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Human Weapon. A Film on the History of Suicide Bombing 2002

Highly Recommended

Distributed by First Run/Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by Ilan Ziv and Serge Gordey
Directed by Ilan Ziv
VHS, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
Military Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Asian Studies, Psychology, Sociology

Date Entered: 11/09/2018

Reviewed by Michael Fein, Coordinator of Library Services, Central Virginia Community College, Lynchburg, VA

Beginning and ending with comments by Dr. Jay Lifton, this production is an examination of the modern phenomenon of the “suicide bomber.” The first part of the production examines the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in the Spring of 1983. Described by victims as well as depicted in on-the-scene footage and re-creation, this part, like the entire video, is not for the squeamish. There is some eye-opening commentary by former CIA agent Robert Baer, who has recently had his memoirs published, in which he describes how he tracked down the identity of the bomber as well as describing how different our way of thinking is from those in the Middle East. One point that Baer makes is that “suicide” bombing is a form of psychological warfare meant to inspire fear and to intimidate. This first episode concludes with accounts of the simultaneous bombings of the Marine and French Paratroop/Foreign Legion barracks several months later.

This is only the beginning. The production examines the Iranian Basiji; suicide warriors who served during the war with Iraq in the 1980s. As a transition to the bombers of the 1990s and later the Japanese Kamikaze of World War II are cursorily examined.

The modern-day bomber is represented by those in South Lebanon during the Israeli occupation, the Tamil resistance on Sri Lanka, and the current bombings in Israel/West Bank. The episodes for South Lebanon are both fascinating and disconcerting as we are shown how a definite cult of the martyr has been established there. A profile of a particular bomber includes interviews with his widow and children. They are proud of him and even watch video of his operation against the Israelis. The closing example is of a Palestinian youth who went to an Orthodox Synagogue in Jerusalem in March 2002 where he killed himself and many others as well wounding many, many more. The footage here, and in many other portions of the production, is gruesome (blood, body parts – including the head of a Tamil Tiger woman bomber.) There is commentary by an Israeli and then a Palestinian psychologist, both of whom try to answer the question “why?” Ultimately, they can give no secular answer to their question. Even Dr. Lifton’s closing remarks in which he sees the bombing of Germany and Japan during World War II as harbingers of the “suicide” bomber struck the reviewer as historically myopic.

These weaknesses aside, this is an excellent introduction to this currently prevalent form of warfare. Technically, sound and video were very good. All of the spoken parts, narrator and interviews, were clear and easy to understand. High school audiences and above would benefit. Public libraries that have a demand for current events should also consider.