Zombie Stabbing Attacks in Israel: Terrorism and Ways to Battle It

Israel has yet again been captured by a wave of terrorism. It’s a frightful sight. An urban morning, someone is rushing to school or work, people are crowding at a bus stop, and then a terrorist stops a company car at the bus stop, kills several people, and finally jumps out of the car with an axe, attempting to massacre several more people. It is no secret that people are capable of killing one another. Humanity has known many wars; all of human history is a history of victories and defeats. It is not pleasant, yet understandable, that people die in war, and that there are even desperate suicidal loners who commit suicide in socially-destructive ways. But this is different — a family man driving a company vehicle for some work-related business suddenly changes his plans and commits a terrorist attack. Or, is this a zombie programmed by someone long ago, and activated precisely today, despite living a regular peaceful life among us until now? If this is the case, then how many of those living among us are these zombie-people who can be galvanized to unleash  yet another intifada? We can extract two essential questions: 1) Who are these zombies, where do they come from, and where do they remain until time X? 2) Who manages this army of suicidal terrorists and how does this party activate them?

Let’s start at the beginning — a human being is genetically capable of killing. A crow will not peck a fellow crow’s eye out, but human history is a history of wars, victories, and defeats. We would best avoid any illusions in that respect.  Normal children from successful middle-class educated families, absolutely moral when they enter the army, but lo and behold, six months and a training course later, they are already capable of killing the enemy. There is a relatively simple psychological explanation. The human brains think in categories. There is a category — friend — whom you cannot kill. Another category — enemy — you can kill, but it is illegal to do so. But if there is an enemy and a war, you can and should kill them. A child learns to reason in those categories from infancy. I have personally observed the transformation of the child’s mentality when his “friends” — chicken that he played with and chased into their pen suddenly became his soup. The human mind can instantly switch from chicken-friend to chicken-soup. Accordingly, as we rush to work, go to school, love, argue, analyze our finances, someone is living in the state of war. This person sees enemies, danger, regularly watches news about “war losses” of their combatant-friends, and is prepared at any moment to perform a heroic deed of Aleksandr Matrosov — launch himself at the gun slit in order to save him war buddies, or like a kamikaze, direct his airplane to fly in one direction, or, like the familiar case of the Arab suicide bomber.

Suicide, done in a socially-destructive manner, is a disease which is not unique to Israel. There are frequent cases in the U.S. — today it’s a school shooting, tomorrow — a Marvin Heemeyer armoring his tractor in an attempt to deal with the perceived wrongdoers. Many psychologists have studied this phenomenon, and it is considered that these destructive acts are usually performed in a reactive state of mind: the reactive phase of clinical depression. His world, his interests have narrowed, and his world comes to spin around one idea, which can then rapidly overgrow into an idée fixe, for which he won’t spare not his own life, not his kids, and especially not some anonymous passersby.  It is most frightening that practically any person can be driven to such a state. A similar condition is reached by hardships, sleep deprivation, and excessive physical strain, and a person’s psyche becomes pliable. For the military, it is important to break one’s character, to form one into a screw in the system — a universal soldier who will act upon command without thinking twice about it. This is often used for training in the Russian army. For further description of the transformation of an intelligent educated person into a creature capable of cannibalism and ready to carry out absolutely any command, read Viktor Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

It turns out that due to various life circumstances, a certain portion of the population — usually a miserly portion, in prosperous peaceful years — falls into a deep reactive depression, and is ready for anything, to the point of leaving the house and attacking anyone they see with a kitchen knife. But, the given phase of depression lasts for 1-2 months, seldom reaching one to two years. Does it seem clear where one can encounter a suicide bomber? One just has to be in a place where a person in utter despair may go. These are probably religious institutions, community elders, youth gangs, and simply powerful and influential people in the diaspora, of whom one can request help. The following question is, how to “keep” these future soldiers-suicide bombers? If nothing is done, it is known that time heals, and within two to three months, the trauma will recede in memory, covered up by the heap of everyday errands and concerns, and there won’t be time to devote to the idée fixe. One’s mind will be occupied by concerns of where to buy cheaper flour. Holiday season is coming up, many tourists are expected, and it follows that I will sell more bread. The psyche of a person in despair, one who is in a deep depression, is pliable; he is broken, and subsequently, easily susceptible to a new ideology. Accordingly, a network of centers is required to help potential suicide bombers to hold on to and strengthen their idée fixe. There is the answer to the question – where to keep. Instead of a refrigerator there are ideological centers, which not only keep, but develop a paranoid idée fixe — we can guess which one — among other places, in Israel.

Next, we approach the second question: how to activate? Whatever the specifics, there has to be informational communication — words. The question is whether these words will be broadcasting but not personified (propaganda, advertising, information) or concrete — commands. I have long studied propaganda, advertising, faith, and other things which relate to belief and changing opinions. A major problem is that there is a wide gap between words and action. A person reacts to words of propaganda with words of support. All the might of Russian propaganda has come to the verbal support of the president by 86%, but not one volunteers to go to war in Ukraine, nor now in Syria. What is there to say about war — people are paid even to come to political support meetings. The maximum action that an average Russian citizen is prepared to carry out is to toast with their vodka shot glass — “to Putin, to [Novorossiya, to Novosyria, etc.].” Propaganda can have an effect if it precisely conforms to our automatic stereotypes, to our deep convictions, to that, for which not logic but the subconscious is responsible. If the idée fixe that enemies are all around is embedded deep into the subconscious, it is probable that then, the mere information that intifada has begun will suffice to galvanize the suicide bombers already overheated by the anticipation.

But this is all very unreliable. This cannot be a strategy, since it is badly managed. The nucleus of soldiers-suicide bombers must receive an order, and then the “zombie army” will pull itself together and help sow fear and panic. The structure of command is different. The essence of a command is fear. The punishment for noncompliance is significantly scarier than the command itself. During World War II, barrier troops were common, which did not allow troops to retreat, and penal battalions were essentially armies of suicide bombers. This was more frightening that to die in battle, and to be target of social  judgment and the fear of a reputation as a coward, etc. What can be similarly frightening for a young suicide bomber who commits a terrorist attack? His own life — I doubt it; it has no value. He has long dreamed to leave it. His family? Most likely he either has no family, or it doesn’t concern him much. What else? I think that the most frightening for him is life itself — failure to carry out a command is punishable by life which, for him, is unbearable as is, and which will become even worse. And here the Israeli government has decided to actively implement the tactic of killing the terrorist on the spot of the crime. This is exactly why they entered the attack with knives and cars, since it nearly guaranteed them deliverance from that which has tormented them for months or years — their own life.

Was that clear? And now, what do we do with all this knowledge? If the diagnosis was accurate, the treatment should be easier.

Let’s begin with the necessity to reduce the number of potential “zombies.” As determined earlier, they enter the depressive state via substandard living conditions, lack of prospects, aimlessness of life, trauma — which is often the death of a loved one (maybe even one who died as a suicide bomber), the destruction of a home (as a response from the powers that be), etc. The more territories are squeezed and pressed, workers are deprived of work visas, houses are destroyed, the more recruits will join this “zombie army.” One way or another, social integration is essential. Here, our respected politicians make their decisions: either integration, if we live together, or isolation, and then let them somehow solve their problems themselves and blow each other up.

The next issue is “keeping.” Even acute reactive depression, when one is literally extracted from the noose, is easily alleviated by a three-to-six course of antidepressants in combination with tranquillizers. If the chief factor driving the person into such a reactive condition is not resolved, a relapse is possible. We don’t want relapses — see previous paragraph. Accordingly, we need to develop socio-psychological services in “depressive” neighborhoods; for this to be the first place a person in a state of despair will turn to. At minimum, many of them are in contact with Bituah Leimi, receive unemployment benefits, social minimum benefits, etc. Isn’t it possible to organize socio-psychological support, alongside this financial assistance? For a suicide bomber, AD is an Anti-Depressant. To the declared jihad, we need a mass distribution of Prozak. Antidepressants reduce fear, and fear is a source of aggression. When one takes antidepressants, it is very difficult to contain in one’s mind an idée fixe, whatever it may be.

One last question remains — the reduction of the influence of propaganda and working with those who can give that last command to a suicide bomber. Dealing with the command is simpler: it is direct communication and can be dealt with according to the procedures of military science. Take one suicide bomber, interrogate another one, compare with different intelligence data, etc. Propaganda is more challenging. If this idée fixe has entered the deep subconscious, then the mere information that a terrorist attack has begun can act as a trigger.  We shouldn’t incessantly discuss the names of terrorists, we shouldn’t make heroes out of them. We should avoid continued discussion of the attacks themselves. This intensifies fear and panic, which was the goal of the attacks, and which itself is the trigger for the subsequent suicide bombers that “finally it’s begun.” If for a suicide bomber, suicide is a goal, then why publicly execute him, if he survived the attack? For him, the scariest thing is life itself. His memoirs after the depression and paranoia subside are invaluable to influence new potential suicide bombers.

To conclude, a fly in the ointment: certain nationalities and religious groups have cultural particularities. In Russia, after a series of terrorist attacks, there was a change in tactic from war in Chechnya to a “peace offering.” Instead of missiles, dollars the weight of missiles (if not more) were flying. This led to a small reduction in the level of terrorism, but also a social tension, which was instigated by the former Chechen combatants gone mad from money and a total absence of authority. It is necessary to integrate into society, and this is difficult, long, and time-consuming. Simple monetary peace offering leads to even greater problems because it produces the standard model of behavior of a spoiled child. The classic scene of a child in hysterics in a supermarket to traditionally receive anything he may want, so long as he stops screaming. The strategy — take money, just don’t make war — is bound to fail; Russia is an example.

About the Author
Experiences project manager from High-Tech changed his direction from business to psychology. Now I study, research, do articles and books on the change management topic.
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