Got an error: You are currently performing a search. Please wait until your search is completed.That must have been irritating. I've encountered it a couple of times myself.
Palestinians are equally divided on the issue of suicide bombings in Israel, according to a public opinion poll published Sunday.
The poll also showed that the majority of Palestinians are planning to vote for Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in the next presidential election.
According to the poll, more than 43 percent of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem support ending suicide attacks in Israel, while 42.8% believe the bombings should continue. The poll did not include residents of the Gaza Strip, a fact that explains the drop in the number of Palestinians who favor suicide attacks.
That realization is shaping scientists' understanding of suicide bombers, whose numbers have soared. Who are they? Not the cowardly psychopaths or sociopaths you might expect. "There is little to no evidence that they are mentally unbalanced," says Todd Stewart, a retired Air Force general who now directs the Program for International and Homeland Security at Ohio State University. From the Sept. 11 attackers to Palestinian suicide bombers to al Qaeda terrorists, they are educated, fairly well off and "not necessarily from fanatically religious families," he says.
This alarmingly normal profile is why the National Science Foundation gave anthropologist Scott Atran, a research director at the National Center for Scientific Research, Paris, emergency funding to study groups that sponsor suicide attacks. He just spent three weeks in Gaza and the West Bank, where he spoke to counterterrorism strategists, fugitive Hamas leaders, would-be suicide bombers and families of "martyrs."
"None of the supporters of suicide terrorism I interviewed, especially at al-Najah University, were poor, uneducated, socially estranged or psychologically deranged," says Prof. Atran. "They are idealistic and compassionate, and think they can change the world. That makes the whole thing more frightening than if they were just crazies off the street." In a study of al Qaeda recruits, forensic psychiatrist Marc Sageman of the University of Pennsylvania finds a similar pattern: Many attended college and are economically better off than most Palestinians or European Muslims, and they are often "the elite of their countries," he says.
But suicide terrorists are not rational in the way science understands the term. They do not weigh risks and benefits or winning and losing strategies. For the suicide bomber, says Prof. Atran, " 'sacred values' and fervor trump rational interest." For instance, when he asked young Hamas supporters whether a martyr is "more deserving" if he kills 10 of the enemy or 100, all responded that it would not matter if the martyr killed no one but himself. He also asked, if your father were dying and your mother asked you to delay your suicide operation, would you? All answered that "duty to God" cannot be delayed for even a minute.
Yet When Prof. Atran got aspiring martyrs alone, "there was a lot more nuance, flexibility and doubt," he says. "They're not so sure anymore, whereas in the group they're convinced of what they're saying."
That's why insights into suicide attackers will have to come from understanding group dynamics, not individual psychology, says Gen. Stewart. "Group norms are more important than individual traits" in creating a suicide bomber, he says. Terrorist leaders make recruits view the group -- terrorist cell or larger society -- as a pseudofamily for whom they will give their life. That manipulation can trump individual personality to produce horrific behavior in ordinary people.