Sbarro Terror Attack 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Most Israelis who lived through the horrendous second intifada a decade ago –
during which over 1,000 of their countrymen died – recall it as a traumatic
period of terror.
But a study by researchers at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem based on surveys conducted at the time found that the five-year period
of intensive Palestinian terrorism had “almost no impact” on Jewish Israelis
self-reported satisfaction levels yet adversely affected the happiness of Arab
The research was conducted by Dr. Asaf Zussman from HU’s
economics department, together with researchers from the Central Bureau of
Statistics (CBS) and the Bank of Israel. The report – “Does Terrorism
Demoralize? Evidence from Israel” – was published in the January 2012 edition of
the journal Economica.
Zussman analyzed CBS surveys conducted from 2002
to 2005 among 22,000 Israelis.
Each year, the surveys asked a different
group of 7,000 people dozens of questions, including “Overall, are you satisfied
with your life?” The surveys showed that Israeli Jews’ self-reported
satisfaction levels remained stable despite changing levels of
In 2002, considered the most violent year of the second
intifada, 82.9 percent of Israelis stated that they were “very satisfied” or
“fairly satisfied” with their lives; in 2003, which was calmer, 81.7% of
Israelis expressed satisfaction; and in the following, even calmer year of 2004,
the percentage was 82.4%.
“The research shows that the level of life
satisfaction among Israelis is less affected by terror than we are accustomed to
think,” Zussman said. “Even in 2002, at the peak of the intifada, Jewish Israeli
citizens were content enough with their lives to be placed at a good middle spot
in comparison with other Western countries.”
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On the other hand, Israeli
Arabs’ life satisfaction displayed a robust negative reaction to terrorism. The
researchers suggested this may be related to increasing concerns about
discrimination in response to terror attacks.
The study found that while
terrorism did not significantly alter happiness levels, the weather did. People
attested to being less happy during periods of unusually bad weather than on
pleasant sunny days.
Zussman suggested that one possible explanation for
terrorism’s minimal effect is the public’s trust in the government’s strategy to
“During the intifada, and especially since the spring
of 2002, Israel’s counterterrorism strategy proved successful in reducing
Palestinian terrorism,” he said. “This may help to explain why the Israeli
public did not become demoralized.
Also, over the years the Israeli
public has developed a resiliency and managed to adjust to terrorism, with
optimism that terrorism is a temporary situation and that things will look
The study raises doubts about the effectiveness of
terrorism in achieving one of its main objectives – demoralizing the enemy
“Terrorism is a political instrument meant firstly to create
psychological demoralization among the enemy,” Zussman said, “but it would seem
that it’s not as useful as one would think.”
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