marxism-digest V1 #4563

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Tue Apr 2 23:18:04 MST 2002

Mohammad wrote:
>Why is suicide bombing worse than airplane bombing, or rifle fire, or
>helicopter missiles? Casualty-wise, Israelis have exacted far more civilian
>casualties then vice-versa. So why the fixation of the suicide attacks? It
>seems to me that those with great moral qualms on this question could
>satisfy themselves by bequeathing the Palestinians with tanks, guns, and
>bombs, in order to more honorably carry out their struggle. But of course,
>this solution does not satisfy our self-appointed moralists.

Interesting point.

Last year an American-Jewish scholar was here speaking on Israel/Palestine,
a guy called Marc Ellis, and he made the point that suicide bombers were
really just the Palestinian equivalent of helicopter gunships.  I'm sure
this didn't go down well with the ex-Israeli tank officer, who's now a
bigwig in the Political Science Dept here.

I think it is certainly vital to demystify the imperialist propaganda about
suicide bombers and I don't really have a problem in repeating Ellis' point
about them (or what Mohammad wrote above).  However, I think we need to be
careful about sounding as if these attacks are supportable and sopmehow
anti-imperialist.  Because they're generally not.

Now, if a suicide bomber gets to an IDF checkpoint, or manages to drive
into an IDF patrol or whatever, and blows him/herself sky high along with a
bunch of IDFers, fair enough.  War is war.  But blowing up families and
kids in cafes and on buses is a whole other thing.

Ordinary Israeli citizens are not legitimate targets and suicide bombers
who do target them are not fighting for anyone's liberation, any more than
the Sept 11 attackers were.  If these people ever got in power, the first
to be lined up against the wall would be the left, especially the atheist

We should be doing everything possible to strengthen the secular, militant
wing of the Palestinian movement in order to ensure the best possible
outcome of the struggle.  A Marxist movement, or even just an effective
radical nationalist movement, would have a two-pronged strategy in relation
to the IDF - engage them military (ie shoot them and blow them up) *and*
politically (ie leaflets calling on them to desert, refuse service, make
common cause etc).  Like the Vietnamese fighting the Yanks.

A serious Palestinian liberationist strategy also means trying to engage
the Israeli working class.  A free Palestine can't be achieved by wading
through their blood, however frustrating their adherence to the Israeli
state may be.  Here a lesson might be taken from South Africa and Ireland
in terms of realising that it is not the ordinary white or Prod who is the
problem/enemy, but the institution of apartheid (South Africa) and
imperialist domination (Ireland).

Philip Ferguson

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