The Politics of Suicide Bombing

Update: I find it interesting that while Harry’s Place is on about Shaykh Al-Qaradawi supposedly being antisemitic, some anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews make a point of supporting him, as in this example here.

Update 2: Here is an interesting discussion of scholarly opinion, which holds that suicide bombing is unlawful in Islam, period.

by Lenna

Harry’s Place has posted an article discussing their everlasting outrage over the Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi’s endorsement of suicide bombings. I would like to state from the outset that I’m opposed to suicide bombings, which I see as morally repugnant.

Nevertheless, Harry’s Place is a Neocon-Zionist cheerleader for endless war. These are not pacifists who are criticizing Al-Qaradawi, nor are they especially blessed with the truth.

It will likely surprise many to discover that suicide bombings are legal under certain circumstance according to the principles of the Hague International Convention of 1907 and confirmed in the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II. These principles were meant to protect resistance fighters Germany had alleged were “terrorists.”

Occupied people have the right to employ force against their oppressors, both inside and outside the occupied territories. When Palestinians under occupation target Israeli soldiers, they have international law on their side. In other words, the Palestinians have a “right to defend themselves.”

Often when violence breaks out between Israel and the Palestinians, we are reminded that Israel has a “right to defend itself.” Of course every nation has not only a right, but an obligation to defend its territory and people. But the Palestinians are not a foreign nation attacking Israel. They are an occupied people, and as such, their occupier, Israel, is obliged to protect them. This obligation is enshrined in international law, including Article 2 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Instead we see Israel imposing draconian blockades and indiscriminately bombing schools, hospitals, mosques, homes, ambulances and other civilian infrastructure with impunity under the guise of “self defense.” It’s worth noting that the Palestinians have no army. As such, all of Israel’s Palestinian victims in the Occupied Territories could arguably be classified as civilians. Of course, Israel has no trouble convincing many in the West that Hamas and other groups of fighters should not be counted as civilians, given their paramilitary role in the conflict, but by logical extension, they are strengthening their opponent’s counterclaim that West Bank settlers should not be counted as civilians for similar reasons. 

The “not really civilians” logic is what Al-Qaradawi was referring to with regard to Israeli women, who serve in the military. I don’t agree with this broad definition meant to exclude people from their status as civilians, no matter who is advancing the argument. Nevertheless, at least with regard to suicide bombing and other attacks on Israeli soldiers, Al-Qaradawi’s ruling is consistent with international law, even if other parts of the same ruling are legally and morally dubious.

Don’t expect Harry’s Place to make such distinctions. For them, Western imperial violence is “good violence” and Muslim violence is “bad violence.” By definition, no further distinction necessary.

In practical terms, Israel doesn’t fare well against Hamas with regard to killing civilians in any case.

Many Muslims will never forget the terror campaign Israel launched during Ramdan in July of 2014. According to the UN, Israel killed 2,251 Palestinians, 65% of whom they classified as civilians. Palestinian fighters, including Hamas, killed 66 Israeli soldiers and 6 civilians. Even if we give the UN the benefit of the doubt in their classification of Palestinian civilians, only 35% of those Israel killed were classified as military, as compared to 91% for Hamas! Using its near monopoly on modern weapons, Israel doesn’t need to resort to suicide bombing. We can see the results of this lopsided conflict, as Israel killed more than thirty times as many people, at least two thirds of whom were classified as civilians. Those numbers speak for themselves.

In the past, I may have ventured over to Harry’s Place to share these inconvenient observations in comments. Except I know from experience it would be pointless. Muscular liberals are fierce, cruel, and immune to facts. As neocon luminary Karl Rove once said with pride, “we create our own reality.” Indeed.

Here is a haunting clip of Israel acting in “self defense” by killing Salem Khalil Salem Shammaly, an unarmed 23-year-old man who was looking for his family in the Gaza rubble (WARNING: Graphic Violence):

This post is part of the Talking Points initiative.


What did you think of this article? Let me know below in comments. You also reach me via email at or find me on Twitter: @LennCat.