At its heart, terrorism is theater.
Each act of terrorism has an intended audience. Most acts of terrorism have at least two audiences. The terrorist who struts bloodily across the boards plays not only to the greater world out in the stands but to his own local community who watch from the wings. In many cases, the audience in the wings is the most important one to the terrorist long-term goals.
Many analysis of Palestinian suicide bombing mistakenly believe that the primary audience for the terrorist is the Israeli electorate or the wider world but the primary audience is actually the Palestinians themselves and their supporters in the Islamic world.
The security fence closes the curtain on this show. Thatís why so many Palestinians and their enablers oppose it so strongly.
Palestinians have no functioning government or institutions at all. The Palestinian Authority is a joke. The Palestinians are ruled/oppressed/plagued by various gangs or warlords masquerading as anti-Israeli terrorist organizations. The various groups all hate each other and struggle internally for the mindshare of the Palestinian people and for financial support from the broader Islamic world.
Heretofore, they competed with one another primarily by attacking Israel. The more Israeli each group murdered the greater its prestige, power and financial reward. This dynamic produces the sickly comical scene of various groups clawing over one another to take credit for this or that outrage.
The Israeli security fence threatens to change the fundamental dynamic and destroy the rule of the gangs forever. If the gangs cannot use terrorist attacks against Israel as a proxy they will be forced to fight each other directly for power. If they canít kill Israelis, their external financial support dries up. This is happening now in the Gaza strip. A civil war has broken out between competing gangs desperate to survive by physically dominating the Palestinian masses. The same thing will happen in the West Bank when the fence is completed there.
Theater is all about illusion and one creates an illusion by controlling perspective. From the middle seats and from the darken wings the terrorists look like noble heroes struggling against the evil Israeli villains but when the curtain comes down and the backstage lights come up they are revealed to be selfish prima donnas in too much grease paint.
This is one show I canít wait to see close.
(Note: I donít know how original this idea is but it bears repeating)
(Update: Steven Den Beste pursued similar themes in several postings)
4 thoughts on “Fences and Audiences”
I don’t have a link, but I’m pretty sure that I saw Steven den Beste present this thesis first.
I think you may be correct. I’ll check.
Right on, Shannon! I don’t know if it’s original either but I couldn’t agree more. The Palestinians lost all legitimate claim for statehood a long time ago when they systematically targeted civilians. Now that their metaphorical stage is threatened, they will actually have to act like politcal adults and achieve a functioning state, or just whither and die. Either way I look forward to the change.
I updated with a link to Steven den Beste’s extensive comments on the wall all of which I most likely have read in the past. He’s very cogent and I am sadden that he has stopped posting.
The idea that terrorism has internal and external audiences dates from the 70’s. I think it is often overlooked in analyzing terrorism. The WTC for example was targeted due to it’s symbolic significance within the Islamic world not because of it’s symbolic significance to Americans. It’s destruction was meant to “play in [an Islamic} Pertoria” not he big city lights of the first world.
The fence is dangerous to the Palestinians because they have no collective identity except for their opposition to Israel. There never was a Palestinian nation state in the past, nor do they have a distinctive culture or language. Culturally, they belong to a wide swath of Arabic culture that covers many countries. Individuals are Palestinians if they live in or came from the areas we now call “Palestinian areas” or Israel. Without Israel, there is nothing to hold them together and many, many things to drive them apart.
If successful the wall with drive a reform movement which will turn the Palestinians into an integral people who can form a functioning nation but it is going to take quite a bit of time.
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