This paper attempts to explain whether economic depravity in a region leads to support for terrorism using the case of the Israel/Palestine conflict in the Gaza strip. I will present and analyse quantitative data from a public opinion poll conducted in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which queried participants about their support for militant and terrorist attacks against Israel. The presented data will be supplemented by statistics from the data that Alan B. Krueger of Princeton University that contains information on the employment and education of participants, which was procured from an original researcher in the aforementioned poll. In the end, the results of this poll do not suggest that there is a positive correlation between an individual’s economic depravity and their support for terrorism. First, I will lay out the key issues that need to be clarified.
It is a well understood economic observation that people have a greater propensity to commit property related crimes if they have a lower income and/or a lack of education (Ehrlich 1973: 521-565). It is a less well understood principle (especially by international policy makers) that the same cannot be said for violent crimes as there is typically no relation to economic opportunities. International policy makers tend to assume that the statistics on perpetrators of violent crimes are the same as the statistics on perpetrators of property crimes, and that violent crimes are analogous to terrorism, which leads them to say things like, “We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror.” (President George W. Bush, speaking in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002). This begs the question, does economic depravity lead to increased support for terrorism?
The mistake made by those in the camp of George Bush is that terrorism is not quite analogous to violent crimes. To understand why, we must first be clear on what terrorism is, which is no easy feat. Over 100 scholarly or diplomatic definitions exist. The range of things that can be included under the umbrella of ‘terrorism’ using these definitions is impractically large. On top of this, the use of the word ‘terrorism’ has changed over time. When it was first used politically in the French Revolution, it was a word reserved for labeling those who used violence in the name of the state. In 1798 the word was first recorded in English dictionaries as meaning "systematic use of terror as a policy”. While there is still no internationally unified definition of terrorism, there are comprehensive definitions. One such definition is that used by the US State Department since 1983:
“the term "terrorism" means premeditated, politically motivated violence
perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or
clandestine agents.” - U.S. Code, Title 22, Code § 2656f- at section (d)
It is worth noting that using this definition, the US government would not be considered a terrorist organisation (“subnational groups”) but using other...