Counter-Terrorism: The Palestinian Disconnection


September 22, 2009: Al Qaeda factions have been showing up among Palestinians over the last few years, but not as many as you would think. That's because most Palestinians see al Qaeda as a bunch of newbies, and not quite up to Palestinian standards. Palestinian terrorist groups first went international in the 1960s, two decades before al Qaeda showed up. Arabs had been attacking Jews in what is now Israel for centuries, and the attacks became more frequent and violent as more Jews moved to the area between World War I and II. But international terrorism, in support of the destruction of Israel, required a lot more effort, skill, and money. The Palestinians brought the effort, the Soviet Union set up special schools to provide the skills, and oil rich Arabs in the Persian Gulf supplied the money. While the Soviet terrorist schools disappeared after 1991, the Palestinians passed on a lot of their training, and consider themselves generally more adept at terrorism than al Qaeda (the 9/11 attacks notwithstanding).

Al Qaeda didn't pay much attention to the Palestinians, or their cause, until after September 11, 2001. Once the Americans ran al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, and came after the terrorists all over the world, al Qaeda reached out to the Palestinians, and embraced their goal of destroying Israel. The Palestinians did not really reciprocate, because it soon became obvious that al Qaeda were not even as effective as the Palestinians were during the 1960s and 70s.

The Palestinians also had plenty of problems with the Israelis, who defeated a Palestinian terror offensive (begin in 2000) by 2005. Al Qaeda was having similar problems with the Americans in Iraq. Hundreds of Palestinians had gone to fight alongside al Qaeda in Iraq, and most were killed there. This did not make Palestinian terrorists any more respected in the region. Palestinians are not particularly popular in the Persian Gulf, because they backed Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Thousands of Palestinians fled Persian Gulf jobs and went to Iraq after that, where they were seen as part of Saddam's police state.

Some Palestinians came back from Iraq with new terrorism skills, and a desire to have another go at the Israelis. Not much came of this, because the Israelis are notoriously hard to get to. One bunch of Palestinian al Qaeda were wiped out by Lebanese police last year, after the al Qaeda crew began attacking fellow Arabs. Other such groups have shown up in Gaza, where they tend to get into conflict with Hamas, and lose. Palestinian and al Qaeda terrorist groups were never very compatible, and that does not seem likely to change any time soon.


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