The government’s Prevent programme is perhaps the best-known part of its four-pronged counter-terrorism strategy, the other prongs being Prepare, Pursue and Protect. Prevent does what it says on the tin: it is aimed at preventing terrorism by identifying people who may sooner or later become actual terrorists.
CST has a good working relationship with Prevent, because we feel strongly that antisemitism should be considered one of the early warning signs by which potential terrorists can be identified. We believe our argument is regarded as a pretty obvious statement of fact by government, police and the security services.
Let me be clear, however, that it would be somewhat paranoid to argue that all those have ever said or done something antisemitic are at risk of becoming terrorists. The challenge is how to balance that fact with something that is equally obvious, the unfortunate reality that antisemitism repeatedly features in the ideology, rhetoric and behaviour of terrorists.
Today the two greatest terror threats to society come from jihadis and the far-right. Both groups hate Jews, so somebody displaying obsessive Jew-hatred, combined with angry political beliefs, could be on a path to terrorism.
Of course, antisemitism is but one of a range of indicators that may alert the authorities to the need for an intervention. Some of these indicators are very obvious, such as watching videos of terrorist attacks or praising terrorist groups. Other signs may be less straightforward, especially gradual changes in personal behaviour or circumstance that may denote radicalism.
As with any intelligence work, there is the difficulty of sifting through the noise to find what is important. CST recorded over 1,800 antisemitic incidents last year. How many of those could give leads to help prevent actual terrorism?
The terrorist who attacked a shul in Halle, Germany, on Yom Kippur gave a diatribe (in English) as he drove towards it. This included his saying the Holocaust was fake and Jews were responsible for feminism. On its own, neither statement would have identified him as a likely terrorist, but anti-Jewish terrorism became a more possible outcome when combined with his other actions, such as visitng websites showing how to build explosives.
Ultimately, Prevent depends on spotting clues which suggest, with increasing probability, that someone is at risk of becoming a terrorist. Antisemitism is one of those clues and it must not be ignored.