An eye-opening view of a rising generation of would-be martyrs in Israel and Palestine.
Though it’s more observation than interpretation, biographer Victor (Goddess, 2001, etc.) delivers a narrative full of fascinating and strange moments. In vignettes and slightly fuller sketches, she depicts a few dozen-odd young women who have, in the words of one, decided to call their Western counterparts on all their talk of equality: “Well, you can take a lesson from us Palestinian women,” one tells her. “We die in equal numbers to the men.” This “tragic view of women’s liberation,” as Victor puts it, is widely shared in Palestine, at least among younger women who believe that by martyring themselves in suicide bombing attacks they will enter the heaven once apparently reserved for men who die in the service of Islam. That question has been hotly debated for at least a couple of decades, by Victor’s account; though the mullahs of Iran made no mention of women when they decided, in 1982, that the Lebanese Hezbollah’s use of suicide attacks was religiously justifiable, other clerics have followed to promise paradise to both genders—as did the Mufti of Saudi Arabia a few months after the September 11 attack when he declared, “In the Koran, the Prophet Mohammed instructed both men and women to die for the sake of Jihad.” And so Palestinian women have been flocking to the bomb, assured, as one says, that “the Jewish die, but we live forever.” Some, by Victor’s account, are ordinary fundamentalists; others are disaffected teenagers conversant in world pop culture but wedded to traditional notions of honor all the same; others are deranged, such as the murderer Amna’a Mouna, an effective political leader despite having been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic; and still others are firebrands whose fond hope is to shame their male counterparts into blowing themselves up, too.
Sure-footed reporting of what one hopes will be a passing moment in history—though all the signs shown here suggest not.