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Meet the MK: Dr. Anat Berko, Terrorism Expert

Dr. Anat Berko, an internationally recognized expert on terrorism who specializes in studying the motivations of suicide terrorists, was elected to the 20th Knesset yesterday. Berko, who agreed to join the Likud party in December, is also a former lieutenant colonel in the IDF.

The Jerusalem Post gave a brief biography [1] of Berko when it interviewed her last month.

The second of six children, both of Berko’s parents were refugees from Iraq. She served in the army for 25 years, ending her service with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

She directed ground forces in the Southern Command in the IDF’s women’s corps before it disbanded in 2001, and after she earned her doctorate in criminology, she used her skills to administer over a jail.

Berko gained her expertise by interviewing and writing about failed suicide bombers and those who dispatched them. According to the Post, Berko interviewed Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin for five hours. When asked by the Post about the current chances for a Palestinian state, she said that Israel must negotiate  with the Palestinians, but that if Israel were to withdraw from the West Bank, it likely would be taken over by Islamists and become “analogous to Syria.”

Berko has written or co-authored two English language books, The Path to Paradise: The Inner World of Suicide Bombers and Their Dispatchers [2]and The Smarter Bomb: Women and Children as Suicide Bombers [3].

In an interview with USA Today last December, Berko described [4] the societal pressures that would prompt a woman to become a suicide bomber:

But the causes of the conflict have even deeper roots, she argues, in a fraying social fabric and the ongoing oppression of women. Social structures in Palestine marginalize pragmatics, Berko says. “We are talking about archly conservative, patriarchal structures, which demand conformity.” …

Yet in Palestine the social fabric is eroding, Berko says. “The classic Arab extended family is falling apart; the parents are barely able to control their children,” she explains. The youths in Palestine grow up admiring and rejecting modernity at the same time. Assassins are given the hero treatment because, amongst other reasons, “they conform to the macho image of an Arab man.” …

In Palestine, Berko sees a search for “consensus in extremism.” The differences between Islamist Hamas and the reputedly more pragmatic Fatah are arbitrary, she says. “Many of my interviewees, high-ranking activists, tell me, ‘I wake up as a Hamas supporter and go to sleep as a Fatah supporter.’ The identities are in flux.” Real change needs social upheaval, she argues, and, in particular, women’s liberation.

[Photo: חינוכית ראשונים בעולם / YouTube [5] ]