Pocketbook for Terrorists

Hamas militants take part in a demonstration in the southern Gaza Strip in 2017. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)
Poverty and despair don’t drive terrorism; ideology does.

This week, Ari Fuld, a 45-year-old American-born Israeli citizen and resident of Efrat — a prominent, largely American settlement in Judea — was stabbed to death for the crime of being a Jew in a historically Jewish land. Fuld had dedicated his life to the Zionist cause; he spent his career fighting the anti-Israel bias of the media. He left behind a wife and four children.

Fuld’s alleged murderer was Khalil Yusef Ali Jabarin, a 17-year-old from a nearby village. His parents reportedly attempted to warn both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian Authority security members that their son wanted to perpetrate an attack. Yet in the aftermath of the attack, Hamas — the elected government of the Gaza Strip — celebrated the murder, with their spokesperson cheering, “We welcome the stabbing attack in Bethlehem . . . emphasizing the importance of Jerusalem’s Intifada and the right of our people to all forms of resistance against the occupation.” Islamic Jihad praised the “heroic stabbing” and called it “a natural response to Jewish terror, aggression, and its crimes against Arabs, the land, and our holy places,” requesting “more attacks on settlers.” Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of the Fatah wing of the Palestinian Authority, welcomed the attack as well, pushing resistance “against settlements, Judaization of the land, and occupation crimes.”

Jabarin’s family has received $3,350 from the Palestinian Authority; if he receives a life sentence, that number will increase to $1.7 million.

No wonder Republicans and the Trump administration have cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority. They should. Cash in the hands of terror supporters merely supplements terrorism rather than undermining it.

That simple truth, though, eludes the international Left.

We’ve been told for decades that American taxpayers ought to sign checks to Palestinian governmental groups in order to minimize violence. Underlying this argument is a simple theory: Terrorism is driven by poverty and despair. Alleviate that poverty and despair, and terrorism ought to disappear quietly. That’s been the prevailing view among left-wing Jewish thinkers for a century; that view has been adopted by the left-wing intelligentsia of the West as well. Simply hand over the cash, and violence will cease. Barack Obama put the idea well in his book Dreams From My Father: “I know, I have seen, the desperation and disorder of the powerless: how it twists the lives of children on the streets of Jakarta or Nairobi . . . how easily they slip into violence and despair.”

But that’s not what drives terrorism. As Jeff Victoroff of the department of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Southern California School of Medicine explained in a comprehensive 2005 Journal of Conflict Resolution study, “Middle Eastern terrorists in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century come from a wider demographic range, including university students, professionals, married men in their late forties, and young women.” A 2001 poll showed that among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, support for political violence was higher among professionals than laborers and more common among those with high-school educations than among the illiterate.

Terrorism is driven by ideology. And ideology determines how money is spent. That means that throwing money at the problem of terrorism doesn’t solve the problem — it actually exacerbates it. As former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin explained regarding the left-wing Jewish Zionist position on regional peace: “Their flight of fancy led them to the delusion that the Arabs would eventually come to terms with us for the sake of their economic progress. What utter nonsense! Ze’ev Jabotinsky [founder of the revisionist Zionist movement] had too much respect for the Arabs to believe they would come to the peace table for the sake of a mess of pottage.”

Signing checks to terrorist regimes simply means funneling cash to terrorists. That’s true of the government of Iran, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Hezbollah, or any other terrorist group masquerading as a pseudo-government. No amount of wishing can change the simple fact that terrorism is driven by ideas, not by the pocketbook. But that wishing can turn Westerners into the pocketbook for terrorists.


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