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Israel and Palestine (1:52) Excerpt from film "Suicide Bombers", 2004
Majdi Amer, a 25-year-old engineer who built a bomb used in a suicide mission, describes the daily state of violence and conflict in Israel and the occupied territories.

Country: Israel and Palestine
Related Lesson Plan:
  • Dying to be a Martyr

  • middle east israel map

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    Guiding Questions
    1. Do the speakers directly respond to the question they are asked?

    2. Do the speakers portray themselves as the victims or perpetrators of violence? How would you assess their responsibility for a cycle of violence?

    3. From the viewpoint of the historian, these passages would be considered primary sources. How do they illustrate the dilemma of interpreting a primary source? What guidelines and methodologies should you employ in analyzing these passages as primary sources?

    Background Essay
    Two young Palestinian men are asked to explain why women and children have become the target of violence. Both men express their desire to liberate their country and their people.

    The use of the term "suicide terrorism" became widespread after a 1983 truck bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. The attack killed 300 military personnel and helped drive American and French Multinational Force troops from Lebanon. According to a 1994 UN General Assembly resolution titled "Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism," terrorism is described as "Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes."

    As a consequence of the successful 1983 attack in Lebanon, insurgent groups such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, Hamas in Palestine, and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan began using suicide terrorism as a tactic to further their agendas. Suicide terrorism garners considerable prestige for the perpetrators and their organizations because these attacks are represented as acts of martyrdom; many attackers, along with their supporters, believe their actions will be rewarded in the afterlife. Suicide attackers often believe that their actions are in accordance with moral or social standards because they are aimed at fighting forces and conditions that they perceive as unjust.

    For Israeli and Palestinian citizens, suicide bombings have become a recurrent element in a longstanding conflict. The roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be traced to the late 19th century, when British support for a Jewish state in the area of Palestine grew amidst an era marked by national movements, including Zionism and Arab nationalism. Jews and Arabs have been fighting for a long time over what to do about the region known as the Holy Land, a region with historical and religious importance.

    The Wide Angle film SUICIDE BOMBERS offers a series of unique, powerful, and revealing interviews of Palestinian suicide bombers from inside Israeli prisons. Three failed suicide bombers, one recruiter, and one bomb builder captured by Israeli security forces speak openly of their training, operational methodology, and profound belief in the idea of entering paradise by becoming a shahid, a martyr killed in the cause of Islam. They talk of their hatred of Jews and Israel, their determination to die, and their personal motives — including a failed love, a sense of personal revenge, the frustration of living under Israeli occupation, and envy for the prosperous Israeli style of life.

    I'd like to know why you think it's necessary to kill women and children.

    If the Israelis kill a child in Gaza, I'm ready to kill one in Tel Aviv. If they destroy houses in Gaza, I'll do it in Tel Aviv. If they give me security in my land then there's no problem. I'm a person who looks for peace, who calls for peace, but with one basic condition -- the freedom of my country and people, and to put an end to this Nazi state, this racist Jewish state.

    According to our Islamic religion, in case of foreign occupation in any Islamic land, it's the duty of every Muslim to liberate this land. Every inch of it. So, we acted accordingly. Struggled to free all of Palestine, the whole of it. The areas occupied in 1948 as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip. All of it.

    As for Jewish men and women, they came to live in my country. They attacked my land and my country. So, I defend my right to get them out of my land. I gave them a chance to let me and Palestinian women and children live peacefully in my land and fight as soldiers against soldiers, but they refused. So I don't have a choice but to create a balance of power.

    Related Links
    Suicide Bombers on PBS.org

    BBC News: In Depth: Israel and the Palestinians

    Library of Congress: Country Study: Israel

    Council on Foreign Relations: Terrorism: Q & A - Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    United Nations: Question of Palestine
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