I was recently told that I did not pass the MA Comp Exam at UCF’s political science department, despite the perfect quality of my entry. It is equally disturbing given the reality that unlike most students, I am a “Dreamer” who has lived in the US for 22 years since my arrival at age 6 in 1996. Aside from the stress, anxiety and turmoil of this political status it also means I must pay for my tuition out of pocket, because I am denied all federal aid I qualify for. I am an Armenian-Syrian refugee of war & totalitarianism, and a descendant of genocide & military occupation. UCF’s department of political science had no issue taking $20,000 for tuition, which means it essentially operated as a Ponzi scheme, knowing all along they would deny the rightful awarding of this MA degree to me. The program exhibits an ethnocentric faction in the faculty that privileges eurocentrism & Turkish & Israeli ultranationalism, as well as an ultra conservative view of American politics. To grade my exam, the department designated a nationalistic Turkish professor & an American professor with a known conservative leaning and without any specialization on the Middle East to “grade” my work. The staff denied more conscientious professors the right to grade my work. Coincidentally, the UCF’s political science department teaches a Politics of the Middle East course that made glaring omissions of Arab politics or the Armenian Genocide, focusing instead on Iran & Turkey. I am willing to bet out of the 6 people taking the final exam, one of which was me, the other five white American students passed. The only two professors who gave me bad grades were nationalistic throughout my program. Furthermore of all the faculty it was always privileged white Americans that sought to give me a hard time and embarrass me for my efforts instead of seeking to aid me, given all the money I’d spent. At one point the head of the department mocked me for referencing Edward Said. They were especially repulsed by my paralleling Israeli racism to America’s treatment of African-Americans. I was also forced to start my exam 20 minutes late due to technical difficulties which they did not acknowledge. Ironically I finished first of all test-takers. I plan on filing a lawsuit for racial discrimination & running a Ponzi scheme. I want my money back & I want my degree. Below you will find my critique of the article.
Benmelech, Berrebi & Klor
16 February 2018
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).
Unlike previously cited studies in the literature on this subject, 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 30,000 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, there are multiple discernable weaknesses that are evident throughout the research which might distort the results of this regression analysis, as well as errors in the theoretical reasoning which inspired the research question to begin with.
The mere fact that this research document which focuses on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict & essentially blames Palestinian terrorism for unemployment is published by three Israeli researchers, might have resulted in obvious & overt emittance of methodological & theoretical considerations & arbitrary assumptions.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on three distinct levels of criticism that I will level against this research. My aim is to suggest that a wider time range & more conscious inclusion of significant control variables would entirely shift the results & implications of this research. The first will criticize the time period selected as insufficiently narrow for the given context of a half century long conflict; the second will focus on intervening variables which should have been controlled for such as increased media propaganda that depict negative portrayals of Palestinians and lastly, shifts in discriminative & security policies against Palestinians within Israel and the Palestinian territories particularly during war time, both of which might hinder opportunities for employment for Palestinians by limiting mobility & threatening their very survival.
Furthermore, the researchers entirely overlook property seizures, arbitrary imprisonment of 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, both within Israel & the Palestinian territories. Ignoring these circumstances which are experienced by Palestinians daily and which are akin to apartheid South Africa entirely delegitimize this research’s integrity. Surely Palestinian unemployment is more negatively affected by Israeli violence & occupation of land than by Palestinian retaliation. Had Palestinian properties & rights not been seized from the onset by incoming European migrant settlers on indigenous Arab land, would Palestinian unemployment as well as the appeal of terrorism as a retaliatory method might have been less significant? Israeli military campaigns against Palestinians have also likely made employment more difficult in both territories. Such variables should have been quantified and controlled for – for example, the frequency of Israeli property seizures & military campaigns correlate with increases in Palestinian unemployment.
Firstly, 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.
Secondly, there is ample literature that argues media can influence political behavior & perception. For example, in a seminal research titled “Why Americans Hate Welfare”, the author explains that media depictions of African-Americans in “negative light” as the primary recipients are not only prevalent on American news outlets, they inaccurately perpetuate a stereotype that is far from the truth (Giles 2009). The majority of welfare recipients in America are non-black, and there is a significant bias against immigrants and people of color regarding media coverage which tends to criminalize the former while excusing the behavior & intuitional shortcomings of the state. This dynamic can be applied to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, during which Israeli politicians & mass media has largely contributed to negative popular opinion against Palestinians. This surely affects the prospects for Palestinian employment in Israel. Furthermore, this propaganda method demoralizes Palestinians and arguably negatively impacts the economic potential of Palestine overall. During war time, such as the time period offered by the authors, 2000-2006, negative portrayals of Palestinians are likely at their peak, thus possibly impacting unemployment rates in an unprecedented manner.
Thirdly, 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. 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. According to Rochelle Davis in “Palestine & the Palestinians in the 21st Century”, Israeli restrictions on the Palestinian economy resulted in heightened unemployment (Davis & Kirk 2013). The research states that 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.
While this article was insightful in depicting Palestinian unemployment rates, it largely overlooked significant variables that should have been controlled for in order to paint a more accurate & unbiased picture. Future research thus should include a broader time frame, and control for increases in the aforementioned intervening variables, such as discrimination, property seizures, and media role . Furthermore, research on such a sensitive topic that includes two parties in conflict should exhibit a more diverse authorship in order to improve scholarship, legitimacy & integrity. Such overt emittance of essential variables is concerning.
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.
Gilens, Martin (2009). Why Americans hate welfare: Race, media, and the politics of antipoverty policy. University of Chicago Press.
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 one sidedness of “The Economic Cost of Terrorism” and 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, demonstrating the inherent assumption that Palestinian unemployment is linked to terrorism.