64 Revenge: Revenge can be directed toward another group within society, as is seen with hate crimes directed at Jews and minorities by Christian Identity followers. The perception of the unjust perpetration of violence by the state also can spark or heighten the desire for vengeance and allows potential extremists to justify their own violent actions. Such was the case with Timothy McVeigh, the bomber on April 19, 1995 of the federal building in Oklahoma City. His attack was, in large measure, a response to the militarized response by the U.S. government during the Waco standoff in 1993, in which 79 people were killed. Generally speaking, the more disproportionate the state violence is to the actual offense, the greater the likelihood that there will be a violent response.36 Revenge against an unjust or perverse society is also a significant trigger that can tip the extremist from rhetoric to violence. Violence perpetrated by Muslims extremists in the United Kingdom is driven largely by a desire for revenge. The main message to potential recruits, though cloaked in the language of religion, is about real and perceived injustices and grievances of Muslims, locally and globally. As noted above, Mohammad Siddique Khan, one of the attackers responsible for the July 7, 2005, London tube bombings stated his actions were driven by a responsibility to avenge his fellow Muslims. A symbolic date: The desire for aggressive symbolism is another potential trigger for violence. Extremist violence generally includes an expressive element, and dates are an especially important signifier. The Hebrew calendar date on which Baruch Goldstein decided to attack was the Purim holiday. Purim celebrates the survival of the Jews after uncovering and undermining a plot in ancient Persia to exterminate them. The April 19, 1995, bombing in Oklahoma was on the two-year anniversary of the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. Another date-specific symbol includes key court decisions. In Canada, many of the sniper attacks targeting doctors who performed abortions occurred around the national “Remembrance Day” holiday, which abortion opponents have seized on to commemorate their cause. And finally, the March 11, 2004, train bombings in Madrid took place on the two and a half year anniversary of 9/11.
away from mainstream society, either physically, culturally, or both. Despite asserting their distance, a perception that society is threatening and encircling them often dominates. For example, in Israel, when the political process with the Palestinians feels threatening to Jewish radicals, it puts the entire extremist community under severe pressure, creating a sense of dire emergency that helps justify the call for drastic measures. It was exactly this sense of urgency that incited Baruch Goldstein to attempt to halt the Oslo accords process by opening fire on Muslims in the Tomb of the Patriarchs. In the United States, Judy Thomas, an investigative reporter for the Kansas City Star, highlights the utilitarian justification for violence that the religious message provides when other avenues have failed: “These people were against abortion, but their movement had failed in the courts. Roe v. Wade was the law of the land and even the massive clinic blockades weren’t effective. Frustrated by their inability to end abortion, they found Bible verses that would justify their actions. And to them, eliminating the clinics or the doctors [via bombing, arson, and murder] —which they considered the weak links in the abortion chain—was the only option left.”37 Muslim extremists in the United Kingdom appear to believe that violence is the only means to influence British policy. Most assuredly, other factors are at play, but as Siddique Khan’s video testimony reveals there is a sense that this violence in Britain is a last resort against foreign policy that is seen as attacking fellow Muslims around the world. 38 Group dynamics: Without question, the individual is always looking for some sort of self-gratification, be it social recognition, personal fulfillment, defense of self or family, or spiritual salvation. Whether someone commits violence is also related to the general level of violence carried out by peers in the movement. According to former Israeli national police chief Assaf Cheffetz, who is also the founder of the police’s counter-terrorism division, “When you find a group that identifies with violence, then exerting violence becomes part of belonging to that group…the group dynamic is very important, especially when involved in a part of society that is very isolated.”39 This was the case with the bombers responsible for the July 7, 2005 ,attacks in London, who fed off of one another. This escalated their radicalization, priming them for violence and making the ultimate act that much “easier” to commit.
Fear and desperation: One of the most volatile triggers to violence is the extremists’ calculation that the enemy is inexorably and closely approaching, or catastrophe is at hand. In this case, violent acts become a last resort, an act of desperation. Many of the individuals who commit violence have already moved a considerable distance
There is an individual tipping point but also a movement tipping point, and the latter is no less important than the former; in fact, both can be closely 37
Judy Thomas (investigative reporter for the Kansas City Star) interviewed by Daniel Levitas (EWI Researcher), March 2007. 38 House of Commons. Report of the Official Account of the Bombings. 39 Assaf Cheffetz (head of the Israeli national police force, 1994 to1998, and founder of the police’s counter-terrorism division) interviewed by Dina Kraft (EWI Researcher), March 2007.
Published on Jul 23, 2010
Published on Jul 23, 2010