We tend to think of terrorism exclusively in terms of an aggressive Islamism, but really, terrorism is a fairly universal response of the troubled mind. I am not aware that the Unabomber was an Islamist, nor the sad young man who was responsible for the Oklahoma bombings. I once worked in a building housing our Australian Family Court and have stood in a lift where the vibrations of frustration, despair and anger were absolutely palpable. These could quite easily translate into radical action. To put it simply, terrorist activity is a general human response of an extreme nature and can only be met by the introduction of processes which at best will divert would-be terrorists to a more satisfying life and at worst will deny them any validation for their actions. Homeland security or any other similar preventive initiative will do nothing to solve the problem (in fact, it may make matters worse, in that it may excuse the confrontation of the root causes and the lack of discussion thereof).
Having said all that, most of the terrorist threats that we perceive today do arise from an aggressive Islamism, promoted by clerics with their own agenda for a world-wide caliphate (in which, of course, their own power and influence will be enhanced!). However, it would be quite wrong to condemn Islam as an inherently violent and uncompromising religion. I have a copy of the Koran, which I read from time to time .In terms of its content, it is exactly like the Christian bible. It contains excellent advice on a personal relationship with a God (whether His name is Allah, Yawe or whatever) but it also contains accounts of a violent history. This history is seized upon by fundamentalists of all complexions to justify their attitudes. In so doing, they ignore the context in which those historical events happened. The promoters of Islamist terrorism take advantage of the envious, the angry, the mourners and others who can be persuaded that there is nothing left in this life that can compare with the ecstasy of a reception into paradise, heaven or whatever name one’s religion assigns to a blissful future state.
At the present time, the state in which the people of Palestine find themselves is a very significant driver for Islamist terrorist activity. However, paradoxically, it may yet become the means by which this particular brand of terrorism may be defused. It is a very sad fact that almost all of the literature, correspondence and political discourse in this area takes sides with either the Israelis or the Palestinians, painting one group of people or the other as demons. In fact, in most cases, all they want to do is to have a good life and bequeath an equally good one to their children. For most Israelis, the re-establishment of Eretz Israel, the only kingdom which controlled all of the sites of historical importance to the Jewish people, but which existed for only a hundred years or so, is a nice dream, but one they can live without. For the Palestinians, the destruction of Israel is also a dream, borne of the resentment they feel at the loss of their territory and the treatment they have received at the hands of the Israeli authorities. However, this dream might evaporate if the interests of the Palestinians can be divorced (in their own eyes) from those of the Islamists and indeed seen to be in direct opposition to them.
The Palestinian state that is currently under discussion will simply not achieve this desired end. The best that it offers is the creation of a state that, because of its resources and location, is condemned for the foreseeable future to be a client state of Israel, providing cheap labour and always at risk of losing land and resources, where the military power of earlier days may have been replaced by that more subtle one invested in finance and banking.
The State of Palestine, whenever it is established, needs three things to be successful. Firstly, it needs an appropriate geography. This includes, of course, secure borders guaranteed by some international protocol. However, it also includes some method of connecting the Gaza Strip and the Left Bank, either with land, or with infrastructure (roads and railways) which are likewise protected by international guarantee. There must also be a connectivity to the outside world which will facilitate the passage of those goods and services which will provide a good income to support the State. The second thing that it needs is sufficient monetary support (which may be viewed as compensation, investment or aid) to pay for the development of infrastructure, commercial and manufacturing activity and social services that will allow the State to function at a level comparable with the rest of the developed world. Finally, it needs assurance of markets for its goods and services, which for a considerable period, will need to be of a preferential nature, until the State is fully established. My own fervent wish, which may or may not be realised in practice, is that at some stage in the future, the old animosities between Israel and Palestine wither away and they actually become partners, colleagues and friends in business and social activity, providing ready access to each others’ sacred and historically important places. The European Union could provide a promising model.
A review of the historical events which led to the current situation and how they may be used to evaluate the rights and needs of both the Israelis and the Palestinians will be set out in my next visit.