What justifies suicide bombing? (Serious Question)

Youth rarely listen to reason, when you were a kid didn’t you have some serious beliefs? I can understand (but not excuse) why an angry Palestinian would throw a rock at an Israeli solider. However, I can’t understand if as a reply the Israeli solider puting a bullet in his head, that is just too extream.

Well, most of the time Palestinian children start throwing stones, the IDF responds with rubber bullets and tear gas. More often than not, though, adult militants will join in the fray and start taking potshots at the IDF. Worse yet, they’ll blend in with the crowd of women and children. At that point, chaos usually ensues and when the IDF responds with live fire, innocents perish.

But I thought that with that point of view, neither was a valid target. You seem to be saying that because F15s have been used to target “industries, dams, electrical plants” (which, IIRC, have consistently been considered valid military targets in wars) that using suicide bombers to target specifically civilians (not tanks, not soldiers) is ok. By your reasoning, isn’t it still a horrendous thing to do? Or is it that if American military have sometimes hit civilians (and, BTW, I believe they never said the Chinese Embassy was a valid target) then it’s ok for Palestinian bombers to target restaurants.

Basically, I’m trying to understand if you’re saying it’s bad, but because other people have also been bad, it’s ok. If so is there a limit? Like torture? or rape? or is just killing ok?


If you wish to debate whether NATO’s attacks against infrastructure is morally wrong you probably should start another thread or look up an old one as this issue has been discussed in the past. But I do suspect the Palestinians might put far more pressure on the Israelis if they could knock out a power plant or two as opposed to bombing the local pizza place.

The problem is neither side really has an end game. Palestinians continue to use suicide bombers because the havoc they wreck garners a great deal of attention. But attacks against Passover celebrations brings them no closer to what the hard liners who support and fund such attacks really want, the destruction of Israel. The Israelis are forced to strike back at a target that is hidden among a hostile civilian population. The Israelis have no hope of eliminating the threat without eliminating the Palestinians which would be a slaughter that they are simply not willing to commit. But the frustration of being unable to end the threat certainly does flow down through to the soldiers in the field who must continue to face that threat.

Even if Israel were to suddenly pull back to the 1967 borders and grant the Palestinians full independence it would not be an end to the violence. Instead it would be seen as a sign of weakness by the states that sponser attacks against Israel, Iran and Syria, and funding to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah would increase. With nearby striking points readily available, the attacks against the territory that Israel still claimed would increase as well.

So there will be no peace until some dramatic change occurs.

In response to the OP, yes there are times when a suicide bombing is justified, but such scenarios are few and rare in between. It would always have to be a case in which the target is unattackable in any other way and failure to destroy that target would result in the loss of innocent lives. The Palestinian attacks have never had any purpose other than to inflict pain on Israel.

Again Poster child, both are wrong. Both of them are inmoral after all a refinery has people inside, you are not just destroying infrastructure, you are aslo killing people.
I’ve just remember another case of justify suicide bombing, the marine barracks bombing in (I think) Saudi Arabia in (again I think) 1996.

There was an attack against a marine barracks in Lebannon and an attack against US military forces in Saudi Arabia. To which one are you refering? And please define “justify” because your version of the word doesn’t seem to match mine.

Ok, so you’re saying that the suicide bombings are not justified and should not be allowed or condoned. That I understand. I disagree with you that attacking targets that directly support a military are the same as those that are fully civilian in nature. I do agree that civilian casualties are bad and should be minimized.

I think Blackclaw is right in that it seems you’re mixing up the NATO attacks with the Palestinian attacks (I don’t see either justifying or being relevant to the other).

I understand (though I don’t agree) with your implication that any attack that kills civilians is equally morally wrong, but instead of “justifying” the suicide attacks, just makes the other attacks equally wrong. Right?


I have to say the IDF also deliberately targets civilians (see myth 1).

That being said, I hold that there is no justification for suicide bombers. Understandable, but not justified.

I am comparing both NATO attacks and Palestinian (also Israleis attacks). I endorse the comparison between an f15 and a suicide bomber. I also claim that it’s never good to attack civilians. Now many of you agree with this and yet don’t seem to see NATO attacks over Serbia as attack upon civilians. When you blow up a restaurant you murder civilians, when you blow up a dam or a refinery you do that too.
Purely military target, are a different thing. When terrorists blow up a ship or a marine barracks it’s ok (ok in the sense that it was a legitimate target) Soldiers have to take their chances.

When I blow up a refinery, it’s because I don’t want enemy forces to have any fuel. Without fuel the enemy can’t move quickly which severely limits both his offensive and defensive capability. If I blow up a damn and flood the area he is in, his forces are now trapped in water and mud. Heavy equipment will have to be left behind and his troops will be forced from the battlefield in disarray.

Sometimes military objective require striking civilian targets that are aiding your enemy’s war objectives. Restaurants rarely qualify but I suppose if command level officers were in the restaurant it might qualify as a target. I’d be extremely reluctant to hit such a target though because of the high civilian traffic. With a refinery I can always wait till 1 AM when most the workers are home.

When Palestinian suicide bombers strike, they are not seeking to win their conflict, they are simply seeking to inflict pain on Israelis. Blowing up a bus does not further their war aims. It enrages the Israelis making their will to fight stronger. It deprives the Palestinians of a fighter and explosive material that could have been used far more strategically. And worst of all, it simply takes life without any reason other than hatred.

Every life taken or lost in a conflict should be an attempted step at winning that conflict and bringing the violence to an end. Otherwise it isn’t a military campaign, it’s just blood thirsty revenge without end.

Estilicon, the suicide bombers target civilians for the express purpose of killing civilians. NATO targets strategic structures in order to destroy the structures. The fact that civilians may be there is an unfortunate, but unavoidable, circumstance.

When NATO decides to target civilians in an effort to kill civilians, you’ll know. We won’t be talking about a few deaths here or there, it won’t be 20 killed at a refinery, or 30 at a bridge. It will be thousands killed as bombs hit apartment buildings, markets, etc. If Israel wanted to kill Palestinian citizens, mass graves would be the order of the day. Make no mistake, we try to avoid civilian casualties, that is the only reason they are as low as they are.

Yet you see nothing wrong with blowing up the Pentagon. There are a significant number of non-military personnel and non-bureaucrats in general at the Pentagon (I’ve heard that half are civillian, I don’t know the accuracy of that, or whether by civillian it refers to only non-DOD people or non-government people entirely). If the Pentagon were to be completely destroyed, it would do very little to cripple the strength of the military. It would be significant from a demoralization standpoint, but as far as having any military strategy advantage, the effect would be negligible. The Pentagon got hit for what it represents, not what it actually does.

You can argue about their targeting civilians, but I wouldn’t use such a biased site. There’s already a thread dedicated to the controversy and propaganda at that site.

I think we can all agree that targeting civilians, if done by Israelis is wrong. Why does that have anything to do with whether the targeting of civilians by Palestinians is right or wrong? I can accept that you feel (but disagree) there is no moral difference between an attack that is meant to kill civilians or destroy military infrastructure.

At least we agree that suicide attacks are unjustifiable, which leaves back at the OP: How do people justify them?


Hmmm…Though western militaries have avoided in the recent past to inflict too much so-called “collateral damages”, it hasn’t been always the case. And bombings deliberatly targeting civilians (in order to break the morale of the population or to disrupt the country) weren’t that rare up to a recent past. Someone mentionned the fire bombings during WWII, but AFAIK, similar things happened during the Viet-Nam war 30 years ago. So, it’s not like deliberatly killing civilians is something totally unheard of, and universally considered as too barbaric to be done. Actually, I would suspect that if the conflict was dire enough, and the issue at stakes serious enough, western countries wouldn’t hesitate, even now, to target civilians if it was believed to be efficient.
What I mean is that it seems IMO somewhat naive to assume that a decent human being wouldn’t kill civilians in time of war (or naive to assume that there are many decent human beings amongst us). Or in other words, that a Palestinian planting a bomb isn’t behaving in particulary extraordinary way considering our historical record.
On the topic of the Pentagon being a legitimate target. I too believe it was (apart the part about using an airliner as a weapon). I’m a civil servant. At some point, I was to join a ministery without much say in the matter. One of the option was the french ministery of defence. So I had to think about it, and I decided I would resign if was assigned to this ministery. Because if I didn’t I would have to participate semi-indirectly in whatever military operation my gouvernment would consider necessary. And there’s no way I would accept to personnaly support a military operation I would disagree with. So, I indeed consider that a civilian working at the Pentagon is a legitimate military target. It’s not like he had no other choice (contrarily to many 18 y.o. kids/soldiers in many wars, who actually hadn’t, by the way). Anyway, if military headquarters aren’t a legitimate target, what can be?
On the topic at hand, I can only try to guess what could be the motives of a suicide bomber (or any bomber, for that matter). My take would be : hatred. I wouldn’t call that “antisemitism” as a previous poster did , because I don’t think the result would be any different if Israel was populated by Zambian animists instead of Jews. Not that I think antisemitism would be rare amongst the Palestinians, either, but I believe that it would be replaced by “antizambianism” in this case.
I can easily imagine that if I was opressed, denied rights, had my country occupied, etc…and felt helpless, I could hate the oppressors so much that I would want them to die. And not only the authorities or the militaries, but also the population itself which back the government, voted it in, doesn’t lift a finger to help me, etc… I guess that in such a situation, not much propaganda is needed to think that they aren’t really innocent and deserve to die. Or at least that their death is a lesser crime than the crimes I’m a victim of. I would tend to think that the promise to go to heaven would only be a freebie, and not really necessary to convince someone he should plant a bomb.
The OP say that desperation isn’t a satisfactory explanation since Jews didn’t kill German civilians during WWII. Well…that may be true, in this particular case, but it’s not like acts of terrorism against civilians were unheard of in many other instances. Of course, other “tactics” have been used also : guerilla war, hunger strikes, taking/killing of hostages, public suicide, etc… But what I wrote above was intended to explain why someone would accept to plant a bomb, not why someone else (probably) has decided it would be a good idea to plant a bomb at the first place. That I don’t know. Perhaps only because it’s a way to get some media coverage. Or perhaps even at this level, hatred and revenge is the main motivation and bombs plainly the most convenient way to act on it (assuming that it’s easier to plant a bomb in a restaurant than at a military checkpoint). Actually, though I can conceive several explanations, none seems to make much logical sense to me, so I must admit that I’ve no clue.

Poster Child, I don’t think your question has really been answered. And in the meantime, the thread
is going off to discuss other related issues.

I don’t think that the explanations given here can really explain why Palestinians would
willingly blow themselves to pieces in order to kill at random, any Israeli that happens
to be in the vicinity.

Tamerlane wrote:

He’s obviously right. But still, most of us have probably met run of the mill racists
here and there. Its just not the same thing.

Here in the Middle East we are talking about people who think that Jews, every single
one regardless of age or any other factor, are simply so terrible that every single
one must be killed as fast as possible by any means available.

How can they possibly think that?

Here’s your answer:

By believing lies. Lies authored by respected professors and clerics and
published in mainstream, even government owned, operated and/or
controlled newspapers such as the Saudi Arabian Al-Riyadh.

Here’s a link to a chilling article which revives the mediaeval blood libel. The author
details the proceedure for ritual murder that he attributes to the Jewish community.

Only someone who reflects deeply on torture techniques would have been capable
of even imagining the elaborate ritual system detailed in this article.

And here is a sermon delivered by Imam Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi in Gaza and broadcast
live by the PA Broadcasting authority. Among other things, it asserts the Moslem
aspiration to take over the whole world (that’s right, that would include The US,
Britain and everywhere else!) and that all Jews go to hell, "“to a cruel fate”
(Who would decide that, a cruel god?), and that Moslem martyrs all go to paradise
(Who would decide that, a racist god?)


There has been a lot of discussion here about so called “facts” which are supposed to explain
what’s going on. Well there’s no end to arguing about facts. It’s one witness’s word against
another. Did they shoot a child? Did the child have a hand grenade? But the rabid hatred which
goes way beyond what we normally think of when we reference racism is not a “fact” that
can be twisted and distorted and denied. They are saying it about themselves. And
They are not ashamed of it.