BY AARON HAAS
In a lecture Tuesday on the roots of terrorism, Professor Alan Dershowitz argued that terrorism stems not from desperation or dispossession but from the simple fact that it works.
Tracing the history of modern terrorism and the world’s response to it, with particular focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Professor Dershowitz made the case that “global terror is a problem of our own making” due to America’s historical practice of rewarding its perpetrators.
In the speech, entitled “Struggle Against Terrorism: From New York to Jerusalem,” Dershowitz argued that the tragic events of September 11 were a “function of the success of terrorism,” especially as employed by Yasser Arafat in his campaign against Israel. Commending the U.S. campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban as the first serious effort by a major world power to make terrorists pay for their crimes, Dershowitz argued that Israel should be given the same freedom to act against the Palestinian Authority and other organizations that harbor or support terrorists.
Speaking to a packed audience of students, visitors, and police officers in Austin West, Dershowitz noted that Palestinian terrorism began in 1968 with the hijacking of a jetliner, and subsequently escalated to blowing up the airplanes. At the Munich Olympics in 1972, Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli players and coaches, under direct orders from Arafat. According to Dershowitz, these atrocities were brutally effective in their goal of placing the Palestinian cause into the world’s consciousness.
Dershowitz argued that Arafat’s terrorism was rewarded by the world community. Shortly after one hijacking, he noted that the United Nations gave the Palestinians observer status. After Arafat ordered the murder of the American Ambassador to Sudan – the highest ranking African-American in the U.S. diplomatic corps – Arafat was welcomed to the U.N for a speech to the General Assembly. After four synagogues were attacked, Dershowitz said, the Pope welcomed Arafat to the Vatican.
Dershowitz went on to note that the world pays little heed to the national aspirations of the Kurds and Armenians, who he claimed have greater claims to statehood and have undergone greater suffering than the Palestinians, but who choose not to engage in terrorism. Arguing that Palestinians waged terrorism against Israelis even between 1948 and 1967, when Israel was not occupying the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Dershowitz insisted that the Palestinians’ real goal was not simply a state of their own but an end to any Jewish presence in Palestine.
Claiming that Arafat is a man who “can’t take ‘yes’ for an answer,” Dershowitz noted that the Palestinian leader passed up repeated opportunities to win statehood on reasonable terms, up to and including the proposals made by President Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David and Taba in 2000. When Arafat discovered that even European sentiment was turning against him, Dershowitz said he decided to “play the terrorism card.”
Dershowitz went on to argue that Arafat made the brutal calculation that every death benefited his cause: If an Israeli dies, it increases the cost of occupation, and if a Palestinian dies, it generates world sympathy. Rejecting the contention that Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount “provoked” the second intifada, Dershowitz said he believes that it was a planned operation waiting for an excuse to begin.
Noting a recent poll that found that 87 percent of Palestinians supported the use of suicide bombers against Israeli civilians, Dershowitz argued that collective punishment is justified when a vast majority of the population is complicit in the criminal activity. He concluded that the only way to prevent future attacks like the ones in New York and Israel is to stop rewarding the perpetrators of terrorism, whomever they target, and start punishing them.