Under the heading "Current Challenges in Counterterrorism - What Austria Can Learn from Them," the 2nd Autumn Symposium was held in Vienna on 20 October 2022. Following his introductory lecture, Boaz Ganor, Director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), Israel, discussed with Omar Haijawi-Pirchner, Director of the State Protection and Intelligence Directorate, and Nicolas Stockhammer, a political scientist specializing in extremism and terrorism research at the University for Continuing Education Krems.
The introductory words to the 2nd Autumn Symposium were given by Dr Franz Ruf, Director General for Public Security, Mordechai Rodgold, Ambassador of the State of Israel, and Friedrich Faulhammer, Rector of the University for Continuing Education Krems. Faulhammer highlighted the importance of the cooperation with the Federal Ministry of the Interior in the form of the research cluster "Counter-Terrorism, CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) and Intelligence" at the Department for Legal Studies and International Relations. As the University for Continuing Education Krems has a transdisciplinary approach that combines scientific disciplines with a societal perspective, it is predestined to be a partner institution.
Terrorism as an Interdisciplinary Phenomenon
In his presentation, Prof Boaz Ganor, founder and executive director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) and holder of the Ronald S. Lauder Chair in Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University in Herzliya, Israel, addressed the "art of fighting terrorism." He emphasized that terrorism is an interdisciplinary phenomenon for which understanding requires knowledge from psychology, criminology, computer science, biology, medicine and many others. It is important for terrorism experts Ganor to build bridges between the scientific world and practitioners.
Understanding aspects of terrorism
Specifically, Ganor cited six challenges in dealing with terrorism. For example, he said, it starts with the lack of a common definition of what exactly is meant by terrorism. One man's terrorist could be another man's freedom fighter. Ganor defines terrorism as the intentional use of violence at the hands of non-state actors against civilian targets in order to achieve political goals. The second challenge is to determine who terrorists are, depending on whether they are individual perpetrators, independent groups, or a terrorist cell. To also understand the mindset that underlies the terrorist acts is a challenge. A further challenge Ganor mentioned was the "equation of terrorism," relating personal motivation to operational capabilities. To find the right balance between liberal democratic values and counterterrorism measures is also demanding, which leads to the last challenge, the tension between public awareness and resilience.
Some of the keynote's aspects were elaborated upon in the subsequent panel discussion by Boaz Ganor, Omar Haijawi-Pirchner, Director of the Directorate of State Protection and Intelligence, and Nicolas Stockhammer, Head of the Research Cluster "Counter-Terrorism, CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) and Intelligence" at the University for Continuing Education Krems. By citing Margaret Thatcher's quote that publicity is the oxygen of terrorism, Stockhammer addressed, among other things, the importance of public attention. Furthermore, the problem of isolated acting individuals, the "lone wolves”, was discussed.