Jerusalem and Terrorism
The Ariel Sharon government in Israel has announced that it will build a huge wall on someone else’s land through Jerusalem, cutting off 55,000 Arabs from the city (they’ll have to go through nasty Israeli checkpoints every day to get into their own city!)
This is land theft on a massive scale. Worse, it is theft on a stage of sacred space that affects the sentiments of over a billion people. Whether Westerners like it or not, Jerusalem is considered by Muslims their third holiest city, and Israeli theft of the whole thing drives a lot of them up the wall. A partitioned Jerusalem where the Arab east is connected to the West Bank is the only route to peace. Sharon in his usual aggressive, grabby way, is trying to make that forever an impossibility.
And, folks, this sort of thing, which the Washington Post didn’t even notice, may very well get you and me killed. I think what Sharon is doing is morally and politically wrong to begin with. But I sure as hell resent the possibility that I or my family is going to get blown up because of it.
You want to know what causes terrorism? Well, in part it is caused by deviance, by people so warped that they will take innocent lives in a wicked quest to achieve some political or religious goal. In part, terrorists are like bank robbers. Bank robbers desperatedly want to be rich, but for one reason or another think they are very unlikely to get rich through their ordinary activities. Likewise, terrorists, break the law, both moral and civil, to get what they want. In that sense they are criminals, or, as I say, deviants. But they are not motiveless and do not act out of free-floating generalized hatred for the most part. They have a specific goal in mind.
Terrorism is also caused when one country militarily occupies another country. That is, it is the military occupation that provides a lot of terrorists with their goal (i.e. to free their country from foreign military occupation). Chicago political scientist Robert Pape has shown that the vast majority of suicide bombings in the past 30 years have come in response to foreign military occupation (or what the terorists perceived as such). Back in the late 50s and early 60s, the Algerians and the French were locked in such a struggle. The French killed nearly a million Algerians (in a population of 11 million), and the Algerians blew up a lot of French. When the French recognized Algeria as an independent country in 1962, the struggle quickly subsided and by 1963 Algeria wasn’t even a big subject in French newspapers.
The Israeli military occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza from 1967 has caused an enormous amount of terrorism in the world. It hasn’t been the only such source by any means. The Tamil Tigers, a group based in Sri Lanka (used to be called Ceylon), blew up Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and engaged in many other terrorist operations in Sri Lanka and India. It is a Marxist group and in some ways pioneered the suicide bombing. Because Sri Lanka and its concerns seeem so remote to most Americans, most people here don’t even know about the Tamil Tigers. But if the US went in and militarily occupied the Tamil parts of Sri Lanka, all of a sudden we’d be seeing bombs go off against US targets. I guarantee it. That is not to say it would be right. But it is to say that that is how reality works (reality cannot be simply manufactured in the White House, contrary to what Scooter Libby thinks).
The Israeli Jerusalem Barrier project will have similar effects. It keeps inside itself a major Israeli settlement on Palestinian land that Sharon has recently announced he will greatly expand (probably using American money at least in part).
Because al-Qaeda and its fellow travelers do not speak in the language of Palestinian nationalism, it has been possible for certain quarters to obscure to the US public that they are absolutely manically fixated on the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem. This is what Bin Laden meant way back in the 1990s when he denounced the foreign military occupation of “the three holy cities.” Here is what Bin Laden wrote in 1998 when he declared war on the US:
‘ Third, if the Americans’ aims behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jews’ petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel’s survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula. ‘
If this is a big part of what is driving the radical Muslim fundamentalists’ violence, then Sharon’s announcement on Sunday is guaranteed to produce a terrorist strike. If what Sharon is doing were the right thing, morally and politically, then he should do it anyway and we’ll just soldier on against the terrorists. But it is wrong in the first place, wrong morally, and wrong in international law and an insult to the United States in completely departing from the roadmap.
How obsessed Bin Laden & company are with what goes on in Palestine is obvious, as I said last week, in the 9/11 commission report:
‘ According to KSM [Khalid Shaikh Muhammad], Bin Ladin had been urging him to advance the date of the attacks. In 2000, for instance, KSM remembers Bin Ladin pushing him to launch the attacks amid the controversy after then-Israeli opposition party leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. KSM claims Bin Ladin told him it would be enough for the hijackers simply to down planes rather than crash them into specific targets. KSM says he resisted the pressure.
KSM claims to have faced similar pressure twice more in 2001.According to him, Bin Ladin wanted the operation carried out on May 12, 2001, seven months to the day after the Cole bombing. KSM adds that the 9/11 attacks had originally been envisioned for May 2001. The second time he was urged to launch the attacks early was in June or July 2001, supposedly after Bin Ladin learned from the media that Sharon would be visiting the White House. On both occasions KSM resisted, asserting that the hijacking teams were not ready. Bin Ladin pressed particularly strongly for the latter date in two letters stressing the need to attack early.The second letter reportedly was delivered by Bin Ladin’s son-in-law,Aws al Madani. ‘
That is why our press and politicians do us an enormous disservice by not putting the Israeli announcement about the Jerusalem Barrier on the front page. This sort of action is a big part of what is driving the terrorists (and of course Sharon himself is a sort of state-backed terrorist anyway). The newspapers and television news departments should be telling us when we are about to be in the cross-fire between the aggressive, expansionist, proto-fascist Likud Coalition and the paranoid, murderous, violent al-Qaeda and its offshoots.
Eisenhower called up DeGaulle and told him to get the hell out of Algeria, on a short timetable, or else. I wish Bush had Eisenhower’s spine when it came to dealing with Ariel Sharon.