Friday, September 09, 2005

Please Let Not Piety be Pity

About a month ago, I went to a social gathering with a friend. At the gathering, I started to talk to a few people, and since I wear a kippah (and most of the people were there from a church group), the conversation steered to the direction of Israel (because all those who wear kippah's are from Israel).

One of the women, a particularly gentle soul, asked me what I thought about the situation in Israel. Such a general question is difficult to answer. To paraphrase, she asked me, "Isn't it sad that they are so desperate that they are being driven to commit suicide?"

Here I am going to set the record straight; "suicide" is when you kill yourself, "homicide" is when you strap a bomb to your body and kill a plethora of other people, not to mention, innocent other people. If Palestinian terrorists are suicide victims, then so is anybody that shoots up a crowd of people and then gets shot to death by authorities, for they caused their own life to be taken. Yet these people are called "murderers." When people commit suicide, at least here in the West, they usually prefer the method of swallowing pills, slitting their wrists, a gunshot, or sometimes even hanging, yet I can't remember that a tortured soul just couldn't take it anymore and decided to end his or her life by strapping on explosives and walking into a crowded bank. Plus, suicide victims are not identified by an ideologically hate-filled political act.

The problem with many people's understanding of the Middle East is that they don't have one. Muslim extremism (which has yet to be clearly distinguished from the Muslim religion itself) is in perpetual conquer mode. When a Muslim whack-job straps a bomb to him, or herself, and strolls into a crowded building invoking the name of the One G-d right before detonating that bomb, they are not motivated by depression or feelings of self-worthlessness, because there are Palestinians that commit suicide in the "traditonal" way as well, but rather, they are motivated by the desire to murder. By killing those people, they are expressing the Muslim goal of political rebellion against an invader, and rather than being sad about their lives ending, they express joy, and feel as if they are completing a sacred mission. The gentle soul who asked me this question might have a hard time understanding this cultural reality, because her ancestors were more adept at killing others to get them into Heaven rather than killing themselves. Ironically, they both killed the same people.

The sensitive eyes of some people Western, some of which are Christian, have a fixed image of suicide as a plea for help, for that is the American construct. However, it's quite different "over there," and if someone doesn't understand something, until they have some facts down, they should just shut their damn mouths. Some people turn the other cheek and some people turn themselves into flaming objects of death and destruction. If Palestinians want to play make-believe that they are guided missiles that just happen to have eyes, there is plenty of room in the "Palestinian territories" to play that game. I beg of people not to mistake piety for pity.

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