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Parallels between terrorist incidents against U.S., Israel

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments
By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–A New York Times article about “al Qaeda” terrorism directed against the United States could have been written about Palestinian terror against Israel. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/us/13intel.html?hp

Rather than central planning and coordination by skilled Islamic evil-doers, the most recent spurt of events were largely the work of individual enthusiasts, inspired by extremist preachers or internet sites, some of them with training in Muslim centers.

Exactly 14 of the approximately 14,000 murders in the United States last year resulted from allegedly jihadist attacks: 13 people shot at Fort Hood in Texas in November and one at a military recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., in June.

Various experts say that American intelligence and counter-terror activities–while far from perfect–have limited the capacity of a centrally-directed infrastructure to plan and execute an attack like 9-11. Some claim that exaggerations of an “al-Qaeda” do more harm than good by fostering excessive fears and amateurish counter efforts.

Palestinian terror looks the same. Many of the recent acts have been the work of individuals spurred by their sense of injustice, or a family casualty at the hands of Israeli security forces. Others are the activities of splinter groups, competing among themselves and with the dominant organizations by showing their intensity for Palestine and against the Jews. Mainline Fatah (PLO) and Hamas reckon with the damage done by Israeli retaliation. They do not organize the violence, but neither do they work assiduously against it. Islam has its influence. It silences, or produces passive acceptance of violence among those who might be inclined to live peacefully, but cannot resist those who raise the flags of religion and revenge.

Many more Israelis, like Americans, die at the hands of criminals rather than terrorists. Most terror plots are foiled, often with the intelligence supplied by Palestinians, by alert guards at check points, or by high-tech devices whose details are not made public. And in both countries, the carnage due to road accidents dwarfs the casualties due to terror.

Individuals quoted in the New York Times articles about the threat against the United States could be talking about the Palestinian threat against Israel. According to one, “I believe in heightened attention to security; I just don’t believe hysteria is useful.” And another, ““If we overreact and upset 1.5 billion Muslims then we’ll have a lot bigger problem on our hands.”

Israelis as well as Americans have to live with Muslims, most of whom are good neighbors. More will migrate to the United States due to what is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere, just like Vietnamese migrated in large numbers from the 1970s onward. Israelis already live with 20 percent of their population that is Arab. Security is important, and it occasionally involves violence. Iran, Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia represent serious threats, and provide work for Americans and Israelis concerned with security.

There are Americans who think that Israel is at the root of their problems, and Israelis who think that Americans have worsened their problems.

Persuasion and politics is more desirable than violence, if conditions permit.

We can hope for the best, even if we do not expect it.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University
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