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December 10, 2015 7:39 am

Attention Mr. President: ‘Economic Strain’ Does Not Cause Terrorism

avatar by Benyamin Korn

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President Barack Obama. Photo:

President Barack Obama. Photo:

In an interview on CBS-TV‘s “This Morning” last week, President Obama outlined his theory of the causes of terrorism. Climate change,  he said, is straining natural resources around the world, and “when people are not able to make a living or take care of their families,” they become “desperate,” and “as human beings are placed under strain, then bad things happen.”

The next day, a middle-class Muslim couple who was not under any evident financial strain and was perfectly capable of taking care of its six-month- old daughter, decided to massacre 14 people in San Bernardino, California.

The terrorist, Syed Farook, was not “desperate.” He was a graduate of California State University and an environmental health specialist who worked for the San Bernardino County heath department, with an annual salary of $53,000. His wife and co-terrorist, Tashfeen Malik, was also a college graduate (Bahuddin Zakri University in Pakistan). They lived in a two-story townhouse in a nice neighborhood.

The idea that the cause of terrorism is poverty has long been promoted by officials of the Obama administration. Recall what State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told MSNBC‘s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews on February 16 of this year: “We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s a lack of opportunity for jobs, whether — we can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.”

Yet study after study of the motives of Arab and Muslim terrorists during the past two decades has found exactly the opposite

Between 1996 and 1999, relief worker Nasra Hassan interviewed nearly 250 Palestinians who either attempted to carry out suicide bombings, trained others for such attacks, or were related to deceased bombers. She reported (in The New Yorker): “None of [the bombers] were uneducated, desperately poor, simple-minded, or depressed. Many were middle class and, unless they were fugitives, held paying jobs… Two were the sons of millionaires.”

The attacks on September 11, 2001, focused new attention on the causes of terrorism. The New York Times reported that the personal details concerning the hijackers had “confounded the experts.”

“They were adults with education and skill, not hopeless young zealots,” the Times said of the attackers. “At least one left behind a wife and young children… They were not reckless young men facing dire economic conditions and dim prospects, but men as old as 41 enjoying middle class lives.”

Three important studies of this question were carried out after 9/11.

In 2002, Prof. Alan Krueger of Princeton and Prof. Jitka Maleckova of Prague’s Charles University studied the lives of 129 Lebanese Hezbollah terrorists who were killed while carrying out attacks on Israel. The professors found that the Hezbollah members were less likely than “other Lebanese, to come from poor families and were significantly more likely to have completed secondary education.”

That same year, the Muslim writer Hala Jaber spent four days with Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which has organized many suicide bombings. She found that their members were “educated [and] middle class.”

In 2004, Prof. Alberto Abadie of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government undertook a study of terrorists’ motives. When he began his research, he thought that “it was a reasonable assumption that terrorism has its roots in poverty.” By the time he was done, Prof. Abadie had concluded there is “no significant relationship” between the economic conditions in a given country and the rise of terrorists there.

The facts are clear, even if they soundly refute President Obama’s politically correct worldview.

Poverty does not cause terrorism; if it did, the hassidim of Brooklyn and Mea Shearim would be the world’s most active terrorists. Climate change or food shortages or other types of economic strain do not cause terrorism either.

Radical ideology — in this case, radical Islamist ideology — is what causes terrorism.

Mr. Korn, chairman of the Philadelphia Religious Zionists, is former executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent and the Miami Jewish Tribune.

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  • Same goes for the ‘suffering’ theory: how many Jews have suffered & are still suffering? How many Christians were persecuted & killed? How many Roman Catholics were in their turn persecuted & killed? Etc., etc.

  • It is not only the Obama administration who puts out this claptrap theory. In most discussions on the TV, the ‘experts’ spout the same nonsense about poverty and alienation.

  • climate change and economic strain had nothing to do with Mohammed starting his religion. It is all about power and president obama knows exactly what he is doing – supporting Islam as readily seen by all muslim advisors around him. He has no regard for eithe Christians and Jews. Climate change and economic poverty had nothing to do with Muslim warfare when they took over Spain and advanced deep into Europe to be finally stopped in Vienna around 1683..

  • steven L

    Therefore all the poor of America must engage in violence!

  • A. Pomerance

    Why is our President making excuses for our enemies? He certainly does not necessarily make excuses for our friends. In fact, in the case of our friend, Israel, he finds fault where there is none. He does not like settlements(assuming Palestinian entitlement to the land) and he expects Israel to be extra gentle in fighting Hamas (after all, isn’t Obama gentle in fighting ISIS). Perhaps if Obama sends care packages to the ISIS fighters, they will calm down.

  • Elinda

    This fool does not represent all of America. Rest assured that MOST of the USA is supporting Israel, and we citizens are horrified at the utter disregard to TRUE FACTS this admin is displaying. The word ‘tainted’ doesn’t even begin to describe them.

  • Bob

    The only reasonable response to Pres Obama’s “take” on terrorism is that he is a pathological liar. He isn’t stupid. He knows the history and what is driving it. He just doesn’t want to deal with it, and besides, his genetic makeup (Muslim father) works against his acting appropriately. After watching this man for seven years, it is also reasonable to conclude he doesn’t believe America’s values should be in part the world’s values, and that our quality of life in America can be diminished until it is on more equal footing to other unexceptional nations, much like so much of black America. Nothing uplifting about that. January 2017 can’t come soon enough.