My Turn: Historic, religious, ethnic issues of global terrorism

Posted: Friday, September 28, 2001

In his my turn, "Israeli-Palestinian conflict explodes at our door," in the Sept. 26 Empire, Lisle Hebert made various historical and statistical errors that may lead the public to a divisive conclusion on the matter. Hebert's arguments are: 1) Unjust creation of Israel in 1947 [1948] had provoked conflicts in the Middle East; 2) Foreign aid to Israel is about "one-half of Israel's GNP and 85 percent of that aid came from USA," and "Israeli-Palestinian conflict exploded at our front door on Sept. 11," and, therefore, "the United States have to cut off foreign aid to Israel to encourage fairness."

The Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East is centuries old. The conflict over land is particularly perplexing. Before the time of Christ, the Jewish people lived in their own kingdom, a Jewish-ruled state located where Israel is today. In 586 B.C., however, the Babylonian Empire defeated Israel. Many Jews were brought to Babylon as slaves. Returning to their homeland after years of captivity, the Jewish people constructed a new state, only to be incorporated into the Roman Empire. Then, in 70 A.D., the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, and the Jewish people scattered throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. From this time until 1948, Jews had no state.

During the intervening centuries prior to 1948, Palestinian Arabs and the Islamic religion predominated in the territory where Israel had been. The Palestinians, like the Jews, claimed the territory as their own. Thus, at one time or another, Palestinian Arabs and the Islamic religion predominated in the territory where Israel had been. The Palestinians, like the Jews, claimed the territory as their own. Thus, at one time or another, Palestinian Arabs and Jews both owned the land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. This leads to a question, "Whose land is it?" Unfortunately, there is no simple, universally accepted answer.

In 1948, the United Nations proposed that Palestine be partitioned, with a Jewish state being created along the Mediterranean coast and a Palestinian state inland. It was not a perfect solution, and few people, least of all the Arabs, were pleased with it. But at least it was a solution, and both superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, were behind it.

U.S. foreign aid to other nations in need is not only a critical humanitarian effort but also is in the national interest of the United States. During World War II (1939-45), the United States instituted a huge Lend-Lease Program ($37 billion) to 11 countries who fought Nazism. After World War II (1946-50), the Unites States instituted the Marshall Plan, which granted $16 billion to help restart the world's economy and stabilize potential U.S. allies in Western Europe.

Currently, the United States commits less than 1 percent ($16 billion) of its annual federal budget to foreign aid or 0.09 percent of its gross national product (GNP). In contrast, the percentage of gross national product of foreign aid of Denmark is 0.97, of the Netherlands is 0.81, and of France is 0.45.

The United States currently gives billions of dollars in security assistance to both Israel and Egypt to help maintain peace and stability in the Middle East. The United States considers Israel its most reliable ally in the Middle East and gives it about $3 billion per year in foreign aid, and gives $2 billion to Egypt as well. (In fact, the United States gives about $183 million per year of the financial aid to Afghanistan.) Today, Israel's GNP is about $80 billion and its total foreign aid from other countries in security assistance is about $4 billion. This is about 5 percent, far less than the 50 percent implied in Hebert's article.

The causes of the Sept. 11 tragedy in New York are deeply rooted in multi-faceted historic, religious and ethnic issues of global terrorism. Historically, terrorism always has been a complex problem for humanity and for peace-seeking nations. And only "united we win" again.

Alexander B. Dolitsky of Juneau is the director of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center.

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