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Through this reflective essay, with a focus on, and drawing from the film Paradise Now, I highlight the challenges of modern-day terrorism. In essence, I use the essay as an attempt to help me understand the challenges of modern terrorism. Detailing the last few hours, or rather what was to be the last few hours of the lives of two childhood friends of Palestinian origin who have been recruited by a terrorist group to carry out a suicide attack on Israel, Paradise Now helps illuminate many of the challenges I seek to address.
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CHALLENGES OF MODERN TERRORISM
As I note, and as supported by the work of Martin (2017), it is evident that today’s terrorism is much more sophisticated and widespread. I believe that the vice is very difficult to detect because of that, and there needs to be a multi-sectorial and collaborative approach to its prevention. To assess the challenges of the evil of terrorism in today’s world, I consider a number of factors, each with a link to the 90 minute Hany Abu-Assad film, Paradise Now.
In my opinion, radicalization is the greatest contributor to the spread of and continued existence of terrorism. As Arunkumar & Sakthivel (2017) define it, radicalization refers to the process through which an entity (being an individual or group) takes up increasingly extreme religious and political or social ideologies. It is mainly premised on the rejection of any ideas and practices that are upheld by the society as it is; I hold the view that radicalization is founded upon the rejection of the status quo. As seen in the film Paradise Now, the two childhood friends, Said and Khaled, fall into the trap of radicalisation and begin to internalise the extremist agenda that the terrorist group for which they work seems to advance. As such the film helps me understand that anyone can be radicalized and sold into the agenda of terrorism.
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I feel that radicalisation presents a crucial challenge for law enforcement and counter-terrorism establishments because it helps in the recruitment of followers and volunteers to the causes that terrorists advance. Often, as French (2006) notes, radicalisation preys on the emotional wounds and weaknesses of the targeted individuals. In Paradise Now, this is laid clear as Said is radicalised because of the emotional wound he carries – his father’s execution because of having collaborated with the Israelis. He then goes ahead to blame the Israelis for the fate that befell his father and works his way into the terrorist organisation for which they later agree to bomb Israeli targets. Similarly, his co-conspirator, Khaled, was driven into terrorism by the torture of his father at the hands of Israeli soldiers who invaded their home when he was younger. Both of them are therefore radicalised because they harbour hate and feelings of vengeance towards the Israelis. From the film, I thus am persuaded that radicalization is simply founded on the exploration of emotional wounds.
Soft Targets & Free Movement of People
Through my observation, it is evident that modern terrorism also seems to focus on soft targets, a fact that greatly complicates the job of law enforcement agencies and counter-terrorism units in the modern day world. As evident through the 2005 award-winning film by Abu-Assad, for example, it is clear that the two young men Khaled and Said have been instructed to carry out attacks on soft targets; first at an army checkpoint, and then fifteen minutes later at the same site as responders are rushing to the aid of injured victims. Abrahams & Potter (2015, p. 311) in concurrence with my point of view, note that many who die in terrorist attacks are often victims of secondary blasts and attacks. In Paradise Now, the soft targets include the Israeli settlement that Said approaches after escaping the guards, as well as the bus in which he sits (filled with Israeli soldiers) as the movie draws to a close. Evidently, the movie helps me understand why terrorists may prefer soft targets in carrying out their perverted agenda.
From my observation, and based on the movie Paradise Now, another challenge that the fight against terrorism in the modern world faces seems to be the free movement of people and the attendant ease of communication. This, as Arunkumar & Sakthivel (2015) observe, make the planning and execution of terrorist attacks easier than it was in the past. I did notice that in the film Paradise Now, the free movement of people was depicted through the act of the two childhood friends shaving off their hair and beards then wearing suits to blend in among the Israelis. The ease with which they cross the border without arousing suspicion remains a significant obstacle and challenge to modern-day counter-terrorism efforts. The movie therefore helps shift my perspective in terms of the execution of terrorist attacks – it helps me realize that terrorist live and work among us and not in caves; that such terrorists may be hard to spot in a group of people.
Division of Labor
My indulgence in the film also revealed that modern day terrorist groups are highly specialised and organized. As Kaplan (2017) confirms, present day terrorist groups will have one group identifying a target, while another plans the attack and yet another executes such attack on the identified target. In this manner, keeping up with their activities becomes difficult for law enforcement agencies. I believe that the division of labour and specialisation of roles, therefore, makes counter-terrorism operations difficult. Hany Abu-Assad clearly depicts this in the 2005 film when the terrorist cell for which Said and Khaled work plan the attack (down to the time interval between detonations) and then call upon the two young men to execute the attack on the identified target. In this manner, if one group is caught, the others can still work independently and execute their agenda; this is a nightmare for counter-terrorism units. Through the division of labour and tasks, as Petkova et al. (2017, p. 707) seem to advance, the terrorist groups can also recruit more followers while remaining mostly undetected by authorities.
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Today, terrorism has changed with the shifts in the global arena. I have established that while in the past they were not very organized, today’s terrorist groups are very sophisticated. There exist great specialization amongst such groups as seen in the division of labor in Abu-Assad’s Paradise Lost. My opinion is that there also exists a greater focus on soft targets by today’s terrorist groups, as depicted in the last scene of the award winning 2005 film; where Said is all ready to detonate his suicide belt inside the bus full of Israeli soldiers, or a little while earlier where he was to blow up an Israeli settlement. Further, I have noted that the free and easy movement of people across international borders is another challenge that counter-terrorism measures face in modern times – a point depicted in Paradise Lost when the two men shave their heads and don suits after which they blend in with the Israelis and are free to go carry out their perverted agenda. Essentially, Paradise Now helps change my perspective on terrorism especially in the modern world.
- Abrahams, M. and Potter, P.B., 2015. Explaining Terrorism: Leadership Deficits and Militant Group Tactics. International Organization, 69(2), pp.311-342.
- Arunkumar, C. and Sakthivel, P., 2017. Modern Terrorism and National Security in India. Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research, 3(4).
- French, P., 2006. Terrorism’s Human Face. The Guardian – April 16, 2006. [Online]
- Kaplan, A., 2017. The Counter-Terrorism Puzzle: A Guide for Decision Makers. New York, NY: Routledge.
- Martin, G., 2017. Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues. Sage Publications.
- Petkova, E.P., Martinez, S., Schlegelmilch, J. and Redlener, I., 2017. Schools and Terrorism: Global Trends, Impacts, and Lessons for Resilience. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 40(8), pp.701-711.