The Road to Martyrs' Square

The Road to Martyrs' Square : A Journey into the World of the Suicide Bomber

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Don't expect to find here the usual cliches about suicide bombers and what drives them. In this unique study, Anne Marie Oliver and Paul Steinberg render the story of two intertwining, often clashing journeys. The authors lived for six months with a Palestinian refugee family in Gaza at the beginning of the intifada, and offer a gritty, poetic portrait of the time. They also provide an unrivalled documentary of the underground media they collected during the course of six years in the area. Although they could not have surmised as such at the beginning, they soon found themselves led through these media into the world of the suicide bomber. Their early study, notably, anticipated the spread of suicide missions years in advance. Dispensing with the platitudes and dogma that typify discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the authors show that the suicide bomber is a complex, contradictory construction, and can be explained neither in terms of cold efficacy nor sheer evil.
Theirs is the only book on the subject to illustrate the ecstatic, intoxicating aspects of suicide missions, and provide extensive access to materials that have remained largely unseen in the West despite the fact that they have served as indispensable tools in the construction and propagation of the suicide bomber. The book contains 86 illustrations drawn from the authors' archive as well as numerous conversations with leaders and followers of Hamas, including a rare interview with a suicide bomber whose bomb failed to explode on an Israeli bus in Jerusalem. Here is an important and timely work that will challenge the way we think about the intifada, suicide bombers, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 149.9 x 223.5 x 20.3mm | 430.92g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0195305590
  • 9780195305593
  • 1,167,556

Review quote

"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 "Of much interest to students of the Middle East, and of the psychology of cults."-Kirkus Reviews "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 "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 "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 "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) "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 "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 "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 "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 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
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About Anne Marie Oliver

Anne Marie Oliver and Paul F. Steinberg are writers based in Portland, Oregon. They are Research Scholars in Global and International Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara and former Visiting Scholars at the Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard.
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Rating details

31 ratings
3.61 out of 5 stars
5 29% (9)
4 26% (8)
3 23% (7)
2 23% (7)
1 0% (0)
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