Thursday, February 26, 2009

Occupation is Still the Issue

For years, up until the time of his death in November, 2004, it seemed that every where I spoke about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, somebody was “Arafating, Arafating. If we could just get rid of that damn ol’ Arafat, everything would be solved in the Middle East.” It reminded me of the Civil Rights days in Mississippi when over and over I heard, “If we could just rid of that Martin Luther King, Jr. everything would be solved.

Well, they got rid of King only to find out that the problem had never been King. The problem had been segregation all along. And they got rid of Yasser Arafat only to find out that the problem never was Arafat, but occupation. The problem is not Islamic militant theology or suicide bombings. In fact, as Chris Hedges points out:

The Koran is emphatic about the rights of other religious to practice their own beliefs. It unequivocally condemns attacks on civilians as a violation of Islam. It states that suicide, of any type, is an abomination. The tactic of suicide bombing, equated by many of the new atheists with Islam, did not arise from the Muslim world… Suicide bombing is what you do when you do not have artillery or planes or missiles and you want to create maximum terror for an occupying power.[1]

Occupation leaves a people feeling humiliated, abused, poverty stricken and
hopeless. Robert Pape, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, having compiled the world’s largest database of information on suicide terrorists, creates a new picture of what motivates suicide terrorism. “Almost every major suicide-terrorist campaign – over 95 percent –carried out attacks to drive out an occupying power. This was true in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Kashmir, as well as Israel and the Palestinian territories.” Pape found that suicide bombers see violence as the way to change the public opinion of occupying powers like Israel and the United States. They hope to make the occupiers suffer.[2]

So, let us be clear when asking the question of why terrorist do what they do. It’s not so much a matter of poverty, education, or religion fundamentalism. It’s a matter of occupation.

Thomas Are
February 26, 2009

[1] Chris Hedges, I Don’t Believe in Atheist, (Free Press, New York, 2008) p.141.
[2] Robert Pape, Dying to Win, Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, Cited in Chris Hedges, I don’t believe in Atheists., p.137. Google: Robert Pape, The logic of Suicide Terrorism.

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