A Lack of Human Development: Does it Lead to Palestinian Terrorism?

By Caleb R. Newton

    For practical purposes, the Palestinians - as a people and as individuals making up a people - have the needs shared by all people everywhere. Their lacking needs are under the heading of human development, and they include things like individual self-determination - in other words, freedom - including freedom from forced labor and the like: less government, not more government (like in the current Palestinian Authority expanding its reach to a part of a "two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict).

    There is a correlation between the societal ills of the Palestinians and the terror perpetrated against the Israeli people. Correlation does not force causation, however, and the impact of the lack of human development on the Palestinian terrorist acts must be carefully articulated. Attributing terror to poverty and the like can absolve the terrorists of responsibility for their actions: "Oh, they're just poor frustrated youths."

    Still, the Palestinian people live, quite frankly, under oppression and are in desperate need of liberation from their own Palestinian leadership and society. The society is rife with corruption and cronyism, and it leaves the average Palestinian lacking the three things that he reportedly desires most: a job, to survive, and to improve the education and health systems. Mind that there is no mention of a state. Out of this societal ground, terrorism springs towards the Israeli people.

    Poverty and the lack of human development are, in short, a major contributing factor to Palestinian terrorism, made viable when followed by Islamism. The Palestinians have little to live for, tangibly speaking, and then Islamism comes along and offers them a way to capitalize on their possession of little other than surety of their death. Next, terrorism. The fire’s initial spark is Islamism, but its kindling is the society before it gets there. It would burn far less violently if the Palestinians did not have their freedoms taken away by a corrupt society, the same issue affecting most of the world.

    As an aside: the Palestinian people are a legitimate entity, as legitimate as the American people. Whether or not ethnic homogeneity characterizes the Palestinian people, or, for that matter, the American people, what matters is that each respective entity represents a social compact entity that forms a society. Shall the Palestinian leadership's refusal to recognize the existence of the Israeli culture be returned in kind? Such is not fitting.

    The context of the Palestinians' human needs not being met is similar to the context in which much of the rest of the world suffers from a lack of human development - the power, wealth, resources and vision are improperly concentrated in the hands of a few. Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are corrupt, in the tradition of Abbas's predecessor Arafat, pocketing the millions given to his people as aid from the United Nations. The situation is not one of degrading the ideals of capitalism in which man is rewarded according to his work, with some naturally richer and some poorer. No, the system is corrupt and anticapitalistic, meaning that the concentration of power and wealth is unnatural.

    The poverty and lack of human development primes the Palestinian societal soil to receive, as it were, the seeds of terrorism. The corruption of their society, a form of social cronyism, leads to the devaluation of the individual’s life. Individuals have nothing left of themselves, their leadership doesn’t care for them, and the point of their society is termed to have nothing to do with them. Their society is taken by leaders and driven to satisfy the leaders’ “needs” for power - meaning a “political horizon,” as opposed to a human development horizon.

    Such a devaluation of the Palestinian individual contains another contributing factor to terrorism, termed mortality salience: the conclusion that one’s death is inevitable, leading to a decreased desire to seek to preserve life. Palestinian terrorists who willingly go into situations where they may be killed are exhibiting a rejection of life and flagrant acceptance of death. Death being, in dire economic circumstances (that have nothing to do with Israel), all they have left, followed by certain interpretations of Islamic religious teachings, leads to violent actions to carry out their confrontation with their own death.

(Image: Wild Horse Felled by a Tiger - Eugène Delacroix)

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]


  1. Nothing justifies terrorism, nothing. Nothing justifies targeting any ethnic group, in this case the Jews, nothing. Having said this, I don't care how corrupt the Palestinian Authority is, I don't care about these fancy terms 'mortality salience' cause in the end we see those Arabs for what they are: hatred filled murderers.

    1. Is there any potential for peace in your plan, Anonymous? Does blanket hatred of any members of an ethnic group- Muslims included- fit proper reality? Are the Arabs less human then the Jews who commit acts of terrorism? Do I hate all Germans because they murdered members of my family in Dachau Death Camp?

      I can relate, in short form, a story. A young Jewish man was imprisoned in, I think Dachau, but I am not sure. During his imprisonment, he was made to do forced labor at the home of the local mayor. The young Jewish man, was of course, starving, and he ate some of the rotten vegetables that made up the food for the mayor's rabbits. The mayor's wife saw him and had him brutally beaten. The young Jewish man vowed in revenge to shoot dead the woman after he was free.

      Well, the war ended and the young Jewish man was freed. He went to carry out his plan. He eventually stood in front of the mayor's wife with a loaded weapon, screaming, "Remember me?" The mayor's wife was holding a baby. She asked him to please not shoot, especially on account of the baby. He did not. In that moment, he said that he regained his humanity and remembered what it was like to be a human.

      Please don't shoot.

      After the confrontation with the mayor's wife, the mayor and his wife slit their wrists. Their condemnation was handed down to them from God without human intervention.

    2. Of course nothing "justifies" terrorism, by the way.

  2. Hmm...poverty is not a contributing factor to terrorism, never has been, but it's nice to say so these days. Is Caleb after a job at the UN? :-)

    1. How would you define terrorism, Jake?

  3. Hello Newton,

    Studies have shown that poverty is not linked to Terrorism. Those same studies have shown the same about education: it's a lie that high education deviates an individual from terrorism (as shown by the 9/11 terrorists who had college education and were middle class, as shown by many Hezbollah operatives [whose education is paid by Hezbollah itself], the underwear bomber was also a rich highly educated man, Bin Laden [rich], Ibrahim al-Asiri [AQ's bomb maker, high middle class] etc etc).

    Yasser Arafat, an Egyptian, was a middle class highly educated man, and he became one history's greatest terrorists. He founded Fatah. Fatah since it's inception, in the 1960's, has sought to kill every Jew in Israel and abroad. Now, Arafat was hardly an Islamist, so in his case neither poverty nor Islam led him to terror; only a pan-Arabic ideology.

    Palestinian terrorism is not a result of poverty or frustration, or even "suffering". Palestinian terror derives from sheer hatred towards the Jewish people, period. Those Arabs in Palestine who do not hate Jews do not get involved in terrorism. In fact, they coexist just fine with them and others.
    But then we have Palestinian activists, who do not engage directly in terrorism, but incite against Jews and even cooperate with local terror groups with logistics and intel.

    It's a complex issue. But we must avoid falling for emotional traps when discussing these matters and, above all, we have to look at the broader picture.

    Here's an interesting video: Will the Real Palestinians Please Stand Up


  4. "Palestinian terror derives from sheer hatred towards the Jewish people, period. "
    Yes...but why do they hate? That's where my article comes in.

    1. The underpinnings of personal devaluation do not actually change the outcome of the terrorism being caused by hatred. Hatred, though- why? What caused the hatred? "It emanated from inside of them..." is weak. It came from Islamism, which allowed them to seize an outlet for their mortality salience.

    2. Newton,

      They hate us because they are jealous of us. Notwithstanding, another explanation can be given: a sense of humiliation, of loss of control (still, we can ask: sense of loss of control over something they never had?); but never poverty.

      Islamism exacerbates their hatred, their jealousy, because al-Quran is a book that promotes that jealousy (that then evolves towards hatred). But again, how about those secular Muslim Arabs? And how about the Christian Arabs (not all of them, albeit)? What makes them hate the Jews? Jealousy.
      After jealousy has been introduced, we can now discuss Palestinian corruption, injustice, less power of purchase etc (cause Arabs in Palestine look at the "other side" and they realise that Israelis, Jews Muslims and Christians alike, have more than them: more freedom, more human development, more fun, more justice, more everything despite their attempts to disrupt it).

      And by the way, if you watch the video, I shared in my previous comment, you'll see that despite their relative human development they still speak of "suffering under occupation" due to checkpoints...checkpoints. Add this to President Abbas' declaration that "All Israel is occupation", and you will find that the Palestinians themselves answer the question asked in your title.


  5. Dror Eydar said "The reason for the current wave of terrorism is not frustration and despair, but the hope of using it to secure gains, because terrorism is a tool." it's that simple.

    Arabs know that their armies can't win a war against Israel, so their instruments to wage a war of attrition are Terrorism, diplomatic and media war.

  6. Nonsense! Palestinians are terrorists cause they chose to be terrorists, why? Cause they saw that they can get away with it! On one hand we fight al-Qaeda and global jihad and on the other we support Palestinian terrorism and even try to justify it. Shameless. But hey, Caleb, it's a nice essay.


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