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Unpuzzling Terrorism with Lt. Col. (Res) Uri Ben Yaakov

Lt. Col. (Res.) Uri Ben Yaakov discussed the counter-terrorism bill that is currently being passed at the Knesset. Lt. Col. (Res.) Ben Yaakov, who is a senior researcher and project manager at the ICT, was sent to the Knesset as a representative of the ICT during the debate and formulation period of the law.

Lt. Col. (Res.) Ben Yaakov opened the session by giving an overview of the bill and how it affects the citizens of Israel. He clarified that the bill have been initiated 10 years ago and had passed for the first time in 2011, passed again in July 2016 and will be enforced starting on November 1st, 2016. He summarized the bill by stating that it essentially gathers and modernizes all the small existing laws, bills and regulations that address counter-terrorism into one homogenous bill.

Lt. Col. (Res.) Ben Yaakov also clarified that the bill was not the result of the recent wave of violence that plagued Israel but that it definitely influenced the bill. He stated that the Knesset sessions for the bill were held on a weekly basis, which is very unusual and has not been the case with other bills. Furthermore, he spoke about the penalties and restrictions that this bill introduces into the Israeli legal system. Essentially, Lt. Col. (Res.) Ben Yaakov stated, this bill increases the penalties or punishments for those accused of terrorism because it considers terrorism as more of a threat then regular crime.

This last wave of violence has included attackers as young as 13 or 14 years old and therefore this has created a debate about age and terrorism. Lt. Col. (Res.) Ben Yaakov explained that this bill does not address age in terms of those accused of terrorism but that age is factored in once the accused stands before a judge. Furthermore, he addressed the concerns about the difficulties of identifying potential terrorists due to the increase of female and young attackers but praised the IDF for their excellent work.

Regarding the law itself, Lt. Col. (Res.) Ben Yaakov addressed the difficulties countries face in terms of finding the right balance between providing their security agencies the tools to fight terrorism and protecting democratic values and rights. He also addressed issues that are specific to Israel such as the West Bank and Gaza and whether to treat them as separate entities or not before the law.

Lt. Col. (Res.) Ben Yaakov spoke about the role of the ICT as world-renowned organization and a leader in the field of counter-terrorism in the formulation of the bill. He explained that as a representative of the ICT, he wrote a paper in which they analyzed specific areas of the bill. For instance, he explained that this bill uses a single definition for terrorism and therefore it treats in theory actual terrorist organizations, militant branches and support organizations the same. This can create a gray legal area in cases such as the World Vision leader who was recently arrested in Gaza for funneling goods and money to Hamas leaders. Lt. Col. (Res.) Ben Yaakov addressed this gray area that is created by the law but reiterated the importance of preventing the funding of terrorist organizations by quoting former United States President Bush who stated after 9/11 that “money is the blood of terror organizations”.

Similarly, Lt. Col. (Res.) Ben Yaakov spoke about the importance of cooperation between states and different entities. He stated that cooperation is essential and not just between countries and other countries but also with banks, private companies and leaders within the Muslim communities. He specifically addressed the importance of cooperating with social media companies such as Facebook or Twitter in terms of countering cyber-terrorism and preventing online incitement. He emphasized the role that the Internet can play in recruiting, funding and inciting terror attacks. Furthermore, he clarified that this bill does not address cyber-terrorism specifically but that the laws can be applied to cyber-terrorism cases. Furthermore, on the issue of cyber-terrorism he spoke about the difficulties of pressuring companies such as Facebook or Twitter to tackle incitement due to jurisdictional issues. Israel cannot punish or censor these platforms due to the international nature of their online platforms but it can empower citizens to sue these companies for failing to prevent terror attacks.

To conclude the session Lt. Col. (Res.) Ben Yaakov praised the law for gathering, modernizing and updating all existing laws. He also commended the bill for appropriately addressing the current structures of terrorist organizations. On the other hand, he stated that he does not believe that the bill goes far enough in terms of punishment measures such as revoking citizenships or placing financial punishments for those convicted of terrorism.

Listen to Lt. Col. (Res.) Uri Ben Yaakov radio show here >>