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He’s Only a Dog: “The Oppposite Motivation” and My Private War Against Terrorism

Researchers and policy-makers dealing with the phenomenon of terrorism devote a great deal of thought towards trying to understand the various components relating to the motivation of the terror organizations. This is in addition to the considerable efforts devoted to the war against the terror organizations’ capabilities to perpetrate attacks. In this research, the importance and complexity of the fight against the radical motivation, which serves as the infrastructure for the terror organizations’ enlistment of volunteers and activists, become clear. On the other hand, little attention is paid to the motivation of the victims of terrorism.

In this article, I will attempt to shed some light on the motivational aspects for the victims of terrorism; “the opposite motivation”. This is a lesser known and even less researched topic, and in my opinion is an important tool for coping with the phenomenon of terrorism. 

The foundation of the motivation of victims of terrorism is the desire and determination to return to a normal lifestyle, despite the physical limitations. Success in realizing this objective comprises a smashing victory over the terror organizations, as the latter strived, planned and aimed the attack against these civilians to destroy their way of life. 

Research on terrorism shows that one of the terror organizations’ goals is to push the population, against whom the terrorism is initiated, into pressuring their government to change its policy and agree to political concessions. An analysis of the terror organizations’ modus operandi shows that their attacks are planned with the intention of creating fear and anxiety within the targeted population. This would then lead to a “deadlock”, or the inability – or lack of motivation – on the part of the population to continue its normal way of life. The dictionary states that the basic meaning of “terror” is “fear”. This dates back to the French Revolution. The reality of a civilian population, which does not live a normal lifestyle due to anxiety and fear (which is generally not proportionate to the real scope of the threat), is dangerous to societies fighting terrorism, as it constitutes a clear victory in favor of terrorism. 

In order to demonstrate the power of “the opposite motivation” as a tool in the war against terrorism (i.e. the motivation of the victims of terrorism returning to a full and normal lifestyle), I would like to relate a small incident which occurred a little while ago during the opening ceremony of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s International Conference, which was attended by approximately one thousand participants. I had a small mishap: Louis, my seeing-eye dog, who has been my helper for several months, decided suddenly to bark – apparently due to the choir’s singing on the stage. The barking, obviously, created quite a lot of attention and disturbed the process of the ceremony. I hurried shamefacedly from the hall to avoid being seen, although I was sure everyone saw what occurred. I returned home disappointed and disturbed and told my wife, Nizan, that “under no circumstances would I go back to the ICT International Conference the following day. Everyone had seen me, they all heard the barking, and there was no point”. 

Nizan, in her wonderful way, cheered me up and declared “of course you are going! You are a victim of terrorism, which these people are researching. You are the product of the fight against terror. You must feel comfortable amongst these people, whose whole purpose is to research and fight terrorism.” 

That same evening, I spoke to Yoni Lankri, Louis’ trainer. From his rich experience in training seeing-eye dogs, he reassured me that this was a “natural” occurrence in the life of a dog, and although Louis was well trained for his job, he could not promise that such incidents would not occur in the future. 

Later on that night, I spoke to Lior Lotan, then Director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, who told me, “Oren, we live real lives and we do not reside in display windows. Be strong! Nobody there would be willing to change places with you.” Not everything runs smoothly with Louis, despite his facilitating my return to a normal lifestyle. At the end of the day, he is only a dog and sometimes he carries out his job in such a way that he attracts attention to us, sometimes in admiration, but also in astonishment and wonder. 

That evening, which was so hard for me, I could have chosen to sit at home and feel sorry for myself, to focus on my bitter fate and the “shame” brought upon me by my dog at the opening ceremony of the distinguished conference. However, I chose to overcome the aftermath of terrorism and to attend the conference the following day despite the embarrassment, thereby expressing my viewpoint regarding a powerful tool against terrorism which I call “the opposite motivation”. 

Had I stayed at home, it would have clearly meant not continuing a normal full life, which I strive for every day despite my serious injuries. It would have meant admitting to the perpetrators of terrorism: “you won!” 

On the other hand, my presence at the conference the following day was my personal victory against terrorism. My own small personal victory, gave me the opportunity to stress the essence and power of “the opposite motivation”, as a tool for countries and societies to fight modern terrorism. 

Those countries and societies who suffer from terrorism must recognize the fact that an essential element in this war is the challenge of rehabilitating the victims of terrorism. They must embrace these wounded people, endow them with spirit and resilience and to do everything possible for them to return to a full and normal life. These actions will put the essential components in place for the reinforcement of “the opposite motivation” and will comprise an additional tool against the terror organizations’ motivation and those who collaborate with them. 

Returning the terror victims to a normal life is the reasonable and critical obligation of any country and society, as opposed to the adoption of the suicide bombers’ families by terror organizations and countries that support terrorism. “They” can adopt the families of the suicide bombers. We need to adopt those who have remained alive. I have been fortunate in receiving a “warm” embrace and the support of my commanders and comrades in arms in the army, who act according to the code of values, morality and true friendship. I survived a terrorist attack and live a full and normal life, with limitations, of course. This is my victory and the victory of “the opposite motivation” over the evil motivation of the terror organizations. What is more important is the bitter defeat of those who sent the terrorist who exploded in my face. That terrorist is no longer with us and I am alive, writing these words and continuing my struggle for a full, normal life.

They will continue to explode. We will continue to fight them, to become stronger and to strengthen our motivation to continue to live, so that it will never be weaker than their motivation to continue sending suicide bombers to their deaths and to destroy the lives of their victims.

It is our difficult and intricate challenge to return the victims of terrorism to a full and normal life, despite the unpleasantness and physical limitations. Our success means strengthening the capabilities and components of the war against terrorism.

Maj. Oren Blizblau is an officer in an I.D.F. armored brigade. He was injured in January 2005 during a suicide bomb attack in the Gaza Strip and as a result lost his eyesight. Since then, he has completed the Staff and Command course of the I.D.F. ground forces and is currently a research fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.