I was reading Seymour Hersh's excellent New Yorker piece on the Bush administration's interest in the Hezbollah-Israeli war when I stumbled across this paragraph:
A European intelligence officer told me, "The Israelis have been caught in a psychological trap. In earlier years, they had the belief that they could solve their problems with toughness. But now, with Islamic martyrdom, things have changed, and they need different answers. How do you scare people who love martyrdom?" The problem with trying to eliminate Hezbollah, the intelligence officer said, is the group's ties to the Shiite population in southern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and Beirut's southern suburbs, where it operates schools, hospitals, a radio station, and various charities.
The challenge of confronting people who are not scared to die -- taking people with them in the process -- is a long-standing military and political challenge. For journalists, the job is slightly easier, but nevertheless difficult. While journalists, particularly those in television, are talented at covering martyrdom videos, typically after the fact, I might add, they do less reporting on the development of these so-called martyrs, also known as suicide bombers.
A related question is how to report on an organization that uses terrorism to wrest control of political situations. Organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah are highly media savvy, as clearly documented by National Public Radio's On the Media. So how does a reporter give "fair and balanced" treatment to terrorists, particularly to their deliberate decisions to kill people?
Check out this section of the Hersh piece:
One intercept was of a meeting in late May of the Hamas political and military leadership, with Meshal participating by telephone. "Hamas believed the call from Damascus was scrambled, but Israel had broken the code," the consultant said. For almost a year before its victory in the Palestinian elections in January, Hamas had curtailed its terrorist activities. In the late May intercepted conversation, the consultant told me, the Hamas leadership said that "they got no benefit from it, and were losing standing among the Palestinian population." The conclusion, he said, was "'Let's go back into the terror business and then try and wrestle concessions from the Israeli government.'"
I've raised this concern before, but what is it in Hamas' philosophical makeup that allows it to resort to murder and destruction to accomplish political goals? Christian Palestinians have lived in the same area under similar conditions for the same time -- have you ever heard of a Christian Palestinian terrorist bomber?