A Review of the Patterns of Global Terrorism Report

In 1989 when the U.S. State Department first began to publish its annual Global Report on Terrorism, few expected much more than what we got, which is a highly politicized report that serves to justify U.S. foreign and domestic policy initiatives that are controversial and perhaps even detrimental to the United States, yet not surprisingly beneficial to Israel. Many people suspect that pro-Israel operatives within the State Department are actually responsible for suggesting that a Global Report be issued, and many also suspect that it is this same group which provides the intelligence, formulates the lists, and makes the recommendations on terrorism that are almost exclusively accusatory of Islamic groups, or states sympathetic to Islamic groups and movements, that are usually found within the report. It is believed that this report is just another one of the many powerful tools utilized by pro-Israeli Zionists in the United States to shape “anti-Islam” perceptions within the State Department, hoping thereby to instigate a military response from the U.S. government and people against Islamism and Islamic groups in the Muslim world. In so doing, Israel hopes to hurl two powerful international influences into conflict, the United States and the Islamic Movement. This type of confrontation would benefit Israel, who cannot, on its own, confront the Islamic forces of the Middle East who are prepared to check Israeli expansion, and aggression in the region, and only with the help of the United States can Israel successfully eliminate this powerful opponent, and so a campaign has been initiated and continues, post 911, to incite animosity and conflict.

In December 1987 the first intifada began in Palestine. The intifada began in response to a shift in Israeli policy described by Khaled Hroub in his book, Hamas: Political Thought and Practice, as “remarkably arrogant and highhanded, formulated in the full flush of victory, and indicating that Israel believed it had acquired a firm grip on Palestinian civil society in addition to its political military control over the land of Palestine.” On this topic, the lat Haj Rashad al-Shawwa, the mayor of Gaza said in an interview on Israeli radio December 10th, 1987, that “One must expect these things (intifada), after twenty years of debilitating occupation. People have lost hope. They are frustrated and don’t know what to do. They have turned to religious fundamentalism as their last hope. They have given up hope Israel will give them their rights. The Arab states are unable to do anything, and they feel that the PLO, which is their representative, also has failed.”

Signs that Israel’s policies toward the Arab world and the Palestinian people had become increasingly aggressive, and threatening are evident in Israel’s behavior following the 1981 signing of a strategic cooperation operations agreement between Israel and the United States. Israel almost immediately annexed the Golan Heights, attacked and destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor, and in 1982 invaded Lebanon and attacked Beirut.

Perhaps anticipating, or fearing that these steps were being taken to lay the groundwork for a final solution to the Palestinian question that would include forced transfers, and other acts of aggression against the Palestinian people, the people initiated an uprising that set off a confrontation between the people of the territories and the Israeli occupation forces, which caused the United States and Israel to become concerned that Israeli acts against Arab governments had keyed up a populists movement that had the ability to destabilize the region. The Muslim Brotherhood, or Ihkwan al Muslimeen had been successful in stirring unrest among the youth attending the mosques in Palestine during the period 1982-83 which led to demonstrations, and other acts of defiance against the Israeli occupation. In 1984 it was discovered that Sheikh Ahmed Yassin had organized a military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, and Islamic Jihad had began operations in the mid-1980s. As Islamists and nationalists in Palestine joined forces to defeat the occupation, a series of mass demonstrations then led to what is known today as the 1987 intifada.

Israel, it seems at the very least, used the intifada to stir up fears in the United States that Islamic resistance against the Israeli occupation might spill over into the United States. Israel was also hoping to strengthen the United State’s commitment to Israel’s security by tying the two interests together against what was termed “Islamic terrorism.” Pro-Israeli operatives within the United States, and particularly within the State Department began, almost immediately following the inception of the 1987 intifada, a series of initiatives designed first of all to alarm the government with rumors of impending “Islamic” terrorists attacks within the United States, and internationally against U.S. interests. Prior to the attacks of 911, and during the period 1982-87 there was little known, if anything, about Osama bin Laden, especially following the Gulf War. Al-Qadea had had yet to carry out any attacks against the United States or its interests overseas, and at that time had not even issued a public statement suggesting that that Al-Qadea had any serious interest in the situation in Palestine. The sole target of Israel’s propaganda and intellectual terror campaign in the United States was the Islamic Resistance Movement, Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya, better known as Hamas, and Hizbollah, or the “Party of God.”

In response to the growing violence in the occupied territories, and stepped Israeli aggression in the region against leaders of the Islamic movements, Title 22, chapter 38, 2656f, was incorporated into the United States Code. Title 22, chapter 38, Sec. 2656f, requires that “the Secretary of State shall transmit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, by April 30 of each year, a full and complete report providing detailed assessments with respect to each foreign country in which acts of terrorism occurred which were in the opinion of the Secretary, of “major significance;” about which the Congress was notified during the preceding five years pursuant to section 2405 (j) of the Appendix to Title 50 and which the Secretary determines should be the subject of such reporté” Originally the legislative requirement was understood as a responsibility to submit a report on terrorism in foreign countries in which such acts were carried out, yet, by 1998, and publication of the April 1999 report, interpretation of the legislative requirement was changed to “countries and “groups” meeting the criteria of Section (a) (1) and (2) of the Act.” Information has since that time, routinely exceeded the legislative requirement and now includes, “relevant information about the previous year’s activities of individuals, terrorist organizations, or umbrella groups known to be responsible for the kidnapping or death of any U.S. citizen during the preceding five years, and groups known to be financed by state sponsors of terrorism.” This suggests perhaps, that authors of the annual report have used the Global Terrorism Report not only to provide legislatively required information on terrorism to the Senate, and others, but also to publish information, opinion and analysis to support other agendas, such as the campaign to demonize the Islamic movement and to exacerbate tensions between the Islamic movement and the U.S. government.

An example that highlights how the Global Terrorism Report, when it oversteps its mandated purpose, can be used to support, or provide credibility to other reports, documents and analysis that harden politicized opinions, making them appear to be facts, and that perhaps become the foundation for U.S. foreign and domestic policy initiatives, is a report authored by Kenneth Katzman, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs, Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division, entitled ” Terrorism: Middle Eastern Groups and State Sponsors, 1997.” In the introduction to his report, Katzman says: ” Since the 1970s many of the major acts of terrorism against Americans and U.S. targets have been conducted by Middle Eastern groups or states. According to the State Department’s report on international terrorism for 1996 (Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1996, issued April 1997, subsequently referred to as “Patterns of 1996”), terrorists violence in the Middle East continued at a high level.”

Before proceeding to show that the Global Terrorism Report is used by interests within the U.S. government to instigate, support and promote through a plethora of articles, academic papers and reports, confrontation between the United States and the Islamic Movement, there are two other issues relevant to the construction of the report that are central to our argument. In the “Patterns of Global Terrorism Report 1998, Appendix “C” Statistical Review,” we read, “In past years, serious violence by Palestinians against other Palestinians in the occupied territories was included in the database of the worldwide international terrorist incidents because Palestinians are considered “stateless people.” This resulted in such incidents being treated differently from intra-ethnic violence in other parts of the world. In 1989, as a result of further review, of the nature of intra-Palestinian violence, such violence stopped being included in the U.S. government’s statistical database on terrorists attacks.” This statement indicates that prior to 1989 information on terrorism being provided to the Senate from the State Department through the Patterns of Global Terrorism Report was flawed, and that acts of terrorism included in the statistical database did not meet the U.S. definition, or interpretation of international terrorism. In fact, since the reported acts of violence was carried out by one Palestinian against another, within the occupied territories, these were not even international, nor were they attacks against U.S. interests, nor were they acts of terrorism. It is also important to note here that the statistics provided in the State Department report also may have been misrepresented in the Katzman report. According to the report the majority of international terrorists acts occurred in Latin American, and were carried out against the United States by Latin Americans.

The report, says the following about terrorism: ” No one definition has gained universal acceptance. For the purpose of this report, however, we have chosen the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d). The statute contains the following definition: The term terrorism means premeditated, politically motivated, violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. The term “international terrorism” means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than one country. The term “terrorist group” means any group practicing, or that has significant subgroups that practice international terrorism.” Not by any stretch of the imagination would statistics related to intra-Palestinian violence fit within these definitions.

Along with the possibility that the Global Report on Terrorism may have been used to promote tension between the United States, and the Islamic Movement by publishing numbers related to Middle East violence that did not fit the definition of terrorism, the authors of the report have without fail, in each report from its inception until now included Hamas and Hizbollah implying that these are in fact terrorists groups which have carried out acts of violence against the United States, or U.S. interests overseas, even though neither of these groups have ever taken responsibility for, nor has it ever been proven that operatives from either of these movements carried out even a single act of violence against a U.S. target, either domestically or internationally.

Israeli intelligence in the United States has even gone so far as to launch spying operations within the United States, hoping to link U.S. Muslims to al-Qadea, particularly Muslims in the United States of Palestinian or Arab origin. Rumor has it that once the U.S. government learned of these operations Israel was forced to close them down, yet did so only after the United States offered assurances that it would take up the issue and pursue information through its own channels. It was the information supplied by Israel, resulting from its spying in the United States that led the Department of Justice to close down Holy Land Foundation, and confiscate its assets. Israel claimed that Holy Land was collecting money in the United States to support the al-Aqsa intifada, and that it had links to Hamas.

Not only have Islamists and their supporters recognized that information related to the two groups Hamas and Hizbollah is politicized and suspect. Middle East observer, and LA Times reporter Robin Wright, in a 1993 article, ” Muslims Open up to Modern World,” wrote: “Although Muslim activism draws headlines mainly for violence by its extremists wing, the broader movement has become engaged in peaceful but less visible efforts to change Islam and the political order. Why, then, are Islamists being demonized? Those who engage in bellicose denigration of Islamic fundamentalism argue that they do not target Islam; instead they aver that they merely warn against dangers of radical, extremist militant (Islamic) terrorism. Yet by whose definition are Islamic activists militant? What authority allows commentators to affix scathing labels to individuals, groups, or movements that may be acting in full accord with their legitimate rights to oppose the degeneration of their civil and political order? Wright is here referring to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which protects the rights of people living under military occupation to militarily resist the occupation.

According to the paper “Hamas as Social Movement,” by Glenn Robinson, Associate Professor, School of International Graduate Studies, Naval Postgraduate School, and Research Associate at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of California Berkeley: ” The official U.S. position on Hamas is problematic for two reasons. First, by labeling Hamas a terrorist group, the government ignores the vast majority of what Hamas actually does. Hamas is a social movement with thousands of activists and hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of Palestinian sympathizers that engages in extensive political and social activities far removed from suicide bombers. Second, it is always problematic to speak of terrorists groups (or states), as opposed to groups or (states) that periodically use acts of terror for tactical reasons. By understanding terrorism in tactical instead of as a genetic group attribute, formulating rational policies in response becomes potentially more effective and less obviously politically hypocritical.”

Hizbullah, another Islamic movement targeted by the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, operated against Israel within the confines of international law, Israel having invaded Lebanon and attacked Beirut, which is within Hizbullah’s field of operation, while then General, and now Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, through an Israeli proxy group within Lebanon, carried out the Shabra and Shitilla massacres against Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. There was nothing to cause Hizbullah to be deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, accept that it unapologetically engaged Israel militarily, causing Israel to retreat from Lebanon in 1999.

Today the media is again ripe with accusations against Hamas and Hizbollah. Post 911 propaganda has been enriched by claims that both organizations, Hizbullah and Hamas have links to al-Qadea, while both organizations have denied that they have any affiliation with either Osama bin Laden or his al-Qadea network. That there is no smoking gun to link these groups is no reason for observers to be complacent about what is being said. We should all be more than a little concerned that the pro-Israeli lobby in the United States has decided that it is the United States that must take on Hamas and Hizbullah, since Israel itself has failed in every attempt to eliminate the Islamic Movement in the region through violence, espionage, and even direct military confrontation. The Zionists stepped up campaign against these groups, particularly their attempt to use the State Department’s Global terrorism report to bolster their claims creates a dangerous possibility that unless the American people become aware of what is likely taking place, and becomes vocal in its opposition to U.S. involvement in an expanded war against terrorism that would include these two groups, and unless the U.S. government accepts that Israel has done worse things to its sole friend and ally than to draw it into a war on its behalf, the attack on the U.S.S Liberty being just one example, Israel might succeed in convincing the United States that Hamas and Hizbullah are in fact in league with al-Qadea and that they represent a threat to U.S. security and its interests overseas. Should this happen, the United States could be drawn into a confrontation with these two groups that would set off a war that would not only destabilize the Middle East, but might also cause the United States to be further isolated, and its alliances with key European allies to be compromised, which would leave the United States to move unilaterally in a war on real terrorism that cannot and should not be fought, or won alone.

Dr. Ahmed Yousef is Director of United Association for Studies and Research (UASR) and Editor-in-Chief, Middle East Affairs Journal.