ATbar The Shefayyim Conference

The Shefayyim Conference

27/06/1997 | by ICT Staff  

Contending With Terror: Psychological Aspects

June 26, 1997 - June 27, 1997

On June 26, 1997 The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (affiliated with The Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya), initiated a conference on the psychological damage of terrorism. The conference was attended by professionals who deal with the different aspects of terrorism and public opinion, including experts from academia, former security personnel, psychologists, educators, public opinion experts and others.

Conference Conclusions

The conference opened with a plenary session of all participants, during which the psychological influences of terrorist attacks were assessed, and the need to neutralize these influences was outlined. At the end of this session the participants met in two separate panels: one covering Terrorism and Education and the second - Terrorism, the Media, and Public Opinion. Panel discussions were conducted with the objective of reaching conclusions and making operative recommendations for dealing with the psychological damage of terrorism through entities that shape public opinion: the media, and formal and informal educational systems.

Participants of the media panel, headed by Mr. Boaz Ganor, resolved to call on all the electronic and print media channels in Israel to form an ad hoc committee comprising members of the media in order to formulate voluntary rules regarding media coverage of terrorist attacks. The experts also discussed how certain types of media coverage of terror attacks might do more damage to public morale than benefit the publics desire for new and important information.

Representatives of the education panel, headed by Mr. Ehud Yatom, called for the formulation of a strategic program suited to different ages, in order to improve civilians’ ability to cope with crises in general, and terrorist threats in particular. Panel participants called for the creation of a multi-disciplinary steering committee, which would formulate such a curriculum and carry out training courses for teachers based on the program. The conclusions reached by the discussion participants were presented in the two policy papers enclosed, one on “Terrorism and the Media” and the second on “Terrorism and Education.”

The International Policy Institute for Counter - Terrorism (ICT) intends to continue to implement the recommendations of the experts as part of the strategic fight against terrorism, which would reduce the psychological damage of terrorism. The conclusions of the conference will be conveyed to editors, publishers and television station owners in Israel, the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee of the Knesset, Education Committee of the Knesset, and the Ministry of Education, in order to assess the possibilities of implementing the recommendations. In addition, the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism intends to sponsor another conference to assess how public opinion is affected by the reactions of public officials after mass terrorist attacks. The conference would aim to formulate acceptable rules for the conduct of public official in the aftermath of terror incidents.

Conclusions Of The Panel on Terrorism and the Media

Participants at the Shefayyim Conference, including representatives  from ICT at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliah, academics, security experts, psychologists, media people, and others, repeatedly stress that:

A. Terrorism is designed to sap the moral strength of Israeli citizens and upset their way of life. In its threats and harmful onslaught on persons and property, terrorism causes moral and psychological damages.

B. Terrorist attacks are meant to attain political aims-- change policies and influence political moves. To attain these aims, terrorism seeks broad media exposure, in order to reach various target populations and spread fear and anxiety.

C. All agencies involved in the shaping of public opinion in Israel must contribute their share to the minimization of the moral-psychological damages of terrorism (including politicians, public figures, media people, academics, educators, etc.).

D.  Methods and guidelines must be formulated that will, on the one hand, enable the media to go on playing their crucial role in a democratic society of reporting freely and without external interference and, on the other hand, restrict the extent of the damages to people’s sense of personal safety and to public morale.

In the light of these guiding principles, participants at the conference recommend the following operative steps:

1.  Participants at the Shefayyim conference believe that two--way ongoing contacts should be established between defense and governmental agencies represented at the Bureau for Counter-Terrorism and the media, on subjects related to terrorism. For this purpose, an authorized body should be created, to which media representatives could turn for on-line reliable information regarding terrorism, on an ongoing basis and during terrorist attacks. It should be noted that during the discussions at the conference, the Bureau for Counter-Terrorism agreed in principle to the creation of such a body.

2.  Participants at the Shefayyim conference call upon the electronic media and the Israeli press -- editors, journalists, publishers and owners -- to establish an ad-hoc committee of media members to agree upon technical rules regarding media coverage of terrorist attacks, during and after their occurrence. The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism is willing to assist in the creation of this committee by providing technical backing and professional advice.

3. In this context, participants at the conference recommend that journalists in this committee engage in discussions concerning ways of preventing the moral, psychological, and operational damages caused to the public and to individuals through the following actions:

In the course of an attack 

A. Taking close-up pictures of the dead or injured victims in the area of the attack.

B. Broadcasting or reporting from the area about extreme signs of panic and anxiety. 

C. Recycling the trauma through repeated and frequent transmissions of pictures and broadcasts. 

D. Disclosing procedures, operational techniques and deployment of security forces in the area of the attack.

After Attacks and Routinely

E. Photographing and broadcasting extreme expressions of mourning and anxiety from funerals and from victims’ houses.

F. Dramatizing attacks of terrorism and complimenting their perpetrators (on their determination, their professionalism, their readiness for self-sacrifice, etc.)

G. Broadcasting propaganda cassettes of terrorist organizations (reporting on the area, on suicide attackers, on kidnapped victims, etc.).

H. Drastically changing scheduled programs in the electronic media.

4. In this context,  participants at the Shefayyim Conference also recommend:

A. Training reporters on ways of covering terrorist attacks under pressure.

B. Informing the public about the ways in which terrorist organizations attempt to manipulate Israeli public opinion, and about the relatively low probability of being injured in a terrorist attack as compared with other factors (road accidents, etc.).

C. Experts should be engaged for this purpose, while maintaining ongoing contacts, during and after attacks, with the coordinating body to be established for this purpose by the Bureau for Counter-Terrorism .

5. Participants at the Shefayyim Conference are aware of the effect that public statements made during and after mass terrorist attacks have on Israeli public opinion. For this purpose, the International Policy Institute for Counter- Terrorism will seek to formulate a number of rules concerning the behavior of public figures during such events, and make these available to the appropriate institutions.

Conclusions Of The Panel on Terrorism and Education

Participants of the “Shefayim Conference” held by the International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism, affiliated with the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, hereby declare: 

  • Terrorist attacks aim to harm the morale of Israel’s population, by instilling the public with constant fear and threats, in an attempt to drastically disrupt daily life in the country.
  • The principle damage caused by terrorism is the deterioration of public morale, in addition to the obvious injury to and destruction of human life.
  • The heightening of fear in the Israeli public by the media, both at the scene of terrorist attacks and in its aftermath, and the minimal and coverage of the coping process- plays into the hands of the terrorist organizations and encourages them to continue their activities with even more zeal.
  • It can be assumed that terrorist activities will continue in the foreseeable future, regardless of  the political situation in the region.  At the same time, improving the means of coping with terrorism will strengthen the public’s morale in times of crises and will minimize the psychological impact of  the terrorist attacks.
  • It should be a national and educational goal to create tools to enable the Israeli public to deal with the activities of politically motivated extremist groups (terrorist organizations) - which strive, through violence, to disrupt the daily lives of the Israeli public.

Accordingly, the participants of the “Shefayim Conference” are calling on the official bodies in charge of educational systems, as well as those who stand at the head of formal and informal community and military educational systems, to adopt a strategic educational program. Its main objective will be to improve the ability of civilians, of all ages, to deal with crises in general, and particularly with terrorist threats.

In order to reduce as much as possible the influence of external factors (such as budget shortages, etc.), it is recommended that the program be adapted to various age groups and be structured modularly, not hierarchically, so that the different elements will not be dependent on one another and it will be possible to apply each component group separately.

It is recommended that the “umbrella title” and subtitle of the program focus on terrorism as part of the public’s awareness of national security issues in general.

It is recommended that the program include, in all its components, interaction between children and youth and their parents and other adults in their surroundings - within the framework of community systems and Israel Defense Force educational systems -  and between different course subjects and in particular with courses which deal with staff training.

It is recommended that the program include, among other things, the following elements: 

  • Development and improvement of tools and means, which will encourage youth and adolescents to become involved in ongoing security missions on the home front - and in this way to reinforce both the feeling of sharing in the responsibility for community security and the feeling of being in control during times of crisis. Within this framework, it is recommended, among others, that:

    A. Youth be encouraged to volunteer for emergency service activities (Magen David Adom, Civil Guard and others) in their residential areas, which will foster a sense of sharing in the responsibility and will strengthen the ability to cope with crisis situations.   
    B. Broader and more comprehensive studies be offered in self defense and contact - conflict methods, to reinforce the sense of physical security of the individual.
  • Preparation for dealing with individual and community crises, among others through visualization (simulation) of different terrorist events and analysis of the ability to enlist resources to deal with them.  In this way the program will serve to engender resourcefulness and control in a situation and to neutralize passive behavior,  which itself enhances the impotence and misery during emergencies and crises.
  •  Formulating lessons and activities in order to increase the knowledge and familiarity with terrorist organizations, their objectives and capabilities.  Within this framework, the following activities are recommended:
    A. Explaining terrorist strategy and the propaganda methods of terrorist organizations.
    B. Highlighting the correct proportion between terrorist threat and the damage caused by it, and dealing with other crises and challenges of daily life.
  • Formulating a program which will help identify propaganda manipulation on the part of terrorist organizations and will stress the importance of standing up to this manipulation, as part of the overall fight against terrorism.  Among the components of the program are:
    A. Critical consumer program - seminars on critical newspaper reading and critical TV watching.
    B. Seminars to train media people and journalists who cover terrorist attacks (senior and novice) in the need to provide critical and balanced coverage of the attacks.
  • Instituting a system of increased excursions throughout the country for children together with their parents, in order to enhance the sense of belonging to the country for the youngsters and their parents, and indirectly to enhance the sense of personal security. It is recommended that youth be involved in organizing the trips, deciding on routes, guiding those aspects related to heritage and history, and even guarding the trips.
  • Unassisted familiarity, as far as possible, for children and youth with security systems and with steps taken by these bodies to thwart terrorist attacks and to increase personal security.

Participants of the “Shefayim Conference”, Terrorism and Education Panel, call for the immediate establishment of a multi-disciplinary steering committee, to formulate a comprehensive educational program and submit it to suitable bodies.  It is recommended that the team include people from academia and from the field in the following spheres: behavioral science, education, communication, army and police.

It is recommend that once the program has been formulated, training courses be given to teachers, educators and guides, so that they in turn can run the program with children and youth in educational institutions, in youth movements, through community educational activities and in the IDF. It is of great importance that the youth themselves be trained to give the course to younger children, as they themselves will be able to identify with the contents being delivered.