Ami Pedahzur and Arie Perliger, world experts on the study of terror and security, propose a theory of violence that contextualizes not only recent acts of terror but also instances of terrorism that stretch back centuries. Beginning with ancient Palestine and its encounters with Jewish terrorism, the authors analyze the social, political, and cultural factors that sponsor extreme violence, proving religious terrorism is not the fault of one faith, but flourishes within any counterculture that adheres to a totalistic ideology.
When a totalistic community perceives an external threat, the connectivity of the group and the rhetoric of its leaders bolster the collective mindset of members, who respond with violence. In ancient times, the Jewish sicarii of Judea carried out stealth assassinations against their Roman occupiers. In the mid-twentieth century, to facilitate their independence, Jewish groups committed acts of terror against British soldiers and the Arab population in Palestine. More recently, Yigal Amir, a member of a Jewish terrorist cell, assassinated Yitzhak Rabin to express his opposition to the Oslo Peace Accords.
Conducting interviews with former Jewish terrorists, political and spiritual leaders, and law-enforcement officials, and culling information from rare documents and surveys of terrorist networks, Pedahzur and Perliger construct an extensive portrait of terrorist aggression, while also describing the conditions behind the modern rise of zealotry.
Israeli academics Pedahzur (The Israeli Secret Service and the Struggle Against Terrorism) and Perliger (Middle East Terrorism) point out that Muslim extremists don't hold a monopoly on terrorism: Israel has seen hundreds of attacks by Jewish terrorists most directed against Palestinians, but some against the state itself. The authors present a carefully constructed theoretical model, positing that radicalization within a specific counterculture, fostered by a threatening external event and portrayed by spiritual leaders as catastrophic precipitate violence not just by Jewish extremists but any counterculture that adheres to a totalistic ideology. Indeed, the authors see clear parallels between Jewish terrorist cells and their Muslim counterparts, and stress that mere faith isn't enough to create violent intent (they note that religious terrorist groups... made up less than 15 percent of all terrorist groups active in the 20th century ). Pedahzur and Perliger occasionally slip into academese and assume a close knowledge of Israeli political minutiae, but in combining exhaustive analysis with straight-forward language and compelling nonfiction narrative, they provide excellent insight into a little reported and even lesser understood reality.