Fighel speaks on suicide bombings

Suicide bombings against Israel are unlikely to end any time soon and may spread to the United States, retired Israeli Colonel Yoni Fighel said Tuesday.

Fighel, the director of the education program of the International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism, spoke about suicide bombings at the Pierson College Master’s House. He discussed the history of suicide attacks, why they occur, and the chances of such attacks occurring in the United States.

Fighel said suicide bombings are not unique to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. He said many of the Palestinian terrorists were trained in Lebanon and then started using this “highest supreme weapon — the suicidal operation.”

Suicide bombings did not originate in Israel, Fighel said, and did not even occur there until April 1993.

The Palestinian strategy is twofold, Fighel said. One part involves waves of suicide bombings in populated areas inside Israel. The second strategy is the use of mortars and missiles.

Fighel said it was a “big surprise” to the Palestinians that the attacks had not deterred Israel already.

In discussing the motivations behind attacks, Fighel said there were three major reasons — ideology, the social and economic environment, and the psychological predisposition of the bomber. He said the cause of the attacks was “not simplistic.”

Fighel said he was “not too optimistic” about the United States’ prospects for avoiding suicide bombings.

There has been a pattern of attacks against the United States and the bombings are a cost-effective way to create “waves of anxiety in the public,” he said.

To protect against terrorism, Fighel suggested a series of domestic and international steps. He said the international community should endorse Islamic leaders opposed to the bombings, persuade Arab countries to detain radical religious leaders, share intelligence, strike pre-emptively and stop the flow of money to terrorist organizations. He also said the use of anti-terrorism measures, such as road blocks, is necessary.

“This is not fun, but this is the dilemma — road blocks or suicide bombings in Tel Aviv?” he said. “There is a tension between anti-terrorism methods and democracy.”

Fighel said he doubted whether even an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories would stop the violence.

Daniel Yohannes FES ’06 said he was upset because Fighel discussed terrorism too broadly, rather than focusing on the prospects of suicide bombings in the United States.

Fighel’s speech was part of a college tour that also includes Wesleyan and Southern Connecticut State universities. The Yale Friends of Israel sponsored Fighel’s lecture at Yale.

“YFI is committed to educating the Yale community about the real facts of the Middle East on issues of mutual importance to Israelis and Americans,” YFI vice president Nelson Moussazadeh ’05 said.

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Brian Goldman
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