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Then and now, this religiously inspired, rank anti-Semitism is rationalized as a response to Israel’s so-called “occupation” of Muslim lands and oppression of the Palestinians. In 2010, General David Petraeus testified to Congress that the Israeli-Arab conflict “foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel.” Rather than Islamic ideology, Petraeus asserted that “Arab anger over the Palestinian question” accounts for terrorism: “al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.” But Petraeus was simply repeating received wisdom, examples of which are legion, ranging from historian Tony Judt’s claim that European Muslim immigrant anti-Semitic attacks are “a direct outcome of the festering crisis in the Middle East,” to French foreign minister Hubert Védrine’s assertion that immigrant violence and crime arise from “compassion for the Palestinians” on the part of Muslims, who “get agitated when they see what is happening.”
This trope of “resistance” to unjust “oppression” continues to rationalize brutal murders such as Daniel Pearl’s, leading to what his father, Judah Pearl, called the “normalization of evil.”
Thus those who, like the New York Times, believe that Islamic terrorists have legitimate “grievances” consider terrorist murder and suicide bombing attacks as an unfortunate but understandable tactic given the disproportion of military power between them and their oppressors. As Judah Pearl pointed out in 2009, this mentality was on display in Jimmy Carter’s despicable libel Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid: “It is imperative,” Carter wrote, “that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Road-map for Peace are accepted by Israel.” In Carter’s calculus, terrorism isn’t inherently evil, but rather a legitimate tactic of the weak. This rationalizing of terrorism finds its most repugnant expression in the “cycle of violence” formula, which ignores moral responsibility and blurs the distinction between the violence of terrorism and that used to prevent it. Bill Moyers indulged this evasion on PBS when he elevated the genocidal Hamas to a “resistance” movement and opined that “each [side] greases the cycle of violence, as one man’s terrorism becomes another’s resistance to oppression.” But Carter’s and Moyer’s excusing of terrorist violence has long been codified in the United Nations, where in 1974 Resolutions 3236 and 3237 recognized the terrorist Palestinian Organization as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people; and in the Geneva Convention’s Protocol I, which extended legal combatant status and POW protection to virtually anyone fighting in a conflict, including terrorists.
Ten years after the murder of Daniel Pearl, too many people in government and the media still deny the roots of jihadism in traditional Islamic doctrine, still practice journalism rife with political and ideological bias, still refuse to acknowledge the genocidal anti-Semitism of many Muslims, still indulge a specious moral equivalence that rationalizes terrorist violence as “resistance,” and still look to an international legal community that has repeatedly exposed its ideological corruption. And these unlearned lessons still hamstring our response to jihadist terror.
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