Counter-Terrorism: Israel Identifies The Perfect Terrorist


July 26, 2010: Israel and the United States have collected a lot of information on how Islamic terrorists operate. A lot of this data will remain secret for some time, but new tidbits are made public from time to time. The latest revelation is actually confirmation of many older bits of information. That is, the suicide bombers themselves are usually persuaded, not forced, to carry out their missions.

Israel, for example, has captured at least fifteen suicide bombers who did not (could not or would not) carry out their mission. These terrorists were extensively questioned, as were family and friends. The Israelis also collected similar data on dead suicide bombers, including email or tapped phone calls and other material the bomber left behind. The Israelis, like the suicide bomb organizations, came to the same conclusion; that certain personality traits make someone very willing to carry out these attacks. And the chief characteristic is usually not fanaticism, but deference to authority and public opinion. This is one reason why the  Palestinian media campaign to glamorize suicide bombers is so dangerous. Over a decade of this propaganda provides a large supply of potential suicide bombers, and even assists them in contacting terrorist groups to sign up. For terrorists unable to find these impressionable volunteers (who are easy to train and control), there is another pool of recruits. These are the deranged and impulsive. This is why you will occasionally hear about dead suicide bombers who were mental patients, or widows of terrorists. The widows are told, quite accurately, that they faced a dim future and that becoming a martyr for the cause was a good move. In these cases, the cash paid (by terrorist organizations) to the families of suicide bombers helped with the recruiting.

Terrorists consider suicide bombing a very effective weapon. But to make it work they need volunteers who are reliable and able to learn the techniques of getting to the target undetected, and then actually setting off the bomb. You don't hear much about it, but many (in some situations, over a third of) suicide bombers refuse to go through with it. Thus the many "handlers" that work closely with the suicide bomber, until the final moment. If a suicide bombing campaigns goes on for a while, only killing Moslem civilians, there will be a shortage of competent volunteers. All those dead Moslem civilians gives the attacks a bad reputation. That means fewer successful suicide bombing missions, and more captured (or surrendered) bombers, which results in more suicide bombing cells (and their hard to replace management and technical personnel) are destroyed.

Israeli police have long known how the terrorist groups recruit, equip and deliver bombers. This information was obtained from Palestinian publications, captured documents and interrogations of Palestinian militants. Eventually, the Israelis found several weaknesses in the suicide bomber system. The first one discovered was transportation. Most of the suicide bomber volunteers lived in the West Bank, and had to be transported to areas with a large Israeli population. As the Israelis discovered, most of the cost of each suicide bombing went to paying a driver or guide to get the suicide bomber close to a target area. Using a system of checkpoints and profiling, the Israelis began to catch most of the suicide bombers.

But some still got through. So the Israelis went back to a 1990s technique that, while it worked, was widely criticized as unfair and inhumane. Namely, the family home of the suicide bomber was destroyed. The bomber usually came from a family that housed several generations in one house (which was often the family's major asset. Before resuming this practice, the family actually profited from the bombing, receiving up to $30,000 for their son (or daughter's) sacrifice. Soon after the house destruction policy went into effect, there were reports of familys forcibly restraining adult children from joining the suicide bombing effort (or reporting the kid to the Israelis, who would then arrest the bomber volunteer.) While that dried up the source of the more competent bombers, it did not eliminate all the bombings. So Israel cut the West Bank off from Israel. Thus for the last five years, there have been hardly any attacks. Because the Palestinians continue their suicide bomber recruitment program (especially on children's television shows), the Israelis don't plan on reopening their borders to the Palestinians any time soon.






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