I recently had the chance to read Rachel Avraham’s new book, Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the America, Israeli and Arab Media. This was a worthwhile read — I learned a tremendous amount about the motivating factors for female suicide bombers, as well as of their portrayal in the media.
Ms. Avraham starts off by defining terrorism, which proves to be more elusive than one would think. She goes through academic and governmental definitions of the subject, and later elaborates upon the difference between terrorism and war crimes, which I will not go into here. This section is dense, but provides a necessary foundation for later chapters.
She later goes into the religious basis for suicide attacks, providing ideological background for the reader — in some cases, dispelling previous notions; and in others, casting new light on the news. This chapter, in conjunction with the previous one, gives the reader the knowledge to successfully move forward in the book.
The “crux,” so to speak, comes when Ms. Avraham examines the stories of eight female suicide bombers, and outlines their possible motivations, from feminism to liberation ideology. This provides a smooth transition to the final part of the book, which provides an analysis and consequent damning indictment of the media, which often implicitly excuses these attacks in their coverage of them.
However, I do have two main critiques of the book; namely, that there are more than a few grammatical errors and typos in the book (I imagine that this was editorial oversight, but it did detract form overall quality), and that the selection of news sources — not academic articles — is almost exclusively from JerusalemOne. I think that a wider variety of sources would have contributed to the universal appeal of the book.
All in all, however, Ms. Avraham’s book makes a strong case for “telling it as it is,” and not allowing the media to subtly excuse terror; her book is a must-read for anyone interested in Israeli-Palestinian affairs and their media coverage.