Terror in Cyberspace and the Myth of the “Lone Wolf”

Gabriel Weimann notes some of the ways the Internet is changing terrorism—among them, the role of the so-called “lone wolf”:

In the last few years, no terrorist attacks in the West were conducted, as 9/11 was, by a large group of . . . people. They are conducted instead by individuals acting alone. . . . [These attacks] appeared to have been undertaken by operators who had not been to a training camp and were not part of a terrorist group. However, as in nature, lone wolves do not survive. . . . Part of my research has focused on tracking lone wolves online and we found that all the attackers had a virtual pack behind them, one that we could track and identify. We could see their emails, the websites, the videos they downloaded or uploaded, their postings on Facebook and their tweets—we could see just about everything. All were radicalized, recruited, instructed, trained—and sometimes the attacks were even launched—online. And some terror attacks have been prevented because counter-terrorism agencies monitored the Internet. . . . [I]f there is a virtual pack, and you know how to follow the tracks, it is still possible to interdict the terrorists.

Read more at Fathom

More about: 9/11, Cyberwarfare, Internet, Politics & Current Affairs, Terrorism

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood