Martyrdom as a result of psychosocial resilience

The case of Palestinian suicide terrorists

Authored by: Jonathan Matusitz

The Routledge International Handbook of Psychosocial Resilience

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138954878
eBook ISBN: 9781315666716
Adobe ISBN: 9781317355946


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This paper examines the development of Palestinian martyrs (i.e. suicide terrorists) by applying key tenets of psychosocial resilience. Psychosocial resilience refers to a person’s ability to adapt to stress and adversity. Examples of psychosocial stress and adversity include family problems, workplace hardships, and cultural and societal predicaments (Rutter, 1985, 1987). Martyrdom is a particular type of suicide terrorism. It refers to heroic death, usually in “holy war,” sanctified by a deity. Death in battle leads to a new life (i.e. immortality), and the deceased is lionized as a martyr (Matusitz, 2014). In the Palestinian territories, martyrs-to-be are sometimes interviewed before embarking on their last missions. Some have actually been interviewed in Israeli jails after being caught. A recurrent theme, across many narratives, is that they express a desire to escape such “cultural and societal predicaments.” Their abhorrence of living on earth stems, in part, from their abject economic miseries and stressful living situations. According to the World Bank (2001), over one-third of the Palestinian population – roughly one million people – live below the poverty line of $2.10 per day.

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