The recent foiled attempt of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a Delta Airlines plane inbound from Amsterdam, Netherlands to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport has obviously refocused U.S. and global attention on the war on terrorism. On a well-deserved vacation from the “wars of Washington,” President Obama ordered a review of the incident while dispatching Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, to assure the nation that everything was being done to investigate the thwarted attack. Having warned the nation that Al Qaeda and the Jihadists remain a grave threat to America, the President declared that the attempted attack exposed a “systematic failure” of intelligence and security. After all, how could Mr. Abdulmutallab’s father have approached the American Embassy on more than one occasion expressing concern that his son was being radicalized and this information not be effectively processed? How could Mr. Abdulmutallab buy a one way ticket with cash, check no luggage and board an international fight to the U.S. without provoking concern about his intentions (as a former Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights who is on some list, I have been subjected to extra scrutiny for far less than this)?
The talking heads, intelligence experts and grandstanding politicians were all over the airways, dissecting what went wrong and demanding that more invasive security measures be adopted to screen passengers to make certain that no would-be terrorist ever eludes the system again. In fact the airlines immediately adopted a number of measures (some of which seemed quite ridiculous), many of which will further inconvenience the flying public-- all in the interest of protecting us from terrorist threats.
Frankly, I resent the fact that the flying public has been compelled to be inconvenienced because of lapses in intelligence before 9/11 and lapses in intelligence and flaws in the multi-billion dollar security apparatus installed at airports after 9/11. However, even more than my resentment of these lapses and failures, I resent the fact that the President, his national security team, politicians nor “anti-terror experts” ever focus in any meaningful way on why the terrorists harbor such ill will and hatred toward the U.S. What motivates the Abdulmutallabs of the world to plot attacks against America? Of course we hear the proverbial “they hate our way of life” from Republicans, Democrats, the media and a parroting public. However, without fear of contradiction, I contend that no amount of beefed up intelligence, more technologically advanced security measures or covert and overt wars against the terrorists will make the U.S. and its allies safe unless there is a serious focus on answering the questions posed above.
When a Nigerian Elder in Mr. Abdulmutallab’s hometown was asked about the attempted bombing of the Delta plane, he responded with embarrassment and condemned the act. However, in the next breath, he expressed outrage at how the Israelis are treating the Palestinians. HELLO! I vividly remember Rev. Jesse L. Jackson’s repeated admonitions during his 1988 campaign for President (and since) that there will be no peace in the Middle East until the Arab-Israeli conflict is resolved. In my judgment, this is the most salient issue that must be addressed if America and the world are to witness a dramatic reduction in terrorism directed at the West. The central problem in this regard is that the U.S. is almost universally perceived in the Arab and Muslim World as having a national bias towards Israel, which makes it extremely difficult to function as an impartial, “good faith” mediator of the conflict. In the Arab and Muslim World, the U.S. is seen as always siding with Israel no matter how the Israeli government behaves towards the Palestinians – the brutal incursion into Gaza is seen as the most recent case in point. While one should not excuse the rockets fired by Palestinian forces that often randomly fall on Israeli civilians, the casualties and pain caused by these attacks pale in comparison to those inflicted by Israeli onslaughts against the Palestinians. Moreover, the real issue is definitively addressing the urgent need for Palestinian statehood.
As Rev. Jesse Jackson put it, the Palestinians must have an address, a homeland they can once again call their own. There is a consensus in diplomatic/policy circles that a “two state solution” is the remedy that can resolve the crisis. In addition, we are told that both sides must make “concessions” to achieve this goal. This is certainly true, but from the perspective of many within the Arab and Muslim World, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority have already made a huge concession by recognizing Israel’s right to exist, thereby relinquishing claim to all of what was historically Palestine. Therefore, what’s left are the West Bank and Gaza to create a new Palestinian State. Under various regimes, however, Israel keeps building and expanding settlements in these areas, creating “new facts on the ground,” which often seem calculated to undermine the “two state solution” or to make it so unpalatable to the Palestinians that the demand will disappear. Of course, this is a fantasy, a figment in the imagination of the most radical rejectionists on the Israeli side who would like to seize and hold the West Bank and Gaza as part of their vision of a greater Israel.
President Obama and the American people have a critical choice/decision to make: either the U.S. government will stand up to the Israeli government and demand the creation and recognition of a Palestinian State, unhampered by Jewish settlements or continue to face the venom, wrath, hatred and terrorist plots of “radicalized” Arabs, Muslims and their allies/sympathizers. There are other elements in the formula for Palestinian and Israeli peace which must be addressed, including the sharing of Jerusalem as the Capital for both states and guarantees of Israel’s security even if it means the deployment of a U.S. or multi-national peacekeeping force. The bottom line is that no “war on terrorism” will succeed until the Arab-Israeli conflict over the plight of the Palestinians is resolved. The creation of a Palestinian state is one of the most important things that could happen to defang “the terrorists” and deprive them of one of their most important propaganda and recruitment tools.
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website and www.northstarnews.com . To send a message, arrange media interviews or speaking engagements, Dr. Daniels can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.