Jihadism And The Israel Question

Larison, as often, treads where angels fear to:

When most Western anti-jihadists hear that Bin Laden has tied the Christmas bomber attack to the cause of Palestine and specifically to the treatment of Gaza, or when they learn that the bomber who killed the seven CIA operatives claimed that the Gaza operation early last year had driven him to jihadism, the conclusion they draw is not that there was and is something wrong with U.S. and Israeli policies with respect to Palestinians. There is no sudden revelation that the inexcusable blockade of Gaza is politically unwise as well as morally wrong. On the contrary, the support Bin Laden expresses for the Palestinian cause makes that cause seem to most Western anti-jihadists to be that much more indistinguishable from Al Qaeda’s goals and therefore that much more antithetical to Western interests.

This might very well be another purpose in Bin Laden’s exploitation of Palestinian grievances: to harden Western audiences against Palestinian claims even more by linking his cause to Palestine, which will make Americans in particular less interested in supporting an administration that tries to exert pressure in support of a peace settlement. Bin Laden would like to appropriate the Palestinian cause, which Palestinians definitely do not want, and most Western anti-jihadists would like nothing more than to let him have it.

Jihadism has many causes. It is, as my shrink helpfully says, multi-determined. But the idea that Israel's occupation of the West Bank and pulverization of Gaza can be bracketed entirely out of that dynamic is loopy (see how the CIA's double agent turned again after Gaza). It's clear that taking the Israel-Palestine question off the table would help us tackle Jihadism immensely. If the US were to help establish a Palestinian state and could be shown to stand up to Netanyahu's continual provocation, it would help the US advance its interests in the region and the world.

It would not remove or emasculate the more irredentist factions, the Qaeda core, the Saudi nutjobs, and the Mumbai maniacs. But it would help shift the paradigm in which they can use the daily humiliations of Arabs in the West Bank or the horror of the Gaza attack as ways to move the Muslim middle. The same goes for closing Gitmo and ending torture. And the reverse is true: those who want to brandish Gitmo, embrace torture and accelerate Israeli settlements intensify the polarization that the Jihadists relish.

Unwinding this cycle is a huge amount of what Obama is trying to do. Which is why those who want a civilizational war are so adamantly opposed to him and his policies.