Study finds Israeli-Palestinian Conflict not One-sided

Josh Clark

One of the more unusual things to come out of the Cold War was the doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD). Unusual, insane -- one of those. The MAD doctrine pretty much served as the fulcrum for the precarious balance between the Soviet and American poles and kept one side from annihilating the other. The whole point of MAD was that, sure, the US had hundreds of Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying thermonuclear warheads deployed, but the USSR had hundreds of Satan ICBMs. The US could wipe Moscow, St. Petersburg and Omsk off the map; the USSR could wipe out Washington, New York, and Topeka.

Actually, in 1986, at the height of the Cold War arms race, the USSR and the US had a combined 70,500 nuclear warheads in their arsenals. Nuclear observers estimate this was enough to destroy the planet about 25 times.

The point of MAD is that once was enough. A single nuclear attack was tantamount to striking against oneself, since each side had the weapons and the mettle to launch a counterstrike. It was this awareness on both sides that probably kept the world alive during the Cold War.

Such polarization has not been present in the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Each side has pointed toward the other as the aggressor and has portrayed itself as merely reacting defensively to provocation like rocket attacks in neighborhoods and machine gun exchanges along the security fence that separates them.

A recent study from a joint team of researchers from MIT, Tel Aviv University, Quinnipiac University and the University of Zurich (to more explicity imply neutrality) found that this sense of one-sidedness has created the atmosphere that has allowed the conflict to carry on for generations. The researchers even managed to quantify the effects each side's attack on the other had on its own population.

The researchers studied the Second Infantada, which was initiated in September 2000 by the bombing attack on a civilian and military convoy that left 19-year-old Israeli solider David Biri dead, followed two days later by the shooting death of 12-year-old Palestinian boy Mohammad al-Dura. The latter boy was allegedly killed by Israeli border police, while the former was allegedly killed by Palestinian terrorists. The deaths sparked off eight years of strikes, which left 6,371 Palestinians dead and 1,083 Israelis dead.

The joint study used Vector Autoregression that showed statistically the results of each individual attack. The researchers found that in one example, the killing of five Palestinians in an attack increased by fifty percent the probability that Israelis would die in a Palestinian attack the following day.

The conflict is not one-sided, the study found, and the actions of each side contribute to its own demise.