Understanding the Enemy

(JNS) Dr. Anat Berko interviewed by Ran Puni - IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Dr. Anat Berko is a criminologist, former Knesset member, and a world-renowned expert on terrorism, whose research focuses on suicide bombers and their handlers. Over the course of 20 years, she met with Palestinian terrorists, including senior Hamas figures such as the group's founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. "The personal relationships that I built with them led to deep insights," she said. "I come from an Iraqi family, I understand Arab culture from the inside." Q: What is the recurring pattern in the inner world of security prisoners? Berko: "They are...people who are rooted in a collective society, while we conduct ourselves as individuals. The issue of masculinity is very important to them, and they don't see incarceration as a blow to their status, as criminal prisoners do, but as something that reinforces their status in the eyes of society - something for which they receive recognition as future leaders." "In their society, they are seen as normative people....They are essentially conformists, since acts of terrorism are not seen as something wrong [in Palestinian society]. Even inside the prison walls, they don't feel isolated, unlike criminal prisoners. Security prisoners feel safe in prison since they are jailed in certain affiliation groups, according to the terrorist organization to which they belong, so that they have social support from the inside, and public support from the outside." Q: Is there a possibility of rehabilitating Palestinian prisoners? Berko: "They don't express remorse; in my opinion, there's no potential of rehabilitating them because, from their perspective, they didn't do anything wrong or forbidden. Their society empowers them for what they did." "Palestinian security prisoners...receive medical care that isn't included in the [Israeli] healthcare basket....There are security prisoners with serious illnesses who get imprisoned only so they can receive certain medications, or others who get imprisoned so they can study quietly for their matriculation exams. The life of Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, for example, was saved thanks to brain surgery he had when he was a prisoner [in Israel]. If he had been in Gaza, he wouldn't be alive today."

2021-09-23 00:00:00

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