Before Amman, Cairo was the world terror capital. The French blamed Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser for instigating the Algerian terrorists who dared to fight for their independence, and Israel accused him of forcing Palestinians in Gaza to launch raids into Israel. (Most of these raids were by Palestinians trying to get back to the homes from which Israel had excluded them. Some wanted merely to find their household possessions or heirlooms, but these had already been looted by the Israeli army and distributed to its high command by the Custodian of Abandoned [sic] Property. (Tom Segev exposed this shameful policy in his excellent history 1949: The First Israelis.) Israeli propaganda, shifting almost as often as world terrorism’s capital, insisted at that time that the Arab states were using “Arab refugees” to continue their war against Israel. That notion faded when Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties with Israel, yet the Palestinians continued to exist as refugees or as subjects of Israeli military occupation.
The problem, inevitably, was how to explain the Palestinians’ unexplained resort to terrorism. Studies of the aberrant Arab mind explored this psychology of people who somehow liked blowing things up. Shimon Peres, never one to let reason stand in the way of a sound bite, restored the old line, accepted in Tel Aviv and Washington power circles to this day, that outsiders were still stirring up the otherwise docile Palestinians. Peres said in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh on March 13, 1996: “This terrorism is not anonymous. It has a name, it has an address. It has a bank account, it has an infrastructure, it has networks camouflaged as charity organizations. It is spearheaded by a country—Iran.” How wonderful. This absolved Israel of any responsibility to the Palestinians, most of whom it expelled in 1948 while putting most of the rest under military occupation in 1967. Israel’s problem was what it had always been: outside interference. Thus, the onus is on Israel or the United States to attack Iran—just as Israel, Britain, and France attacked Egypt in 1956.
Would the humbling of Iran end the land dispute between Israelis and Palestinians? What do you think? If Iran signed a peace treaty with Israel as Egypt and Jordan have, and they cut off all support to Palestinian and Lebanese armed groups, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian land would continue. And some of the Palestinians would fight to save their homes. And the world terrorism capital would move to any state that supported them.
For the U.S., the world terrorism capital is wherever someone makes a bomb or attacks American troops overseas. That means it can move almost daily. Anti-terror is the engine of growth in an economy otherwise doomed to recession. The national security apparatus, threatened with purposelessness when the Soviet Union ceased being the official enemy, has grown to dominate all areas of life at home and abroad. America’s owners grow their wealth under an anti-terror umbrella that conveniently disposes of their inconvenient opponents. The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center’s Worldwide Incidents Tracking System charts not only Yemenis attempting to send bombs to the U.S., but all those who attack American interests anywhere. That is a big remit, but it will keep the boys employed for a long, long time. The debate will not concentrate on whether there is another way to behave in the world, but on which world terror capital to target next.
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