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Arab Terrorism: Causes and Cure

Robert W. McGee

Politicians are quick to condemn Arab terrorism like the 1983 attack that killed 241 U.S. servicemen in Beirut, Lebanon, the Oklahoma City bombing (which turned out not to be from Arab terrorists), the World Trade Center bombing and the Saudi Arabian bombing that killed or injured hundreds of people. The press is eager to devote substantial coverage to such events as well. But the big question - the one that neither politicians nor the press addresses - is "why do some Arabs engage in such activities?" Why are they willing to engage in suicide attacks and bombings and why do they seem to single out the United States (as well as Israel) as the target of their attacks? What is the problem that makes them willing to die for their cause?

Anyone who pays any attention to the news knows that the United States has been the strongest supporter of Israel since its founding in the 1940s, and that various Arab states have, at one time or another, been enemies of Israel. But what is less well reported by the U.S. media is the Israeli terrorism that has been heaped upon the Arabs - Palestinians in particular - since the founding of Israel.

The Palestinian "problem" stems from the fact that the state of Israel was established on Palestinian land. During the 1948 war, the Israeli forces not only drove the Palestinians from their homes, but also made a point of dismantling more than 400 Palestinian villages, towns and cities stone by stone, so that the Palestinians would have nothing to return to. As a result, three million of the estimated six million total Palestinian population are refugees, a million of whom are forced to this day to live in appalling conditions in refugee camps with little hope for the future.

The Palestinians’ property rights - one of the most basic of all human rights - was systematically disparaged. This disparagement continues to this day, as evidenced by the West Bank settlement policies of the present Israeli government. Russian Jews and others are being given Palestinian land to live on, and the Palestinian owners are being driven from their land without compensation. Whole Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem have been confiscated and turned over to Jewish "settlers" in an effort to consolidate the Jewish hold on the city, which Israel is making into the capital of the Jewish state.

The land grab is only one of many human rights abuses that the Palestinians have had to endure. Palestinians are subject to searches at numerous check points in their own country. Their homes can be blown up without due process if a family member is merely accused of terrorist activity. There have been systematic attempts to prevent Palestinians from getting an education, as evidenced by the closing of Palestinian schools. While the official reason for the shutdowns was to close places where Palestinians could gather and organize, Israeli government officials also closed correspondence schools, where no gathering could take place.

Beatings, torture, imprisonment and even killings of Palestinians have become commonplace. Palestinian farmers have systematically been deprived of water for their farms, while Israeli farmers get what they need. Palestinian freedom of travel has been restricted or denied on numerous occasions, making it difficult or impossible to visit family or go to work, thus causing economic hardship. Christian and Moslem Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza have been prevented from worshipping at Jerusalem’s religious sites for "security" reasons. Palestinian merchants who sell watermelons in the local market have been beaten because they sliced open the watermelons, thus revealing the colors of the Palestinian flag, which was forbidden at the time. Palestinians have also been beaten for wearing shirts that are the colors of the Palestinian flag. During the recent election, right-wing Israeli party posters placed in front of polling places falsely warned Palestinians that their health and pension benefits would be taken away if they voted, thus greatly reducing the number of Palestinians who dared to vote. Some of those who tried to vote were beaten by police.

One young Palestinian was beaten by about 40 Israeli police in front of James Moran, a member of the U.S. Congress. Bystanders said this sort of thing happens all the time. Israeli rubber bullets have caused some Palestinian youths to become brain dead. Between the start of the intifada in 1987 and mid-1995, more than 1400 Palestinians have been killed, including 260 children. The American press devotes little or no space to these Palestinian murders, yet never fails to cover a story involving the death of one or two Israeli soldiers.

U.S. press coverage is biased and pro-Israeli. But that is not the reason why some Arabs want to blow up Americans and American property. One of the main reasons these Arabs are outraged is because the U.S. government has been the strongest supporter of Israel right from the start. Sirhan Sirhan, the Arab who assassinated Robert Kennedy, said he did it because Senator Kennedy approved the sale of military aircraft to Israel, which would be used to kill Palestinians. While the holocaust was a tragedy, and while practically everyone agrees that systematic extermination of an ethnic or religious group cannot be condoned, it does not follow that the survivors of that group have some inherent right to found a country on someone else’s land.

U.S. taxpayers have been forced to support this land grab, and the many human rights abuses that have gone with it, since the 1940s. For the 1996 fiscal year alone, American taxpayers had to pay more than $5.5 billion for various kinds of aid to Israel - $1,375 for every Jewish man, woman and child (Palestinians don’t get the benefit of the aid). Yet Israel cannot be called a poor country. It has a per capita gross domestic product approaching that of England.

The whole issue of foreign aid needs to be addressed. The U.S. constitution provides for a government of limited powers. The government can constitutionally do only those things that are specifically enumerated in the constitution. The constitution says nothing about foreign aid, which makes it constitutionally suspect. Those who favor foreign aid programs might argue that giving foreign aid is in the best interest of the United States. But even if that were sometimes the case, it does not follow that such foreign aid programs can become constitutional just because they might be in America’s best interest. Besides, the "best interests" argument does not seem to apply to Israel, a country that has received nearly US$78 billion in foreign aid from the United States between fiscal 1948 and 1996. At least part of the military aid Israel receives is used to abuse the human rights of Palestinians. The nonmilitary aid is used to support an economic system that is basically socialist. How can it be in the interest of the United States to support such a regime?

American taxpayers are being abused by being forced to support Israeli terrorism and socialism. At the very least, the foreign aid spigot should be turned off, the sooner the better. In addition, those politicians who have the courage should speak out against the human rights abuses that have been perpetrated against the Palestinian people. Even if one concedes that the U.S. has some strategic interest in Israel (I do not concede this point), it does not follow that American taxpayers should be forced to support a corrupt regime that systematically abuses the human rights of a targeted ethnic group. Human rights are human rights, and no government should ever condone or financially support a regime that systematically disparages them. Once U.S. support stops, Arab terrorists (some of whom may legitimately be called freedom fighters) will be far less likely to attack U.S. property and citizens.

Although some Arabs hate the United States because of its support of Israel, that is not the only reason why some Arabs are angry with the U.S. Historically, various U.S. governments have had a policy of supporting corrupt regimes. We supported the Shah of Iran. We supported a fascist South Vietnamese dictator who was fighting a communist North Vietnamese dictator. We supported Stalin’s enslavement of millions of East Europeans. We supported Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines when it was fashionable to do so. During the Gulf war we came to the aid of a family of dictators in Kuwait who were being attacked by an Iraqi dictator. American soldiers were summoned to a Kuwaiti prince’s house to reinstall the gold plumbing that had been stolen by Iraqi soldiers, which is hardly a legitimate use of American troops. We have supported a number of corrupt regimes in Arab countries over the years because American leaders thought it was in the best interests of the United States to do so. Aside from the fact that it is seldom in anyone’s best interests to support corrupt regimes, it is also a morally bankrupt policy, and the Arabs recognize that fact.

A third reason why some Arabs dislike the United States, and the West in general, goes back to the Crusades. While I was preparing this article, an Arab friend of mine pointed out that Moslems still have not forgotten the Crusades, the aims of which were to capture holy sites and either kill or convert Moslems. Although the United States was not to blame for the Crusades, which ended hundreds of years before America came into existence as a political entity, Arabs are still suffering psychologically from that experience.

While cutting off American aid to Israel and ending support for corrupt Arab regimes might stop Arab terrorism against the United States, it will not stop violence (call it terrorism or freedom fighting) in Israel. That violence is unlikely to stop until human rights abuses are stopped and the land that has been taken is restored to its rightful owners. Muslims, Jews and Christians can live in peace, but only when human rights - which includes property rights - are respected.

Muslimedia - April 1996-August 1996

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 25, No. 2

Dhu al-Hijjah 13, 14161996-04-01

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