In 1996, when Boaz Ganor founded Israel’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), top security figures around the world gave short shrift to the academic study of terrorism. That is, of course, until the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Only then did the world take note of the great importance of bridging the gap between academics and practitioners.
The study of counter-terrorism is now considered crucial in the fight against global terror. But the “art” of counter-terrorism, as Ganor calls it, is anything but intuitive for heads of state. The Israeli academic and his team believe that world leaders often self-sabotage with counter-productive policies and doctrines. The following factors are what Israeli counter-terrorism experts like Ganor deem some of the most important current challenges in their field.
The prison system
Israel’s counter-terrorism experts warn of the prison-to-terrorism pipeline in Europe in which young, second-generation Muslim immigrants are radicalized within Western prison systems, then are released from prison and go on to perpetrate many of the deadly terrorist attacks on that continent. In addition to advocating for heightening awareness of radicalization in jails and the need to block leaders of terrorist organizations from communicating within the same jail, Israeli counter-terrorism practitioners argue for a better jail system that works long-term, even after terrorists are released.
The experts warn that some aspects of Western culture are contributing to the sociological processes within Muslim immigrant communities that lead to radicalization and terrorist recruitment. Ganor cites video games such as “Grand Theft Auto,” in which the player acts as the villain, as contributing to the mindset of raping, killing and torturing innocents. He also notes the impact of television series such as “Game of Thrones” that portray beheadings, torture and Islamic State-like behavior that resonates with Muslim immigrant youngsters. Islamic State utilizes these images from Western pop culture in their advertisements targeted at young recruits.