Our newspapers are constantly filled with op-eds containing sophisticated arguments and convoluted themes. It is rare, however, to find something so error-ridden and ignorant as Andrew Alexander‘s opinion piece in the Daily Mail’s 22 June edition. Alexander asks: “Let us try to think the unthinkable: what it would be like to be in the mind of a suicide bomber.”
Despite much academic study on this subject and the fact that suicide terrorism has not been confined to one corner of the Mideast or the world, Alexander simplistically traces the cause of to one overriding explanation: “For it is nearly a century ago that Britain initiated the policy of providing a Jewish homeland in Palestine, though predominantly occupied by Arabs. Unsurprisingly, they bitterly resented it.”
Alexander then sets out his blinkered analysis, painting Arabs and Palestinians purely as victims in the historical narrative. He claims that “in the West Bank, scores of Israeli checkpoints make it difficult for the Arab inhabitants to earn a living or families to meet.” Nowhere in his opinion piece does he acknowledge legitimate Israeli security concerns or the terrorism and suicide bombing that he purports to be trying to understand. In Alexander’s mind, Israel is the sole cause of Palestinian terrorism and Palestinians themselves bear no responsibility for their situation.
Despite the fact that Palestinians launched a war of terror against Israel in 2000, having rejected further peace negotiations, Alexander blames Israel for the conflict: “There have been numerous attempts to achieve peace between Israel and her Arab neighbours, but they have regularly foundered on Israeli or Arab intransigence – usually the former in recent years.”
Alexander writes: “Even Israel, politically so much more advanced than its neighbours, periodically elects extremist governments – like the one that invaded Lebanon last year with such brutal consequences.” Even without addressing the background to the Lebanon conflict, which started with an unprovoked attack on Israel by Hezbollah, it is thoroughly disingenuous to describe a government elected on a platform of territorial compromise and support for a two-state solution as “extremist”.
In addition to his evident bias, Alexander makes some sloppy factual errors:
- He inaccurately refers to the “Arab holy site of East Jerusalem”. East Jerusalem, which contains the Old City, is not in itself an “Arab holy site” and completely ignores the religious significance of Jerusalem as a whole for the Jewish people. The Old City, of course, is the location of holy sites for Judaism, Christianity as well as Islam – something forgotten by Alexander.
- The Gaza Strip is referred to as “the most overcrowded territory in the world”. Alexander makes a subjective claim which is not backed up by facts. While the Gaza Strip has a population density in the region of 3,823 /km², which does make it one of the highest in the world, this is still lower than Monaco (23,660), Macau (17,699), Hong Kong (6,407) and Singapore (6,208). These prosperous territories could equally be termed “overcrowded”.
Perhaps most importantly, however, Alexander completely ignores the role of incitement and an education system that teaches Palestinian children to hate, promoting the concept of Jihad and “martyrdom”, encouraging the killing of Jews and the destruction of the State of Israel. By failing to take this into account, Alexander highlights just how superficially he has tried to understand the causes of suicide bombing. Yet again, Israel is unjustly left to take the blame for another global problem.
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