Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power in Israel has ushered in a government more dominated by religious and ultra-nationalist extremists than any ruling coalition in the country’s 74-year history.
While that fact has been well-reported, most Americans are oblivious to a grim implication: The new Israeli government’s extreme policies toward Palestinians and regional rivals will imperil American lives at home and abroad.
Americans aren’t jeopardized by those policies per se, but rather by the U.S. government’s unconditional military, financial and diplomatic support of Israel, which are seen as enabling such policies. Anger over that support is a principal motivator of terror attacks on American targets, and it intensifies when Israel’s actions grow more extreme.
At the same time civilians face a heightened danger from terror attacks, members of the American military will face a higher risk of being drawn into pointless conflicts initiated by more hawkish Israeli government.
Support of Israel a Key Driver of Anti-U.S. Terrorism
Along with U.S. intervention in the Middle East and support for corrupt dictators in the region, American backing of Israel was repeatedly cited by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as a foremost motivator of his jihad against the United States
Indeed, Bin Laden said his determination to attack targets in the United States initially sprang from Israel’s destruction of apartment towers during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon…so much so that it focused his attention on the World Trade Center as a target:
“We witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon…As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me punish the unjust the same way [and] to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women,” bin Laden said in a 2004 speech.
In his 1996 declaration of war against Americans, he pointed to the First Qana Massacre, in which Israel launched an artillery attack on Lebanese civilians sheltering at a UN compound. The attack killed 106 — half of them children —and video evidence points to Israel’s awareness that they were targeting civilians.
Bin Laden said Muslim youth “hold [the United States] responsible for all the killings…carried out by your Zionist brothers in Lebanon; you openly supplied them with arms and finance.”
The same reasoning drove 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. As the 9/11 Commission report asserted, Mohammed’s “animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experiences there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”
U.S. backing of the Israeli government also animated individual 9/11 hijackers, including Mohammad Atta, who led the hijackers inside the United States and piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center’s North Tower.
Atta signed his will on April 11, 1996, the day Israel unleashed Operation Grapes of Wrath on Lebanon. “According to one of his friends, Atta was enraged, and by filling out his last testament during the attack, he was offering his life in response,” writes Lawrence Wright in The Looming Tower.
When future United Flight 175 hijacker-pilot Marwan al Shehhi was asked why he and 9/11 lead hijacker Mohammed Atta never laughed, Shehhi said, “How can you laugh when people are dying in Palestine?”
Testifying before the 9/11 Commission, FBI Special Agent James Fitzgerald was asked what drove the hijackers to sacrifice their lives and kill thousands of civilians. He said, “I believe they feel a sense of outrage against the United States. They identify with the Palestinian problem…and I believe they tend to focus their anger on the United States.”
Despite the overwhelming evidence, it’s understandable that most Americans are ignorant about the link between terrorism and the U.S.-Israel relationship — influential forces in their government want it that way.
In its final report, the 9/11 Commission gave very little attention to the question of motives, largely sweeping al Qaeda’s Israel-rooted motivations under the rug. In their memoir, commission co-chairs Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton explained that a group of commissioners prevailed in keeping the Israel-Palestine factor out of the report:
“In their view, listing U.S. support for Israel as a root cause of al Qaeda’s opposition to the United States indicated that the United States should reassess that policy.”
Though 9/11 is the most jarring example of an attack that targeted Americans over their government’s support of Israel, there have been many more instances where terrorists have directly articulated that motivation — most recently, the New Year’s Eve machete attack on police officers near Times Square.
Meanwhile, though it received very little media attention, the Department of Homeland Security recently concluded that Al Qaeda is planning new attacks in the United States. According to a non-public intelligence alert issued on Dec. 31 and obtained by Judicial Watch, the attacks, “possibly involving planes, will use new techniques and tactics.”