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By Louis Rene Beres
Professor of International Law

    "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem," says Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus, "and that is suicide." Nowhere is Camus's observation currently more insightful than in the curious relationship between Israel and Hamas. Here, an imperilled state that allegedly wishes to endure takes expanding "security" measures that can only be described as suicidal. For its part, Israel's Islamic terrorist adversary, choosing suicide as its very modus operandi, prods Israel to accelerate its path to collective disintegration. The result of this relationship is an overwhelmingly ironic synergy of suicides, a unilaterally unrecognized reciprocity between enemies that assures collective life to Hamas but only death to Israel.

    Members of Hamas aspire to immortal life. Paradoxically, that is why they are willing to become suicides, to become martyrs for whom dying in the act of killing Jews is merely a temporary inconvenience that will bring true freedom from death. Citizens of Israel do not share, collectively, the Hamas commitment to immortality. Unlike members of Hamas, they are altogether unwilling to become suicides. Yet, in a most peculiar inversion of intention and outcome, it is the Israelis, not the Hamas terrorists, who direct themselves toward disappearance as a group. Seeking, sometimes desperately, to stay alive, the citizens of Israel agree to codified policies of surrender that now make national suicide almost inescapable.

    We see, therefore, an authentically perverse and ironic mirror image between Israel and Hamas. Yet, Israel, ignoring the reflection, sees only one side of the suicidal reciprocity, the individual self-destruction of Hamas terrorists, while Hamas sees not only the temporary "deaths" of individual Muslims but also the resultant collective disintegration of a despised Jewish state. For Israel, the unacknowledged reciprocity occasions the frightfully unimaginable concessions of a so-called "Peace Process," while for Hamas the acknowledged reciprocity is confirmation that it is embarked upon the only correct course - the theologically- determined course to real and irreversible Islamic victory.

    For Israel, suicide is something "crazy," something only irrational terrorist enemies would actively choose as a strategy of confrontation. For Hamas, suicide is the very highest form of political engagement, a divinely-mandated method that rewards doubly when the enemy infidel is blind enough to cooperate in its own meaningless dying. For Israel, which does not yet understand that reciprocal suicide is the objective of Hamas, its own self-inflicted dismemberment will continue to appear perfectly sensible. For Hamas, which understands that this reciprocal suicide is altogether asymmetrical (i.e., Palestinian suicides that yield individual paths to immortality are exchanged for permanent collective Israeli annihilation), the martyrdom of its members will be perfectly sensible. For Israel, still unaware that all politics moves in the midst of death, individual enemy suicides will push the Jewish State to effectively renounce its national life. For Hamas, profoundly aware of the connections between death and politics, Israeli complicity in rejecting Jewish national life in the Middle East will elicit more and more individual Muslim suicides until the lethal reciprocity is complete.

    Camus's meditation on living or not living - on the implications of suicide - has tragic and vital meaning in the struggle betweeen Israel and Hamas. In the final analysis, this meaning must extend to associated questions of enduring or not enduring, and to related questions of rebellion. Should Israel now begin to yield not only to the temptation to exist, but also to the corollary obligation to think, it might still have a chance to understand the true messages of suicide. Rejecting the chimera of a "New Middle East," that paradise of debility erected by Peres Government experts in counter-creation, the Jewish State could at last begin to revolt against a suicidal politics that points unswervingly toward oblivion.

    There are crimes of passion and crimes of logic, and today, at a moment when many governments are immobilized by fears of living and dying, Israel is confronted by both kinds of crime. What is more, Hamas crimes of terrorism, surrounded by passion, are animated by logic. This logic of suicide is not, by any means, an oxymoron, as even death that is self- inflicted can play a survival role of enormous political importance. The point, for Israel, is to understand this logic while there is still time, to acknowledge that metaphysical rebellion is an Israeli imperative, and to recognize that the death of its individual enemies can produce not only the deaths of individual Israelis, but also its own reciprocally collective death. Without such an understanding, the People of Israel will remain in the New Middle East only to pray for a second Flood.


© LOUIS RENE BERES who was educated at
Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and seeks to elevate
Israeli strategic studies beyond its currently
dismal level of understanding.
His address is:
Purdue University, LAEB Building
West Lafayette IN 47907, USA
TEL: 317 494-4189 FAX: 317 494-0833