Portland author Anne Marie Oliver has seen suicide bombers and other Palestinian extremists up close, and she says the cultish world of the terrorist group Hamas has "its own momentum and driving force and it has nothing to do with almost anything else."
Oliver and co-author Paul F. Steinberg have written the "The Road to Martyr's Square: A Journey Into the World of the Suicide Bomber" (Oxford University Press, $26). On Feb. 17, at the Los Angeles Central Library, they will sign copies of "Martyr's Square" and discuss their dispassionate journey into suicide bomber culture during the 1987-1993 intifada.
The well-documented book does not examine the current intifada, but instead shows the roots of the waves of the suicide bombings that have terrorized Israelis in recent years. It also showcases the highly scripted, ritualistic world of suicide bombers who take calls to arms against Jews literally, something that started in the late 1980s and is now become a self-sustaining killing machine.
"We saw the making of this culture; I don't think anybody could have predicted that suicide bombings would become a major tactic and strategy in the intifada," Oliver told The Journal. He said Hamas has proved attractive to Palestinian men because "it offers a complete way of life, a complete system of charitable institutions across the West Bank and Gaza, a system of personal salvation."
Publishers Weekly described "Martyr's Square" as "relatively nonpartisan and deeply skeptical and smart ... 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.'"
Research for the book included interviews with Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was killed last spring in a targeted assassination during ongoing counterterrorism measures. The Georgia-born Oliver, 45, expressed little patience for how some newspapers and peace activists described Yassin as the "spiritual leader" of Hamas.
"Spiritual has a positive connotation to most people," she said. "I would hesitate to call him a 'spiritual' leader. There's something slightly off there, in that description."
The authors will discuss and sign their book, "The Road to Martyr's Square: A Journey Into the World of the Suicide Bomber," during "ALOUD at Central Library" Thursday, Feb. 17, 7 p.m. Mark Taper Auditorium, 630 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles. To R.S.V.P., visit www.lapl.org/events or call (213) 228-7025.