The Missing Component in Defeating Terrorism

The new phenomenon evolving in the West of elements who are joining extremist groups, and their raison d’etre, must be taken and dealt with seriously.

In his recent speech to the Australian Institute of International Affairs titled “Evolution of terrorism – and what it means for Australia”, Mr David Irvine, the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), said ASIO’s Act of 1979 definition of terrorism is “…acts or threats of violence or unlawful harm that are intended or likely to achieve a political objective, whether in Australia or elsewhere, including acts or threats carried on for the purpose of influencing the policy or acts of a government, whether in Australia or elsewhere…”

Notwithstanding the lack of international consensus on the definition of terrorism, I find ASIO’s definition interesting primarily for its frank admission of the political connection and motivation behind acts of terrorism. But what is lacking in this admission is any mention of the policies which the terrorists want to influence or change.

While the Western governments, especially the USA, Britain, Canada and Australia, are shy to address the policies propelling acts of terrorism, devoting all their efforts to covering-up on those policies and shifting attention to artificial and absurd motives which have nothing to do with what fuels the perpetrators of terrorism, we find the terrorists themselves are not as shy to indicate the policies which drive them to commit their violence.

In a keynote address to the National Council on US-Arab Relations 21st Annual Arab-US Policy Makers’ Conference in Washington, 25.10.2012, the highly respected US Ambassador Chas W. Freeman Jr., said:

‘For anyone with an open mind, these causes [of virulent anti-Americanism and its spread] are not hard to understand. The fanatics who carried out the atrocities of 9/11 went out of their way to describe their motivations and outlined their objectives to anyone who would listen.  America turned off its hearing aid. It’s still off. The grievances that catalysed 9/11 remain not simply unaddressed but ignored or denied by Americans.

‘Al Qaeda saw 9/11 as a counterattack against American policies that had directly or indirectly killed and maimed large numbers of Muslims. Some of those enraged by our policies were prepared to die to achieve revenge.  …  It is not our values that they hate. It’s what we have done and continue to do.  … We can’t fight anti-American extremists effectively or otherwise fend off the menace they present if we refuse to consider why they attacked us and why they still want to do so.

‘The chief planner of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, testified under oath that a primary purpose of al Qaeda’s criminal assault on the United States was to focus “the American people . . . on the atrocities that America is committing by supporting Israel against the Palestinian people . . .”  In so-called “fatwas” in 1996 and 1998, Osama Binladin justified al Qaeda’s declaration of war against the United States by reference to the same issue, while levying other charges against America.’

CBS News reported on 16.5.2008 an audio message from Al Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden, telling listeners that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has always been the primary cause for friction between the West and the Muslim world – a struggle which he said was getting more difficult due to European policies biased in Israel’s favour.

Mr Michael Backman, a business writer said in an article in The Age newspaper on 17.1.2009:

 “Israel’s utter inability to transform the Palestinians from enemies into friends has imposed big costs on us all. We have paid for Israel’s failure with bombs on London public transport, bombs in bars in Bali, and even the loss of the World Trade Centre towers in New York.

“It is not true that these outrages have occurred because certain Islamic fundamentalists don’t like Western lifestyles and so plant bombs in response. Rather, it is Israel — or more correctly the treatment of the Palestinians — that is at the nub of these events.”

And in an article in the “Australian Options” Magazine, Winter 2003, Mr Paul Heywood-Smith QC said:

“The more extremist settlers demand the expulsion of the Palestinians, those that are left, from their country.  …  Succesive Israeli governments have taken the policy “slowly, slowly catchee monkey”; annex a little here, bulldoze an olive grove there, some Palestinian homes elsewhere, encourage Palestinians to leave by making their lives intolerable and so on…

“Australian governments turn a blind eye. That is Australian governments of either persuasion.  …  And yet this is the single most important foreign policy issue facing our country – more so than terrorism. Terrorism has resulted from these fifty years of creeping injustice.  Palestine has brought us 9/11. Palestine has brought Bali.

“The Australian political parties should be forced to state their policy. Do they support the creation of a Palestinian State on the 1967 boundaries?  If not what do they support and why?  If they do support a State on the 1967 boundaries what do they propose to do about it – particularly when Israel, as it will inevitably do – annexes more, or attempts transfer of the Palestinians to Jordan.  When will Australia propose sanctions against Israel? Sanctions were good enough against South Africa (eventually), they are mooted for Zimbabwe and Burma, and of course military action is advocated for Iraq. When will Israel become accountable?”

On the other hand Israel views these acts of terrorism favourably. The daily Israeli newspaper “Haaretz” reported on 16.4.2008 the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an article titled “Report: Netanyahu says 9/11 terror attacks good for Israel” as telling an audience at Bar Ilan university that the September 11, 2001 terror attacks had been beneficial for Israel.

“We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq,” He reportedly added that these events “swung American public opinion in our favor.”

Netanyahu’s statement is in line with what he told the New York Time on 12.9.2001 when he was asked what the attack meant for relations between the United States and Israel, Netanyahu replied, “It’s very good.” Then he edited himself: “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.”

The West’s policy of support for the establishment of Israel in Palestine in 1948 resulting in the ethnic-cleansing of over 70% of the Palestinian population on racial/religious grounds, the confiscation of their belongings and refusal of their right of return in spite of UN resolutions calling on Israel to do so, has caused tremendous anger and frustration in the region and beyond for the last 66 years.

The injustice that befell the Palestinian people is rooted in the conscience of the Arab, Muslim and all justice and freedom-loving people around the world, and the role played by the West, including Australia, in the Palestinian catastrophe is well known.

Instead of the West correcting their injustice and crimes they created in Palestine, they continue their biased support of Israel despite its non-stop aggression, expansion, occupation, racial discrimination and violation of international law and resolutions.

Worse still, in its blind extremist biased support the Australian government even claimed recently that the Jewish colonies in the occupied territories are not against international law, and refuse to refer to East Jerusalem as occupied! It further opposes and lobbies against the Palestinians’ attempts to go to UN institutions to achieve their rights through peaceful means, votes against resolutions condemning Israel’s gross violations and Palestinian membership of the international community, and opposes Palestinian attempts to seek international Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS).

Current Prime Minster Tony Abbott went as far as to say that “We’re all Israelis now” after the Bali bombings in 2002 in direct admission of what the terrorists said at the time on ABC radio that they carried their act “because of Australia’s support to Israel”.

Similarly, Obama defended Israel’s latest blitz “mowing the grass” slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza in July, further fuelling anti-Western anger across the world. Israel through its brutality toward the Palestinians – providing a recruiting bonanza for Islamic extremists.

So what has the Australian government, and the West in general, left to the Palestinian people vis-à-vis Israel’s rejectionism, oppression, occupation and violations to achieve their rights through peaceful means? Is it any wonder we witness elements who out of anger, frustration and desperation go to blind hatred, extremism and terrorism?

The West’s extreme, unjust and hypocritical policies are not only responsible for encouraging Israel’s violations, refusal to recognise Palestinian rights and withdraw from the occupied territories but they are also fuelling anti-Western fury across the Muslim world and playing a major part in pushing angry and frustrated generations to believe that only through violence and terrorism will they achieve change.

Western governments must shoulder some responsibility in endangering their own security and national interests.

While security and legislative actions and seeking community and religious leaders’ cooperation to confront terrorism are important, without Western governments putting an end to their hypocritical and blind support  of Israel’s aggressions, all their actions will not stop the phenomenon of extremism and terrorism which, like its raison d’etre, Israel, is going from bad to worse.

What is stopping Western governments from adopting a policy based on justice, international law and United Nations resolutions?

Ali Kazak is a former Palestinian ambassador to Australia, New Zealand, East Timor and the Pacific region.