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Interview With Joyce Davis

Aired May 19, 2003 - 19:04   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: The same region of the world now, a declaration of war is how Israelis officials now are characterizing a string of suicide bombings in the past 48 hours.
The latest now, the fifth one, detonated earlier today at the entrance of a crowded shopping mall in northern Israel. The bombings vividly underscored the challenges ahead yet again with that so-called road map to peace in the region.

Kelly Wallace live tonight in Afula with the latest from there. Kelly, good evening.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Bill. The situation very, very quiet here in Afula. Almost hard to believe there was a suicide bombing here at the entrance to the shopping mall just about nine hours ago.

But that is because this has become an all too familiar ritual and emergency workers and volunteers here quickly try to clear away all the debris, all the bodies and the body parts so that Israelis can get back to normal.

But this was the scene earlier this afternoon around 5:30 p.m. That is when the suicide bomber struck and, according to Israeli security sources and Palestinian sources, the suicide bomber was a 19- year-old woman from a West Bank town just about 15 miles away from here.

Apparently, according to sources, she tried to get inside the mall, but when a security guard stopped her and started checking her out, she blew herself up, killing three Israelis, sending more than 40 people to the hospital.

We talked to the owner of a restaurant inside the mall. He arrived just a few minutes before the blast and he reacted to this, the fifth suicide bombing in just 48 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See the man in the eyes before he blow himself. I saw pieces of leg here in my car. This is the paper that was in the car, there was blood on it. Pieces of woman or man on the car.

WALLACE: Many people are crediting the security guard with preventing the situation from becoming much, much worse.

Now, two radical Palestinian groups are claiming responsibility for this attack. Another radical Palestinian group claiming responsibility for the four other attacks.

Israeli officials believe these groups are declaring war against the new government of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli officials say they are looking for action now from Mahmoud Abbas to try and reign in these radical Palestinian groups.

But, Bill, the position of the Palestinians continues to be Israel must take action, must accept and start implementing that road map, pulling troops out of Palestinian towns so Mahmoud Abbas will have some leverage to try and convince these groups to disarm.

HEMMER: Kelly Wallace live tonight in Afula, northern Israel.

As Kelly mentioned, there has been a claim of responsibility, in fact a couple of them earlier today.

So then we go to the question again as to what motivates a man or a woman, young or old, to engage in an attack involving suicide bombing. We've got a guest tonight to talk about this. And the guest that we want to speak tonight is a woman who's written a book called "Martyrs: Innocence, Vengeance and Despair in the Middle East," shedding some light on the terror that has engulfed the holy land.

Joyce Davis joins us live tonight from Washington to talk about the latest string of suicide bombings. Deputy foreign editor for Knight-Ridder newspapers, spending 15 years covering the Middle East. Welcome you tonight here to CNN.


HEMMER: What can you tell us about drives a 19-year-old teenager in Jenin to strap a suicide belt to her body, walk into Israel proper, destroy her own life and kill others? What is it behind it that has convinced this woman to take such action?

DAVIS: Well, it's clearly rage. It's clearly this sense of anger at the United States, of anger at the oppression that they believe Palestinians are living under, anger at the Israeli government. The sense that there is no other way, at least as they have told me, no other way to fight overwhelming and overpowering forces. They feel they're engaged in a new form of guerrilla warfare, one in which they use their own bodies as weapons.

HEMMER: But it is mostly young people, teenagers now, women, in fact, people in their 20s. We don't see grown adults doing this. What level of indoctrination is taking place in the West Bank and Gaza to derive it?

DAVIS: Well, I can tell you that in my interviews and research with people who allegedly are the trainers and the ones who decide who goes next on these kinds of missions. They tell me that they don't really need to do a lot of recruiting. That people, young people, come to them, asking to go on these kinds of missions, begging to go on these kinds of missions.

It's hard for us to understand, but they say it's because of the level of anger and the level of despair they're living in.

HEMMER: Would you also say it's indoctrination, is there a bit of brainwashing involved here?

DAVIS: It depends on the person, frankly. In my book I do an interview with some people who thought that one of the bombers, the suicide bombers for the pizzeria was indoctrinated, he was weak minded. But others, no. I mean, others it's clearly their desire to strike back.

HEMMER: Is there a way to identify those susceptible to this or does it cross every bit of demographic that you've examined?

DAVIS: I'm afraid I have to say there may be a way to identify some, but it does...

HEMMER: How so?

DAVIS: Well, if you look at youth who are, indeed, turning inward, who are being extremely religious, in this case Islam, religious as far as Muslims are concerned, and if they are withdrawing from their families. In fact, many families have started looking for signs to try to prevent their children from taking this path.

HEMMER: Have you found in recent months, in fact, if you go back, over the past two years, we hear more and more about money being awarded to those who commit the act of suicide bomber.

Is that being incentive-driven right now? Have you been able to find that?

DAVIS: Frankly, I have done a lot of research on that and that is not the incentive.

HEMMER: Not at all?

DAVIS: Not at all. I mean, it may be a way that they feel that they are compensating the families. But that is not what drives young men and in this case young women to do these kinds of acts.

HEMMER: Is it possible, then, for a significant Palestinian leader to reverse this current course?

DAVIS: The problem is it's going to take Palestinians killing Palestinians to reverse this. There is going to be not only a war with Israelis but within Palestinian circles. That's the only way to stop it.

HEMMER: Joyce Davis, thanks for sharing your thoughts tonight and your research, as well, appreciate it live in D.C. tonight.

DAVIS: Thank you.


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