Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Are Terrorists Really Rational? The Palestinian Example

Are Terrorists Really Rational? The Palestinian Example

This past January, a young Palestinian mother, feigning a limp and requesting medical help, blew herself up at a security checkpoint leading from the Gaza Strip into Israel. The attack killed four Israeli security personnel, along with the Hamas bomber herself, who left behind a three-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. As the news spread, exultant neighbors spray-painted the woman’s name and an Islamic blessing on city walls near her home. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) automatically shut down the industrial zone, sending home the 5,000 Palestinians employed in its factories. Within hours a general closure was enacted, barring some 20,000 Gazan commuters from working in Israel.1 With 60 percent of Palestinians living on less than $2 a day,2 one could question whom the attack hurt more, the Israelis or the Palestinians themselves.

Why do terrorist groups engage in such self-defeating behavior?

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