The conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians has been so brutal over the last decades, and there have been many failed attempts to reach a settlement. However, the solution is not on the horizon, and there are many forms of extreme reactions like the cult of martyrdom and suicide bombing among the Palestinians that are still quite ill-understood. In his essay “The Culture of Martyrdom: How Suicide Bombing became not Just a Means but an End,” Brooks provides an analysis of the cultural status of suicide bombing among the Palestinians. Brooks’s argument is not without weight, but it can be said that he provides a compelling case for seeing suicide bombing as an addiction, but he fails to justify his claim that it is an end in itself, and from there a huge difference in the application of the argument follows.
We will write a custom Essay on Martyrdom as Addiction to Offset the Injustice specifically for you
301 certified writers online
It seems to be true that the Palestinian culture is deeply addicted to martyrdom. Brooks’s evidence for that claim is ample. The TV shows and bizarre statements in combinations with appalling exhibitions speak to the conclusion that there is some kind of perverted cultural obsession with martyrdom, for which the idea of addiction is the closest metaphor. It might not be the case that the source of addiction is the sheer sense of adrenaline and rush caused by violence, as Brooks (82) would suggest. Rather, I would argue that the addictive component of the practice comes from the sense of countering injustice and dying for a cause.
At this point, I come to the main disagreement that I have with Brooks’ argument. Namely, I do not agree that martyrdom has become an end in itself. Crucially, Brooks (83) writes,
There are two ways to look at this: One, the parents feel so wronged and humiliated by the Israelis that they would rather sacrifice their children then continue passively to endure. Two, the cult of suicide bombing has infected the broader culture to the point where large parts of society, including the bomber’s parents, are addicted to the adrenaline rush of vengeance and murder.”
It seems to me that both of these assertions are true. Namely, martyrdom as addiction has arisen in an attempt to offset the injustice that is so intimately felt by the Palestinian people.
It is crucial to think about the nature of addiction and to understand it well in order to grasp the reason for my disagreement with Brooks. Namely, I believe that it is impossible to think about addiction as an end in itself. Consequently, Brooks has to be mistaken in thinking that one practice can be both an end in itself and an addiction. Addiction might sometimes be thought of as an end in itself and a practice that is engaged in by certain people just for the sake of it. However, upon more careful analysis, it turns out that addiction is never an end of a consciously direct process, but rather a response to something else. Studies in the psychology of addiction have shown that addictions are often merely symptoms of an underlying malady that addicts face.
These underlying maladies can be of various sorts, like economic hardships, disappointment, severe depression, etc. Individuals become addicts out of sheer desperation and in an attempt to both run away from the reality of their lives and end their lives in a slow manner. Martyrdom can indeed be the ultimate form of addiction as it is one move that negates the reality and ends one’s life instantly. It might be the ultimate form of response to despair. All attempts to look at addiction as an end in itself inevitably negate this feeling of despair that every addict would report.
With this insight in mind, we can look at the potential underlying causes of this strange addiction to martyrdom. If we accept the idea that every addiction is merely a symptom of an underlying malady, as I believe we should, it will follow that if we are to understand the quest for martyrdom on the part of Palestinians as addiction, we would need to look for its underlying causes. I think that we should look no further than the, in my view, false dichotomy that Brooks offered in the quotation given above. It is not the case that martyrdom arises either from the profoundly felt injustice or a broad cultural addiction, but a true characterization of it would make room for both of these explanations. In other words, I would argue that the injustice that the Palestinians have experienced and the sense of complete inability to rectify that injustice have caused the entire Palestinian nation to sink into despair.
Once a society sinks into despair, violent addictions and extreme political ideologies are bound to emerge. History is filled with examples of these potent ideological opiates. One need not look further than the famous case of Nazi-Germany in the 1930s as a reaction to the utter failure of the German state in the 1920s as a result of unjust peace settlement at Versailles. The hardships of failed working-class communities in the US from Detroit to New Jersey have given rise to a combination of both classical addictions on drugs and many extreme ideologies.
In conclusion, Brooks provides a quite compelling argument that that cult of martyrdom among Palestinians has become a form of addiction. However, he is not as convincing in his claim that this addiction is actually an end in itself. Like any other addiction, the cult of martyrdom is caused by a profound sense of despair that forces people to reject the reality around themselves and end their own lives in an indirect manner. Therefore, the injustice that is felt by the Palestinians is forcing them to resort to this ultimate form of addiction, which is martyrdom.
Brooks, D. “The Culture of Martyrdom: How Suicide Bombing became not Just a Means but an End.” Pearson Custom Library: English Mercury Reader. Ed. Kathleen, S. Cain, Janice Neuleib and Stephen Ruffus. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2012. 80-86. Web.