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Who are the suicide bombers? See powerful film on PBS and find out
June 25th, 2004
Why should you meet the five young Arab men shown in the documentary Suicide Bombers which will be featured in the Public Television series Wide Angle next week? Because they may tell us information about our enemies that we need to know.
Of course, what a viewer will respond to in this powerfully understated, almost
hypnotically gripping film will depend on that viewers attitudes toward the conflict.
Some will focus on the sick and defiant hatred expressed by two planners of such attacks: a maker of the bombs and a recruiter of those who carried them into Israeli crowds.
But others will look at the three would-be living bombs who didnt succeed and notice that two of them walked among their Israeli targets and suddenly decided they couldnt kill them.
All five were interviewed inside Israeli prisons, whose officials, the narration says, were reluctant at first to allow it on grounds that these people would thereby obtain a platform. Certainly, the two planners, members of the radical Muslim group Hamas, did and took full advantage.
They worked in a Hebron-based Hamas cell that was responsible for the bombing of Bus 37 in Haifa in March 2003. They killed 17 people nine of them children and wounded some 50. And they remained unrepentant and defiant at the time of filming.
Why was it necessary to kill women and children? an interviewer asks the bomb-maker, a 25-year-old professional engineer. They came to live in my country, he replies. Thats an assault on me, so I attack them in self-defense.
And when the recruiter, a 24-year-old former college student, is shown a photo (which viewers dont see) of one of his victims, an elderly woman, he replies:
When she voted for [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon or any other Israeli leader to represent Israel, she voted for him to kill Arabs, to kill Palestinians. So quite simply, she indirectly aimed to kill me.
According to Islam, the recruiter says, in the case of foreign occupation of any Islamic land, it is the duty of every Muslim to liberate this land, every centimeter of it.
Even the narration of this film written and directed by Tom Roberts and produced by Israel Goldvicht, both Emmy Award-winning veteran documentarians seems stunned by such sentiments. Its a chilling combination of religious faith and political expediency, it says.
The would-be bombers, on the other hand, do not express anything resembling the confidence and certainty of the planners. One with whom the film opens is 18 at the time of filming and appears depressed and envious.
Here my life is full of problems. My life is worthless, while Israelis enjoy their lives in cafes and nightclubs and by traveling, he says.
This made him easy picking for the recruiters. I had hatred and they added to it, he says.
But when he went on his mission and saw the Israelis he was about to murder, It crossed my mind that some people didnt deserve to die like Jews who wanted peace. I didnt know if any might be around. I got confused. He ended up going home and was arrested some days later.
Another would-be attacker didnt even come from the Israel-administered territories. This young man, 17 at the time of filming, was born in Kuwait and grew up in Jordan.
Then his family moved to a West Bank village and he saw two martyrs who had been shot during confrontations with Israeli soldiers. I felt I had to fight in spite of myself. You cant see something like that and not be moved.
But when he put on a bomb belt and walked among his Israeli targets, he saw a group of children playing. At that point I changed my mind. I no longer wanted to do it.
So what should we take from this? Fear and rage?
People like the bomb-maker and the recruiter may be a minority in the overall Arab/Muslim world. But as anthropologist Melvin Konner pointed out in his recent book Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews, As for the Islamic nation, it circles the globe, comprising between 1.2 billion and 1.5 billion people more than a hundred times the number of Jews in the world, and more than 300 times the number in Israel.
If of those 1.5 billion people, one in a thousand is willing to fight a holy war, if one in ten thousand is inclined to become a terrorist, Israel is doomed.
Or should we emphasize the stories of the two failed bombers, and find hope that sufficient Arabs and Muslims exist who recognize our humanity and who would be willing to make and live in peace with Israel, Jews and Judaism?
See this film when it is shown on Thursday, July 1, 9 p.m., on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 36, and decide for yourself.