Palestine Center initiative. Each month, we will be conducting a review of a recent book that deals with issues relating to Palestine and/or the Israel/Palestine conflict. Books that are chosen for review can be academic or non-academic, historical or fictional. Next month we will be reviewing Joe Sacco's Footnotes in Gaza. If you would like to suggest a book for review, please contact the Palestine Center.
"Jewish Terrorism in Israel" written by Ami Pedahzur and Arie Perliger
Hardcover: 264 pages, Columbia University Press (November 9, 2009)
Palestine Center Book Review No.1 (11 January 2010)
By Yousef Munayyer
After 11 September 2001 the literature on terrorism took a decisive turn. Theories that explained terrorism by suggesting economic factors as causal factors, including underdevelopment, were significantly challenged. The 19 individuals which carried out one of the deadliest attacks in history were not economically deprived and most were well-educated. Support began to gather for religious motivations behind terrorism, and given the events of the post-9/11 world, much of this literature singled out Islam.
Some theories went so far as to say that the degree of severity of terrorist acts varies based on the religious backgrounds of the perpetrators, citing high death tolls in attacks committed by al-Qaeda. Muslim groups, the argument goes, are more likely to kill in greater numbers and this was due to religious ideology. Certainly, there are many problems with these arguments including the failure to account for technological advances, the wide availability of deadly materials and the strategic motivations behind types of attacks. Studies that drew these conclusions focused on cases in the post-9/11 world, neglecting millennia of historical cases that cast doubt on the explanations of terror which single out Islam and Quranic interpretations.
For these reasons and more, the recently released Jewish Terrorism in Israel by Ami Pedahzur and Arie Perliger, is a timely and important contribution to the study of terrorism and the general discussion of extremism in Israel and globally, both historically and contemporarily.
The book is unique and attractive for a number of reasons. First, the authors, both Israeli scholars, were granted unprecedented access to Israeli documents about Jewish terrorism that allowed for a detailed description of events. Pedahzur and Perliger have been "researching Jewish terrorism for more than ten years, during which [they] have gathered thousands of official documents, mostly court protocols, interviewed 25 former terrorists, politicians and spiritual leaders as well as law enforcement officials, and conducted six comprehensive surveys of communities where terrorist groups originated, which include more than 4,800 respondents" (pg. xiii).1
Second, the authors utilize network analysis to explain why the models of hierarchical, vertical networks and command structures are insufficient in explaining Jewish terror groups and they favor explanations based on socialization and horizontal networks.
Third, Pedahzur and Perliger trace the ideological connections between Jewish terrorists in the modern era, like the Bat Ayin group, which was active in recent years, all the way back to the time of the Hasmonean Family of Jewish zealots who perpetrated attacks against the Roman rulers of Palestine -- perhaps the earliest recorded acts of terrorism in human history.
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