April 17, 2002
The perception of the struggle between Islam and Judaism is actually the main justification for the general use of terrorism, and particularly for suicide bombing. Consider that the two main venues where Islamist suicide terrorism occurs are connected, whether directly or indirectly, with Israel. The United States also plays a background role, and at least in one case, the French were victims--in Beirut in 1983. But the operations are carried out mainly against Israel. I shall not go into great detail, but in brief I must point out the common ground shared by most of the Arab Islamist groups.
Please note that I prefer not to use the term "fundamentalist groups," but instead I use the term "radical groups." In this case I would also prefer the term "Islamist" over "Islamic" groups, because their interpretation of Islam is quite unique. It is not necessarily fundamentalist, but that is the topic for another lecture.
The core perception of the Islamist Arab groups is that they face a global conspiracy against the Islamic world, against Islamic countries, and against the Islamic mind. They fear a plot to implant in Islamic minds (mainly those of youngsters) secularism and heretical ideas. This plot's aim is to induce them to forget Islamic principles and, according to their perception, to lose their backbone--which is not nationalism, communism, socialism, or any other of the imported ideologies from the West, but rather Islam as the only true religion.
Now, mainly after the establishment of Israel and the renaissance of the Islamist groups since the '60's and '70's, this conspiracy came to be viewed as a constant and perhaps eternal struggle between Judaism and Islam. And this struggle cannot be resolved by the creation of one state or another. This is an eternal struggle, which can end only when one of the two sides vanquishes the other. Thus they regard themselves as involved in a constant war where, if I may borrow a phrase from Professor Palazzi, they refer to what the Prophet Muhammad called "the Greater Jihad."
In orthodox Islam this "Greater Jihad" is not the military Jihad, but rather the internal Jihad of every Muslim individual with himself. The Islamists, however, turned the latter into "the Lesser Jihad" and put the military Jihad at the top of their priorities. They justified this perception by stating that in this constant war every true Muslim, and needless to say each member of every Islamist group, must regard himself as a soldier, as belonging first of all to what they call Hizballah--the party of God.
This term, by the way, was not invented in Lebanon in 1982, but appears in the Qur'an. It actually refers to the true believers who are engaged in a permanent struggle with Hizbasheitan--the party of the devil, the infidels. In the past, these were the pagans. Now the heretics, the pagans, have evolved into the Western culture, in alliance with Judaism. So every individual Muslim is facing a conspiracy--a global conspiracy--on a daily basis, every minute of his life. And therefore, he must be not only a part of Hizballah, the party of God, but also a part of Jundalla, the army of God.
Thus, most of the Islamist groups were founded on a semi-military basis, not only in order to fight and to carry out terrorism, but also so that in every circumstance their members will regard themselves as soldiers, and they will be constantly motivated to confront the enemy. This is a struggle between good and evil, light and darkness. Naturally, the presentation of the situation in such eternal terms gives rise to a willingness to carry out violence. Not only suicide terrorism, but violence in general is justified not only by the fact that the Islamists regard Islam as the true religion, but also because they see themselves as exposed to constant dangers from an enemy who is everywhere. This enemy may be an Arab secular leader, the Arab secular environment or society, or, even worse, the representative of modernism.
Actually, at the foundation of Islamist revivalism is an essential fear of the inability to cope with Western modernization. It is for this reason that Western modernization poses a threat. Thus, the West is the enemy.
And as the Islamists see it, in 1948 the West placed Israel right in the middle of the Arab world, in order to disseminate this evil culture--to engage the Muslims in a war of culture rather than military might. It is an attempt to conquer their minds, to remove Islam, their spiritual core, from their minds, and then bring them to their knees. Therefore the struggle against this conspiracy--this terrible enemy--becomes a Jihad or a war of self-defense. They are the ones being attacked. They are not only oppressed, but they are victims of a wholesale attack.
And in a war of self-defense you may use whatever means are at your disposal to fight the enemy--because the enemy represents the Devil. However, the Devil does not appear as some horrible enemy. He is very attractive. He lurks everywhere. He is behind every corner. He knows all the tricks of how to control the mind. In such a sophisticated war you not only can, but also must use whatever means you have to fight.
The result is the Islamist groups, and in our case, Hamas and Hizballah, who regard themselves as those who stand in the frontlines of the struggle against this global conspiracy, because they are fighting Israel. They are waging battle against the primary enemy. And therefore they must use the extreme method of suicide terrorism. This is not only meant to vanquish the enemy, but also to introduce into the fight another element, the sociological element.
Excerpt From Countering Suicide Terrorism
©2001, 2002 The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya and Anti-Defamation League