By Louis Rene Beres

21 April 2003

"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem," says Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus, "and that is suicide." Nowhere is Camus's fundamental observation currently more insightful than in the strangely interactive relationship between Israel and the Palestinians. Here, an imperilled Jewish State that wishes only to endure is now told to accept a "Road Map" for peace that is manifestly suicidal. For its part, Israel's principal Islamic terrorist adversary, choosing suicide as its very modus operandi, now prods Israel to hasten the pace of collective Jewish disintegration. The result of this reciprocal relationship is an overwhelmingly ironic synergy of suicides, an unrecognized mutuality between enemies that can assure sovereign life to "Palestine," but can offer only death to Israel.

Palestinian suicide bombers aspire to immortal life. They are urged on by the Arafat-appointed clergy's most recent call in the mosques: "Palestinians spearhead Allah's war against the Jews. The dead shall not rise until the Palestinians shall kill all the Jews... All agreements with Israel are provisional." That is why thousands of young Palestinians are willing to become suicides, to become martyrs for whom dying in the act of killing Jews is merely a temporary inconvenience - one that will bring true freedom from death.

Citizens of Israel do not share, collectively, the Palestinian commitment to immortality. Unlike their adversaries in the coming Road Map prepared by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, they are altogether unwilling to become suicides. Yet, it is the Israelis, not the terrorists, who are now urged toward disappearance as a group. Seeking, sometimes desperately, merely to stay alive, the citizens of Israel are now told by the so-called "Quartet" to accept codified peace policies that would unambiguously compel national suicide. We should recognize, therefore, an ironic mirror image between Israel and the Palestinians. Yet, Israel, at least until now, sees only one side of the suicidal reciprocity, the individual self-destruction of Islamic terrorists. Arafat and his new "Prime Minister," on the other hand, see not only the temporary "deaths" of individual Muslims but also the resultant collective disintegration of a despised Jewish state. For Israel, the unacknowledged reciprocity may soon occasion intolerable security concessions, while for the Palestinians the acknowledged reciprocity would confirm that they are indeed embarked upon the only proper course - the theologically-correct road map to real and irreversible Arab victory.

For Israel, suicide is something "crazy," something only irrational terrorist enemies would actively choose as a strategy of confrontation. For the Palestinians, suicide is the very highest form of political engagement, a divinely-mandated method that rewards doubly when the enemy infidel is blind enough to cooperate in his own meaningless dying. For Israel, which may not yet understand that reciprocal suicide is the objective of PLO/Hamas/Islamic Jihad, its own Quartet-inflicted territorial dismemberment may continue to appear perfectly sensible. For the Palestinians, who understand that this reciprocal suicide is altogether asymmetrical (i.e., Palestinian suicides that yield individual paths to immortality are exchanged for permanent collective Israeli annihilation), the martyrdom of young Palestinians will be perfectly sensible. For Israel, still largely unaware that all world politics moves in the midst of death, individual enemy suicides could ultimately push the Jewish State to effectively renounce its national life. For Arafat and his successors, profoundly aware of the connections between death and world politics, Israeli complicity in rejecting Jewish national life in the Middle East will elicit more and more individual Muslim suicides until, at last, the lethal reciprocity is complete.

Camus's meditation on living or not living - on the implications of suicide - has tragic and vital meaning in the struggle betweeen Israel and the Palestinians. In the final analysis, this meaning must extend to associated questions of enduring or not enduring, and to related questions of rebellion. Should Israel now begin to yield not only to the temptation to endure, but also to the corollary obligation to reason, it might still have a chance to understand the true messages of suicide. Rejecting the chimera of a "Road Map," that paradise of debility now being drawn by President Bush et. al., the Jewish State could finally begin to revolt against a suicidal politics.

There are, even in our fantasy world of peace processes and road maps, crimes of passion and crimes of logic. Today, at a moment when many governments are immobilized by various fears of living and dying, Israel is confronted by both kinds of crime. What is more, Palestinian crimes of terrorism, surrounded by passion and effectively approved as "freedom fighting" by Europe, Russia and the entire Arab/Islamic world, are animated by logic. This logic of suicide is not, by any means, an oxymoron, as even death that is self-inflicted can play a survival role of enormous political importance in this struggle against "infidels." Israel must try to understand this logic while there is still time, to acknowledge that metaphysical rebellion is an Israeli imperative, and to recognize that the suicidal death of its individual enemies can produce not only the deaths of many additional individual Israelis, but also its own reciprocally collective death. Without such an understanding, the People of Israel may presently agree to certain imposed "Road Maps" only to pray regretfully later on for a second Flood.


LOUIS RENE BERES, educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), is a Professor of International Law, Department of Political Science, Purdue University and is the author of many books and articles dealing with Israeli strategic studies and international law. His work is well-known to Israel's political, military,academic and intelligence communities. Prof. Beres is the academic advisor to the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies.

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