I'm sorry to see Terry Eagleton adding his voice to this particular line of argument:
While insurgents have been blowing themselves apart in Israel and Iraq, a silence has prevailed about what suicide bombing actually involves. Like hunger strikers, suicide bombers are not necessarily in love with death. They kill themselves because they can see no other way of attaining justice; and the fact that they have to do so is part of the injustice.There is much else in what Terry writes here that I would want to quarrel with: the invocation of Rosa Luxemburg's name in a piece about the minions, amongst others, of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; the way in which the suicide bomber's betting not only his life but also the lives of others on a just future gets lost after a brief mention; the 'complex symbolic act' and the 'smack of avant garde theatre', in the absence of other possible relevant characterizations. But the principal damage is done in that opening passage quoted above. They 'can see no other way'; and this mutates after a semi-colon into 'they have to' kill themselves. Why they have to is for 'justice'; that they have to is part of the 'injustice'. Talk about a complex symbolic freight. And on behalf of what! Do the beheaders also have to behead, and is it part of the injustice against them that, and when, they do so?
And where does this appear? In the pages of the Guardian of British liberalism, where else.
Update at 3.20 PM. Linda Grant emails:
Eagleton neglects a couple of things:Update at 3.55 PM: Chris Young considers another aspect of the issue. See also Harry and Scott Burgess.
1. In April 2003 two public school educated British men travelled to Israel via Jordan, declared themselves as tourists, wandered around the occupied territories for a few days, then went to Tel Aviv and one of them, in such despair at his miserable life, blew himself up inside Mike's Bar, killing three others.
2. Some research has been done on the motives of suicide bombers, by interviewing those who failed to pull it off. Amazingly, they reported that they did it because it was cool. Now in prison, their principal request is for hair gel. I kid you not.
Finally, on the rather neglected matter of the victims, time again to turn to this.