Education, Poverty and Terrorism Among Palestinians
Abstract 1 2 Wilgoren, Jodi. “After the Attacks: The Hijackers; A Terrorist Profile Emerges That Confounds the Experts.” New 3 5 9 14 http://www.israel-mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0chz0 15 http://www.wrmea.com/archives/august-september01/0108050.html 16 http://www.csmonitor.com/2001/1210/p7s1-wogi.htm 17 http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld199900/ldhansrd/pdvn/lds02/text/20227-06.htm 18 http://bcsia.ksg.harvard.edu/publication.cfm?program=ISP&ctype=article&item_id=270 19 http://www.fed-soc.org/Publications/Terrorism/trade.htm 20 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/1857642.stm 21 Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Thirty Years of Terror: A Retrospective Edition.” Terrorism in the United States 23 The U.S. government has employed this definition of terrorism for statistical and analytical purposes since 1983. 25 In addition to the background provided here, it might be useful to be acquainted with the Palestinian security 26 “Club goods” are special perks that only members of a particular group enjoy. 27 Hamas’s website http://www.palestine-info.net/arabic/hamas/shuhda/shuhda.htm later replaced with 28 The first biography is dated October 6, 1987 and the latest biography I have included in the data set is dated May 29 Ergun M. Caner, professor of theology and church history at Criswell College in Dallas and co-author of 31 This data was used by Joshua Angrist. “The economic returns to schooling in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” 32 The questionnaire and aggregate results are available from: http://www.pcpsr.org/survey/polls/2001/p3a.html 33 In order to be categorized as poor, one had to earn less than 40 percent of the Israeli minimum wage, which is 39 http://www.israel-mfa.gov.il/mfa/home.asp 40 The National Insurance Institute of Israel is Israel’s counterpart to the U.S. Social Security Administration. 45 A summary of attacks and deaths appears in Appendix A. 46 This includes 515 deaths from 75 suicide attacks. 47 Including occupied territories. where yi is a discrete variable that equals 1 if the outcome is positive (e.g., if the individual 48 See section V for details about the data and the collection procedure. 49 Krueger and Maleckova (2002) encountered the exact same problem; I am following their suggested 51 The first suicide bombing attack in Israel is usually attributed to Sahar Tamam Nabulsi, who on April 16, 1993 54 See section V for the way that individual’s economic status was inferred in each of the populations and the 55 Given the age distribution differences, the finding described previously (of differences in poverty and education) 57 Available from the author upon request. 58 Refer to section VI for more details about the estimation strategy and the problem of choice-based sampling. 59 The first fatal suicide attack accounted for in my time series data occurred on July 6, 1989. On a yearly basis until 60 From Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech to Morehouse College in 1948 on “The Purpose of Education.” 61 Material provided by “The center for monitoring the impact of peace”: http://www.matckh.org/articles/pareport.htm 62 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 5, 2002
The primary goal of this paper is to investigate whether participation in terrorist activity can be
linked to ignorance (measured through schooling) or to economic desperation (measured through
poverty on the individual’s level and various economic indicators on the societal level) using
newly culled data of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist cells. This paper
performs a statistical analysis of the determinants of participation in Hamas and PIJ terrorist
activities in Israel from the late 1980’s to the present, as well as a time series analysis of terrorist
attacks in Israel with relation to economic conditions. The resulting evidence on the individual
level suggests that both higher standards of living and higher levels of education are positively
associated with participation in Hamas or PIJ. With regard to the societal economic condition, no
sustainable link between terrorism and poverty and education could be found, which I interpret
to mean that there is either no link or a very weak indirect link. Special attention is given to the
suicide-bomber phenomenon, and the analysis of the determinants of becoming a suicide-bomber
provides additional intriguing findings. In contrast with the “classic” characteristics of a suicidal
individual (Hamermesh and Soss, 1974), suicide-bombers tend to be of higher economic status
and higher educational attainment than their counterparts in the population.
Keywords: Terrorism, Poverty, Education, Hamas, Suicide-Bomber
I am grateful to Alan Krueger, Cecilia Rouse, Solomon Polacheck, Jeffery Kling, Esteban Klor, Alexandre Mas,
Melissa Clark, Ken Fortson, Yaron Raviv, Erica Field, Gad Levanon, David Linsenmeier, Jane Garrison, Ryan
Quillian, Mia Bloom and the participants of the Labor seminar for their helpful advice and comments. I thank the
Industrial Relations Section for its support, and finally I am indebted to Yaacov Garini and Eman Hassan for
excellent translation services. All views expressed and possible errors are solely my own.
Many people in today’s global society, including many of its most prominent leaders and
academics, maintain that terrorist activity is the direct result of ignorance and/or poverty. This
paper investigates whether terrorism really does have roots in destitution and lack of education.
Specifically, I examine correlates of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli targets using
micro population data and aggregate time series data. The results of this analysis are surprising
and might be perceived as counterintuitive. Common sense might suggest that individuals who
have “nothing to lose” (or less to lose) would be more likely to engage in self-destructive
activities. Such conventional wisdom could be the result of an intuitive comparison of previous
analyses of behaviors with terrorist activity. For instance, one might borrow from the traditional
economic theory of crime (Gary S. Becker, 1968) to analyze terrorist activity, or from the
economic theory of suicide (Daniel S. Hamermesh and Neal M. Soss, 1974) to analyze suicidebombers,
or from the economics of religious sects (Eli Berman, 2000)1
to explain participation in
secluded terrorist groups. Using these theories in an attempt to explain types of terrorism might
misleadingly suggest that, similar to the way that people with fewer opportunities in the
legal/outside/secular world would be more likely to commit crimes, commit suicide, or join the
religious sects, people with fewer opportunities would likewise tend to join terrorist groups.
Notwithstanding the apparent connection between terrorism and the other economic theories
described above, the empirical evidence collected so far gives little reason to believe that
materialistic or educational improvements would help reduce terrorism. If anything, the
correlation I find is that those with higher education and higher living standards are more likely
In a recent paper, Berman himself applies a model similar to the one used to explain ultra-orthodox Jews’ behavior
to the Hamas and Taliban (Berman, 2002).
to participate in terrorist activity. I believe these empirical findings emerge because terrorism is
a distinct phenomenon and should be studied as such. It is not yet completely clear how to
explain terrorists’ motives without assuming irrational, ill or insane decision-making processes,
but I am inclined to believe that strong political motives combined with a subjective perception
of injustice, rather than factual economic factors, are at play.
To begin investigating the terrorist mindset, a good place to start is the widespread literature
on “hate crimes”, a phenomenon that many (e.g., Neil J. Kressell, 1996 and Mark S. Hamm,
1998) have considered closely related to terrorism. Donald P. Green, et al. (1998) provide
evidence showing that anti-black lynchings and real GNP growth were positively correlated from
1882 to 1938. In addition, data from 1987 to 1995 shows that hate crimes against blacks, Jews,
Asians and homosexuals were unrelated to unemployment rate in New York City. Using data
about hate crime groups in the United States, Philip Jefferson and Frederic L. Pryor (1999) found
that, in 1997, the probability of the existence of such groups, like the Ku Klux Klan, in a
particular area was positively associated with the share of the population in that area with at least
a high school diploma. The inverse relationship between hate crimes and poverty and/or lack of
education is not confined to the U.S., as Alan B. Krueger and Jörn-Steffen Pischke (1997) found
using data from Germany that education and the average manufacturing wage were unrelated to
the amount of violence against foreigners.
In addition to the work on hate crimes, a report produced by the Federal Research Division
(1999) concerning the sociological characteristics of terrorists in the Cold War period concludes,
“Terrorists in general have more than average education, and very few Western terrorists are
uneducated or illiterate… Older members and leaders frequently were professionals such as
doctors, bankers, lawyers, engineers, journalists, university professors, and mid-level
government executives.” Once again the trend is not confined by national boundaries, as seen in
Charles Russell and Bowman Miller (1983), who attempt to draw a sociological profile of the
modern urban terrorist based on a compilation and analysis of more than 350 individual terrorists
from Argentinean, Brazilian, German, Iranian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Palestinian, Spanish,
Turkish, and Uruguayan terrorist groups active during 1966-76. They found that “…
approximately two-thirds of those identified terrorists are persons with some university training,
university graduates or postgraduate students.” (p.55)
An intriguing publication by Nasra Hassan (2001) already suggested that in the case of
terrorism, the traditional models of crime, suicide, and religion might not apply. In an article
summarizing her interviews of nearly 250 terrorists and associates of terrorists (including failed
suicide-bombers, families of deceased bombers, and those who trained and prepared the bombers
to their missions), she reported, “None of them were uneducated, desperately poor, simple
minded or depressed. Many were middle class and, unless they were fugitives, held paying jobs.
More than half of them were refugees from what is now Israel. Two were the sons of
Recently, people have begun to doubt the intuition that poverty and ignorance are the root
causes of terrorism. In an article in the New York Times on the characteristics of the 9/11/2001
Jodi Wilgoren reports that “They were adults with education and skill …
spent years studying and training in the United States, collecting valuable commercial skills and
facing many opportunities to change their minds. … they were not reckless young men facing
dire economic conditions and dim prospects but men as old as 41 enjoying middle-class lives.”
Moreover, if terrorism is regarded as an extreme form of political activism, the inverse
York Times. Saturday, September 15, 2001, late ed.: A2.
relationship with poverty and ignorance should not surprise us. Daniel Lerner had already
suggested this seemingly contradictory link in 1958 following a study of political activism in the
Middle East, where he concluded, “The data obviate the conventional assumption that the
Extremists are simply the ‘have-nots,’ suggesting rather that they are the ‘want-mores.’” (p.368)
Despite the evidence to the contrary, the commonly held belief continues to be that poverty
(of individuals and society) and ignorance are major factors contributing to the existence of
terrorism. Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, many prominent observers, including
the following U.S. officials, have called for increased financial aid and educational assistance to
end terrorism by eliminating what is believed to be its core causes.
– President George W. Bush, in a speech on the closing day of a five-day U.N. conference
on poverty in Monterey, Mexico on March 22, 2002: “We fight against poverty because
hope is an answer to terror…We will challenge the poverty and hopelessness and lack of
education and failed governments that too often allow conditions that terrorists can seize
and try to turn to their advantage.”3
– First Lady Laura Bush in a speech to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development in Paris on May 15, 2002: “A lasting victory in the war against terror
depends on educating the world’s children because educated children are much more
likely to embrace the values that defeat terror.”4
– Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in an official US Department of State Document dated
February 14, 2002 in Washington, DC: “I fully believe that the root cause of terrorism
does come from situations where there is poverty, where there is ignorance, where people
see no hope in their lives.”5
– Former United States Vice President Al Gore told the Council on Foreign Relations in
New York on February 12, 2002 that an ‘evil axis’ is formed primarily by poverty and
ignorance, forcing many to engage in terrorist activities.6
– Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Kenneth Dam on CBSNews in Islamabad, Pakistan on
February 5, 2002: “Fighting the root causes of terrorism, poverty, and hopelessness is as
important as fighting terrorism directly.”7
Although some might think that these sentiments have become prevalent only after 9/11,
prominent diplomats asserted such opinions prior to 2001. For example:
– Former United States President William J. Clinton in a speech to the Jordanian
Parliament in October of 1994, “On one side stand the forces of terror and extremism,
who cloak themselves in the rhetoric of religion and nationalism. These forces of reaction
feed on disillusionment, poverty and despair.”8
– Edward Djerejian, a top US diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to Syria (1988-1991)
and to Israel (1993-1994): “Experience suggests to us that political Islamic movements
are to an important degree rooted in worsening socio-economic conditions in individual
“For there is another Axis of Evil in the world: poverty and ignorance; disease and environmental disorder;
corruption and political oppression. We may well put down terror in its present manifestations. But if we do not
attend to the larger fundamentals as well, then the ground is fertile and has been seeded for the next generation of
those born to hate us…” http://www.al-gore-2004.org/gorespeeches/02122002.htm 7
An excerpt of the Hearing of the Subcommittee on Africa of the House
Foreign Affairs Committee on May 12, 1993.
Foreign officials from all over the world seem to hold the same views regarding this linkage:
– British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a speech at the Lord Mayor’s banquet, Tuesday,
November 13, 2001: “The dragon’s teeth [with regards to terrorism and terrorists] are
planted in the fertile soil of . . . poverty and deprivation.”10
– Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Philippines, on MindaNews, June 12, 2002: “I
will be with you, people of Lamitan on the declaration of Independence Day to declare
the freedom of the people of Basilan from the bondage of poverty and terrorism.”
– Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb of Jordan according to the Jordan Times on Friday and
Saturday, September 21-22, 2001: “Elaborating on the causes of terrorism, the prime
minister cited political, economic and social conditions, including poverty, ignorance and
– Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Giannitsis from the Embassy of Greece to the
U.S., May 18, 2002: “Terrorism, drugs, poverty and underdevelopment are linked
directly and should be jointly handled on a global level.”13
– Shimon Peres, former Israeli Prime Minister, at a Briefing to UN Ambassadors and
Senior UN Officials at the United Nations in New York on May 30, 1995: “We have to
Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Relations, Recommendations for U.S. Foreign
Assistance to Africa: Hearing before Subcommittee on Africa before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, 103rd
Congress, 1st Session, 12 May 1993, p.91. 10 http://www.usemb.gov.do/IRC/speeches/Tony_Blair.htm 11 http://www.mindanews.com/2002/06/3rd/nws12indep.html 12 http://www.jordanembassyus.org/09212001003.htm 13 http://www.greekembassy.org/press/newsflash/2002/May/nflash0518a.html
address ourselves to the young generation and to education, so that neither poverty nor
ignorance will continue to feed fundamentalism, poverty, disillusion and hatred.”
– Terje Roed-Larsen, United Nations special coordinator, according to the
August/September 2001 edition of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,
summed up his speech at the “International Media Encounter on the Question of
Palestine” on June 19th by warning that “Poverty breeds hate…and hate creates
Many scientists and researchers of the highest ranks hold the same common belief:
– Elie Wiesel, 1986 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, at a gathering of Nobel Peace Prize
laureates in Oslo, Norway in December 2001: “Education is the way to eliminate
– Kim Dae-jung, 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and President of South Korea, at a
gathering of Nobel Peace Prize laureates in Oslo, Norway in December 2001: “At the
bottom of terrorism is poverty. That is the main cause.”17
– Jessica Stern, lecturer on terrorism at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of
Government and the author of “The Ultimate Terrorists,” in a quote from “Being Feared
Is Not Enough to Keep Us Safe,” which was published in the Washington Post on
Saturday, September 15, 2001: “We have a stake in the welfare of other peoples and need
to devote a much higher priority to health, education, and economic development, or new
Osamas will continue to arise.”
– John O. McGinnis, from the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, in a
National Security White Paper entitled “Expanding Trade: A Powerful Weapon Against
Terrorism”: “Ignorance and poverty are the greatest friends of the terrorist, because the
ignorant and impoverished are easy prey for the conspiracy theories and millennial
religious visions that are the staple of the Islamic fanatics. In contrast, as people become
better educated and more prosperous, they will tend to oppose the arbitrary and theocratic
rule promised by the terrorists as a threat to their prosperity and freedom.”19
– James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, was reported to say, according to the
BBC, “that rich countries must build on the global war against terrorism by launching a
new war on poverty.”20
The need for careful research examining the relationship between poverty, education, and
terrorism is clear. The groundwork for such further research began with a recent work by
Krueger and Jitka Maleckova (2002), who investigate the link between poverty and low
education and participation in terrorist activity. Using biographical data of 129 Hizbollah
members killed in paramilitary actions in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, they found that both
having a standard of living above the poverty line and having a secondary-school education or
higher are positively associated with participation in Hizbollah. Their paper clearly puts into
doubt the supposed benefit of investing in the eradication of poverty or in educational attainment
as a means of directly fighting terrorism.
It is important to test whether such results were specific to Hizbollah-Lebanon or whether
they can be generalized to other terrorist groups, areas, and time periods. In particular, this paper
attempts to verify if such results could be replicated using higher quality data relevant to terrorist
activities of Hamas and PIJ in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The data used was collected
from biographies of Hamas and PIJ terrorists and population survey data to investigate the link
between terrorism and individual income and education. Additionally, a unique data set that
accounts for each and every fatal terrorist incident against Israeli noncombatants together with
Palestinian economic variables is used to investigate this link with respect to the society’s
The paper follows with a discussion of the definition of terrorism I have chosen to work with
in the next section. The third section contains a short description of the different terrorist and
militant groups involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with an emphasis on the Hamas and
PIJ because of their centrality to my research. The fourth section will provide some theoretical
considerations concerning the relationship between education and income and terrorism. A
description of the data I used in the different analyses makes up section five. The sixth section
describes the statistical analysis used to measure the correlates of participation in Hamas and PIJ
terrorist activities and the time series analysis used to estimate the relationship between
economic variables and terrorist attacks. The results of the study are presented in section seven
and section eight concludes the paper.
II. Definition of Terrorism
Definitions of terrorism vary widely, and it is therefore difficult, if not impossible, to find a
single definition that covers all aspects of terrorism as they exist in today’s world. A certain
event can be defined as an act of terror in the views of one country and at the same time be
defined as a “fight for freedom” by another.
The FBI defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or
property to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof,
in furtherance of political or social objectives.”21 Deluxe Black’s Law Dictionary defines an act
of terrorism as “An activity that involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life that is a
violation of the criminal laws…and appears to be intended – (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian
population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or (iii) to
affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping.”22
While the above definitions encompass a wide range of terrorism, I have chosen to use the
definition used by the US State Department, which is contained in Title 22 of the United States
Code, Section 2656f(d):
• The term ‘terrorism’ means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated
against noncombatant (1) targets by subnational 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.
(1) For purposes of this definition, the term “noncombatant” is interpreted to include,
in addition to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the incident are unarmed
and/or not on duty…We also consider as acts of terrorism attacks on military
1999. p. i. http://www.fbi.gov/publications/terror/terror99.pdf 22 Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th Edition, p. 1473.
installations or on armed military personnel when a state of military hostilities does
not exist at the site.23
It is important to keep in mind that I have chosen to rely on the US State Department
definition of terrorism in order to exploit the fact that the US State Department has already
categorized and specified the set of contemporary terrorist groups (Hamas and PIJ are currently
designated by the US Secretary of State as Foreign Terrorist Organizations—FTOs). However,
using any other definition that regards terrorist action as the calculated use of unexpected,
shocking, and unlawful violence against noncombatants (including, in addition to civilians, offduty
military and security personnel) and other symbolic targets perpetrated by a clandestine
member(s) of a subnational group or a clandestine agent(s) for the psychological purpose of
publicizing a political or religious cause and/or intimidating or coercing a government(s) or
civilian population into accepting demands on behalf of the cause24 would not change any of the
analysis since it would unarguably label Hamas and PIJ militant activities as terrorist activities.
It is important to remember that in this paper, the nouns “terrorist” or “terrorists” do not
necessarily refer to everyone within a terrorist organization, but to activists or operators who
personally carry out a group’s terrorism strategy and their leaders.
http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/pgtrpt/2000/2419.htm 24 This definition was borrowed from Federal Research Division (1999), p.10.
The historical background and evolution of terrorist activities in the Middle East is complex,
controversial and, although important, is outside the scope of this paper and should be the subject
of additional research. Instead of being an exhaustive study in the history of Middle Eastern
terrorist organizations, the goal of this section is to expose the different contemporary
militant/terrorist forces in the Israeli-Palestinian region.25
Al-Fatah is a reverse acronym for “Harekat at-Tahrir al-Wataniyyeh al-Falastiniyyeh” and
translates to mean “an organization for liberation of Palestine,” and the word “Fatah” itself
means “conquest with jihad.” Established by Yasser Arafat circa 1960, Al-Fatah joined the PLO
in 1968 and gained control in 1969. The group was based in Jordan until 1970 when it was
expelled to Lebanon, and then moved again to Tunisia in 1982. The organization was active in
numerous acts of terror in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but ceased these activities following the Oslo
Agreement in 1993. Al-Fatah has three affiliates still carrying out terrorist activities: Al-Aqsa
Martyr Brigades, Tanzim, and Force 17.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade was named after the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The group,
consisting of terrorists from the West Bank, is affiliated with Al-Fatah and was established at the
beginning of the 2nd Intifada in September of 2000. The Martyrs Brigade is responsible for
numerous terror activities including suicide bombing, sniper attacks, knife stabs and more. AlAqsa
Martyrs Brigade has so far taken responsibility for the deaths of more than 100 Israeli
civilians and the injuries of thousands.
forces and structure as described in Appendices C and D.
Tanzim, which means “Organization,” is an armed wing of Al-Fatah and was established in
1995. The group acts to balance the activity of the extreme groups, such as Hamas and PIJ, and
has served as a driving force behind a number of riots, including the 2nd Intifada. Among its
terrorist activities are the ambushing of vehicles, shootings, and bus bombings. The Tanzim
consists of tens of thousands of members, spread throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and
is funded by the Palestinian Authority. The head of the Tanzim is Marwan Bargouti, who now
stands trial in Israel for various acts of terror. Tanzim is responsible for the deaths of
approximately 30 Israeli civilians and the injuries of a few hundred.
Force 17 is the personal security force for Yasser Arafat that was established in the early
1970’s and is funded by the PLO. It is a high quality, well-trained unit consisting of
approximately 3,000 members, led by Faisal Abu Sharah, with a long history of terrorist
activities against Israeli targets. The unit’s first commander, Ali Hassan Salameh, took part in the
1972 Olympics massacre of the Israeli delegation. Force 17 is responsible for the deaths of more
than 10 Israeli civilians in terror activities.
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – Formed by George Habash in
1967, the PFLP saw the elimination of Israel as facilitating the development of communism in
the Middle East. The PFLP was an original member of the PLO, but opposed the PLO’s
negotiations with Israel. They are responsible for the deaths of more than 100 Israeli civilians.
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP -GC) – The
PFLP-GC split from the PFLP in 1968 under the leadership of their founder, Ahmad Za’rur.
Currently led by Ahmad Jibril, they continue to reject any kind of recognition of and negotiation
with Israel and are responsible for the deaths of more than 50 Israeli civilians.
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) – The DFLP split from the
PFLP in 1969 and supports the creation of a Palestinian state in any territory liberated from
Israel. They are responsible for the deaths of more than 35 Israeli civilians.
Hizbollah – This radical Shiite group that was formed and operated in Lebanon, which at
times infiltrates the Israeli-Lebanese border, receives funding, weapons, explosives, and recruits
from Iran. Their force includes a few hundred operatives and a few thousand supporters.
Hizbollah was responsible for more than 300 deaths and more than 500 injuries through its terror
Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) – Sponsored by Iraq, Syria and Libya, the ANO advocates
the destruction of Israel and uses its force of a few hundred operatives in an attempt to attain that
goal. They were responsible for approximately 300 deaths and the wounding of hundreds more
before the mysterious death of Abu Nidal in August 2002, which critically reduced their
activities to the point that they are now thought to be inactive.
Hamas, a word meaning ‘courage’ and ‘bravery,’ is a short form in Arabic for “Harakat alMuqawamah
al-Islamiyya” – meaning “the Islamic resistance movement.” Hamas is a radical
Islamic organization based in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that first registered as a non-profit
organization in 1978 led by Sheik Ahmad Yassin under the influence of the Muslim
Brotherhood, which was established in the 1920s in Egypt with the purpose of an Islamic
“revival”. When initiating its activity, Hamas’ activities mainly involved religious propaganda
and social work through financing coming primarily from Islamic supporters around the world.
When the 1st Intifada broke in December of 1987, Hamas gained momentum along with the
Intifada and expanded its activities by introducing a militant faction of the organization. Hamas
declared Jihad (holy war) against Israel, with the stated purpose of destroying Israel and creating
a Palestinian state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. In pursuit of that goal,
Hamas shifted the weight of its activities towards militancy, and today the overwhelming
majority of Hamas’ activities are militant.
In 1991, Hamas established the Iz al-Din Al Kassam brigades, which control the military and
terrorist activities including intelligence, recruitment, and training. These brigades have a
network of small cells that do not communicate with each other, so the fall of one cell will not
cause the fall of others. The total estimated number of hard-core operatives is less than 400.
Hamas leadership includes its founder and spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmad Yassin, and its two
spokesmen, Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi and Abdul Haleq Natsheh. Militant leaders are less likely to
be publicly known, but among the known ones are Hassan Yusuf and Mohammad Deif. Some of
Hamas’ leaders who carried out numerous deadly terror activities against Israelis were targeted
for extra-judicial execution by Israel, including Yahya Ayyash and Salah Shehada. The
organization has strong financial support from three main sources: (1) unofficial bodies in
Muslim countries, mostly in and around Saudi Arabia; (2) Iran; and (3) charity networks in the
West Bank, Gaza Strip, and abroad.
Hamas stepped up its terrorist activities in stages. Initially, Hamas was only involved in
disturbances and strikes, then it began the assassination of what it defined as “collaborators with
Israel.” It moved on to kidnapping and killing Israeli soldiers, then to knife attacks against
soldiers and civilians, and finally to shootings, bombings, and suicide attacks in every place
Israelis could be reached. Hamas took responsibility for the deaths of more than 500 Israeli
civilians and soldiers in addition to thousands of injuries. Since Hamas’ activities are defined as
Jihad, the group does not differentiate between soldiers and civilians, young and old—everything
is justified by the cause.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
Although there are many, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is the most well known
extremist group using the name Islamic Jihad. The PIJ calls for an armed Islamic war against
Israel in order to free Palestine and create an Islamic state instead of Israel. Palestinian Islamic
Jihad is a translation from Arabic for “Harakat al-Jihad al-Islami al-Filastini,” which means
“Movement for holy war to Palestine.”
Students, inspired by the Iranian revolution and militant Egyptian Islamic organizations,
founded the PIJ around 1980 in Egypt and were led by one of the founders, Fathi Shkaki. The PIJ
was active mainly in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and initially put emphasis on Islamic
culture, postponing the Palestinian issue. In the 1980’s, the PIJ started its disruptive activities,
and moved on to terrorist activities that included a number of attacks in the Gaza Strip in 1987
prior to the start of the Intifada in December. As the PIJ increased its terrorist activities, two of
its leaders – Shkaki and Abdul Aziz Odeh – were expelled to Lebanon in August of 1988, but
Shkaki reorganized the group from there, where he also tightened the connections with Iran,
PIJ’s main supporter. In addition to the financial funding from Iran, the PIJ also receives logistic
assistance from Syria.
The PIJ and Hamas were violent rivals until the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in
1994, which began a period of relatively peaceful coexistence as they both terrorized Israel. Both
organizations took responsibility for some of the worst terrorist acts and as a result, the PIJ
gained skill, experience, and support from the Palestinian public. Shkaki was killed in 1995 in
Malta, supposedly by Israeli agents, and he was succeeded by Dr. Ramadan Abdullah Shalah,
who resides in Damascus. Shkaki’s death damaged the PIJ’s position in Gaza Strip and the West
Bank, and Hamas no longer sees it as a threatening rival. During its existence, the PIJ has
claimed responsibility for over 140 Israeli deaths and more than 1,000 injuries.
IV. Theoretical considerations:
Traditional economic considerations following Becker (1968) suggest that people with higher
education and higher income have more at stake (or more to lose) from taking part in criminal
activities. Such individuals, when choosing how to allocate their time between legal and illegal
activities to maximize their utility, will presumably find better (and less risky) alternatives and
would therefore have fewer reasons to join restrictive groups. A simplified summary of the
equilibrium described in Berman (2002) would suggest that high wage individuals are less likely
to be impressed by “club goods”26 and are therefore less likely to make sacrifices to join
exclusive organizations. Furthermore, increased knowledge (a probable result of additional
education) may provide better reasoning skills, which might deter potential terrorists from
engaging in militant activities.
Many other considerations have been given to support this conventional wisdom and I do not
pretend that I have described most of the main arguments and theories supporting it. However, if
terrorism is considered as a distinct phenomenon rather than considering it a branch of criminal
activity, there is little in economic theory to conclusively prove a positive correlation exists
between terrorist behavior and low education or income. In fact, economic theory does not
stipulate whether education and income are even linked to terrorist activities.
Despite the lack of a proven association between education, economic status, and terrorism,
there are many reasons that could cause highly educated and wealthy individuals to engage in
terrorist activities. Educational content (particularly that which advocates particular political or
religious messages) may exacerbate existing tensions and increased exposure to such content (in
the form of additional education) may increase an individual’s propensity to participate in
terrorist organizations. That aside, improving reasoning skills may lead to involvement in
terrorist organizations because individuals with more education may be better equipped to
understand moral and religious justifications invoked by such groups. Further, highly educated
individuals may be more aware of situations of injustice and discrimination, and may be more
aggravated by their implications, again inducing them to participate in terrorist activities.
Similarly, education may contribute to the development of a sense of social responsibility and
highly educated individuals may feel the need to contribute to particular causes. If an individual
is a proponent of a belief that is primarily advocated via terrorism, he may be more likely to
become an active participant in terrorist activities.
In addition to the preceding argument, highly educated individuals may care more about
preserving image and could be more easily swayed by public opinion in their behavior, which
may lead such individuals to engage in terrorist activities if terrorism enjoys popular support.
Moreover, individuals initially interested in joining terrorist organizations might be more likely
to get more education in an attempt to become an active terrorist. If education improves
performance in terrorist organizations, an individual with militant tendencies might acquire more
education in order to be more successful in such activities. Because terrorism might require
additional education, one cannot a priori dismiss the possibility that terrorism is in fact a highskill
Terrorism may also be a means of achieving success for individuals with limited
opportunities elsewhere. Therefore, terrorist organizations might attract highly successful (and,
most likely, highly educated) individuals that are otherwise well qualified but cannot succeed in
the non-terrorism marketplace because of their heritage, social standing, etc. (this would
especially be true in non-democratic societies). It is also possible that terrorist organizations are
faced with an excessive supply of potential participants and can therefore choose the select few
they desire. Consequently, it may be that the potential terrorists selected by these groups are
highly-educated even though, on average, the education of those willing to join such
organizations may be no greater than average.
Likewise, wealth may also increase the likelihood that an individual will participate in
terrorist activities. For example, terrorism may require a certain degree of wealth because capital
provides the means to carrying out acts of terror. Weapons must be acquired on the black market,
which is extremely expensive (and could preclude poor individuals from participating) due to the
limited access to warfare equipment in areas where terrorism is prevalent as a result of the
presence of official police and army forces. In addition, wealthy individuals may be more likely
to encounter barriers and restrictions in daily life (that poorer individuals might not come across)
because of the opportunities that wealth provides (e.g., in governmental paperwork, access to
financial markets, and commercial spheres). By being exposed to such restrictions, wealthy
individuals may be more likely to become enraged by certain organizations or groups, and,
therefore, may be more likely to engage in terrorist activities. Moreover, it is plausible that
relatively poorer individuals are more preoccupied with daily matters, such as providing for their
families, and end up devoting less attention to militant struggles.
To conclude, it cannot be dismissed that wealthy and educated individuals would be inclined
to participate in terrorist activity. In fact, there is nothing in economic theory that is a priori
inconsistent with evidence showing that high-education, high-income individuals are more likely
to participate in terrorist activities.
V. Data and Sample:
A. Terrorists’ Biographical Data and its Counterfactual Population Survey Data
In my research, I have been able to translate and collect information from the biographies of
335 Palestinian Terrorists. To find the data, I tracked down “Shahid” (deceased “martyrs”)
publications from websites and Online Journals of the Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ),
and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA)27. In addition, I have used a PIJ publication
containing the biographies of 50 PIJ leaders that were part of a group of 417 leaders and foot
soldiers of terror groups that were expelled to Lebanon by Israel on December 17, 1992.
Altogether, the data consists of observations taken from the available biographies with the
183 “Shahids” of the Hamas;
103 “Shahids” of the PIJ, one of who was also a Hamas member;
50 leaders of the PIJ;
In 319 of the 335 cases, the date of the biography could be determined either because it
corresponded to the date of death of the “Shahid”, or because the terrorist was expelled to
Lebanon on a known date. The date of the biography puts a “timestamp” on the data, which
The Hamas’s military wing (Iz Al Din Al Qassam) online journal describes its “Martyrs” on
to http://www.qassam.org/shohadaa/shohadaa_2002/photo_2002/2002.htm for the respective years and on
Hamas’s Al Qassam shuhada memorial association http://www.sabiroon.org/.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s online journal http://www.qudsway.com/, their website (“Jihad Islami”)
http://www.jihadonline.org/ and http://www.shuhadaa.com/
Finally, additional limited data can be found on the Palestinian authority official websites
(Note that most Martyrs in the PNA websites are not considered terrorists by my definition so that those sites
were used only to complement data on already-identified terrorists).
ranges from 1987 to 200228. In the 319 cases where the date is known, 35 percent (111) occurred
between 1992-1995 and 57 percent (183) occurred between 2000-2002.
Of the 171 observations from which it can be determined whether or not the death was the
result of a planned attack, 89 percent (152) were planned attacks and 11 percent (19) were not
planned attacks. Out of the planned attacks, 66 (39 percent) were suicide attacks – 43 by Hamas
members, 22 by PIJ members, and one by a member of both organizations. Cases where the
attack was not planned include attacks initiated by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and attacks
carried out during or after resisting arrest. In the cases where it was clear that the “Shahid’s”
death was the result of an IDF extra-judicial execution (targeted assassination), it was necessary
to check available resources to determine whether the “Shahid” had committed previous terror
attacks or been arrested, in order to establish his presence, or lack thereof, on the list of terrorists.
In addition, 95 of the observations included information about the existence or non-existence of a
will; approximately 93 percent (88) included a will showing that the “Shahid” knew his death
Out of the 335 biographies, 114 gave specific details on whether or not the individual
participated in one or more previous attacks. Of those 114, 96 percent (109) participated in
previous terror attacks, leaving only five biographies indicating clearly that the “Shahid” had no
prior terrorist activity. Also, out of the 173 cases in which it was known whether or not the
individual had been arrested for participating in terrorist activity, 91 percent (158) had been
From 284 observations that give a clear indication of rank in the organization, 68 percent
(193) were foot soldiers and 32 percent (91) were leaders. The leader category includes cell
6, 2002 (I have continued to collect the biographies published since, but more recent biographies await
commanders in charge of cells of 3-6 foot soldiers. All available biographies are of males, of
which 32 percent (106) were married, 39 percent (132) were single, and there was no
information for the remaining 29 percent (97). The biographies describe men covering a very
wide spectrum of professions, from doctors to teachers to unskilled workers, as well as full-time
employees of terror organizations, i.e., Hamas and PIJ.
54 percent (168) of the terrorists lived in urban localities and 23 percent (73) lived in refugee
camps. For the 306 cases in which the place of birth is known, 96 percent (293) were born in the
West Bank or Gaza Strip. Out of the 284 for which both place and year of birth are known, 25
percent (71) were born while the territories were under Jordanian rule (West Bank) or Egyptian
Rule (Gaza Strip), and 75 percent (213) were born after the territories were under Israeli rule.
In 215 biographies the terrorist’s religion was either clearly indicated or could be deduced
indirectly from the information, and in all cases, the individual was Muslim. The religion was not
indicated in the rest of the biographies, but it is reasonable to assume that the others were
Muslims as well, given the nature of the organizations to which they belonged (both Hamas and
PIJ are religious Muslim organizations and their militant activity is defined as Jihad—a Muslim,
religious war). In addition, there were 165 biographies with descriptions of some kind of
Inferring poverty status presented more of a challenge. Although some biographies clearly
implied an individual’s poverty status in statements such as “he lived in poverty” or “he was a
wealthy man,” this was not the case for all observations. When possible, poverty status was
inferred from available information on the individual’s occupation, foreign travel history (e.g.,
traveled abroad), car ownership, computer availability, etc. For example, in one biography it was
mentioned that the individual dropped out of college due to financial burdens, on another
biography it was mentioned that the individual owned a new car which he used for weapon’s
smuggling. In such cases, I classified the former as poor while not the later. In other cases I
relied on family background descriptions, such as parents’ occupations, to infer poverty status.
For example, one biography described the financial dependency of the individual’s family on
charity networks since his father was sick and couldn’t afford paying the medical bills, on
another biography it was mentioned that the individual’s family owned a successful luggage
factory and that the father is one of the wealthiest businessmen in the area. Once again, I
classified the former as poor while not the later. Poverty status information could be inferred for
approximately 69 percent (230) of all cases.
One of the advantages in using the method of data collection from reports about “Shahids”
derives from the fact that reporting about the “Shahid” is a highly divine obligation, and
according to Islam it is considered a sin if one does not hail a “Shahid”.29 As a result, it is
probably safe to assume that most of the militants from the terrorist organizations that died were
reported in one way or another. Therefore, by collecting the data from the organizations’ own
publications and newspapers, some information should exist for each and every “Shahid” that
belonged to the organizations.30
Obtaining data on the general population in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza
Strip for the relevant period proved to be difficult as well. The latest reliable and organized data
available was for 1993 from the “Labor Force Surveys in Judea, Samaria and Gaza” (ISDC
1995), which includes all residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza living in households, not
“Unveiling Islam” with his brother Emir, used a similar argument when asked if he was sure that Osama Bin
Laden was still alive after the US bombings in Afghanistan. 30 Although biographies probably exist for every “Shahid”, some did not contain any relevant data that could be used
for statistical analysis.
including Israeli residents living in these areas31. The sampling methods and definitions used in
this Survey are similar to those used in the Israeli Labor Force Surveys.
This survey of households in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been continually conducted
by the Central Bureau of Statistics from August 1968 to September 1995, when each household
was investigated four times over six quarters. The survey consisted of two investigations during
two consecutive quarters and, after a break of two quarters, two additional investigations. The
household questionnaire contains details of household composition and dwelling. The personal
questionnaire (answered by persons aged 15 and over) includes basic demographic as well as
labor force characteristics and job location (in Israel or in the territories and wages of workers).
Due to the events of the 1st Intifada in the West Bank and Gaza Strip area from the end of
1987 through 1991, enumeration suffered from difficulties of coverage as well as from fewer
quality responses. Also, since the April-June 1994 Survey, the data does not contain population
figures from the autonomous areas of Gaza and Jericho (i.e. a significant part of the area relevant
for a control group has been under PNA control since 1994). Due to the current situation in the
PNA areas and administration, I could not attain more recently updated data. These facts
combined with the facts that more than a third of the Hamas and PIJ biographies with known
publication dates are from the 1992-95 period and 96 percent (293) of the 306 individuals for
whom place of residence was known resided in the West Bank or Gaza Strip made me consider
the 1993 survey population of similar age, sex and religion to be the most appropriate control
group available. Another advantage to using the “Labor Force Surveys in Judea, Samaria and
Gaza” is the size of the 1993 survey sample (99,193 observations) and its quality.
American Economic Review, December 1995, 85 (4).
Because the sample of terrorists contained only Muslim males between 15 and 56 years old, I
have restricted the survey sample to the 41,762 Muslim males between the ages of 15 and 56 as
In the last decade, the income levels of the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip
deteriorated due to political and security reasons caused by the ongoing conflict in the region.
Therefore, the use of control group data from 1993 instead of more recent data may, if anything,
under-represent the poor in the population.
With respect to educational attainment it was not a priori evident that it did not rise in the last
few years, something that, if true, would make the use of control group data from 1993
inappropriate. A comparison was then performed between the educational distribution of the
Palestinian population in the relevant ages obtained from the 1993 survey sample and the
distribution obtained from a survey collected by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey
Research (PCPSR) from December 19 to 24, 2001.32 From the comparison displayed in
Appendix B, it is clear that, if anything, educational attainment was lower in 2001 compared to
1993. Therefore, once again, the use of control group data from 1993 instead of more recent data
may, if anything, under-represent the less educated in the population.
The following potential problems with the terrorist biographical data and the survey data are
– There is no indication in the “Labor Force Surveys in Judea, Samaria and Gaza” whether or
not an individual is also engaged in Hamas or PIJ terrorist activities. However, I estimate the
Hamas and PIJ active militants to represent less than 1 in 1,000 people and suicide-bombers
to represent less than 1 in 100,000 people in the relevant gender, age, and religious group of
The breakdown of this data by educational level was provided by Alan B. Krueger, Bendheim Professor of
Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University.
the population. I ignore the fact that, in principle, some individuals of the survey sample may
have belonged to those terrorist groups as well.
– Most of the deceased terrorists died during a planned terrorist attack on their part; however,
some died due to Israeli targeted assassinations. Since targeted terrorists are presumably of
higher rank, and thus higher income and/or education, the results might suffer from a bias
that would be introduced by the overestimation of relatively better off terrorists. In order to
evaluate this potential bias, all tests were repeated using only the 157 observations for which
I knew from the biography that the attack was premeditated. The results remained identical in
signs and statistically significant.
– Because of the division of labor within any organization, different activities are assigned
according to one’s rank. Assuming that lower ranking terrorists are assigned riskier tasks, it
is probable that the share of low ranked soldiers within the set of deceased is larger than their
share in the organization. If so, my sample would under-represent the number of highly
educated terrorists from middle or upper income families.
– Another consideration might be given to a potential reporting bias. One might suspect that
since these biographies are intended to hail the deceased they would refrain from publishing
facts that might be considered unflattering or humiliating. In fact, the suspicions increase
when one reads the many lengthy descriptions of the deceased’s devotion to the religion and
to the cause, which never mention the possible doubts in the goals or the means that they
employed. Also, the clearly exaggerated glorifications indicating the bravery of the deceased
adds to the suspicion of reporting objectivity bias. It is not clear, however, if descriptions of
one’s wealth would be exaggerated in a society where being poor is associated with
humbleness. In fact, in biographies in which poverty is mentioned, it is clearly emphasized
with pride. Some biographies, however, indicated wealth with pride, suggesting that it was
associated with a position of respect for the deceased and his family. If anything, it seems
that extremities on both sides might be over represented, since average wealth or income
might not add to the glorification and commemoration process. To overcome this problem,
one would ideally want to have another, orthogonal source of reporting for comparison. To
the best of my knowledge, no additional sources exist. In the only case where an individual’s
biography was reported by both the Hamas and the PIJ, the articles tended to be in
– An additional problem arises from the fact that variables of interest (i.e. schooling and
poverty) for some individuals were inferred on the basis of existing information. For
example, I used the type of last school attended or the highest degree achieved in order to
infer the number of years of schooling. Thus, the data may not be perfectly comparable.
– Potentially the most significant problem is the fact that in most cases poverty status of
terrorists was inferred from variables indicating one’s wealth. However, the population
survey data did not give any information on the individual’s (or the family’s) accumulated
wealth. Ideally, I would use an identical variable, from both the population survey data and
for the “Shahids” biographical data, indicating if a minimum substance level is met or not. In
the absence of such a variable, monthly wage was used to determine poverty status in the
population survey. On the one hand, the measures are hardly comparable, but on the other
hand, we also know from theoretical works (John P. Danforth, 1979) as well as empirical
evidence (Hans G. Bloemen and Elena G. F. Stancanelli, 2001) that higher levels of wealth
result in higher reservation wages, thus higher wages for the ones employed. Moreover, the
criteria for being considered poor among the population survey has been increased in an
attempt to ‘bend the curve backward,’ whereas I have classified a ‘Shahid’ above poverty
only when the biography indicated possessions or a standard of living that would not be
possible when destitute. So, only individuals with extremely low wages33 were considered
poor in the survey population. The cutoff point was set at the point that someone earning
such a wage could not possibly afford to maintain the assets possessed by the above-poverty
terrorists. For example, owning a car would not be possible due to maintenance costs alone,
travels abroad would be out of reach, etc. Additional exogenous information, such as the
very limited fraction of the population that has access to a car (approx. 20 percent) or a
computer (approximately 4 percent)34, would suggest that, when comparing to the terrorists’
data, the share of the above-poverty in the general population has been overestimated. In
fact, the level of poverty I obtained from the population survey data (31 percent) is
significantly lower than other source estimates35.
B. Time Series Terrorist Attacks and Economic Indicators Data
For time series analysis purposes, an additional data set was constructed containing daily
information on each and every fatal36 terrorist attack against noncombatants37 that occurred on
Israeli soil38 from 1949 to January 31, 2003. Every attack is described by date, method of
operation, location, terrorist organizations claiming responsibility, and additional data about the
approximately equal to 18 percent of the Israeli average wage. 34 Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics – Table 25 : Percentage of Palestinian Households By Availability of
Some Durable Goods (1997). 35 A report from January 2003 produced by William Bell, a Christian Aid policy officer for Palestine and Israel,
finds that “Almost three-quarters of Palestinians now live on less than US$2 a day – below the official UN
poverty line.” http://www.christianaid.org.uk/indepth/0301isra/losing.htm 36 Due to the collection procedure constraints, only attacks in which someone besides the terrorist died were
included. 37 The term noncombatant is interpreted to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the
incident are unarmed and/or not on duty. 38 This includes occupied territories when under Israeli control.
victims, such as age, gender, and place of residence. The procedure in which the data was
collected was as follows:
First, data was gathered from the Israeli Foreign Ministry39 (IFM), which publicly provides a
list containing major terrorist attacks for which the description is fairly detailed, although it lacks
information in some cases. Since the information provided by the Israeli Foreign Ministry only
covers certain time periods, it was necessary to search for data from other sources. I chose the
information provided by the National Insurance Institute of Israel
40 (NIII) for the time periods
that data from the Israeli Foreign Ministry was unavailable. The main reason I chose the NIII to
create a continuous data set is because it is regulated by the government, and is therefore very
reliable. In fact, the NIII is obligated by law41 to track every registered death and compensate
relatives in cases of deaths caused by terrorist attacks42. Despite the lack of inaccuracies and
perfect continuity of a data set comprised solely of data from the NIII, compiling such a data set
would require extensive further research (the research techniques are described below for the
cases included in this data set).43
The information provided by the NIII concerns deceased individuals on a case-by-case
basis44. Each death appeared on a different file and, when all necessary information was not
included for a particular case, required additional newspaper archival research in order to
http://www.btl.gov.il/ 41 The author’s free translation is: The law of benefits to victims from hostilities, 1970.
1970 ל”תש איבה לנפגעי התגמולים חוק 42 The law specifies that any Israeli citizen or resident, or a person who entered Israel legally, who was injured by an
act of hostility, is eligible for benefits. Monthly Dependent’s Benefits are paid to the widows or parents of a
person who passed away due to a hostile action. Hostile action injury/death – an injury/death due to an act of
hostility by enemy forces or under circumstances in which there was reasonable fear of hostile actions, as well as
injury/death caused by a weapon that was intended for hostile actions – all conditional upon approval by the
authority appointed by the Ministry of Defense that this is a hostile action. 43 I have compared the data collected from the Israeli Foreign Ministry with several randomly chosen cases collected
from the NIII and found no case of discrepancy. 44 http://www.laad.btl.gov.il/
distinguish the case as a victim of a terrorist attack (versus other acts of hostility) and to be
included in the data set. Additional research in Israeli newspapers such as Ha’aretz and Ma’ariv,
which obviously had to be translated, was also necessary to gather relevant data on the attacks,
such as location, type of attack, organizations claiming responsibility, etc. (this information was
not provided by the NIII, since they deal with the individual victims and not the perpetrators).
Another source of data came from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The IDF keeps most of its
data confidential, so access to the more detailed, classified data proved impossible. Therefore,
only the publicly provided summarized data was used for cross-reference purposes. To the best
of my knowledge, this is the most accurate, comprehensive, unclassified dataset available
regarding fatal terrorist attacks against noncombatants on Israeli soil45. The data includes
information on 1,857 fatalities from 883 attacks46.
Data from the ICBS (Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics), the PCBS (Palestinian Central
Bureau of Statistics), and the CIA World Factbook was used to obtain the size of the Israeli and
Palestinian populations, the total area controlled by Israel at the time of the attacks, and
additional economic variables regarding the Palestinian population at time of attacks, such as
GDP and average wage.
As with the biographical data, potential problems arise with the time series terrorist attacks
data and the economic variables data that are worth emphasizing.
– The time series terrorist attack data includes only attacks in which someone besides the
terrorist died, so that foiled attacks as well as “unsuccessful” attacks in terms of producing
casualties, as well as terrorist attacks outside Israel47 are not counted. Since we are interested
in the variables inducing participation in terrorist activities and not necessarily “successful”
or local terrorist activities, we might be omitting relevant terrorist events. In addition, fatal
attacks for which the perpetrator remained unknown are counted. Such attacks should not be
included if not committed by Palestinians or if committed by Palestinians who do not live in
the Palestinian territories, and thus are not directly affected by the economics of the region.
– The economic indicator variables data was collected from different sources since no one
source could provide continuous data for the region. The differences between the sources in
their methodology, definitions and the actual geographic area they covered might be
significant and could potentially reduce the validity of any year-to-year comparison. I have
tried to control for this problem by introducing dummy variables for the different sources.
Despite the limitations of the different data sets, the sample of terrorists does provide
information on the characteristics of individuals engaged in Hamas and PIJ terrorist activities
(and suicide-bombers in particular), while the time series analysis can help answer the broader
questions about the links between economic conditions and terrorism.
VI. Estimation Strategies:
As previously discussed, one goal of this paper is to incorporate covariates and estimate the
correlates of participation in Palestinian terrorist (Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad) activities
in general as well as the correlates of becoming a Hamas or PIJ suicide-bomber, in particular.
The data used was extracted from terrorists’ biographies as well as the “Labor Force Surveys in
Judea, Samaria and Gaza” from which I have drawn a relevant comparison group48.
Preliminary tabulations of demographic characteristics broken down by the groups of interest
(i.e., terrorists or suicide-bombers versus the general population) suggest that there are
differences between the general population and the terrorist sample. A Chi-square test performed
on each of the relevant characteristics refers to a test of the null hypothesis that the characteristic
is independent of terrorist status.
In order to see if the tabulation results hold statistically when introducing control
characteristics I used a logistic probability model. Specifically, I model the effect of suspected
variables of influence (i.e. schooling and poverty status) on the outcome (yi) as:
yi = xiβ1 + schoolingiβ2 + povertyiβ3 + ei
participated in Hamas or PIJ terrorist activities), and equals 0 otherwise. yi might be a function of
several other observed characteristics, xi, which include age, marital status, place of residence,
employment status, etc., so those variables were included when found fit. The coefficients β2 and
β3 would then be the logistic estimates of schooling and poverty status, respectively, on the
dependent variable. From these coefficients, the slope (marginal effect) can be easily calculated.
However, this setup presents a classic problem of choice-based sampling because the terrorists
were selected for inclusion in the sample on the basis that the dependent variable of the logistic
equation equals one. Consequently, the sample does not constitute a random sample and the
estimates will generally be inconsistent (Charles Manski and Steven Lerner, 1977). Weighting
the data by the ratio of the estimated relative frequencies of the subjected groups in the
population to their relative frequencies in the sample should yield consistent estimates49.
For the purpose of analyzing the effect of economic condition on the number of terrorist
attacks, a panel of economic indicators and time series data on terrorist attacks for the matching
periods50 is implemented. Because the number of attacks is a count variable, a linear regression
model is inappropriate. Since I could not assume a priori equality of the conditional mean and
variance functions, I estimated a negative binomial regression model.
Specifically, I modeled the bivariate relationships as:
log(yt) = βxt + et
where yt is the number of terrorist attacks in year t , and xt is the economic indicator (e.g., GDP
growth, the log of the average wage, etc.) for year . In cases where the economic indicator
variables were taken from two different sources (e.g., the ICBS and the PCBS), a dummy
variable was used to control for the possibility of incongruous values that could result from
differences in collection methods between the sources. The relationship then becomes
log(yt) = β1xt + β2dt + et
where dt is the dummy variable for year . Similarly, if the data was taken from three different
sources, I included two dummies, one for every additional source. I also tested for the inclusion
methodological technique to create consistent estimates. 50 See section V for details about the data and the collection procedure. The length of the period analyzed in each
case was set by the period for which the economic variables were to be found.
of a time trend, and repeated all estimations when controlling for population changes (i.e.,
including the log of population size on the right-hand side).
In the case of suicide attacks, any time series analysis would have been much less reliable
due to the relatively short period at hand51, but I was able to double the number of observations
by splitting the data into two main regions (i.e., Gaza and the West Bank). This was feasible
because for most suicide attacks52, I was able to identify the place from which the terrorist
originated (i.e., his place of residence). The identification was done by matching the dates of
attacks from the time series data set with the dates of deaths from the biographies data set.53 I
then used the variability in the economic performance and the number of suicide attacks
originating from the two regions to model the relationship as follows:
log(yr,t) = βxr,t + er,t
where yr,t is the number of suicide attacks in which the terrorist’s place of residence is r in year t,
and xr,t is the value of the economic variable for region r in year t.
used his truck as a guided bomb. This event, however, is not accounted for in my time series data since no Israeli
citizen died in the incident. Depending on the exact definition of fatal suicide attack, the number of observations
(years) could range from 9 (1994-2002) to 14 (1989-2002). This does not account for one event on December 11,
1974, which cannot conclusively be identified as a suicide attack. 52As of January 2003, for the 75 fatal suicide attacks since 1989 (68 since April 1994), the attack originated from the
West Bank in 47 cases (45 cases since 1994) and from Gaza in 15 cases (10 since 1994). In 2 other cases the
suicide attacker was known to be from another region, and for the other 11 cases the origin of the attacker
remained unknown. 53 Additional information was compared to validate the match.
VII. Sample Descriptive Statistics and Estimation Results:
A. Correlates of participation in Palestinian terrorist (Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad)
1. Sample Descriptive Statistics
Table 1 reports the means of selected demographic variables for Palestinian (Hamas and PIJ)
terrorists and the Palestinian population of similar age, sex and religion, as were tabulated using
the data set culled from the terrorists’ biographies as well as the “Labor Force Surveys in Judea,
Samaria and Gaza”. Each characteristic’s category is followed by a Chi-square test of the null
hypothesis that the characteristic is independent of terrorist status.
An interesting finding of this data is that 31 percent of the Palestinians, compared to only 16
percent of the terrorists, were characterized as poor54. Second, out of 208 observations where
information about the terrorist’s education was available, 96 percent (200) have at least a high
school education and 65 percent (135) have some kind of higher education, compared to 51
percent and 15 percent, respectively, in the Palestinian population of same age, sex and religion.
Third, age of the terrorists was either directly indicated in the biographies as the age of death
(for those who died), the age at expelling time (for those that were expelled to Lebanon), or it
was computed from the date of publication and the date of birth, when available. Age at or just
prior to the time of publication was known or possible to compute for 296 of the terrorist
biographies. The Palestinian population contains a larger share of its individuals at prime time
earning ages (58 percent between 25 and 54 years of age) when compared to the terrorists (only
51 percent in the same age range). Compared to the general population, terrorists tend to be
potential problems introduced by it.
younger: where only 72 percent of the general population is below the age of 34, 91 percent of
terrorists fall into this group.55
Fourth, terrorists tended to be from urban areas (54 percent of the 311 observations where
this information was available), whereas only 34 percent of the Palestinian population was living
in urban areas. In particular, 47 percent of the terrorists lived in Gaza, compared to only 22
percent of the comparable population.
Fifth, only 45 percent of the terrorists were married, compared to an average of 59 percent in
the population of individuals with similar age, sex and religion56. Finally, out of 142
observations where information about labor force status of the terrorists was known, 94 percent
held some kind of employment, whereas only 69 percent of the Palestinian population was
employed. The right hand portion of the table reports the means when the sample is restricted to
include only individuals between 18 and 41 years of age (slightly more than 94 percent of the
Hamas and PIJ sample fall under this age range), and not to include the 50 PIJ leaders deported
on December 17, 1992. The means of the restricted sample do not differ significantly from the
ones obtained using the more inclusive sample.
Table 2 shows similar findings when characteristics of only suicide-bombers are compared to
the characteristics of the Palestinian population of same age, sex and religion. The table also
displays the results when the sample is restricted to include only individuals between 17 and 28
years of age (slightly more than 90 percent of the suicide-bombers sample fall under this age
range). None of the 50 PIJ leaders deported on December 17, 1992 became suicide-bombers, so
that their exclusion was irrelevant. Similar findings are obtained when the characteristics of
become even more striking. 56 One should remember, however, the different age distribution mentioned earlier.
Hamas terrorists and the PIJ terrorists are compared separately with the characteristics of the
Palestinian population of the same age, sex and religion57.
2. Estimation Results
Table 3 provides logistic estimates using the pooled sample of terrorists (Hamas and PIJ) and
the “Labor Force Surveys in Judea, Samaria and Gaza” of 1993. The dependent variable equals
one if the individual is a Hamas or PIJ terrorist, and zero otherwise58. The first three columns
present the unweighted estimates and the last three columns present the weighted, consistent
estimates. All estimates are statistically significant, and suggest that poverty is inversely related,
and education is positively related, with the likelihood that someone becomes a Hamas or PIJ
terrorist. The results remain similar and identical with respect to sign and significance of the
coefficients when the sample is restricted not to include the 50 PIJ leaders deported on December
17, 1992, and to include only individuals between 18 and 41 years of age (Table 4).
Table 5 presents the logistic estimates of the same analysis with regard to Hamas and PIJ
suicide-bombers. The results are similar in terms of the directions of the effects and are all
statistically significant, as well. Restricting the sample to include only individuals 17-28 years
old did not alter the results (Table 6).
Introducing regional and marital status dummy variables into the equations improved the log
likelihood fitness of the estimations, plus both dummies were statistically significant. An
additional potentially valid control variable, the type of residence (refugee camp versus urban or
rural localities), was insignificant once the regional dummy was included. Moreover, the
inclusion of the type of residence dummy did not change any of the other results in terms of the
signs or significance of the coefficients.
B. The effect of economic condition on the number of terrorist attacks:
1. Estimation Results of Time Series Analysis
Table 7 provides the coefficients of the negative binomial regression of the number of
terrorist attacks (as the dependent variable) and the annual logarithm of the average wage (as the
independent variable of interest). At first, the annual average wage was positively correlated with
the number of terrorist attacks, but the coefficient was insignificant. Introducing a dummy
variable to control for the possible differences of measures in the levels of the average wage
when collected from different sources caused the effect to remain positive and become
statistically significant at the 15 percent significance level. These results are very sensitive to
specification, as is apparent from columns 3, 4 and 5. Adding control variables brings back the
positive correlation, but the coefficients remain insignificant.
The estimates from a repetition of the above exercise using growth in GDP per capita as the
independent variable, instead of the annual logarithm of average wage can be found in Table 8.
The results show that the number of terrorist attacks moved pro-cyclically (i.e. higher GDP
growth was associated with a higher level of attacks) and the positive association becomes
significant when controlling for the possible differences of measures in the levels due to the
different sources, for the changes in population, and for a possible time trend.
Table 9 contains the estimates of the analysis of suicide attacks when the economic variable
of interest is the lagged growth in GDP per capita. The analysis of suicide attacks required
additional sophistication due to the short period at hand.59 Since GDP data were available for the
West Bank and Gaza separately, two regions that jointly account for 94 percent of the suicide
attacks for which I could identify the perpetrator’s residence of origin, the suicide attacks data
was split according to the perpetrator’s residence between the two regions and analyzed with
respect to the economic variables of the corresponding region. Hence, I was able to double the
number of observations using the variability in the economic performance of the regions. For 6
of the 41 relevant suicide attacks, the region from which the perpetrator originated could not be
identified; and in the case of 2 other attacks the perpetrator originated from outside the West
Bank and Gaza. The first analysis using current GDP per capita growth yielded insignificant
results under all the specifications. However, considering the one year lagged effect, as presented
in Table 9, yields significant results when controlling for the possible differences of measures in
the levels due to the different sources and for a possible time trend. Allowing a different level
and slope between the two regions causes the significance level to improve. In all cases the
number of suicide attacks moved pro-cyclically.
Since it is conceivable that an increase in GDP or lagged GDP per capita would have a
different impact, when compared to a decrease of those variables, on the tendency to carry out
terrorist attacks, a dummy variable was introduced to the previously described models. The
dummy equaled one for an increase in GDP or lagged GDP per capita, and zero otherwise.
When introduced by itself and when included in a product with the main variable of interest, the
dummy ended up being insignificant.
2002 (inclusive), this would yield a maximum of 14 observations. However, reliable GDP data for 1993, the year
in which the ICBS ceased surveying the Gaza strip and Jericho while the Palestinian authorities were not yet
prepared to start their own orderly surveys and statistics, is missing. Moreover, data for 2002 was not yet
available at time of writing this section.
If there is a link between income level, education, and participation in terrorist activities, it is
either very weak or in the opposite direction of what one intuitively might have expected.
According to the findings of this paper, there is no reason to believe that increasing the years of
schooling or raising the income level of individuals, without simultaneously modifying the
educational content and monitoring (or at least limiting) the possible use of any additional
income, will decrease the trend towards terror, the level of terror, or using means of terror.
The importance of the use of education to fight terror is not invalidated, in spite of these
disappointing findings, which suggest that increasing years of school enrollment and attainment
of higher degrees by itself does not reduce the probability of participation in terrorist activities,
and possibly increases participation. On the societal level, the findings are weaker and subject to
different interpretations. However, in my opinion, the relationships are the same in direction,
although much more complex.
Policy makers, when trying to reduce terrorism via education or income, should focus not on
the amount of education but on the content of education; changing the substance when needed in
order to create positive stimulations towards democracy, moderation, appeasement and
coexistence. Not all education is equal, and as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said in another
context, “education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The
most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason but with no morals.”60 It is
sometimes obvious how educational tools are used to breed terrorism. Examples of this can be
seen by excerpts from the school books of the Official Palestinian Authority education system.
To demonstrate this point I have chosen a few quotes out of the official Palestinian Authority
textbooks61 (inciting parts/words are underlined):
• “Know, my son, that Palestine is your country… that its pure soil is drenched with the
blood of Martyrs …Answer this: Why must we fight the Jews and drive them out of our
land?” [Our Arabic Language for Fifth Grade #542, p. 64-66]
• “Bayonets and Torches … In your left hand you carried the Koran, And in your right an
Arab sword … Without blood not even one centimeter will be liberated. Therefore, go
forward crying: Allah is great.” [Reader and Literary Texts for Eighth Grade #578, p.
• “Indeed, Satan has, in the eyes of many people, made their evil actions appear beautiful…
Such a people are the Jews …” [Islamic Education for Eighth Grade #576, p. 95]
• “The clearest examples of racist belief and racial discrimination in the world are Nazism
and Zionism.” [Modern Arab History for Twelfth Grade, Part I #648, p. 123]
• “My brothers! The oppressors [Israel] have overstepped the boundary. Therefore Jihad
and sacrifice are a duty … are we to let them steal its Arab nature … Draw your sword …
let us gather for war with red blood and blazing fire … Death shall call and the sword
shall be crazed from much slaughter … Oh Palestine, the youth will redeem your land…”
[Reader and Literary Texts for Eighth Grade #578, p. 120-122]
• “This religion will defeat all other religions and it will be disseminated, by Allah’s will,
through the Muslim Jihad fighters.” [Islamic Education for Seventh Grade #564, p. 125]
This organization is clearly not unbiased, but because I am using only the provided quotes from the original
textbooks and do not rely on their interpretations, I have no reason to suspect inaccuracies.
• “Martyred Jihad fighters are the most … honored people, after the Prophets…” [Reader
And Literary Texts for Tenth Grade #607, p. 103]
• “Determine what is the subject, and what is the predicate, in the following sentences: The
Jihad is a religious duty of every Muslim man and woman.” [Our Arabic Language for
Fifth Grade #542, p. 167]
A quick overview of the content shown above is enough to let us suspect that in this case
educational tools are used to breed terrorism among the Palestinian Youth. In addition, a major
part of one’s education is shaped or at least influenced at home. While school can only do so
much to put contents into an already molded structure, this structure sometimes tends to be in
support of terrorist activities and will find it easy to legitimate them.
The London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat published an interview with
Umm Nidal, the mother of the “Shahid” [martyr] Muhammad Farhat62. When asked the question:
“Did you have a role in the planting of this spirit [of becoming a suicide-bomber] in
Muhammad?” Umm Nidal answers: “Allah be praised, I am a Muslim and I believe in Jihad.
Jihad is one of the elements of the faith and this is what encouraged me to sacrifice Muhammad
in Jihad for the sake of Allah. My son was not destroyed, he is not dead; he is living a happier
life than I. … Because I love my son, I encouraged him to die a martyr’s death for the sake of
Allah… Jihad is a religious obligation incumbent upon us, and we must carry it out.”
Another blatant example was when Yassar Arafat’s (president of the Palestinian Authority)
wife, Suha, said in an interview on April 12, 2002 with London’s Arabic-language newspaper Al
Majall that if she had a son, there would be “no greater honor” than for him to be a suicide-
English translation can be found at http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP39102
bomber. Any educational system supportive of concepts like the one mentioned above would, in
my opinion, only increase the probability of engaging in terrorist activities.
Similarly, economic prosperity will not eliminate terrorism by itself. If individuals have
no restrictions on what they may or may not do with their increased income, they may use it to
buy more and improved weapons and increase their terrorist activities. Perhaps surprisingly, even
extreme expression of terrorist acts such as suicide attacks seems to follow improvements and
not deteriorations in economic conditions. Policy makers, once again, should promote the
creation of a strictly enforced judicial system in order to ensure that wealth is channeled to the
Becker, Gary S. “Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach.” The Journal of Political
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there a casual connection?” National Bureau of Economic Research (Cambridge, MA)
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Characteristics of Palestinian (Hamas and PIJ) terrorists and Palestinian population of similar age, sex and religion.
2 Wilgoren, Jodi. “After the Attacks: The Hijackers; A Terrorist Profile Emerges That Confounds the Experts.” New
14 http://www.israel-mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0chz0 15 http://www.wrmea.com/archives/august-september01/0108050.html 16 http://www.csmonitor.com/2001/1210/p7s1-wogi.htm 17 http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld199900/ldhansrd/pdvn/lds02/text/20227-06.htm 18 http://bcsia.ksg.harvard.edu/publication.cfm?program=ISP&ctype=article&item_id=270
19 http://www.fed-soc.org/Publications/Terrorism/trade.htm 20 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/1857642.stm
21 Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Thirty Years of Terror: A Retrospective Edition.” Terrorism in the United States
23 The U.S. government has employed this definition of terrorism for statistical and analytical purposes since 1983.
25 In addition to the background provided here, it might be useful to be acquainted with the Palestinian security
26 “Club goods” are special perks that only members of a particular group enjoy.
27 Hamas’s website http://www.palestine-info.net/arabic/hamas/shuhda/shuhda.htm later replaced with
28 The first biography is dated October 6, 1987 and the latest biography I have included in the data set is dated May
29 Ergun M. Caner, professor of theology and church history at Criswell College in Dallas and co-author of
31 This data was used by Joshua Angrist. “The economic returns to schooling in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
32 The questionnaire and aggregate results are available from: http://www.pcpsr.org/survey/polls/2001/p3a.html
33 In order to be categorized as poor, one had to earn less than 40 percent of the Israeli minimum wage, which is
39 http://www.israel-mfa.gov.il/mfa/home.asp 40 The National Insurance Institute of Israel is Israel’s counterpart to the U.S. Social Security Administration.
45 A summary of attacks and deaths appears in Appendix A. 46 This includes 515 deaths from 75 suicide attacks. 47 Including occupied territories.
where yi is a discrete variable that equals 1 if the outcome is positive (e.g., if the individual
48 See section V for details about the data and the collection procedure.
49 Krueger and Maleckova (2002) encountered the exact same problem; I am following their suggested
51 The first suicide bombing attack in Israel is usually attributed to Sahar Tamam Nabulsi, who on April 16, 1993
54 See section V for the way that individual’s economic status was inferred in each of the populations and the
55 Given the age distribution differences, the finding described previously (of differences in poverty and education)
57 Available from the author upon request. 58 Refer to section VI for more details about the estimation strategy and the problem of choice-based sampling.
59 The first fatal suicide attack accounted for in my time series data occurred on July 6, 1989. On a yearly basis until
60 From Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech to Morehouse College in 1948 on “The Purpose of Education.”
61 Material provided by “The center for monitoring the impact of peace”: http://www.matckh.org/articles/pareport.htm
62 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 5, 2002
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