March 29, 2005
Friend of FLAME:
In their religious zeal, Islamic fundamentalists are driven by a savagery
and bloodlust that is totally alien to most Westerners, but it is
a motivation we must be aware of and understand in order to be clear
as to what confronts us. As you know, suicide bombers willingly, even
happily, lay down their lives in order to kill their "enemies"---and
as we saw with the 9/11 attacks, more often than not they also injure
innocent bystanders. Thus there can be no doubt that these fanatics
are willing to sacrifice thousands or even millions in order to accomplish
their ends. It is of existential importance, of course, that Israel
be on guard against such likely attacks. Once Iran obtains a nuclear
weapon---and it seems to be only a matter of short time before they
do---they will have no compunction, indeed will feel God-driven, to
use such a weapon to destroy Israel and the hated Jews. To know and
to understand one's enemy is of vital importance---not to know him
could be fatal. Louis Rene Beres is a professor at Purdue University
and an author of many books and articles dealing with terrorism, war
and international law and relations, and we have published his work
in previous editions of the FLAME Hotline. Beres is a keen
observer of the Middle East, and in the article that follows, he chillingly
describes the mindset that animates the enemies of Israel, who are
also the enemies of the United States and, indeed, of all Western
By Louis Rene Beres
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Why they? How about all those others?" I think you'll appreciate
this clarification and find it useful in deconstructing the mythology
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"people" (not really a historic people, but a group
of Arabs) to a new homeland (in addition to all the other homelands
already created in the last century for Arabs). We urge you to
preview this message, print it out, and pass it along to others.
Simply go to http://factsandlogic.org/ad_91.html.
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Jewish Press, March 24, 2005
How shall we truly understand what happened on the last
day of March one year ago, when an Iraqi mob burned, desecrated and
hanged four American contractors from a bridge in Fallujah? Utterly
jubilant in their orgy of mutilation and murder, the members of this
frenzied mob seemed to be acting in ways that were only marginally
human. In fact, however, their behaviors were not only decidedly human,
they were also tied intimately to certain distinct and long-enduring
forms of religious worship. I refer specifically to the undiscarded
practice of ritual sacrifice.
To find plausible comparisons with what happened at Fallujah, we needn`t
go back to medieval times. Rather, only a few years earlier, a similar
mob in Palestinian Ramallah tortured, gouged out the eyes, disemboweled
and burned two entirely defenseless human beings. The sacrificial
victims of that particular day, two Russian-speaking Israelis who
had gotten lost on the roads, were not in any way identifiable to
the mob as individual persons. For the sacrificers, it was more than
enough that they were "Jews." For that reason alone, Vadim
Norjitz and Yossi Avrahami were ripped apart with a measure of bliss
and cruelty that seemed to defy all rational conduct.
"Truly I live in dark times," says the poet Bertolt Brecht.
"The man who laughs has simply not yet heard the terrible news."
The "news" here is that those who mete out brutality in
places like Fallujah and Ramallah act with premeditation, conviction
and purity of heart. Presuming their barbarism to be both enviable
and sanctified, an incontestably worthy fulfillment of divine expectation,
they revel in the literal dismemberment of "G-dless" enemies.
(Editor's note: Beres observes the Jewish orthodox custom of not
spelling out the name of the divine.) Though mired in blood, their
joyous discovery of victims is always self-assured and firmly reinforced
by religious faith. Such discovery is born of the deeply felt knowledge
that the death they are dealing is not in any fashion evil, but is
instead genuinely heroic.
The American military authority in Iraq had pledged one year ago to
"find and punish" the perpetrators of Fallujah. This is
well and good, to be sure, but it misses a much more important point.
There are certainly tens of thousands of others in the area who are
potential perpetrators, entire legions of others whose only regret
is that they were not there this time, but who would surely participate
robustly if another opportunity arose.
We can`t fight this sacrificing enemy with guns and rockets alone.
We can`t even fight it effectively with improved intelligence and
targeted killings of lead terrorists. We must fight it also by first
understanding how to "delink" mob violence from religious
sacrifice throughout the Arab/Islamic world.
To understand what happened at Fallujah we can go back to the
prior events at Ramallah. There the torture-killing of the two Israelis
exhibited clear signs of ritual sacrifice. When one of the overjoyed
murderers appeared before the crowd of thousands smeared in the victims`
blood, the mob roared a collective orgasm of satisfaction. The victims,
after all, were "unbelievers," Jews, not true humans deserving
of care and compassion. Even more importantly, their violent elimination
was a signal to allah of the sacrificers` own worthiness and a clear
promise of divine reward.
America and Israel must soon understand that terrorism in the Arab/Islamic
world is only a tactic and that murder by mutilation in this world
is related directly to religious sacrifice. Until now, this understanding
has lent itself only to very insubstantial theorizing. Now, immediately,
Arab/Islamic terrorism must be recognized, at least in part, as a
bloody and sacred act of mediation between sacrificers and their deity.
To be sure, the killers who take visible delight in mutilation-centered
forms of terror are also enjoying themselves immensely, but this does
not in any way deny the religiously sacrificial quality of their unforgivable
Religious sacrifice always serves to quell growing violence and hatreds
within a primitive community. Left unappeased, violence will accumulate
until it overflows its confines, flooding the surrounding areas. A
firm principle of sacrificial behavior, then, is that it stems a rising
tide of random and intracommunal harms, redirecting it into "proper"
and socially productive channels.
The two "Jews" in Ramallah, as expressions of an
already-despised other in Palestinian society, were more than a proper
channel. They were altogether perfect victims for ritual killing.
So, too, for the same reasons, were the "Americans" in Fallujah.
An intended function of religious sacrifice is to restore harmony
to the primitive community, to strengthen a fragile social fabric.
The murders in both Ramallah and Fallujah offered exactly such restoration.
Having stumbled upon vulnerable surrogates for their own overflowing
violence, the perpetrators in both cases revealed that their surface
affinity for mutilation was part of a much deeper passion for "sacred"
sacrifice of despised "others." In both cases, the sacrifices
were approved widely by Islamic clerics round the world.
We can also learn more about all this from the world of ancient Greece,
from the myth of Dionysus described by Euripides in [his play]
"The Bacchae." Idyllic at first, the Bacchantes` celebration
quickly evolves into a bloodthirsty nightmare. The delirious women
of Thebes hurl themselves indiscriminately on men and beasts. They
are reportedly in the midst of a "strange illness," one
that we can now recognize unquestionably as a sacrificial crisis.
It is futile, it seems, to try to restrain the still-growing tide
of violence and mayhem in parts of the Arab/Islamic world. The Dionysian
outbreak prevails over all. So it was that terrible morning in Ramallah,
and again several years later in Fallujah.
The murderous mutilations of Ramallah and Fallujah are strikingly
similar to the sacrificial violence of Dionysian ritual practice.
We can better understand the contemporary events by looking backward
to ancient Greece. In Dionysian ritual, "Sparagmos, or dismemberment,
is always included. Moreover, as many of the Bacchantes as possible
take part in the collective frenzy. This is meant to satisfy the requirement
of unanimity, which figures importantly in sacrifice.
Significantly, few or no actual weapons are used in Dionysian practice.
The victim is always torn apart by the killers` bare hands. This dismemberment
of a living victim, by multiple assailants each participating
wholly in the act assumes a clear religious meaning. A mob
rapidly comes to a high pitch of mass hysteria, then throws itself
on a fragile individual or individuals victims who serve thereby
to polarize all the fears, anxieties and hostilities of the profane
assembly. Finally, the victims` death provides the desired outlet
for mass frustration while it simultaneously restores intracommunal
Fallujah, like Ramallah before it, must be understood in America
and Israel as much more than an explosion of passionate hatreds. It
was, more than anything else, a selected venue for primal sacrifice.
We shall now need to better recognize this religious dynamic before
we can prevent its intermittent recurrence in Iraq, Israel, the United
States or elsewhere.