Tolerating Terrorism in the West: An International Survey

By Noemi Gal-Or | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

Do western societies tolerate terrorism? 1

Noemi Gal-Or

Writing on terrorism, Walter Laqueur, an expert in this field, discusses the traps future scholars might have to avoid: ‘… the historian of the future will be right in pointing to the wide discrepancy between the strong speeches and the weak actions of those who felt threatened [by terrorism]’. 2 He goes on to elaborate on the essence of terrorism and proposes strategies to counter it. These are also supposed to explain the reasons for the discrepancy between the menace felt, so often and so loudly warned against, and the unsatisfying policies applied to counter it.

Another author has also pointed at ‘the disparate relationship between the actual threat of terrorism and [the fact that] responses to it are pivoted on an intermediary factor of perceived threat.’ Jenny Hocking thus argues rightly that: ‘The depiction of terrorism as a threat to the state introduces an immediate discrepancy between the actual impact of terrorism and the perceived threat presented by it. This in turn interrelates with the preventive measures taken against terrorism.’ 3

A similar observation concerning the continuity of terrorism (and the increasing application of ‘terrorism’ to a variety of political behaviours) in western society, together with the alarm still raised, leads us, however, to pose a somewhat different question. While traditonally assumed and agreed by many scholars that the threat of terrorism (real or perceived, against the state or the person and so on and so forth) 4 cannot be tolerated by liberal democracies and these are only structurally restricted in effectively countering the challenge, we dare suggest a different explanation. Consequently, it is not the anti-terrorist strategies applied by western liberal-democratic governments that concern us. Rather, it is the other

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