Op-Ed: Hatred of Israel, Not Poverty, Causes Arab Terrorism by Morton A. Klein, National President of the ZOA
February 6, 2002

It is widely assumed that poverty is a prime factor in motivating Palestinian Arabs to become terrorists—that material deprivation makes young Arabs feel desperate, which leads them to terrorism. This theory is the reasoning behind the nearly $1-billion the U.S. has given to the Palestinian Arabs since 1994, and the even larger amounts that the European Union has given them. These governments claim that if young Arabs have jobs, they would have something to lose by becoming terrorists, so they would have a strong incentive to maintain normal, peaceful lives.

In fact, however, many of the leading Palestinian Arab terrorists —including some suicide bombers— are university graduates, are married, and have good jobs. Consider one example from many: Muhammad Abu Jamous, who was part of a terror squad that murdered four Israelis in Gaza on January 9, 2002. According to the New York Times, Abu Jamous was “a member of the Palestinian Navy [and] something of a minor celebrity. He had been a runner on the Palestinian national team, competing in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He married just three months ago, and his wife is two months pregnant.” In other words, he had everything to lose. He had a good job. He was even something of a celebrity. He was a newlywed, and his wife is already expecting a child. He had every logical reason to live peacefully and quietly. Yet he picked up a gun and went out to murder innocent Israelis.

The Palestinian Arabs know that if they made peace with Israel, their economy would improve dramatically, as would their material lives. Yet they continue to wage war against Israel—because the problem is not the economy. The problem is their ideology of hatred for Jews and refusal to accept the existence of a Jewish State in their midst.

An editorial in the Jerusalem Post once pointed out that “there is no reason to believe that money would…persuade Palestinians to coexist with Israel…not all problems can be solved with money…Americans are particularly aware of the limitations of fiancial aid in resolving social and political problems. Throwing staggering amounts of government and private funds at inner-city slums, the drug problem and affirmative action for minorities had done little to ameliorate intractable problems. It is even less likely that the Arab-Israeli conflict can be reduced to materialist terms. The intolerance in the Arab world for Israel’s existence does not stem from economic hardship. It is mostly religiously and nationalistically inspired.”

The historical record clearly demonstrates that Arab extremist ideology, rather than poverty, is at the core of the Arab-Jewish conflict. During the 1920s and 1930s, for example, Jewish immigration to Palestine brought the country a variety of economic improvements, including new jobs for many Arabs—yet there was mass Palestinian Arab violence against Jews in 1920, 1921, 1929, and throughout 1936-1939. Nor were the Arab wars against Israel (1948, 1956, 1967, 1973) fought for economic reasons. Nor was the constant Palestinian Arab terrorism against Israel during the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s motivated by economic troubles. Whether in good economic times or bad, the Arabs remained committed to murdering Jews and seeking Israel’s destruction.

The ranks of the current Palestinian Arab terrorist groups have been filled by a generation of radical young Arab nationalists, many of them university-educated (Israel built six universities, and sixteen other institutions of higher education, in Judea-Samaria-Gaza) and relatively well-to-do, who organized mass violence for ideological, not economic, reasons. As the late Prof. Amost Perlmutter once pointed out, the leadership of the Hamas terrorist movement —which supplies of the suicide bombers— “is made up of modern middle- and upper-middle class professionals, of journalists, lawyers, engineers and doctors.” Indeed, news accounts of the 400 Hamas leaders who were temporarily deported to Lebanon in 1992-1993, described the deportees as well-educated professionals. Building factories or hospitals will not put an end to hatred of Israel. Devoted to ideologies of extreme Arab nationalism or extremist Islam, the Palestinian Arabs reject the concept of a sovereign non-Muslim state in the Muslim Middle East. Giving them American taxpayers’ dollars won’t change that.

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