Before he was killed by French police, the jihadist murderer of three French-Algerian soldiers and four Jews, including three children, said that he was driven to killing by the “murder” of Palestinian children by Israelis. Of course, when all else fails blame the Jews. But this excuse is a mere pretext, a propaganda tactic for finding Western moral support by exploiting the unsavory anti-Jewish prejudices still lurking in too many Westerners.
The narrative that the Israeli “brutal occupation” of the “Palestinian homeland” is the cause of jihadist violence is a hoary cliché, a jihadist pretext for terror enabled by Western anti-Semitism and pop psychology. Examples of this received wisdom are easy to collect. French foreign minister Hubert Védrine in 2002 explained increasing anti-Semitic attacks and car-burnings in France by saying, “One shouldn’t necessarily be surprised that young French people from immigrant families feel compassion for the Palestinians and get agitated when they see what is happening. The historian Tony Judt in his history of post-war Europe concurred, agreeing that the attacks were “a direct outcome of the festering crisis in the Middle East.” Repeating this received wisdom, General David Petraeus, in his 2010 Congressional testimony, said that the Arab-Israeli “conflict foments anti-Americanism sentiment, due to a perception of U.S favoritism for Israel. Anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples” in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.” No doubt cognizant of the Western penchant for blaming Jews, Osama bin-Laden added Palestine to his ever-growing list of pretexts for attacking America: “The creation and continuation of Israel,” he lectured us in 2002, “is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals.”
Of course, bin Laden was never short of pretexts for rationalizing murder. First it was the American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. Then in 2004, he said American involvement in Lebanon in 1983 made him hate America. Elsewhere, he claimed that the U.S. had waged “a war against Muslims” since 1945. Yet in his statements after 9/11, bin Laden mentioned the real reason: the “humiliation and disgrace” inflicted on Muslims by the dissolution of the caliphate in 1924. That, not the creation of Israel, is the real “catastrophe” for Islamists, the culmination of three centuries of Western encroachment into the House of Islam. For theorists of jihad like Muslim Brothers Hassan al Banna and Sayyid Qutb, the existence of Israel was merely a symptom of a larger corruption of Islam by Western ideas that opened the door to the Western dominance that made Israel possible in the first place.
Moreover, it is hard to credit Arab or Muslim concern for Palestinian suffering, given the contempt most Arabs have shown for the people who ran away in 1948 rather than fight, or the way Arab countries herded Palestinian refugees into squalid camps existing on international welfare, or the body-count of Palestinians killed by their fellow Arabs, a number that dwarfs those killed by Israel while defending herself from terrorist attacks. Just the toll of Palestinians killed in the 1970 Black September massacre in Jordan, for example, around 5000, is over half the 8000 killed by Israel during the whole six-decade conflict. Clearly, the issue isn’t the number of dead, tortured, imprisoned or oppressed, but rather the identity of the enemy––infidels whose fate is to be subjected to Muslims, whom Allah called the “best of nations” destined to dominate the world.
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