This is my question: was her “kitchen accident” an accident?
Suicide bombers are a bizarre and deeply upsetting phenomenon, even in their “ordinary” manifestations (although there is absolutely nothing ordinary about the suicide bombings).
But this latest suicide bomber–or attempted suicide bomber, because fortunately this woman succeeded in neither blowing herself up nor in destroying anyone else in the process–is in the realm of the exceptionally strange. She is in line with the latest trend in suicide bombing, which seems to run in the direction of commandeering the halt and the lame, the damaged and/or the mentally ill, to be pawns (willing? unwilling?) in the terrorists’ schemes.
It is hard to know the truth about this woman. This is the story as it has emerged so far: she had been engaged to be married, was burned in a kitchen accident, and treated in an Israeli hospital. Her fiance then rejected her, and she was caught in the act of returning to try to blow up those who had saved her, along with whatever other innocents might happen to be around at the time. There is dramatic video of the actual moments of her failure-to-detonate, and the reports are that she told contradictory accounts during her interrogation.
Perhaps with time this story will be sorted out; perhaps not. Perhaps it even will be forgotten rather quickly, as so many are–after all, no one was killed, or even hurt. I don’t know whether we’ll ever find out the truth. But I am especially suspicious of some of the details of this story.
The following is just a theory, and may be very farfetched. It’s based on nothing but a hunch, and a tentative one at that. But the thought that occurred to me when I first read that the would-be suicide bomber, Wafa al-Biss, had suffered severe burns in a kitchen accident five months ago was whether this had indeed been an accident at all.
The “kitchen accident” is a commonplace occurrence, and no accident, among women in the third world, particularly in Afghanistan and in India. Sometimes it represents a suicide attempt (more likely in Afghanistan), while sometimes it is homicide with a financial motive involving dowries (the situation in India). Here’s an article to read on the Afghan situation, and here’s another on what tends to happen in India.
I don’t think it’s a common phenomenon among the Palestinians, however, or in the Arab world in general (although, apparently, as you will find if you Google “dowries Arab,” the dowry does seem to exist in Arab countries). But it’s the so-called “honor killing” that is prevalent in the Arab world, although I’m not sure whether “cooking accident” is ever the method of choice.
Something about this particular case makes me wonder. Is someone trying to murder this woman–first directly, in the “accident,” and later indirectly, by forcing her to become a suicide bomber? Or was her “kitchen accident” really a botched suicide, and this checkpoint event a ghastly attempt of hers to finish the job and become a martyr to boot?
In the photos, this woman seems hysterical. In the interrogation, likewise. Is this a case of the sickness of Palestinian society, with its glorification of the grisly suicide bomber, giving an already-suicidal woman an opportunity to make her death “mean something” by murdering others? Or is it something even more macabre, if such a thing be possible, a double attempt to murder her, and get a “twofer” by making her a suicide bomber?
Or perhaps she’s just the “ordinary” suicide bomber, after all.