russia, and Indonesia. The most important player in the suicide mission, the suicide bomber, went unnoticed.

What is seriously lacking and urgently needed is information about the lives of suicide attackers to identify risk factors that, directly or indirectly, led them to a suicide mission. As Jennifer Harbury said, "Listening to the other side does not dishonor the innocent victims. Failing to listen will lead to more bombings and more victims.1" Reverend Naim Attek also wrote:

"When healthy, beautiful, and intelligent young men and women set out to kill and be killed, something is basically wrong in a world that has not heard their anguished cry for justice. These young people deserve to live along with all those whom they have caused to die.2"

In the rush to produce studies on suicide attacks, researchers ignored psychological factors known to control and influence behavior, and emphasized personal characteristics, economic well-being, and education. Profiles of the personal characteristics of suicide attackers failed to disclose any common pattern. Therefore, the debate on the root causes of terrorism focused on the link between poverty and terrorism.

Innovative, but flawed, research
Economists Alan Krueger and Jitka Malechova were the first to offer an innovative empirical study on the correlation between education and poverty, and the support of or participation in terrorism. They shattered the traditional conviction that poverty can drive some to violence. However, their conclusions could imply two propositions: (a) that there are more factors at play when it comes to terrorism (i.e., neither poverty nor education alone or combined can explain it), or (b) that militant extremists are not driven to terrorism by their economic deprivation or by their ignorance, but rather by a desire to destroy the "American way of life."

The first proposition is consistent with the study authors' views. However, the media, politicians, and other scholars interpreted the results according to the second proposition. The current consensus among academics, policy makers, and military officials is that fighting poverty and fighting terrorism are not necessarily related.

The contemporary empirical research on terrorism and suicide attacks is innovative and challenging, but fundamentally misguided. Suicide attacks were analyzed without adequate reference to the long period of conflict and its military dynamics. A study that does not give weight or importance to a nation's yearning for justice, equity, and revenge in a conflict zone is acutely deficient.

I believed that an in-depth examination of attackers' lives could explain why individuals as young as 16 would end their lives in a horrific way, and could contribute to effective tactical measures to curb such tragedies. Itried to understand, not justify, their deadly actions.

I visited Palestinian militant websites to read the biographies of suicide bombers3, and in the past two years I have compiled a comprehensive list of Palestinian militants killed before and during the second intifada. My database includes socioeconomic indicators such as age, marital status, family size, place of residence, education level, and occupation. However, as others found, there did not seem to be any pattern to uniquely define a Palestinian suicide bomber. Most were in their early 20s. Some had successful careers, others were unemployed. Many were well educated, with college degrees completed or in progress. Some were from well-to-do families, others were impoverished. Some were married with children, some newly wed, some single. Hence, it has been widely cited that neither lack of education nor poverty appear to be a prime motivator.4

This finding enjoyed undisputed and favorable reception by the media and among policy makers, especially in the US, Russia, and Israel. The new received wisdom is that military violence can quell insurgent violence. According to existing studies, government deployment of counterinsurgency measures that can disrupt economic and social life and increase economic stress on the civilian population do not necessarily cause a backlash. The use of disproportional power in conflict areas became an indispensable tool to military strategists.

The fallacy with that proposition is clear. Attempts to explain suicide attacks and terrorism in purely economic terms ignore the real political, social, and psychological factors that have always motivated collective violence. Restricting attention to only economic factors or education has resulted in no understanding of Palestinian suicide attacks.

So What's Missing??
Current research on terrorism has ignored considerable research that indicates the importance of psychological factors such as frustration and trauma.

A 1999 report entitled "The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism"5summarizes research conducted by psychologists and sociologists. According to evidence cited in the report, terrorists are psychologically normal with no evidence of a depressed personality:

"There is little reliable evidence to support the notion that terrorists in general are psychologically disturbed individuals. The careful, detailed planning and well-timed execution that have characterized many terrorist operations are hardly typical of mentally disturbed individuals."

An important psychological factor prevalent in conflict zones that empirical research did not account for is the grievance factor. The significant role grievances play in motivating actors in political contexts has long been known. In 1919, Lewis Richardson's Arms-Race Model explicitly incorporated a "grievance factor" to explain military buildup among nations.6

Psychiatrist Eyad El Sarraj recognized the impact living in a conflict zone could have on some people:

"The people who are committing suicide bombings in this intifada are the children of the first intifada -- people who witnessed so much trauma as children. So as they grew up, their own identity merged with the national identity of humiliation and defeat, and they avenge that defeat at both the personal and national levels.7"

I have compiled a list of 50 suicide attackers from the biographies published on the Palestinian militant websites. All had a direct reference to a traumatic experience in their lives. Almost half indicate a traumatic experience in the first intifada. They were either injured, arrested, or had a family member killed or injured by the Israel Defense Force (IDF). Forty-four suicide attacks have recorded explicit grievances resulting from IDF military operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Mohammad al-Debes was killed when he infiltrated Doughet, an Israeli settlement in Gaza, on April 27, 2002. He had lost sight in an eye from tear gas and was shot in the leg during clashes with the IDF in the first intifada. His cousin was killed by IDF on November 11, 2000. According to a friend, Mohammad had decided to avenge the death of his cousin when he infiltrated Doughet armed only with a knife.

Such stories abound in the biographies of suicide attackers. There are those who had never been injured, arrested, or experienced a personal trauma. However, the evidence suggests that personal grievances have considerable weight in motivating attacks. Military measures may have the short-term effect of subduing violence, but in the long run, make more attacks inevitable.

Psychologist Rona Fields examined Palestinian children who survived the Sabra/Shatila Massacre in Lebanon in 1982. She revealed that most had been severely traumatized by violence before and after the massacre. Four years later in December 1985, several of the boys she interviewed were among the group who opened fire on passengers queuing at departure desks for Israel's national airline, El Al, at the Rome and Vienna airports. The attackers, who were part of the "suicide squads" created by Abu Nidal Organization, killed 13 people, including children.8

National Geographic host Lisa Ling traveled to Chechnya and to the West Bank and Gaza Strip to speak with families of female suicide bombers. She stated categorically:

"We found in talking to the [bombers'] families and people in the community -- and I want to limit this to the women whose stories we looked into -- all of them had very traumatic personal stories and issues. Those things, combined with the horrors of living under occupation, could have provoked them to act.9"

Political scientist Hilal Khashan conducted a study of factors that contribute to Palestinian support and proneness to participating in suicide missions. His findings, contrary to existing studies by US scholars, indicate a statistically significant, crucial role played by Islamic militancy and dismal poverty in explaining support for suicide bombers among Palestinians living in southern Lebanon, whose living conditions resemble the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where more than half of the suicide bombers came from.10

A divide has emerged between the widely held views among politicians and scholars in the US, and what politicians and scholars in the Middle East are advocating. For the former group, poverty and education are not crucial and the search for clues must lie somewhere else. The latter group agrees that the search should include other factors (grievances, political environment, and frustration) but also indicate that abject poverty mixed with political frustration and military imbalance are also prominent variables. Future research on suicide attacks must take a more holistic approach in order to illuminate, not obscure, the root causes of this tragedy.

1 Quoted with permission from a book manuscript by Jennifer Harbury (2004).

2 Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, Suicide Bombers: What is Theologically and Morally Wrong with Suicide Bombings? A Palestinian Christian Perspective. Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. Document No. 1 (2003).

3 Data is available upon request from the author.

4 Alan Krueger and Jitka Maleckova, "Education, Poverty, Political Violence and Terrorism: Is There a Causal Connection." NBER working paper series (2002). Published in the Fall 2003 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. It is the first paper since 9/11 that attempts to quantitatively address the link between poverty and education and terrorism. For my critique of the findings of this paper, please visit

5 Rex Hudson, The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism. Library of Congress-Federal Research Division (September 1999).

6 As cited in Kenneth Boulding, Conflict and Defense (1962), p. 28.

7 Eyad El Sarraj, "Suicide Bombers: Dignity, Despair, and the Need for Hope," Journal of Palestine Studies, 29(4), Summer 2002, pp. 71-76.

8 Rona Fields, "The Psychology and Sociology of Martyrdom," in Rona Fields et al., eds. Martyrdom: The Psychology, Theology, and Politics of Self-Sacrifice (Connecticut: Praeger, 2004), p. 23.

9 Brian Handwerk, "Female Suicide Bombers: Dying to Kill." Interview with Lisa Ling published on National Geogra-phic website on December 13, 2004. See

10 Hilal Khashan, "Collective Palestinian Frustration and Suicide Bombings," Third World Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 6, 2003, pp. 1049-1067.

Basel Saleh is Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Minnesota.
Thank you for sharing this with us Mazin.
I just can not get over that Economists Alan Krueger and Jitka Malechova, were the first to do an empirical study on the correlation between poverty and education, and how it correlates to terrorism (like who is more prone to become a "terrorist" based on their upbringings and environment). I am just surprised that no one else did it before them. Why were they the first?! Was it how much widespread fear that caused after the September 11th attacks?!
Personally, I feel their research is flawed, since most people that do commit acts of terror, usually have lived a life of oppression, and their problems just escalate, since they know that nothing good will happen to them in their lives.
But I would be interested in hearing about someone who came from a priveledged background and was wealthy, what lead them to becomming a suicide bomber or terrorist. Psychology has always been a thing that has fascinated me! :)
I feel that we need to learn a lot about the factors that would contribute to someone becomming a suicide bomber-- the history of the area/land country-- are the people being oppressed by a foreign power? !
Family history; did the child experience a lot of abuse growing up?!
People need to realize that it's not all black and white in terms of what lead the suicide bomber to becomming what they became.



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