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The Road to Martyrs' Square: A Journey into the World of the Suicide Bomber Hardcover – February 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195116003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195116007
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,875,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With the beginning of the first intifada in 1987, American scholars Oliver and Steinberg spent six years living in Gaza, collecting interviews and Palestinian political ephemera, much of it related to the multifaceted organization known as Hamas, which first carried out suicide bombings during that time. The pair characterize Hamas's ideology as schizophrenic; the book they have produced feels intentionally disorienting. Part one episodically traces Hamas's development through a political biography of its leader, Sheikh Yasin (who was killed by an Israeli missile last March). Oliver and Steinberg offer a tremendous amount of anecdotal texture, giving a chilling sense of what it was like to live in Gaza as it was engulfed by an Islamism that professes "not only not to be afraid of death, but to love it passionately." Part two offers an unprecedentedly extensive set of photos, translations and interpretations of Hamas graffiti; this section is horrifying and fascinating. Part three offers the most sustained and detailed views, in English, inside the preparation and deployment of suicide bombers, featuring extended exchanges with cell members and the families of the bombers themselves. Knowledgeable, colloquial, relatively nonpartisan and deeply skeptical and smart, this book offers an intensive look at one of the major forces in Palestinian society, one that is as unsettling as it is penetrating. (Jan.)
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Review


"In The Road to Martyrs' Square, their remarkable and creepy account of life in the Gaza Strip in the early 1990s, Oliver and Steinberg, who lived with various Palestinians there, give us a look at the Hamas milieu from within. It's a world where the cult of 'martyrdom' is celebrated in graffiti, videos, and posters, creating a toxic atmosphere of sadism, kitsch, and religious ecstasy. The book is valuable for its exhaustive documentation of the martyr cult's various uses of propaganda."--Christian Caryl, The New York Review of Books


"Knowledgeable, colloquial, relatively nonpartisan and deeply skeptical and smart, this book offers an intensive look at one of the major forces in Palestinian society, one that is as unsettling as it is penetrating.... Oliver and Steinberg offer a tremendous amount of anecdotal texture, giving a chilling sense of what it was like to live in Gaza as it was engulfed by an Islamism that professes 'not only not to be afraid of death, but to love it passionately.'"--Publishers Weekly (starred review)


"A deeply engaging firsthand account of the culture and mentality of Hamas.... Because the authors have lived near their subjects amid the squalor of refugee settlements in Gaza, their book blends daily misery and bizarre episodes in its careful depiction of a 'martyr' culture.... Has great value in explaining Islamic terrorism and the nature of conflict in the Occupied Territories."--Library Journal


"This beautifully written yet disturbing book offers a unique perspective on the intifada and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, written by authors who demonstrate great understanding of the Palestinians' internal and external struggles."--Washington Times


"Anne Marie Oliver and Paul Steinberg have produced an engrossing documentary account--psychologically and culturally rich, and often also poetical--of how despair, religion, and politics conspired to create Palestinians who regard death, and apocalyptic destruction, as redemptive." --Yaron Ezrahi, author of Rubber Bullets: Power and Conscience in Modern Israel


"An extraordinary ride through the culture of violence in Gaza and the Palestinian West Bank. Through the authors' dramatic narrative we see the world through the eyes of those whom outsiders regard as terrorists. It is based on one of the most formidable arrays of first-person material ever collected on the lives of Islamic suicide bombers-conversations with activists, interviews with their friends and families, videotapes of their last statements, and wall posters and graffiti describing their deeds. We now have a compelling inside view of the mindset and the worldview of one of the most volatile cultures of terrorism in the Middle East. Though it is highly informative, their narrative reads with an eloquence and immediacy that will captivate anyone concerned about world affairs, radical politics, and the potent mix of religion and activism in the contemporary Middle East." --Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence


"A chilling look inside the mind of Palestinian suicide terrorists. Using a vast assortment of primary sources gathered in the region--from personal testimonials to martyr videos to posters and graffiti--Oliver and Steinberg reproduce the personal journeys and public expressions of martyrs and martyrdom in often shocking detail. This important book shows that support for suicide bombing in Palestine goes far beyond a tiny fringe and compels us to ask how such violent behavior can become acceptable and supported by a society at large." --Robert Pape, author of Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism


"Oliver and Steinberg have written a book that guides us through the surreal but all-too-real world of Palestinian martyrdom, of the suicide-homicide bombers. They help us look, listen, hear, and even smell what would otherwise be awful and intolerable, but is so crucial for us to know. This book is a remarkable blend of personal memoir and deep immersion in all facets of the world they are witnessing, describing, and documenting. It is a presentation that allows the reader space for in-depth psychological and political analysis. Their account of the apocalyptic scripts and deeds of destruction, martyrdom, and access to Paradise are sobering, and yet they remind us of the need to find the more muted scripts of hope and empathy that are also there in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." --Roberta J. Apfel and Bennett Simon, editors of Minefields in Their Hearts: The Mental Health of Children in War and Communal Violence


"Of much interest to students of the Middle East, and of the psychology of cults."--Kirkus Reviews


Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas B. Jaworski on August 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
Oliver and Steinburg's book is an excellent look into the world of the Palestinian suicide bomber. Unlike some reviewers that disparage the political analysis missing from this book, I found the authors' insights quite accurate. The authors' aims were not to provide the historical context, nor to provide a critique of suicide terrorism in general (a la the comment concerning the Tamil Tigers above), but to give an experential portrayal of Palestine during the first intifada. Paradoxically, a couple reviewers bemoaned the book because it portrayed Palestinian suicide bombers as religious zealots and nuts, which makes one wonder if they actually read the book because one of the central themes of the book is the understanding of the suicide bomber as a rational actor.

This book puts Palestinian suicide bombing into the context of Palestine, which is why the understanding of the religious theme becomes incredibly important in contrast to secular groups such as the Tamils, which are motivated purely by politics. A major failure in the understanding of terrorism comes from secular scholars who don't or can't understand religious motivations because those of us in the West no longer regard it as important, though to believe this of the rest of the world is a severe misunderstanding of contemporary social realities and ends up projecting one cultures assumptions onto a completely different one with different mores and values. The primary reason given by suicide bombers for their actions is revenge, but understanding the religious background in the Palestinian context is very important to understand some of the justifications behind their actions.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Abda L. Quillian on January 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book provides unique insight into a mindset few can ever know.

The reader is treated to a visual chronology of intifada graffiti that

until now has remained an undocumented form of communication. The

story of seemingly "random" markings on walls evolved into the unedited

story of the intifada, beyond any censorship. The book also shows how

religious zeal and political activism eventually became so interwoven

that they produced a culture in which one's value is directly

proportioned to the death and destruction one facilitates. The price

of martyrdom is not only one's death, but also the maximizing of the

body count. This book is a must-read for anyone with an interest in

the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Flynn Flannery on May 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is pretty much a fairly straight reporting of Palestinian cultural influences that produce what we read about in the news. Children growing up steeped in hatred and the sick machismo of the Palestinian Arab Muslim male. It's very sad and insurmountable problem that the Israeli's and the rest of the world face, basically an ignorant violent culture that isn't going away.
The book documents this in an objective way. I gave it 4 of 5 stars because I believe it recorded the authors experiences truthfully. It is however somewhat overwhelming in the pure hate that you are constantly being bombarded with, and with no end in sight. This makes the book a bit depressing.
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14 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Emma Poroli on January 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is phenomenal! I have to say I never had any interest in traveling to the Middle East given all the unrest and turmoil that seems never ending. I never had a true understanding of the origins of the Israeli Palestinian conflict or what day-to-day living was like until I picked up The Road to Martyrs Square. Being a visual artist I was intrigued by the imagery and meanings. Oliver and Steinberg made me feel as though I was there with them walking through the shuq, living as an expatriate discovering fresh graffiti and getting inside the mind of the cult of the suicide bomber. It has truly changed my perspective. I hope there will someday there be peace and understanding in the region and I too will have the opportunity to walk the same streets with the knowledge of what used to be.
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