In 2016, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was “human nature” for Arab Palestinians to murder Israeli civilians due to the “occupation”. A number of other commentators have excused or explained away Palestinian terrorism as being a consequence of poverty. Neither of these excuses for terror are correct.
Is Palestinian terror inevitable? Or are some on the pro-Palestinian side giving violence against civilians a free pass? Thankfully we have plenty of studies and evidence to counter both Ban Ki-moon and anyone who presents these false assertions.
The argument that poverty leads young people to participate in acts of terror is a prevalent theory. But the evidence points almost exclusively in the opposite direction. A 2007 study found that “both higher education and standards of living are positively associated with participation in groups like Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad along with the choice to become a suicide bomber”. In other words, the more well off a person was, the more likely they were to participate in terror.
So if not the desperation of poverty, what is driving predominantly middle-class people towards terror?
Interviews with would-be suicide bombers and other research suggests the answer is religious incitement and a culture of glorifying “martyrs”. In areas ruled by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority Imams will often incite violence in their sermons. Outside of the mosques, street signs, football clubs, and even schools are named after suicide bombers or are dedicated to the memory of terrorists.
In schools, the curriculum further normalizes and encourages terror, with stories with titles such as “I Shall Sacrifice My Blood to Saturate the Land” and religious textbooks replete with genocidal messages. State-sponsored children’s television bombard the youngest and most impressionable of minds with messages of violence against Jews.
There is good evidence that false charges of Israeli atrocities and instigation from mosque leaders played an important role in starting the first intifada. Over the four bloody years that followed more than 1,400 Israeli civilians and 1,700 Israeli soldiers were injured in the violence.
The second Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, lasted from 2000 to 2005 and was ignited – not by poverty – but by a visit of Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, to Judaism’s holiest site – the Temple Mount, which was then exploited by then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Palestinian violence claimed approximately 1,000 Israeli lives over those five years, many of whom were murdered in horrific suicide attacks.
At a pizza restaurant.
In a queue outside a nightclub.
And the so-called “knife intifada”, where 38 Israelis were murdered and almost 600 injured in a 10 month period in 2016 also started with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spreading the false claim that Jews intended to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque. During this time Palestinian sources published practical guides on how to stab Jews and handed out candy whenever a Jew was murdered. In many cases, the attackers themselves explained their motivations on social media, saying they were acting “to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque”. It had nothing to do with “human nature” or poverty.
Finances do play a role however. Though not the way one would expect.
The Palestinian Authority provides salaries to terrorists or their families. Dubbed the “pay for slay” policy – terrorists can earn more than Policemen if they kill Jews. And the Palestinian Authority relies on aid money for most of its budget. This is one of the reasons the United States cut their aid donations. But other democratic nations continue to essentially spend taxpayer money on terror.
It doesn’t matter how apologists spin it: there is no excuse for terror. And as previous UK Prime Minister, David Cameron said, “if you say ‘violence in London isn’t justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter’ – then you too are part of the problem.”
So the next time you hear this argument put the person straight. Terror is matter of ideology and there can be no peace in Israel as long as the Arab Palestinian leaders continue to promote an ideology of hate and violence.