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URI professors study terrorism in Israel
KINGSTON, R.I. -- June 16, 2003 -- Terrorists will strike the United States again, according to political scientist Marc Genest of Warwick who is on leave from the University of Rhode Island and teaching at the Naval War College in Newport. Its inevitable.
"Youre not going to the stop it, but you can manage it," says Genest who recently returned to the state from Israel after attending a 10-day course entitled "Defending Democracy, Defeating Terrorism," offered in conjunction with the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, Israel. Genest and fellow URI Political Science Professor Norm Zucker of Kingston were among only 20 college professors across the country named Academic Fellows of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C. In addition to the course, the two political scientists were taken to the Lebanese and Gaza strip borders and met with academic experts on terrorism, officials working to prevent terrorism, and members of the Prime Ministers office.
"Israel is a case study," says Genest of the republic, which is about the size of New Jersey. "Although it has sophisticated counterterrorism procedures and attuned to the problem, terrorism still happens. Its unpredictable. Thats the nature of the game."
Genest is writing a book about terrorism and says the fellowship provided a unique opportunity to meet and talk with practitioners who combat terrorism on a daily basis. "Its important to point out that although Israel is constantly under siege, the media sensationalizes the violence there. There are 10 times more deaths from car accidents in Israel than terrorism. In fact, Israel has much less violent crime than the U.S."
One of Zuckers books, The Coming Crisis in Israel: Private Faith and Public Policy deals with religion and politics in Israel. He has taught courses on Israel for years and has traveled there often. "Its one thing to understand the theoretical side of terrorism and another thing to see the practical side of it. The visit was both instructive and frightening," he says. "Im used to seeing guns, but on this trip I saw much more. I even saw children carrying cell phones. Not to chat with friends, mind you, but to call their families in case something happens. It was chilling."
Zucker says he was surprised by the access the Fellows were given. He even met a New York City police officer there who was learning counter terrorism methods.
Neither terrorism nor suicide bombers are new. "You only have to look back in history to the kamikaze pilots of World War II," says Genest. "What is different is that terrorism has become globalized and systematic in the 21st Century. And the issues extend beyond social and economic injustice. (Tom) Friedman (N.Y. Times reporter and author of The Lexus and the Olive Tree) refers to the super empowered individual in a business sense, but I think that term can easily be applied to a terrorist leader who, with all of this modern technology, can wreak global havoc."
Both political scientists say they admire the resiliency of the Israeli people and how they go about their daily business.
When asked about the new road map to peace, Genest comments: "A vast majority of Palestinians want a normal life. I doubt that giving them their own state will end the terrorism. That would put the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists out of jobs, so they will do anything to undermine the peace process. So Abbas (Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas) will either have to crush the radical element or be ineffective."
"There are such psychological and economic costs to terrorism," says Zucker who agrees with Genest that terrorism is not about to go away. "We have to prepare for it. Rhode Island is probably not in any imminent danger, yet it is wise to prepare," he says noting that preparation for terrorism helped the state cope effectively with the multiple victims of The Station nightclub fire.