Monday, August 01, 2005

THE ZEALOTS-AS-SUICIDE-ATTACKERS MEME appears now in the Sunday Times. In an article entitled "Biggest suicide wave in a bloody 2,000-year history," Yuba Bessaoud asserts:
The history of suicide assaults dates back to Judaea in the 1st century when Jewish Zealots, an extreme resistance sect, would sacrifice themselves by mounting individual attacks on Roman soldiers with knives. Although documentation is scarce, the Zealots were hundreds strong and committed “numerous daily murders”. Their actions culminated in the Jewish war of AD66 which ultimately brought about the exodus of the Jews from the region.

Neither the "Zealots" (a Jewish group or party that violently opposed the Roman occupation) nor the "Sicarii," which is the group I think Bessaoud actually has in mind here (his unattributed quote from Josephus pertains to them; see below), engaged in suicide attacks. The Sicarii did use small daggers (sicae) to assassinate their foes in crowds, but they used the confusion of the crowds to make their escape. Josephus is our source for the Sicarii:
When the country was purged of these, there sprang up another sort of robbers in Jerusalem, which were called Sicarii, who slew men in the day time, and in the midst of the city; this they did chiefly at the festivals, when they mingled themselves among the multitude, and concealed daggers under their garments, with which they stabbed those that were their enemies; and when any fell down dead, the murderers became a part of those that had indignation against them; by which means they appeared persons of such reputation, that they could by no means be discovered. The first man who was slain by them was Jonathan the high priest, after whose death many were slain every day, while the fear men were in of being so served was more afflicting than the calamity itself; and while every body expected death every hour, as men do in war, so men were obliged to look before them, and to take notice of their enemies at a great distance; nor, if their friends were coming to them, durst they trust them any longer; but, in the midst of their suspicions and guarding of themselves, they were slain. Such was the celerity of the plotters against them, and so cunning was their contrivance.
(Jewish War 2.13.3/2.254-57)

My emphasis. From what Josephus says here and elsewhere, they don't sound like very savory characters, but they clearly had a well-developed sense of self-preservation. They were not suicide attackers. More here.

This looks like a new (at least to me) blame-the-Jews meme starting to make the rounds now that homicide bombing has come to the West. It is very disturbing to see the Times perpetuating it.

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