A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Database Spotlight: Government Actions in a Terror Environment-Israel

START has just released a dataset designed to provide insight into the effectiveness of government counterterrorism strategies. The Government Actions in a Terror Environment-Israel (GATE-Israel) Dataset identifies the counterterrorism tactics that Israel used with respect to Palestinian constituencies, including both violent acts resulting in death (intended to punish terrorist groups) to conciliatory acts involving peaceful gestures (intended to address grievances of the broader Palestinian constituency).

To build the dataset, a textual analysis program searched news articles and coded text based on noun and verb pattern recognition to identify any government actions that were targeted toward a terrorist organization or its constituency. The results were then evaluated to discern the degree to which they raised the costs of terrorism (punished) and/or the degree to which they raised the benefits of abstaining from terrorism.

The time period covered by this dataset, 1987-2004, includes three distinct Israeli tactical regimes, responses to the First Intifada, actions during the Oslo Lull and responses to the Second Intifada -- each of which embodied a different approach to preventing and responding to terrorism.

Examples of Israel's conciliatory tactics that rewarded abstention from terrorist acts included: providing social services to aggrieved constituencies; encouraging peace talks; withdrawing troops; releasing prisoners; and promoting cultural freedoms. Israel's repressive and punishment centered attempts to reduce terrorism included: passage of anti-terrorism laws; extension of prison sentences; assassination; deportation; and military retaliation.

Earlier this year, GATE's lead researchers Laura Dugan and Erica Chenoweth released a study based on GATE-Israel and the Global Terrorism Database that found that conciliatory tactics were more effective than punishment in reducing terrorism.

That study, "Moving Beyond Deterrence: The Effectiveness of Raising the Expected Utility of Abstaining from Terrorism in Israel," was published in the August issue of the American Sociological Review. In addition to the Israel data, the GATE project researchers have collected data from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and Algeria; and are beginning to collect data from the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom.

While most current research evaluates the effects of the most salient and usually repressive actions, the GATE project collects data on all government actions, ranging from fully repressive to fully conciliatory, that were initiated by governments in select countries from 1987 to the present.

GATE-Israel is available for download on START's Dataverse page here.