Suicide by soldier

You can look at the current Palestinian terror campaign in several ways, in each case (I would argue) concluding that there is nothing to be gained by the Palestinians; it’s all a bloody waste of time and precious life. But Professor Ariel Merari, according to this Times of Israel piece, has a perspective that is new, at least to me. First, the IDF perspective:

Whaat is motivating the terrorists in Israel’s current wave of knife, car-ramming and shooting attacks? What goes through the head of, say, a young Palestinian who enters a supermarket and plunges his knife into the neck of a woman he’s never met?

According to sources within the Israel Defense Forces, aside from the ostensible ideological motive, many of these attacks are a form of “suicide by cop,” or “suicide by soldier.”

“Most of the people have personal problems with their families or they themselves are unbalanced,” a senior IDF officer in the Central Command told The Times of Israel.

Referring to the terrorist who killed two Jews and a Palestinian near the Jewish settlement of Alon Shvut, including 18-year-old Ezra Schwartz, the officer suggested, “He may have owed people money.”

“They all have their personal reasons,” the officer continued. “You have 12- and 13-year-old girls, a 14-year-old boy. There was also that old woman in Hebron who tried to ram her car. Or that woman from Silwan, 40 years old, with four kids, from a wealthy home.”

And the professor:

Ariel Merari, a professor emeritus of psychology at Tel Aviv University, has interviewed and studied would-be Palestinian suicide bombers in previous waves of attacks. He said that while he has not directly interviewed any of the latest attackers, what the IDF officer said is consistent with his findings from a decade and two decades ago, as described in his 2010 book, “Driven to Death: Psychological and Social Aspects of Suicide Terrorism.”

So, it is not based on any present data, but – as it were – past performance.

Suicide is one of the aspects of society which is not a popular topic for discussion. Its effects on the family and friends of the deceased can be shattering. Often there is a sinkhole of despair that has gone unchecked, but to have brought the issue out in to the open would have meant – in the eyes of many – being tarnished with some tag as perhaps mentally ill, depressed, or a lesser person. Wholly wrong, but it happens. Mental health is the Cinderella of the health service in most western countries, so you can imagine the lack of resources in societies focused on terror. And that may mean that despite the security preparations Israel takes, the current terror campaign will be with us for a lot longer. Truly, there would be a peace dividend for everyone.