April 5, 2010

It’s the blowback, stupid! (part 3)

In his latest column for The Huffington Post, Alan Dershowitz argues against the notion of blowback. Specifically, he argues against the belief that “Israeli actions, such as issuing building permits in Jerusalem, endanger the lives of American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.”[1] Needless to say, he’s addressing the controversy recently sparked by General David Petraeus, who stated before the Senate Armed Services Committee:

The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the [CENTCOM] AOR [Area of Responsibility, which comprises most of the Middle East, as well as such Asian countries as Afghanistan and Pakistan]. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.[2]

Dershowitz provides two arguments that there is no connection “between what Israel does and the rate of American casualties.” First, he points out that al-Qaeda didn’t stop planning the 9/11 attacks during the January 2001 Taba Summit. During the summit, he writes, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians “virtually everything they could have wanted: a state on 100% of the Gaza and 97% of the West Bank, a capital in a divided Jerusalem and a $35 billion reparation package for refugees. Virtually the entire Arab world urged Arafat to accept this generous offer, but he declined it.”

Dershowitz’s argument here fails for a number of reasons. First of all, although US support for Israel is certainly a cause of anti-American terrorism (more on this in a minute), it’s obviously not the only cause. Neither General Petraeus nor any other major figure claiming that American support for Israel causes blowback has claimed differently. As can be evidenced by Osama bin Laden’s 1996 and 1998 fatwas, al-Qaeda declared war on the United States for a number of reasons, US support for Israel being just one of them.[3]

Second, it’s certainly debatable whether Barak’s offer to Arafat was “generous.” Although clearly the most generous offer Israel has ever made to the Palestinians, it still failed to comply with international law, which holds that Israel must return all of the West Bank, abandon its settlements, and allow the refugees the right to return to their former homes. So it’s understandable why many in the Muslim world weren’t suddenly won over.

As further evidence that US support for Israel doesn’t cause blowback, Dershowitz writes that “there was no increase in American casualties” during Operation Cast Lead. What he fails to mention here is that Cast Lead proved to be a motivating factor in the suicide terrorist attack committed by Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, the Jordanian double agent who killed seven Afghanistan-based CIA operatives last December. According to his brother, al-Balawi was “very angry because of military operations in Gaza, and he wanted to volunteer across the Jordan Medical Association [sic] to provide medical services in Gaza.”[4] Cast Lead also seems to have played a part in Umar Faruk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound commercial airliner last Christmas. As some of his former classmates have stated, Abdulmutallab was vocal in his sympathy for the Palestinian cause and outrage over the Gaza assault.[5]

Many other examples can be given of Israeli aggression fueling anti-American terrorism. For instance, the perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing believed they were defending the victims of Israeli violence. As the terrorists wrote in a February 27, 1993 letter to the New York Times: “This action was done in response for the American political, economical, and military support to Israel the state of terrorism and to the rest of the dictator countries in the region.” They went on to demand that the US end “all military, economical, and political aid to Israel,” as well as its “diplomatic relations with Israel.” The terrorists continued: “The American people must know, that their civilians who got killed are not better than those who are getting killed by the American weapons and support.”[6]

Abdul Hakim Murad, who first suggested to the group’s ringleader, Ramzi Yousef, that they target the World Trade Center, later explained his own motives:

I was working for my religion because I feel that my Muslim brothers in Palestine are suffering. Muslims in Bosnia are suffering, everywhere they are suffering. And if you check the reason for the suffering, you will find that the U.S. is the reason for this. If you ask anybody, even if you ask children, they will tell you that the U.S. is supporting Israel and Israel is killing our Muslim brothers in Palestine. The United States is acting like a terrorist, but nobody can see that. I mean supporting Israel by money and by weapons, that is considered also a kind of terrorism.[7]

Similar motives can be found in such men as Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-Owhali (a perpetrator of the 1998 embassy bombings), Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (Ramzi Yousef’s uncle and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks), and Mohammed Atta (ringleader of the 9/11 attacks). After being arrested in 1998, al-Owhali told FBI agent Stephen Gaudin, “You want to blame this on me? It’s your fault, your country’s fault for supporting Israel!”[8] Regarding Mohammed, the 9/11 Commission Report notes: “By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experiences there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. policy favoring Israel.”[9] And Lawrence Wright notes the following about Mohammed Atta: “On April 11, 1996, when Atta was twenty-seven years old, he signed a standardized will he got from the al-Quds mosque. It was the day Israel attacked Lebanon in Operation Grapes of Wrath. According to one of his friends, Atta was enraged, and by filling out his last testament during the attack he was offering his life in response.”[10]

Israeli aggression against Muslims also seems to have played a significant part in radicalizing Osama bin Laden. As Lawrence Wright notes:

In Osama’s fourteenth year he experienced a religious and political awakening. Some ascribe the change to a charismatic Syrian gym teacher at the school who was a member of the Muslim Brothers. Osama stopped watching cowboy shows. Outside of school, he refused to wear Western dress. Sometimes he would sit in front of the television and weep over the news from Palestine. ‘In his teenage years, he was the same nice kid,’ his mother related. ‘But he was more concerned, sad, and frustrated about the situation in Palestine in particular, and the Arab and Muslim world in general.’ He tried to explain his feelings to his friends, but his passion left him nonplussed.[11]

In an October 2004 videotape, bin Laden claimed that he only decided to attack the United States after witnessing “the oppression and tyranny of the American Israeli coalition against our people in Palestine and Lebanon.” As he explained:

The events that affected my soul in a direct way started in 1982 when America permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon and the American Sixth Fleet helped them in that. The bombardment began and many were killed and injured and others were terrorized and displaced I couldn’t forget those moving scenes, blood, and severed limbs, women and children sprawled everywhere. Houses destroyed along with their occupants and high-rises demolished over their residents[,] rockets raining down on our homes without mercy the situation was like a crocodile meeting a helpless child powerless except for his screams. Does the crocodile understand a conversation that doesn’t include a weapon? And the whole world saw and heard but didn’t respond. In those difficult moments, many hard-to-describe ideas bubbled in my soul, but in the end they produced an intense feeling of rejection of tyranny and gave birth to a strong resolve to punish the oppressors. And as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children.[12]

As the above cases illustrate, there’s an obvious, undeniable correlation between Israeli aggression and anti-American terrorism. If people like Dershowitz want to argue that America’s “special relationship” with Israel should continue, then that’s their right, but it’s simply dishonest for them to deny the obvious blowback that this relationship engenders.


[1] Alan Dershowitz, “The Conflict Between the US and Israel Must End Now!The Huffington Post (1 April 2010).

[2] United States Senate Armed Services Committee, Statement of General David H. Petraeus, U.S. Army Commander U.S. Central Command Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Posture of U.S. Central Command (16 March 2010).

[3]Bin Laden’s Fatwa,” Online News Hour (August 1996); “Al Qaeda’s Fatwa,” Online News Hour (23 February 1998).

[4]Middle East visit the home of suicide bomber who killed the elements CIA in Khost,” Asharq Al-Awsat (7 January 2010), trans. Google Translate; Juan Cole, “Iraq, Gaza, Drone Strikes in Pakistan—the Radicalization of CIA Assassin Humam al-Balawi,” Informed Comment (9 January 2010).

[5]Yemen: U.S. never warned us about terror suspect,” USA Today (29 December 2009); Glenn Greenwald, “More cause and effect in our ever-expanding ‘war’,” Salon.com (7 January 2009).

[6]1998 Congressional Hearings: Intelligence and Security,” Federation of American Scientists.

[7] Terry McDermott, Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers: Who They Were, Why They Did It (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 130-31.

[8] Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Knopf, 2006), 278.

[9] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report (22 July 2004), 147

[10] Wright, The Looming Tower, 307.

[11] Ibid., 75-76.

[12]Full Transcript of Bin Laden Video,” ABC News (1 November 2004).


Anonymous said...

The "Osama bin Laden et al were responsible for 9-11" story has been proven false. The evidence of 9-11 being some kind of an inside job, an act of false-flag terrorism, is overwhelming.

Don Emmerich said...

Yes, the 9/11 Commission was a farce, yes, there was a cover-up -- but so what? Government's lie. Government's cover things up. There's overwhelmingly evidence that the government lied about 9/11; there's not overwhelming evidence that 9/11 was an inside job.