Study: Revenge Motivates Suicide Bombers

A study headed by Robert Brym, son of Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors, concluded that suicide bombers are not inspired by extreme poverty. This conclusion discredits the widespread belief that terror grows out of poverty and deprivation. As the argument goes, if the Palestinians’ wealth approached that of the Israelis, they would stop attacking Israeli civilians.

However, the study also downplayed the importance of religion in motivating suicide bombers. This conclusion is difficult to accept, given the specifically Islamic religious  terms that suicide bombers speak in on tapes before attacks and family members praise them in after.

The following article is from Haaretz.

TORONTO – In an extensive study of Palestinian suicide bombings, three University of Toronto researchers have concluded that the bombers were not psychologically unstable and were often motivated by personal vengeance, not religious zeal.

The study was carried out by political sociologist Robert Brym, with the assistance of two Ph.d students, Palestinian Bader Araj and Israeli Yael Maoz-Shai.
Writing in the academic journal Social Forces, Brym noted, “The organizers of suicide attacks don’t want to jeopardize their missions by recruiting unreliable people. It may be that some psychologically unstable people want to become suicide bombers, but insurgent organizations strongly prefer their cannons fixed.”

He also found that the suicide bombers did not experience extraordinary high levels of economic deprivation.

Furthermore, in his study published in Contexts, Brym concluded that a majority of bombers, like Palestinian female lawyer, Hanadi Tayseer Jaradat, 29, who killed 21 civilians in a 2003 bombing at Maxim restaurant in Haifa, were “motivated by the desire for revenge and retaliation.”

Jaradat acted to avenge the killings of her brother, an Islamic Jihad militant, and cousin by Israeli security forces.

Brym concluded, “In its origins and at its core, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not religiously inspired, and suicide bombing, despite its frequent religious trappings, is fundamentally the expression of a territorial dispute.”

This reasoning is intellectually comfortable, because it leaves open the possibility for a full and comprehensive peace. But, upon thinking the logic forward, one uncovers its weakness. When Israel left Lebanon and Gaza, attacks only increased. Does anyone really believe that if Israel pulled back to the 1967 lines, motivation for attacking Israel would decrease significantly? Suicide bombings were not a phenomenon in the days of total Israeli control over Palestinian areas.

Brym and Araj identified the organizational affiliation of 133 out of 138 suicide bombers between September 2000 and July 2005. Sixty-four per cent were affiliated with Islamic fundamentalists groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, while the rest were aligned with secular groups such as Fatah.

In analyzing data pertaining to Israeli counterterrorist operations, Brym said “we do know that of the nearly 600 suicide missions launched in Israel and its occupied territories between 2000 and 2005, fewer than 25 percent succeeded in reaching their target. Israeli counterterrorist efforts thwarted three-quarters of them using violent means.”

If he looked only at those attacks attempted after Defensive Shield, when Israeli tactics became more intense, the percentage of successful attacks would be far lower.

However, his study found that harsh repression can intensify bombings and prompt bombers to devise more lethal methods to achieve their aims.

“In general, severe repression can work for a while, but a sufficiently determined mass opposition will always be able to design new tactics to surmount new obstacles. One kind of ‘success,’ usually breeds another kind of ‘failure’ if the motivation of insurgents is high.” In an interview, Brym said: “I’m no fan of Hamas, but I believe that Israel and Hamas at some point have to sit and negotiate.”

In a paper to be published in Studies in Conflict on Terrorism this year, Araj concludes that harsh state repression “should not be perceived only as a reaction to suicide bombing” but “often precedes and is a major cause of suicide bombing.”

10 Responses to Study: Revenge Motivates Suicide Bombers

  1. Eliyahu says:

    A sucker is born every minute, quoth PT Barnum. It looks like our Dr Brym is another one. It seems that a defect of this study is the author’s ignorance of history. To be sure, he is not alone in being ignorant of the history of Israel and of Jewish-Arab & Jewish-Muslim relations in Israel & elsewhere. Of course, revenge is a motive but revenge is conceived in a Muslim religious context. It is totally idiotic to separate revenge from religion. Muslims are taught that dhimmi victories over Muslims are unforgivable, besides all of the Jews’ many sins according to the Quran and the Hadith. So there’s grounds for revenge right there. But is that attitude reasonable? Is it reasonable for her to want revenge for Israel’s army killing her cousin or her brother, if those two were taking part in warfare/terrorism against Israel? Maybe she considered it reasonable, but should we consider it reasonable?

    Part of the reason for the continuation of Arab-Israeli conflict is that the West –particularly UK, US, UN– has never frankly and sternly told the Arabs that it is unreasonable of them to continue the war. This was because of the West’s own Judeophobia which is vicariously performed or acted out by the Arabs. For some, the Arabs take revenge against the Jews on behalf of Christians for the crucifixion. This fits in with the judgement of a more historically knowledgeable psychologist, Prof David Gutmann of Northwestern Univ. His remarks in regard to the “palestinians” perceived as a collective Jesus appear on FrontPageMagazine, 1-27-2006.

    And then Brym recommends talking to Hamas, which has a Nazi ideology. Such “negotiations” would not only be counterproductive but should be totally out of the question morally speaking. To put it mildly, it is not justified to talk to Hamas.

  2. Eliyahu says:

    some foul winds are blowing. The anti-Israel, Judeophobic psywar is on the march. Wikipedia has set up a “palestine” project in English full of lying propaganda.
    See the link on LGF.

  3. E.G. says:

    Citing the Bryn&Araj 2006 paper (titled: Suicide Bombing as Strategy and Interation: The case of the second Intifada), section on Methods, Variables, Data:

    “Israeli sources and the New York Times provide only sporadic information on the individual motives, organizational rationales and precipitants of suicide attacks. Here we relied more heavily on Arabic sources because they provide more consistent and detailed evidence drawn from interviews with organizational leaders and suicide bombers’ family members, official organizational statements, and statements made by suicide bombers before their attacks.”

    Right. These sources are widely known for their reliability, objectivity and impartial intellectual integrity, in particular regarding the paper’s subject.

    Further “We collected information on the primary, secondary and tertiary motives, rationales and precipitants, judging salience on the basis of how prominently these precursors of suicidal violence figured in the reports we surveyed.”

    Well, the coding grid is not provided, nor any statistic regarding inter-rater consistency (which in turn provides an indication about the Journal’s academic rigor).

    So Haaretz got word of these hardly scientific studies, published in minor academic outlets, whose findings sort of oppose most authoritative conclusions on the subject. It seems that because such findings suit Haaretz’s agenda – it devotes space to amplify yet another “narrative” building block. Anyone surprised?

  4. fp says:


    but of course.

    It’s worse than that: the west has propped and saved fatah and hamas each time when they were collapsing as a consequence of their murderous and self-destructive actions. the ONLY reason they still exist is due to active support of the west, including the US.

    the idiot rice has just asked Olmert to Japan to force gaza concessions and the US is on the verge to dump zillions on both fatah and hamas.

    the west is simply scared shitless of islamism, has neither the will nor capacity to defend itself, is incompetent in doing anything about oil dependency and the only thing it can agree on is that joos are inconvenient: get rid of them and presto, problem solved.

    which is exactly what anti-semitism has always been about: scapegoating when you don’t want to admit or address your own problems.


  5. Fat Man says:

    Not even original. Robert Pape, (John Mearsheimer’s co-conspirator at the formerly distinguished U of Chicago) has been peddling a similar line for a while. His, I believe, is that suicide bombers are commenting on US foreign policy.

    These approaches are at best mis-focused. The motivations of suicide bombs are not important. The real issue is the handlers, the guys who recruit, train, equip, and motivate, the bombs.

    Remember that no family member of a handler or an emir has ever been a bomb.

  6. Eliyahu says:

    Fatman, a few years the wife of Rantisi, one of the ranting Hamas leaders in Gaza, took a phone call at home. It was for her son from a Hamas shahid recruiter. She told the recruiter that her son was not meant to be a shahid & that he should get lost!! This from the wife of Rantisi, who was aided in leaving this vale of tears עמק הבכה for his 72 white raisins, by the Israel Defense Forces. Just to prove FM’s point.

    fp, of course I agree that the West props up fatah and hamas and other scumgangs. You recall that arafat was rescued by the CIA or State Dept when his plane crashed in the Libyan desert in about 1991 or 92. But we may differ as to the West’s motivation. Maybe fatah & hamas & all their relatives and cousins and cothinkers & co-jihadis serve a purpose. Maybe they are a tool of diplomacy. Think of what clausewitz said: the continuation of policy by other means.

  7. fp says:

    the question is whose policy and who is the tool of whom.

    permit me to assert based on overwhelming evidence, that the west has usually been arrogant and stupid about the ME and that the so-called arab and moslem elites has played the western elite for the fools they are. again and again, because the latter never learn. and don’t want to learn, because the conclusions are too difficult to contemplate.

    denial and scapegoating the joos are so much easier. at least in the short run.

  8. fred says:

    This study on motivation of suicide bombers is
    oriented in the willing expected by Olmert & Livni : They don’t want to deal with the religious aspect of the conflict while it’s always in the name of Allah they blow
    themslseves to kill others

  9. fred says:

    This study on motivation of suicide bombers is
    oriented in the willing expected by Olmert & Livni : They don’t want to deal with the religious aspect of the conflict while it’s always in the name of Allah they blow
    themselves to kill Non Muslims.

  10. E.G. says:

    See Reuters report:
    Inspired by God, Hamas fighters battle on
    Mon Mar 3, 2008 9:30am EST

    Honest to God (tongue in cheek), I’m sure all will agree that the advise given in the majority of MSM editorials to Israelis to negotiate with Hamas is relevant and immediately applicable.

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