Martyrdom, Suicide-by-Police or Both?

A recent Times of Israel article attempts to pinpoint the motivating factor behind the current terror wave. What drives Arab teenagers to go on a stabbing spree knowing they will most probably be shot dead by an officer? Do they have suicidal tendencies and are just committing “suicide-by-police?” Or are they committing terror in the name of religion? Or is it a mix of both?

The writer interviews Professor Ariel Merari, a prominent expert in the psychology of terrorism, who assessed the personality of failed self-martyrs. His studies show that “most of the would-be martyrs displayed a dependent and avoidant personality style, a profile that made them more amenable to group, leader, and public influence.” Others were assessed as having an impulsive and emotionally unstable style. Some of the would-be martyrs displayed sub-clinical suicidal tendencies and some displayed symptoms of depression.

Analysis of the terror and suicide attacks

There are two part of the article though that caught my attention:

“It’s not that there is one cause and that’s it — like incitement. Incitement certainly plays an important role. Even a person who really wants to die for personal reasons could do it several different ways. But the fact that Islam forbids suicide is key. If someone commits suicide, his family become outcasts. If he really wants to die, in the current political climate, it is very convenient to do it this way, to commit suicide by police. Because then the entire society will say, ‘How wonderful, he is a shahid, he is a hero. They will not say he committed a religiously forbidden act.”

According to that statement by Merari, it is clear that it is society’s fault for encouraging and praising those who carry out terror attacks and become martyrs. Yes, Merari’s reports are accurate and the subjects of his studies probably do have emotional or psychological issues that make them more prone to become self-martyrs. However, when the society and its leaders publicly encourage terror attacks and martyrdom they are providing the self-martyr justification for his actions. It is the incitement, brainwashing lies and anti-Israel propaganda being spread by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas that are breeding self-martyrs in their society.

Adam Lankford explains this problem in his article in the Scientific American “What You Don’t Understand about Suicide Attacks:”

Unfortunately, “martyrdom” has become a dangerous loophole: it is the only way Islamic suicide attackers believe they can guarantee their own death, and yet go to heaven instead of hell. In the Middle East and Asia, they typically commit suicide bombings. In the United States, they tend to use firearms instead of bombs, and plan on dying via “suicide by cop.” In both cases, these attack methods help disguise their suicidal motives. It is commonly claimed that they do not want to die, they just care more about harming the enemy than they do about their own survival.

But the disguise is wearing thin. As I have argued elsewhere, the key to deterring Islamic suicide attackers—both in the United States and around the world—is to expose their suicidal motives and close the “martyrdom” loophole, once and for all. Until suicide attackers are widely seen for the desperate, traumatized, and mentally ill people they really are—instead of “psychologically normal” altruists—America will continue to suffer Islamic mass shooters who seek glory and heavenly rewards through death.

The point is that the Palestinian leadership needs to stop promoting martyrdom. This is why I was disturbed by the last line of the Times of Israel article:

Asked about the current wave of terror, Merari said the political climate needs to change. “The Palestinian public needs hope. We offer them nothing that gives them hope for independence. They are under occupation.”

The blame is on the occupation? Aren’t there Christian Arabs also under the “occupation”? Yet, we don’t see suicide stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks performed by them in Israel. It is clear that Islam, at least the way it is being taught in Gaza and the West Bank, plays a huge role in recruiting suicide attackers for the sake of Jihad and martyrdom. I agree that the Palestinian people need hope. That hope will come when its leadership decides to take steps toward a peaceful coexistence with Israelis and stops preaching baseless propaganda and hate.

David Bukay from the University of Haifa concluded in his article “The Religious Foundation of Suicide Bombings:”

“It is fashionable among Western analysts and academics to explain away suicide bombing with discussion of “root causes” that omit religion. Many cite a history of exploitation by Western powers, Israel’s existence, government oppression, poverty, lack of education, and alienation as reasons why desperate individuals decide to blow themselves up to murder others. But attention to suicide bombers’ own justifications suggest that, for them, Islam and its call for jihad is the primary motivation.”

Is there a solution to terror?

The problem of terror attacks against innocent civilians is only getting worse. (As I type these words I hear gunshots outside. Three Arab terrorists were shot after attacking Israelis. Knives, guns and bombs were found. But I digress..) While Merari is correct in suggesting there are a mix of factors that motivate a terror attack, the solution to preventing terror attacks is unclear. It seems that the underlying motivator and fuel for terror attacks is incitement based on religion with the reward of martyrdom, social acceptance, heroism and even monetary compensation for the families of terrorists. The Israeli government needs to implement laws that will demotivate perpetrators from carrying out an attack. Currently, it seems that home demolishing is not enough of a punishment to prevent future attacks. The motivation factor needs to be diminished or removed completely.

One solution that can serve to demotivate someone contemplating a terror attack may be to deport terrorists’ family members. As Israel’s Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel suggested:

“The Israeli government and the political-security cabinet must make a clear decision to deport terrorists and their families to Gaza or any other country which will accept them. Our country must rid ourselves of these murderers.”

Are there other solutions to the current terror wave? Please let us know. Your comments and suggestions are welcomed. Please comment by text or audio below.