The Counterterrorism Blog Interview with Pierre
Rehov, documentary filmmaker, on psychology behind suicide
On July 15, I appeared on MSNBC's "Connected"
program to discuss the 7/7 London attacks (you can see video
of the segment on the linked page). One of my fellow guests
Rehov, a French filmmaker who has filmed six documentaries
on the intifada by going undercover in the Palestinian areas.
Pierre's upcoming film, "Suicide Killers," is based
on interviews that he conducted with the families of suicide
bombers and would-be bombers in an attempt to find out why
they do it. Pierre agreed to my request for a Q&A interview
here about his work on the new film. Many thanks to Dean Draznin
and Arlyn Riskind for helping to arrange this special interview.
you to produce 'Suicide Killers," your seventh film?
I started working with victims of suicide attacks to make
a film on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) when I became
fascinated with the personalities of those who had committed
those crimes, as they were described again and again by their
victims. Especially the fact that suicide bombers are all
smiling one second before they blow themselves up.
is this film especially important?
People don't understand the devastating culture behind this
unbelievable phenomenon. My film is not politically correct
because it addresses the real problem—showing the real
face of Islam. It points the finger against a culture of hatred
in which the uneducated are brainwashed to a level where their
only solution in life becomes to kill themselves and kill
others in the name of a God whose word, as transmitted by
other men, has became their only certitude.
did you gain from making this film? What do you know that
other experts do not know?
I came to the conclusion that we are facing a neurosis at
the level of an entire civilization. Most neuroses have in
common a dramatic event, generally linked to an unacceptable
sexual behavior. In this case, we are talking of kids living
all their lives in pure frustration, with no opportunity to
experience sex, love, tenderness or even understanding from
the opposite sex. The separation between men and women in
Islam is absolute. So is contempt toward women, who are totally
dominated by men. This leads to a situation of pure anxiety,
in which normal behavior is not possible. It is no coincidence
that suicide killers are mostly young men dominated subconsciously
by an overwhelming libido that they not only cannot satisfy
but are afraid of, as if it is the work of the devil. Since
Islam describes heaven as a place where everything on earth
will finally be allowed, and promises 72 virgins to those
frustrated kids, killing others and killing themselves to
reach this redemption becomes their only solution.
it like to interview would-be suicide bombers, their families
and survivors of suicide bombings?
It was a fascinating and a terrifying experience. You are
dealing with seemingly normal people with very nice manners
who have their own logic, which to a certain extent can make
sense since they are so convinced that what they say is true.
It is like dealing with pure craziness, like interviewing
people in an asylum, since what they say, is for them, the
absolute truth. I hear a mother saying "Thank God, my
son is dead." Her son had became a shaheed, a martyr,
which for her was a greater source of pride than if he had
became an engineer, a doctor or a winner of the Nobel Prize.
This system of values works completely backwards since their
interpretation of Islam worships death much more than life.
You are facing people whose only dream, only achievement is
to fulfill what they believe to be their destiny, namely to
be a shaheed or the family of a shaheed. They don't see the
innocent being killed, they only see the impure that they
have to destroy.
You say suicide
bombers experience a moment of absolute power, beyond punishment.
Is death the ultimate power?
Not death as an end, but death as a door open to the after
life. They are seeking the reward that God has promised them.
They work for God, the ultimate authority, above all human
laws. They therefore experience this single delusional second
of absolute power, where nothing bad can ever happen to them,
since they become God's sword.
a suicide bomber personality profile? Describe the psychopathology.
Generally kids between 15 and 25 bearing a lot of complexes,
generally inferiority complexes. They must have been fed with
religion. They usually have a lack of developed personality.
Usually they are impressionable idealists. In the western
world they would easily have become drug addicts, but not
criminals. Interestingly, they are not criminals since they
don't see good and evil the same way that we do. If they had
been raised in an Occidental culture, they would have hated
violence. But they constantly battle against their own death
anxiety. The only solution to this deep-seated pathology is
to be willing to die and be rewarded in the after life in
bombers principally motivated by religious conviction?
Yes, it is their only conviction. They don't act to gain a
territory or to find freedom or even dignity. They only follow
Allah, the supreme judge, and what He tells them to do.
Do all Muslims
interpret jihad and martyrdom in the same way?
All Muslim believers believe that, ultimately, Islam will
prevail on earth. They believe this is the only true religion
and their is no room, in their mind, for interpretation. The
main difference between moderate Muslims and extremists is
that moderate Muslims don't think they will see the absolute
victory of Islam during their life time, therefore they respect
other beliefs. The extremists believe that the fulfillment
of the Prophecy of Islam and ruling the entire world as described
in the Koran, is for today. Each victory of Bin Laden convinces
20 million moderate Muslims to become extremists.
the culture that manufactures suicide bombers.
Oppression, lack of freedom, brain washing, organized poverty,
placing God in charge of daily life, total separation between
men and women, forbidding sex, giving women no power whatsoever,
and placing men in charge of family honor, which is mainly
connected to their women's behavior.
forces support the perpetuation of suicide bombings?
Muslim charity is usually a cover for supporting terrorist
organizations. But one has also to look at countries like
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran, which are also supporting
the same organizations through different networks. The ironic
thing in the case of Palestinian suicide bombers is that most
of the money comes through financial support from the Occidental
world, donated to a culture that utterly hates and rejects
the West (mainly symbolized by Israel).
a financial support network for the families of the suicide
bombers? If so, who is paying them and how does that affect
There used to be a financial incentive in the days of Saddam
Hussein ($25,000 per family) and Yasser Arafat (smaller amounts),
but these days are gone. It is a mistake to believe that these
families would sacrifice their children for money. Although,
the children themselves who are very attached to their families,
might find in this financial support another reason to become
suicide bombers. It is like buying a life insurance policy
and then committing suicide.
Why are so
many suicide bombers young men?
As discussed above, libido is paramount. Also ego, because
this is a sure way to become a hero. The shaheeds are the
cowboys or the firemen of Islam. Shaheed is a positively reinforced
value in this culture. And what kid has never dreamed of becoming
a cowboy or a fireman?
does the U.N. play in the terrorist equation?
The UN is in the hands of Arab countries and third world or
ex-communists countries. Their hands are tied. The UN has
condemned Israel more than any other country in the world,
including the regime of Castro, Idi Amin or Kaddahfi. By behaving
this way, the UN leaves a door open by not openly condemning
terrorist organizations. In addition, through UNRWA, the UN
is directly tied to terror organizations such as Hamas, representing
65 percent of their apparatus in the so-called Palestinian
refugee camps. As a support to Arab countries, the UN has
maintained Palestinians in camps with the hope to "return"
into Israel for more than 50 years, therefore making it impossible
to settle those populations, which still live in deplorable
conditions. Four-hundred million dollars are spent every year,
mainly financed by U.S. taxes, to support 23,000 employees
of UNRWA, many of whom belong to terrorist organizations (see
Congressman Eric Cantor on this subject, and in my film "Hostages
You say that
a suicide bomber is a ‘stupid bomb and a smart bomb'
simultaneously. Explain what you mean.
Unlike an electronic device, a suicide killer has until the
last second the capacity to change his mind. In reality, he
is nothing but a platform representing interests which are
not his, but he doesn't know it.
How can we
put an end to the madness of suicide bombings and terrorism
Stop being politically correct and stop believe that this
culture is a victim of ours. Radical Islamism today is nothing
but a new form of Nazism. Nobody was trying to justify or
excuse Hitler in the 1930s. We had to defeat him in order
to make peace one day with the German people.
men traveling outside their native areas in large numbers?
Based on your research,
would you predict that we are beginning to see a new wave
of suicide bombings outside the Middle East?
Every successful terror attack is considered a victory by
the radical Islamists. Everywhere Islam is expands there is
regional conflict. Right now, their are thousands of candidates
for martyrdom lining up in training camps in Bosnia, Afghanistan,
Pakistan. Inside Europe, hundreds of illegal mosques are preparing
the next step of brain washing to lost young men who cannot
find a satisfying identity in the Occidental world. Israel
is much more prepared for this than the rest of the world
will ever be. Yes, there will be more suicide killings in
Europe and the U.S. Sadly, this is only the beginning.