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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Barry Rubin: Terrorism Flourishes Because It Brings Public Relations' and Political Gains

This post was written by Barry Rubin and is reposted here with his permission.

By Barry Rubin

Why is terrorism against Israel increasing now? Because the terrorists have:

--Everything to gain domestically. Terrorism mobilizes support among their own people and proves their militancy against rival groups.

--Everything to gain regionally. There is increasing radicalization and growing power for revolutionary Islamism. Throughout the region and especially for Hamas, Egypt's revolution--which Islamists view as a victory for them--has emboldened radicals and terrorists.

--Nothing to lose internationally. The West, and the United States in particular, will do nothing to punish them.

--And lots to gain in terms of public relations. The Western media often gives them good coverage and blames Israel when it retaliates.

The examples of recent days amply prove all of those propositions:


Hamas, which fired or allowed to be fired 50 mortar rounds at Israel, believes it now has a sympathetic government at its back, in Cairo. Moreover, there is no international reaction against its behavior.

Indeed, the New York Times' coverage claims that up until now Hamas has observed a ceasefire, despite the firing of an estimated 600 rockets and mortar shells in two years and several attempts at terrorist attacks on the ground (the most recent of which coincided with the upsurge in mortar shells). It also mentioned, without qualification, Hamas' claim that it has up until now tried to prevent cross-border attacks despite the fact that there is no evidence for that and much against it.

But when Israel retaliated against Hamas for these attacks, much of the international media highlighted Hamas' claim that Israeli forces had killed civilians, ignoring the fact that a mortar position was located, even according to a Palestinian witness--whose statement is buried in the Times story--that they heard the mortar being fired by Hamas people just outside their house.

The story should be: Hamas attacks Israel, recklessly uses civilian homes as cover.

A few days earlier, the Al-Aqsa Brigades of Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority, claims responsibility for murdering a Jewish family at Itamar--including three children--and there is no international cost. Coverage of the attack in much of the Western media was accompanied by equal or greater space devoted to criticizing the West Bank settlements and those who live there.

In addition, a wire service story claimed that the Al-Aqsa Brigades claim was probably not true (on what basis?) and that the group was almost defunct (a clear lie never before seen anywhere in print). The association between the Al-Aqsa Brigades and Fatah was not made though it is clearly identified as such on the official Al-Aqsa Brigades Internet site!

Finally, an attack on a bus station in Jerusalem was widely reported in the following ways: a wire service said initially that the victims were Palestinians; Le Monde claimed the "targeted bus" was headed for a settlement (which seems to be inaccurate as the bomb was left in the station), as if that excuses the attack.

So events in the region and the international reaction encourage terrorism. No surprise. If terrorism is not only unpunished but not even criticized internationally--even rewarded with sympathy for the terrorists' cause and criticism of Israel, the victim--why shouldn't terrorist attacks increase?

On one level, President Barack Obama's response was quite correct:

“There is never any possible justification for terrorism. The United States calls on the groups responsible to end these attacks at once and we underscore that Israel, like all nations, has a right to self-defense.”

But perhaps the problem is that the United States must do more than "call" on those responsible to stop terrorism--something we all know they won't do. Perhaps it should help make them stop. Since his policy has been, whether intentionally or not, helping Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Syria, and Hizballah, as well as never punishing the Palestinian Authority for its incitement or Fatah for its terrorism, changing that policy is a good way to begin.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His latest book is Israel: An Introduction, to be published by Yale University Press later this year. You can read more of Barry Rubin's posts at Rubin Reports.

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