Overcoming the Occupation: A Response to The Economic Cost of Terrorism


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Danny Krikorian

Benmelech, Berrebi & Klor

Article Critique

Introduction

In their research titled “The Economic Cost of Terrorism”, the authors aim to demonstrate a positive relationship between terrorism & unemployment, in that increased terror attacks in the form of suicide bombings by Palestinians against Israeli targets correlate with increased unemployment rates for Palestinians living in Palestine as well as Israel (Benmelech, Berrebi & Klor 2010).

Literature Review

Unlike previously cited studies in the literature on this subject such as by Pape, Moghadam, O’Neil, Davis & Kirk, the authors of this particular research aim to fill a gap by focusing on the economic costs of terrorism on the states harboring terrorists themselves, as opposed to the target state. In this case, the authors analyze 150 suicide cases of attacks between the years of 2000-2006, during which the second Palestinian Uprising took place for the independent variable, and determine its overall effect on the dependent variable of unemployment, which is measured through a survey method encompassing a sample of 20,000 Palestinians.

While the focus of the work is original by focusing on economic costs of the perpetrators & the data is robust, perhaps some variables have been overlooked, which could affect the results and theoretical implications therein.

In “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism” author Robert Pape demonstrates that retaliatory attacks by Hamas, a militant Palestinian group, against Israeli targets, have produced positive results in the short term for Palestinians, such as the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in the early 2000s. Pape’s “Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism”, Moghadam’s “Palestinian Suicide Terrorism in the Second Intifada” & O’Neil’s “Towards A Typology of Political Terrorism” altogether further demonstrate the unfounded assumption that unemployment results from Palestinian suicide terrorism. A wider time series, an inclusion of control variables such as media bias, heightened security & military invasion would dramatically change the results of the regressions therein.

Criticisms of the Research

Time Series

The time period selected seems rather narrow for the given context of a half century long conflict. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been going on since 1948. Focusing on a time table that spans only 6 years, ignoring almost a half century’s worth of data, can be misleading. To elaborate further, the trend of unemployment prior to the year 2000 stretching all the way back to the mid twentieth century in Palestine as well as for Palestinians living in Israel might have exhibited a continued rise even amidst an absence of terror attacks against Israeli targets. The time period chosen isn’t representative enough.

Control Variables

Media Portrayals, Employment Discrimination & Minority Exclusion

Results might also be impacted had the research accounted for control variables which should have been controlled for such as increased media propaganda that depict negative portrayals of Palestinians, employment discrimination & the absence of minority protection apparatuses.

The state of Israel instates discriminatory policies against Palestinians which limit their prospects for unemployment, not to mention survival. Various UN charters condemn Israel for negligence towards racist policies against Israeli Arabs, Muslims, Christians and African migrants. Public polls conducted in Israel measuring levels of Israeli racism against Arabs support this claim. Surely negative media portrayals, discrimination in employment opportunities & the absence of political representation or security apparatuses for minorities are variables overlooked which hinder Palestinian unemployment.

Even in education there is discrimination. Despite being nominally part of various conventions & charters against racism, scarcely any Palestinians are enrolled in Jewish schools, where the quality of education is significantly higher. Israeli restrictions on the Palestinian economy resulted in heightened unemployment (Davis & Kirk 2013). By 2008, the Gaza Strip’s unemployment rate reached 71%. New laws regarding land ownership in Israel are also believed to have worsened discrimination against Arabs.

Property seizures, imprisonment of political prisoners & even children, violent military assaults by the Israeli government & settlement expansion, all of which experience different rates of occurrence over time and might have drastic impacts on Palestinian unemployment, but only within the Palestinian territories.

Perhaps a survey of Israeli perception of the likelihood employing a Palestinian could be modeled to demonstrate a control on inherent discrimination.
And to test a correlation between the frequency of displaying violent images of Palestinians on the media in a certain region & during a certain time period in Israel with the degree of employment. This would be ideally measured overtime to demonstrate whether there is a correlation.
These factors, plus widening the time series to an appropriate window stretching back to the commencement of suicide attacks by Palestinians (1980s) and stretching to the most recent suicide attack, would perhaps all produce variant results and affect the theoretical conclusion and observations therein.

Conclusion

The research largely overlooks significant control variables & more broad, representative time series. Future research thus should include a broader time frame, and control for increases in the aforementioned intervening variables, such as negative media portrayals of Palestinians inside Israel, settlement expansion, discrimination against Arabs in politics, economics & society such as education, violent & disproportionate military campaigns & property seizures in the Palestinian territories. Future research should also consider a balanced panel of authorship in order to help diversify scholarship & consideration of otherwise overlooked variables.

With regards to the conflict itself, any true hope would be the equal recognition indigenous rights of both nations. The question is: Who is willing?

A truly free and democratic Middle East will be possible once the abandonment of one sided, prejudiced logic is exhibited by all parties involved, regional & global.

Palestinian terrorism may or may not demonstrate a relationship with unemployment in Israel, with the inclusion all the aforementioned control variables & the broadening of the time series.

The literature has suggested that suicide terrorism has often resulted in concessions benefitting Palestinians. So perhaps weighing the priority of employment in Israel against the the overall objective of regaining lost territory for Palestinians might also help depict a more accurate picture of the motives, incentives & true results of actions on both sides.

Works Cited

Benmelech, Berrebi, & Klor. (2010). The Economic Cost of Harboring Terrorism. Journal of Conflict Resolution. 54(2). 331-353.

Davis & Kirk. (2013). Palestine and the Palestinians in the 21st Century. Indiana University Press.

Pape, R. A. (2006). Dying to win: The strategic logic of suicide terrorism. Random House Incorporated.

Moghadam, A. (2003). Palestinian suicide terrorism in the second intifada: Motivations and organizational aspects. Studies in conflict and terrorism26(2), 65-92.

O’Neill, B. E. (1978). Towards a typology of political terrorism: The Palestinian resistance movement. Journal of International Affairs, 17-42.

 

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