Thursday, September 25, 2008

Interview with researcher Lt. Col. (res) Dr. Anat Berko

a guest lecturer at Georgetown University in Washington DC and an expert on terrorism and especially on female terrorists, following acid attack on soldier at Hawara crossing by a Palestinian woman
Israel Radio – September 23, 2008
Anat Dolev: Did the acid attack surprise you?
Dr. Anat Berko: The attack did not surprise me, since we see a rising trend in using women for terror attacks. I am now in Washington, and I see the same thing in the reports on what’s happening in Iraq – female suicide bombers. We see more and more 15-year-old girls all the time who are being used for suicide attacks, and the same holds true here. If there used to be a pattern of stabbing attacks, we might be seeing the trend changing to regaining lost honor through throwing bleach or acid on the soldier at the checkpoint.
Anat Dolev: You speak of regaining lost honor. You mean you found in your research that these women have a similar profile?
Dr. Anat Berko: In the last three of the 15 years that I have been conducting research in the jails among security and criminal prisoners, as well as drawing comparisons between them, I have actually seen that many of the women have very difficult personal problems. They are looking for a way to run away from home because of incest, sexual assault, family problems or forced marriages. They reach the checkpoint and sometimes don’t even try to stab the soldier at the checkpoint but just throw a knife at him to get themselves arrested.
Anat Dolev: So you’re saying it’s somewhat absurd because they are actually crying out for help and/or looking for legitimacy from the society that rejected them?
Dr. Anat Berko: In some cases, they are looking and crying out for help; and there have even been cases where they came back twice.
Anat Dolev: Even the woman who threw acid yesterday, that’s the second time she’s done it.
Dr. Anat Berko: Correct. The first time, unfortunately, they didn’t manage to catch her. And the terrible thing is that sometimes, with all the negotiations, even people like these know that eventually they will be released from jail.
Anat Dolev: That means they count on being released?
Dr. Anat Berko: I haven’t encountered any male or female security prisoners, whether young or old, including parliamentary or Hamas people, who didn’t think they wouldn’t be let out at some point.
Anat Dolev: What do the women hope to accomplish with this deed?
Dr. Anat Berko: First of all, if there’s some kind of problem having to do with family honor, then afterwards this problem will no longer be discussed. That’s how they define it.
Anat Dolev: Now they become shahids and then what? Heroines, when they go back home?
Dr. Anat Berko: When they return home, they just don’t mention the reason for doing what they did. But that’s just on the surface, because according to my research findings, and all the research that I did with Professor Edna Erez of the University of Illinois at Chicago, they don’t really succeed in winning prestige and honor like the men do. The question of why they did the deed, which wasn’t their job to do, is always hanging in the air.
Anat Dolev: It wasn’t their job - you mean, as they see it?
Dr. Anat Berko: No. Even Sheikh Yassin, whom I interviewed in ’96, made that assertion, and repeatedly told me that it’s not a job for women when there are enough men who can do it. He didn’t see women integrating into the struggle actively, but rather through education, support and childcare.
Anat Dolev: And that’s actually because these women are not fit to be shahids according to the rules of Palestinian society because they have sinned.
Dr. Anat Berko: They have sinned. Senior figures, even from Hamas, whom I have interviewed, said that they would under no circumstances send their daughter to carry out an attack. One Hamas leader went on to say that he wouldn’t even send his daughter to a demonstration.
Anat Dolev: So they make up their own minds to do it. But if they’re carrying explosives or some kind of weapon, they at least had to contact someone from a terrorist organization.
Dr. Anat Berko: Obviously. No one makes up his or her own mind to do this. A suicide bomber doesn’t just wake up in the morning and decide this is the day he’s going to blow himself up. Someone has to locate him, prepare him, launch him, lead him. And the women too. Often, they volunteer. They know exactly who the operatives in the organizations are, but they have no terrorist career like we see the men having. It’s usually a one-shot deal and as soon as it’s over, it ends with her incarceration or her being blown up and that’s it.
Anat Dolev: Is there a way of stopping these women before it happens, in your estimation?
Dr. Anat Berko: I think, in general, that the whole shift to thinking about why the women do this and delegitimizing the deed is very important, because many times, in indictments as well, we discover the real reason and don’t disclose it for reasons of privacy. So I think it’s high time to reveal the true reason and, if there are also things connected to the right to privacy, as soon as a woman or man decides to blow themselves up or hurt IDF soldiers or harm innocent civilians, then it’s best they know they’re also in danger of having the underlying matter divulged. It’s not just the religious or political issue, but also things sometimes connected to male-female relations, morality, etc.
Anat Dolev: How do the other prisoners treat these women in prison?
Dr. Anat Berko: These women are isolated. They are put in separate wings for security prisoners.
Anat Dolev: And is a kind of way of life created among the security prisoners – is there some chance they’ll repeat their actions after they get out of jail?
Dr. Anat Berko: They don’t usually repeat them, since unlike the men, their biological clock is ticking and the dream of a husband and children is their heart’s desire.
Anat Dolev: But you say this actually doesn’t help them achieve that.
Dr. Anat Berko: It doesn’t get them anywhere because in a great many cases there will be people who see them as damaged goods, and actually unworthy of marriage and childbearing.
Anat Dolev: That means this deed will not help them receive legitimization.
Dr. Anat Berko: Superficially yes, and they will also be mentioned at Ramadan. Many people say that having women in jail is the most painful thing – they always ask for the women to be released first, but actually, as one of the sheikhs phrased it for me: “Neither my brother nor my son will marry a woman like that.”
Anat Dolev: But you still don’t predict that these attacks perpetrated by women will cease?
Dr. Anat Berko: No, I expect these attacks to increase, as well as the use of women and children. We see a learning process taking place through terror attacks. An example of this is using a vehicle to run people over, which has already happened three times in Jerusalem. And it spreads to include women as well, from the same residential area, sometimes even from the same family, in this case Jabal Mukaber. But we also see patterns of brother and sister, cousin, uncle, relatives who are all deeply involved in terrorism. Learning takes place by imitating terror, so if this time it was a woman at a checkpoint throwing acid at an IDF soldier, that’s something that has to be prepared for. I believe it will be repeated.
Anat Dolev: Well, that’s not very optimistic, yet we need to face the truth.

1 comment:

David said...

She is a guest lecturer at GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, not Georgetown.