De-Radicalization- A New Strategy For Israel

De-radicalization has been implemented worldwide as a strategy and as a counter terrorism method against terrorists. It is time Israel will start its own programs in regard to its political, security and cultural situation, and work against terrorism not just by force but rather with the fight of the mind. It is a psychological and theological fight that can change and help the efforts to fight terrorism.

In an interview given to Haaretz in 2009, Professor Arie Kruglanski has stated it is not enough to simply lock the terrorists behind bars, it is time to use de-radicalization methods to make them change the way they act and think. That interview was 10 years ago today, and Israel hasn’t made any progress in the field of de-radicalization, or even believing it’s a way to counter terrorism. In many countries around the world such as USA, UK, Germany, France, Philippines, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and more have realized the process of which a person decides to go to the path of terrorism is complexed and can have different routes. Some have gotten radicalized by the hardship they suffer from outside factors such as discrimination and political status, some have been going to Mosques who preaches to violence, some have been educated at home to believe in these values. It is perceived worldwide as a process in which a person, which was not radical before, becomes one after going through several life events or occurrences in which he becomes radical. And if that is the case, why can’t you stop the process or turn the wheel back?

Israel perceives a terrorist as a political criminal, with special needs and attention in separated prisons for them as “security prisoners”, but no belief in an active role to change the mindset of the terrorist and make him “return to good”. Why is that? I believe Israel perceives the terrorists as a way of life, as a cultural difference that one cannot change. The security systems know about the roads to become a terrorist but still believe in the “classic” counter terrorism methods. But what if you can have programs for prisoners, released terrorists, or just radicalized persons with no action made. What if we’re wrong? We can call the world naïve, culturally blind to the differences in the way of life. Or, we can start understanding a person who decides to go to terrorism has many reasons to and goes through a process until the day he takes actions. If we’ll try to “convert” them with theological, psychological and psychiatrist work and bring Imams and Rabbis who will talk about the opposite ways Islam and Judaism can be preached for example, that might work as a counter terrorism method just as much as targeted killing.

I’m not saying the classic counter terrorism methods aren’t working efficiently or are not important and legitimate. Neither do I say it is possible to de-radicalize all terrorists, some have criminal backgrounds and criminal mindset, and some are too radical to change. But it is a way that has been proven worthy in many cases. For example, in the UK the Home Office strategy have created “Prevent” and the program “Channel” under the “CONTEST” strategy to fight terrorism. In the strategy’s explanation about “Prevent” it was written: “We do not believe it is possible to resolve the threats we face simply by arresting and prosecuting more people. We believe that this is the view of our key allies around the world and that Prevent needs to be an international effort as much as other parts of our counter-terrorism strategy… Like CONTEST as a whole Prevent will now address radicalization to all forms of terrorism”. The strategy “Prevent” and the program “Channel” have been implemented as following: in every city or area in the UK a statutory committee has been opened to review cases of people who seem radicalized. The committee then sends the people to different programs, social security services or clinics to treat their issue. The Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 has legally made the committees a must in every city or area and public organizations such as schools, hospitals, academia and etc. have to report these people to the authorities. The police review the committee’s work and decides on the future work to be done. In Saudi Arabia there is a program in prisons to rehabilitate terrorists through meetings with Imams, psychiatrists, psychologists, and after their release they are moved to rehabilitation centers for future work.

Both examples show work of de-radicalization in different ways and phases, before the act of terrorism or after. Israel shouldn’t “copy paste” the work of de-radicalization made worldwide, but rather decide in regard to its security, politically and culturally situation how to implement de-radicalization programs. It can definitely learn and modify methods used by other countries and cooperate with them in order to use the experience of fellow countries fighting radicalization as well. I believe Israel should open de-radicalization programs in prisons, in collaboration with the Palestinian Authority and initiate civil society programs in Israel for Arabs and Jews alike. All three channels should be in cooperation with public figures, both from civil society and theological leaders, in order to create trust in those programs. It’s a triangle that has the potential to cover as much territory of radicalization as possible. Programs for the Gaza strip are not an option due to the harsh control of Hamas.

It is sure known worldwide that it’s not enough to use force against terrorists but rather use psychological and religious means as well. That is why de-radicalization is the future counter terrorism method Israel should start using.

About the Author
Michal Graf is graduate in Government, Diplomacy and Strategy from IDC Herzliya. She was part of the team of Deputy Speaker of the Israeli parliament Hilik Bar, lead an advocacy delegation to the US with Reservists on Duty and represented Israel in numerous delegations.
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