Center against Periphery: Law and Politics of "Prevention of Terrorism" Acts

Dr. Gad Barzilai


This article deals with the politics, which generates and activates legislation, enforcement, and adjudication of 'prevention of terrorism' acts in democracies.  It conceptualizes this type of legal regime as a component in the efforts of states to marginalize internal political opposition and rivals by their stigmatization as 'terrorists'.  The first part deals with theory of law, national security, and politics.  I argue that post-structural and critical analysis of state's power may significantly assists in conceptualizing how states are using national security arguments in order to mold law and activate it as a marker that serves the state in its struggles against internal political challengers.

The second part focuses more closely on the Israeli case.  The article suggests looking at the Prevention of Terrorism Order- 1948 as a political mean to exclude political rivals and displace them from the center to political peripheries.  It shows how the state, including the judiciary, has formed state law in a way that has constructed ‘prevention of terrorism’ act as an autonomous terminological and normative structure, highly contingent only on the political interests of the political elite.
Adjudication in that context and parliamentary supervision were marginal.  In the third and fourth parts of the article I ponder whether and argue why a legal restraint in divided democracies with political extremism, is preferable and better for democracy than massive legislation which excludes the periphery under the disguise of ‘prevention of terrorism’.  If indeed political violence against the public is very much likely to occur or has been taken place, I argue, ordinary criminal procedures, under democratic scrutiny, against specific offenders are more efficient and more reconcilable with human rights and egalitarian dicta than 'prevention of terrorism' acts.