Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Bad News, Bad Timing, Bad Strategy

Two suicide bombers killed 12 (so far) and wounded 91 others in twin bus bombings in Be'er Sheva today. When I first read about the attacks, no group had claimed responsibility. I began thinking about how stupid this act was (in addition to the horror of suicide bombings), not just in terms of wasted lives but also in terms of accomplishing goals. I feel as though a lot of effort has been put toward promoting the goals of the hunger striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. I have read that this hunger strike was largely organized by Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists inside Israeli prisons. So, I thought, why would the leadership of Hamas or Islamic Jihad want to draw attention away from the hunger strikers and significantly cripple their efforts? I came to the conclusion that it would probably be claimed by the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, who seem to have less invested in the hunger strike and also seem to act with the least oversight and the least strategic thinking. But now, checking back on the story, I see that Hamas has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that the attacks were "revenge for Israel's assassinations last spring of its spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and his successor Abdel Aziz Rantisi." Obviously, these attacks have been in planning for a while. Quite a bit of thought has to go into them, in order for them to be carried out, without the suicide bomber being caught by the Israelis (as happened earlier today at the Erez checkpoint). So why, then, would absolutely no thought be put into a greater strategy. Who in Hamas didn't realize that this would be a disaster for the hunger strikers? Not only will they suffer from a decrease in sympathy for their condition, but will mostly suffer from an incredible drop in attention. The first suicide bombings in five months are going to be on every front page tomorrow. What a complete and utter waste.

PS. The point of this post is not that suicide bombing is bad only because it is counterproductive in terms of accomplishing anything for the Palestinians. But I think it is important to understand that the groups that send suicide bombers see it as a strategic move - to prove that even under brutal occupation, even without any military to speak of, even in these conditions the Palestinian people have the ability to fight back, to terrorize, to cause pain to the Israelis. And it is important that in order to put an end to suicide bombing, or at least to curtail it severely, it needs to be impressed upon those that support it that it is to their strategic, not their moral or ethical or any of that hypocritical nonsense, but their strategic interests to stop suicide bombings. This disclaimer shouldn't be necessary, but I want to be clear.

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