Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Explaining Terrorism

In case you missed it, today’s New York Times published a very important oped,  "What Makes Chechen Women So Dangerous?",    by Robert A. Pape of the University of Chicago--one of America's leading experts on terrorism--and two of his students.  After noting the fierce Russian repression of the Chechen drive for independence,  the article concludes that although many of the Chechen suicide bombers have been Muslims,  "few of them profess religious motives....As we have discovered in our research on Lebanon, the West Bank, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, suicide terrorist campaigns are almost always a last resort against foreign military occupation."  

It is still common for mainstream U.S. and Israeli commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general, or on Hamas or Islamic Jihad terrorism in particular, to downplay or even simply ignore the ongoing Israeli occupation and repression of the Palestinians, particularly in Gaza.  Rather, the implicit or explicit assumption is that it is anti-Semitism and religious fanaticism--practically by definition, immutable and unrelated to Israeli behavior--that drives Palestinian resistance, whether terrorist or not. 

In their oped on the recent terrorist attack on the Moscow subway, widely presumed to have been carried out by two Chechen women, Pape and his associates do not (beyond the brief mention of their previous research on the West Bank) extend their analysis to cover recent events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  But can anyone seriously doubt the  relevance of their analysis to that conflict?   To put it bluntly, to discuss Palestinian terrorism as if it was unconnected to the decades-long Israeli occupation, repression, and humiliation of the Palestinian people is not merely intellectually and morally indefensible, it is downright crazy.

3 comments:

Juan said...

A major reason the Golstone Report has been so problematic for the Israeli government is that it clearly addresses the following point raised by Prof. Slater's post:

"To put it bluntly, to discuss Palestinian terrorism as if it was unconnected to the decades-long Israeli occupation, repression, and humiliation of the Palestinian people is not merely intellectually and morally indefensible, it is downright crazy."

Goldstone points very clearly to the long history of Israeli repression as a key contextual factor in the I-P conflict. As I have urged before on this blog, read Goldstone if you haven't already!

Anonymous said...

Psychologist Robert Pape in The New York Times, 2003/22/09:

"I have spent a year compiling a database of every suicide bombing and attack around the globe from 1980 to 2001 — 188 in all. It includes any attack in which at least one terrorist killed himself or herself while attempting to kill others, although I excluded attacks authorized by a national government, such as those by North Korea against the South. The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any religion for that matter. In fact, the leading instigator of suicide attacks is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist-Leninist group whose members are from Hindu families but who are adamantly opposed to religion (they have have committed 75 of the 188 incidents).

Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist campaigns have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel liberal democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is rarely the root cause, although it is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in other efforts in service of the broader strategic objective."

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/22/opinion/22PAPE.html?pagewanted=all

Jerome Slater said...

Thanks, anonymous, for the further discussion of Pape's findings, especially as they relate to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.