June 17, 2003 | National Review Online

Defeat Terrorism First

By Tashbih Sayyed

A year ago, President Bush said he wanted to help Palestinians create “a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty.” A month ago, he told Arab leaders in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt that “We must not allow…a few terrorists to destroy the dreams and hopes of the many.”

If it only it were that simple. The sad truth, however, is that those “murderers and attackers” are today heroes of Palestinian society. Opinion polls in the past three years consistently show that over 60 percent of Palestinians support bombings and violence inside Israel. Suicide/homicide bombers are held up as role models in schools and mosques. City plazas and stadiums are named after them. Their pictures are plastered all over the walls of Gaza and proudly displayed in their parents’ living rooms. Children are encouraged by teachers and authority figures to follow in their footsteps and sacrifice themselves for the Palestinian cause. All day long, Palestinian Authority television broadcasts videos that show “martyrs” being greeted by beautiful “virgins” in the fountains of heaven, their reward for killing Jews. And when a Palestinian terrorist, with more than a dozen murders on his hands, was recently released from prison by Israel as a good will gesture, Yasser Arafat celebrated his return and named him a top adviser.

Terrorists not only benefit from wide support through Palestinian society, they embody only too well the deepest hopes of the majority: to destroy the Jewish state. Over 50 percent of Palestinians say that the goal of this intifada is not a two-state solution, but the destruction of Israel — referred to as “ending the occupation of territories lost in 1948.” The children and grandchildren of Palestinian refugees who have been made second class citizens in Lebanon, Syria, or the Gulf States (nations which refuse to grant them citizenship or equal rights) cling to the illusion that defeating the Jews will restore their dignity.

This mindset is no accident. It is the result of over 50 years of relentless indoctrination. Arab dictators, the PLO and radical Islamist movements have used the media, mosques and universities to present Jews as unholy intruders, occupiers, murderers, and enemies of Islam. It is the result of an orchestrated effort to transform as many Palestinians as possible into revenge-seeking, hate-filled souls. Terrorism has been misrepresented by extremist leaders as a form of jihad, and presented as the path to Palestinian redemption.

The Palestinian narrative of oppression at the hands of “foreign occupiers” ignores the deep historic, religious, and cultural ties that bind the Jewish nation to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Arafat has repeatedly said in public that there never was a Jewish temple in Jerusalem.

While the overwhelming majority of Jews, over 70 percent according to opinion polls, have gradually come to recognize a Palestinian right to self-determination, the Palestinian national movement continues to this day to oppose Jewish self-determination. The Hamas Charter and Hezbollah's literature make no secret of their desire to destroy the Jewish state. Arafat clearly makes common cause with Hamas, not least by authorizing his Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade to participate with Hamas in terrorist operations. Even the new Palestinian Authority prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, dares not say he accepts Israel as a Jewish state.

To create a Palestinian state before this mindset is changed can only ensure that the new state will be yet another terrorist sponsor. And that will have much broader consequences than merely empowering Palestinians to continue their genocidal campaign against Jews in the Middle East. Such a victory would galvanize Islamist terrorist movements worldwide.

Islamist terrorists, having lost their base in Afghanistan, have now returned to their local and regional workstations. They are well entrenched and gaining strength. While they may not be under one unified command, they find unity in their common dream: To defeat and dominate infidels — Jews, Christians, and moderate Muslims alike. “Palestine” is seen as among their most important and promising battlefields.

Palestinian terrorist movements have successfully connected the Arab-Israeli conflict with the militant Islamists' goal of establishing a global caliphate (Islamic rule). Convinced that the Jewish state is a conspiracy to weaken Islam, they are driven by the sense that the honor of their faith depends on the outcome of this battle. Just as the humiliation of losing the Ottoman Empire in 1924 has become associated in the Muslim psyche with the “shame” of the establishment of Israel, militant Muslims worldwide believe that destroying the Jewish state will once and for all reopen the road to their eternal domination of other faiths.

If Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims worldwide see a Palestinian state created before the terrorist movements and extremist ideologies are discredited and defeated, they will be convinced that terrorism succeeds where other approaches have failed. That can only engender more terrorism, directed not only at Israel but also at the United States and the rest of the free world.

Tashbih Sayyed is the editor of Pakistan Today, and an adjunct fellow of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.