Pedahzur, Ami 1970–

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Pedahzur, Ami 1970–


Born January 14, 1970. Education: University of Haifa, Ph.D., 1999.


Office—University of Texas at Austin, Department of Government, 1 University Station A1800, Austin, TX 78712-0119. E-mail—[email protected]


University of Haifa, Israel, instructor, 1999-2004, National Security Studies Center Senior Fellow, 1999-2004; University of Texas at Austin, Donald D. Harrington fellow, 2004-05, associate professor of government, 2005—, senior fellow at Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law.


The Israeli Response to Jewish Extremism and Violence: Defending Democracy, Manchester University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

(With Leonard Weinberg) Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, Routledge (New York, NY), 2003.

(Editor, with Leonard Weinberg) Religious Fundamentalism and Political Extremism, Frank Cass (Portland, OR), 2004.

Ha-demokratiyah ha-mitgonenet be-Yisrael, Karmel (Jerusalem, Israel), 2004.

Hitmodedut mul teror bi-Yerushalayim 1967-2002, Mekhon Yerushalayim le-heker Yisrael (Jerusalem, Israel), 2005.

(Editor) Root Causes of Suicide Terrorism: The Globalization of Martyrdom, Routledge (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including Social Forces, Social Science Quarterly, Political Studies, Party Politics, Armed Forces and Society, Deviant Behavior, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, and Terrorism and Political Violence.


Ami Pedahzur specializes in the study of different types of terrorist attacks. Educated at the University of Haifa in Israel, Pedahzur served for years as a senior fellow with the Israeli National Securities Studies Center. He came to the United States in 2004 as a Donald D. Harrington fellow with at University of Texas at Austin, and he went on to work there as an associate professor in the departments of government and Middle Eastern studies.

One of Pedahzur's specialties is the phenomenon of suicide bombing as a terrorist tactic. He points out in his writing that suicide attacks have not been and are not currently an Islamic tactic. "Suicide bombing as a phenomenon has grown exponentially over the last twenty years—from one occurrence in 1982 to seventy-one in 2003," wrote a contributor to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars International Security Studies Web site. "The Middle East has experienced the sharpest rise in suicide terrorism in recent years and [that type of terrorism] is now perceived as a Middle Eastern phenomenon linked to Islamic extremism. But Pedahzur noted that suicide terrorism is not solely an Islamic phenomenon." It was, for instance, famously used during World War II by Japanese kamikaze pilots launching attacks against American naval vessels. In recent years, the Woodrow Wilson International Center Web site contributor continued, "it gained prominence as a tactic not in the Middle East, but in Sri Lanka by Tamil separatists."

In fact, Pedahzur points out, most suicide attacks have historically been made by terrorists for nationalistic motives, rather than for religious ones. He places Fatah, the Palestinian independence organization, in this category. Other groups that also fit this mold include the Kurdish PKK separatists, the rebels in the Russian province of Chechnya, al-Qaida, and the various opposition groups in Iraq. For none of these groups, Pedahzur states, is suicide terrorism primarily motivated by religion—and, even though most of the groups listed are made up primarily of Muslims (with the exception of the Tamil Tigers, who are predominantly Hindu), most Muslims do not embrace suicide terrorism as a legitimate form of religious expression. In Root Causes of Suicide Terrorism: The Globalization of Martyrdom, which Pedahzur edited, he and his colleague Arie Perliger suggest that, in fact, most suicide attacks are carried out against Islamic regimes that are perceived as moderate.

Other attacks (such as those in Chechnya, Palestine/Israel, and in parts of occupied Iraq) can be seen as directed against foreign forces perceived as occupying the country. A contributor to the volume, Mia Bloom, suggests that small-group dynamics play at least as great a role in recruiting and detonating suicide bombers. "At the individual level," explained Clark McCauley in a review of the volume for the Middle East Journal, "she distinguishes between personal interest (i.e., revenge, purity) and group interest (i.e., advancing group welfare) as motives for self-sacrifice. At the group level, she sees suicide attacks as having in-group political value that rivals the value of coercing the enemy. Sponsoring suicide bombers can bring a terrorist group status and support in competition with other terrorist groups (‘outbidding’)."

At the same time, Pedahzur stresses that religion does have a role to play in the recruitment and inculcation of suicide bombers. In a review of Root Causes of Suicide Terrorism published in the Political Science Quarterly, Mia Bloom wrote: "Unlike other studies on the subject, Pedahzur's does not go so far as to dismiss religion outright in the fostering and creating of a politically receptive environment for violence." "A successful suicide bombing campaign," she continued, "requires individuals willing to die and a community that will support them. Hence, organizations that sponsor terrorism have glorified martyrdom and have endeavored to create ‘a culture of death.’" Within that context, concluded a reviewer for Reference & Research Book News, Pedahzur and his colleagues say that "suicide terrorism is a limited tactic chosen to effect clear organizational goals."



International Affairs, October 1, 2004, Joshua A. Kilberg, review of Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, p. 1001.

International Journal of Middle East Studies, November 1, 2007, Mia Bloom, review of Root Causes of Suicide Terrorism: The Globalization of Martyrdom, p. 688.

Middle East Journal, September 22, 2006, Clark McCauley, review of Root Causes of Suicide Terrorism, p. 826.

Political Science Quarterly, September 22, 2006, Mia Bloom, review of Root Causes of Suicide Terrorism, p. 503.

Reference & Research Book News, May 1, 2004, review of Religious Fundamentalism and Political Extremism, p. 10; February 1, 2006, review of Root Causes of Suicide Terrorism; November 1, 2006, review of Root Causes of Suicide Terrorism.


Robert S. Strauss Center Web site, (April 24, 2008), "Senior Fellow."

T.I.G.E.R., (April 24, 2008), author profile.

University of Texas Web site, (April 24, 2008), faculty profile.

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, International Security Studies Web site, (April 24, 2008), "The Culture of Death: Terrorist Organizations and Suicide Bombings."