As researchers dedicated to the critical study of terrorism and counter-terrorism we oppose the broad and indiscriminate use of the label ‘terrorism’ by Israel and the international community to designate the entire Palestinian population as potential terrorists, justifying collective punishment. As CTS researchers, we know that the effects of the discursive use of the label ‘terrorism’ extend far beyond that of an individual group, and can instead condemn entire communities and populations as ‘suspect communities’. As critical scholars, it is also imperative that we situate any analysis of the current situation within its historical colonial context and recognise that this violence predates current events. Many counter-terrorism tools have colonial histories in the collective punishment of whole communities. As academics pursuing social justice and freedom from violence, we are horrified to see the deployment of these colonial tools by the Israeli state towards Palestinians as a form of collective punishment. We are further outraged to see the acceptance of this narrative without question by the international community.
Over the past week, civilians, civilian sites and hospitals have been impacted as a result of Israeli airstrikes. The Israeli state has cut off Gaza’s electricity and water, used deadly white Phosphorus, and entrapped millions of civilians in one of the most densely populated regions of the world. Israel has also ordered the total evacuation of north Gaza, including 22 hospitals, which, as experts have warned, constitutes an act of ethnic cleansing. Such an evacuation is impossible and is further obstructed by Israel’s bombardment of evacuation routes. These collective punishments are in contravention of International Law. This is not to mention that the closure of Gaza has already been deemed a collective punishment, prior to the events of October 2023, and is understood by the United Nations as an illegal occupation.
We are also extremely concerned by the increasing reports of the silencing of critical speech highlighting the situation in Palestine. Counter-terrorism practices often work insidiously to shut down the speech of racialised and Muslim communities. In the UK, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman has already suggested that to hold a Palestinian flag may be a criminal act, and across UK higher education institutions, we are already seeing events being shut down and Palestinian voices being silenced.
We extend our solidarity to those mourning the loss of their loved ones in both Palestine and Israel. We also reaffirm our commitment to creating a space where we can challenge the hegemonic narratives on security and terrorism that justify oppression and dehumanise entire communities.
Critical Studies on Terrorism Working Group Conveners