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The Road to Martyrs' Square: A Journey into the World of the Suicide Bomber Paperback – 1 Jan 2005
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Beyond the organization is a broader community that sanctions and celebrates the bomber's actions. In The Road to Martyrs' Square, their remarkable and creepy account of life in the Gaza Strip in the early 1990s, Anne Marie Oliver and Paul F. Steinberg, who lived with various Palestinians there, give us a look at the Hamas milieu from within. It's a world where the cult of "martyrdom" is celebrated in graffiti, videos, and posters, creating a toxic atmosphere of sadism, kitsch, and religious ecstasy. The book is valuable for its exhaustive documentation of the martyr cult's various uses of propaganda, for example the "martyr postcards" handed out by families after successful bombings. Yet none of this, they write, should be mistaken for a natural outgrowth of Palestinian societynot least because it's all a recent development.―Christian Caryl, The New York Review of Books
"I think the hardest question for all of us to grasp is why would anybody strap explosives to her body, go to a public place, blow themselves up, blow hundreds of other people up or dozens in the process? What kind of mindset does that take? Well, you can't find two better people to ask that question of than our next guests. That's why we reached out to them...Anne Marie Oliver and Paul Steinberg." ―Paula Zahn, CNN
"A deeply engaging firsthand account of the culture and mentality of Hamas.... Because the authors have lived near their subjects amid the squalor of refugee settlements in Gaza, their book blends daily misery and bizarre episodes in its careful depiction of a 'martyr' culture.... Has great value in explaining Islamic terrorism and the nature of conflict in the Occupied Territories."―Library Journal
"This beautifully written yet disturbing book offers a unique perspective on the intifada and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, written by authors who demonstrate great understanding of the Palestinians' internal and external struggles."―Washington Times
"Anne Marie Oliver and Paul Steinberg have produced an engrossing documentary account―psychologically and culturally rich, and often also poetical―of how despair, religion, and politics conspired to create Palestinians who regard death, and apocalyptic destruction, as redemptive." ―Yaron Ezrahi, author of Rubber Bullets: Power and Conscience in Modern Israel
"Knowledgeable, colloquial, relatively nonpartisan and deeply skeptical and smart, this book offers an intensive look at one of the major forces in Palestinian society, one that is as unsettling as it is penetrating.... Oliver and Steinberg offer a tremendous amount of anecdotal texture, giving a chilling sense of what it was like to live in Gaza as it was engulfed by an Islamism that professes 'not only not to be afraid of death, but to love it passionately.'"―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"An extraordinary ride through the culture of violence in Gaza and the Palestinian West Bank. Through the authors' dramatic narrative we see the world through the eyes of those whom outsiders regard as terrorists. It is based on one of the most formidable arrays of first-person material ever collected on the lives of Islamic suicide bombers―conversations with activists, interviews with their friends and families, videotapes of their last statements, and wall posters and graffiti describing their deeds. We now have a compelling inside view of the mindset and the worldview of one of the most volatile cultures of terrorism in the Middle East. Though it is highly informative, their narrative reads with an eloquence and immediacy that will captivate anyone concerned about world affairs, radical politics, and the potent mix of religion and activism in the contemporary Middle East." ―Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence
"A chilling look inside the mind of Palestinian suicide terrorists. Using a vast assortment of primary sources gathered in the region―from personal testimonials to martyr videos to posters and graffiti―Oliver and Steinberg reproduce the personal journeys and public expressions of martyrs and martyrdom in often shocking detail. This important book shows that support for suicide bombing in Palestine goes far beyond a tiny fringe and compels us to ask how such violent behavior can become acceptable and supported by a society at large." ―Robert Pape, author of Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism
"Oliver and Steinberg have written a book that guides us through the surreal but all-too-real world of Palestinian martyrdom, of the suicide-homicide bombers. They help us look, listen, hear, and even smell what would otherwise be awful and intolerable, but is so crucial for us to know. This book is a remarkable blend of personal memoir and deep immersion in all facets of the world they are witnessing, describing, and documenting. It is a presentation that allows the reader space for in-depth psychological and political analysis. Their account of the apocalyptic scripts and deeds of destruction, martyrdom, and access to Paradise are sobering, and yet they remind us of the need to find the more muted scripts of hope and empathy that are also there in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." ―Roberta J. Apfel and Bennett Simon, editors of Minefields in Their Hearts: The Mental Health of Children in War and Communal Violence
"Of much interest to students of the Middle East, and of the psychology of cults."―Kirkus Reviews
"This is a highly unusual and - its subject matter notwithstanding - thoroughly enjoyable book. Part memoir, part travelogue, part portfolio and review of street media - from graffiti to pre-mission videotapes - the book provides just what it promises: a journey into the world of the suicide bomber. Oliver and Steinberg are interested in drawing a portrait, not analyzing a movement. With a light hand they provide a cogent account of the distinctions and the tensions between the nationalists and the Islamists, and the gradual institutionalization of Hamas over the course of the first intifada. They describe not a cult of martyrdom, but an entire social system that supports martyrdom. Without proffering analysis, they describe tight social networks, intense small-group loyalty and the motivating power of the desire for revenge.... Riveting storytelling."―Louise Richardson, Harvard University, Financial Times
From the Inside Flap
Combining in equal measure the critical and the compassionate, the tragic and the absurd, this memoir chronicles two interlocking, often clashing journeys--an exploration of the cult of martyrdom in the underground media of the intifada, on the one hand, and on the other, the struggle for friendship across seemingly impossible divides. The authors lived for six months with a Palestinian refugee family in the Gaza Strip at the beginning of the intifada, and then for the next six years, collected graffiti, videotapes, audiocassettes, posters, and other street media in over one hundred towns in the West Bank and Gaza. Their book is based on these primary materials (with 86 illustrations included) as well as dozens of interviews with leaders and followers, including a rare interview with a Hamas suicide bomber whose bomb failed to explode on an Israeli bus in Jerusalem. Dispensing with the cliches and platitudes surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the book provides access to materials hitherto unavailable and presents in a new and compelling voice the master scripts of the intifada and the rise of the suicide bomber. Disseminated by nationalists and Islamists alike, these materials make it clear that the suicide bomber is not just an Islamist phenomenon but rather a widely shared fantasy that skips across religious and political divides. Indeed, the fantasy of the suicide bomber, the authors suggest, is global in scope. Here is an important and timely work that will challenge the way we think about the intifada, suicide bombers, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product description
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The authors found the task extremely difficult as the graffiti and posters appeared to be in a code known only to a few.
A very detailed and well researched book with an excellent portfolio of pictures.
Not a pleasant read.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This book puts Palestinian suicide bombing into the context of Palestine, which is why the understanding of the religious theme becomes incredibly important in contrast to secular groups such as the Tamils, which are motivated purely by politics. A major failure in the understanding of terrorism comes from secular scholars who don't or can't understand religious motivations because those of us in the West no longer regard it as important, though to believe this of the rest of the world is a severe misunderstanding of contemporary social realities and ends up projecting one cultures assumptions onto a completely different one with different mores and values. The primary reason given by suicide bombers for their actions is revenge, but understanding the religious background in the Palestinian context is very important to understand some of the justifications behind their actions. Of course, both religion and politics will remain factors that provide the background for understanding suicide bombing, while the primary factors motivating these individuals will always be personal experiences of oppression and/or abuse (in their eyes).
This book gives one an inside look into the world of the Palestinian terrorist and does not claim to provide ultimate causes, a look at Palestine outside the world of religious terrorism, in-depth analyses of all factors, or a look at suicide bombing in general. For students of terrorism this is an intriguing glimpse into a particular social reality of Palestine - that of the world of those who fight as religious terrorists. It's extensive, and forever irrecoverable, collection of intifada media, as well as an in-depth look at the language of the intifada make this book worth the time it takes to understand the insider worldviews, dialogues between believers, and images it records.
The reader is treated to a visual chronology of intifada graffiti that
until now has remained an undocumented form of communication. The
story of seemingly "random" markings on walls evolved into the unedited
story of the intifada, beyond any censorship. The book also shows how
religious zeal and political activism eventually became so interwoven
that they produced a culture in which one's value is directly
proportioned to the death and destruction one facilitates. The price
of martyrdom is not only one's death, but also the maximizing of the
body count. This book is a must-read for anyone with an interest in
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The book documents this in an objective way. I gave it 4 of 5 stars because I believe it recorded the authors experiences truthfully. It is however somewhat overwhelming in the pure hate that you are constantly being bombarded with, and with no end in sight. This makes the book a bit depressing.