Thursday, March 03, 2005

Hopeful Signs Among the Palestinians

Last Friday, the nascent Israeli-Palestinian peace process was threatened when a suicide terrorist murdered four Israeli civilians outside a nightclub in Tel Aviv. The attack appears to have been the handiwork of the terror group Islamic Jihad, carried out at the behest of its headquarters in Damascus. It is likely that the Tel Aviv atrocity was an attempt to reignite the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in order to take the pressure off of the embattled Syrian regime. Fortunately, Israel has wisely refused to take the bait, and the international focus on Syria's Baathist dictatorship has only intensified.

Cause for optimism can also be found in the Palestinian response to the Tel Aviv bombing. Previously, all too many Palestinians have celebrated such acts of depravity, proclaiming the dead terrorists to be "martyrs". The far different Palestinian reaction to this attack shows that such attitudes might finally be changing:

But the family of Abdullah Badran, the 21-year-old who blew himself up at the entrance to a Tel Aviv nightclub on Friday, killing five Israelis, were left alone in their grief.

For seven days after a burial a Palestinian family receives mourners, normally a big social event involving colourful banners and patriotic music.

But yesterday seven members of the family occupied the otherwise empty chairs and when asked if Abdullah's death had achieved anything they all shook their heads, and one said no in English.


Sami Qadan said the whole town was shocked and angered by the bombing and in protest no one was paying respects to the family.

"Things were getting better and then no sooner do we have money coming in again then it is stopped by this suicide bombing. This intifada has killed us and the wall has destroyed us. We cannot even leave our homes and we want it to stop," he said.


Ibrahim said that the family was extremely angry with the people who had chosen and prepared Abdullah for his suicide mission.

"I don't know who they are but we want them to stop this and reach out their hands for peace. That is the only way the situation will improve."

(link courtesy of normblog)
(Link fixed-DD: 3/4/05)

An article in today's Christian Science Monitor shows that the negative Palestinian reaction to this attack extends well beyond the terrorist's home village:

Indeed, after years of celebrating suicide attackers as heroes, Palestinians are souring on suicide-bombings like the one last weekend, which emboldens many of them to question whether strikes at Israel will hasten their goal of establishing an independent state. It's a shift many link to the election of Mr. Abbas - a vocal critic of the militarization of the Palestinian uprising - as well as the emerging d├ętente with Israel.

Amid Israeli outrage and international affront in the wake of the attack, Abbas called the perpetrators mukharebin,' Arabic for saboteurs, and a term which observers said has never before been applied to suicide bombers.

There are still many reasons for concern. The newfound Palestinian rejection of suicide terrorism seems to be rooted more in practical than moral concerns. The new Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, needs to do much more to crack down on terror groups. It will take many years to undo Yasser Arafat's legacy of hatred and terrorism. Still, the negative reaction to this attack on the part of most Palestinians is a hopeful beginning.


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