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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Palestinian support for suicide bombers
Bombed out bus in southern Jerusalem
Is this the path to justice for Palestinians?
Martin Asser

The Palestinian Authority leadership has frequently condemned the tactic of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians as a means of combating Israel's occupation, saying such attacks harm the Palestinian cause, not help it.

But that view is clearly at odds with how most Palestinians see the bombings, which have brought death and terror to Israel's streets dozens of times since the intifada erupted in September 2000.

Palestinian women from Beit Safafa react to Jerusalem bombing
Up close, suicide bombings horrify Palestinians and Israelis
The June 2002 poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre showed that a large majority - nearly seven out of 10 people - supported the suicide operations, about 60% of those expressing their "strong" support.

The Palestinian view appears to be that, if their people - whether involved in the uprising or not - are being killed by Israeli forces, there is no reason why Israeli civilians should be exempt from the suffering.

However, as Israel has conducted its massive military operations in the West Bank over the past few months, support for suicide operations has weakened, from a high of 74% in December 2001 to the current 68%.

The fall is more marked in the West Bank - which has born the brunt of the crackdown - where the figure is 66%.

Eliminating Israel

But unfortunately for the Palestinians, what many still see as their most potent weapon - the indiscriminate human bomb - is seen by almost everybody else as illegitimate terrorism.

This is especially true in a post-11 September world where the "war on terror" has become a global clarion call.

A group of Palestinian liberal intellectuals has come out to say that suicide attacks are an obstacle to the achievement of legitimate goals enshrined by United Nations resolutions.

Injured Israeli infant
The indiscriminate nature of bombings does not diminish support
They are aware that attacks directed at the Israeli army would be more likely to garner international support, as many people around the world view Israel's occupation as illegal and unjust.

But the broader Palestinian population has become, if anything, more radicalised, setting its sights on something more than ending the occupation.

More than 51% see the liberation of all historic Palestine - and the removal of Israel from the map - as the true goal of the intifada, according to JMCC's findings.

And the Palestinians see the attacks at the heart of Israel as the way to achieve that goal, it seems.

The Israeli prime minister, with his threat to reoccupy Palestinian-controlled land until the suicide attacks end, hopes to shake the Palestinians back into the realisation that Israel's overwhelming military superiority will win the day.

That policy may also mean Israel has to give up less territory to the Palestinians in a final settlement.

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05 Jun 02 | Middle East
05 Jun 02 | Middle East
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