Israeli Counter-Terrorism Specialist Examines Today’s Unique Challenges

By schwartzsa | February 22, 2013

Some suffer complexity; others avoid it. It takes a special skill set to confront it head-on. Dr. Jonathan Fine of the International Institute for Counter Terrorism recently met with students in Arcadia University’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) program to illuminate the complexities of religious political violence, ideologies of terrorist organizations and guerrilla movements, and today’s challenges in counter terrorism.

During a fast-paced, hour-long discussion at Arcadia on Jan. 30, Fine exposed the unique challenges terrorism presents, particularly to democratic nations committed to defending and protecting its citizens. When democratic values, such as individual freedom, equality, and the protection of minority rights, are at risk, he asks students, “How far are we ready to go?”

“Not everything is black and white,” says Fine. “The bottom line, when it comes to the Middle Eastern conflict, is to show the complexity—to understand what’s going on.”

Fine is the undergraduate adviser of both the international program in Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy at the Raphael Recanati International School and the Lauder Government School at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzlyia, Israel, and a researcher at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism (ICT). He is a former advisor on arms control and conflict resolution at the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strategic division planning branch. He often lectures Elite IDF units and courses such as the IDF air force pilot course, naval officer course, IDF Commando units, and the IDF Tactical Command College.

As a scholar and practitioner, Fine advised students not to get too caught up in theory—it’s an important message, particularly for IPCR students as they prepare for graduation.

“His lecture highlighted the gap between theory and practice, research, between experts and policymakers—Fine nicely represents that nexus,” says Dr. Amy Cox, Administrative Director of IPCR and instructor of the IPCR Capstone course. “Listening to an expert like Fine helps students see possibilities and explore different career trajectories. It’s vital for them as emerging professionals to see how their IPCR skills and interests can be applied in different ways.”

While most of Fine’s lectures address specific professional fields—in fact, just before his engagement at Arcadia, he met with Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department—he also enjoys teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

“I’m interested to go new places—it’s like Star Trek visiting strange galaxies,” Fine says, revealing an acute wit, which gives warmth to chilling lecture topics. “There’s a big challenge on college campuses, and I think as a professional in my field, I can make an honest contribution in dealing with these things and talking about them—especially the underlying complexities.  Things are much more complicated than the way they’re perceived by easy slogans or even from certain political groups.”

For first-year IPCR students William Kuhn ’14M and Steven Harter ’14M, the lecture couldn’t have come at a better time. They are currently conducting research with Cox examining political violence and where the term “terrorism” fits in political violence, drawing from events, media and strategies from the past 10 years. They hope to correspond with Fine on his experiences as they move forward with their research.

“The lecture, for me, was very valuable—I actually wish it was longer,” says Kuhn, who has a background in counter terrorism and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as U.S. Army infantry officer. “I felt that I could relate to Dr. Fine in his communication of the difficulties in addressing terrorism. His discussion on counter-terrorism policy-making was very interesting in his delineation between experts and politicians and how they come to make the decisions that they do when it comes to counter-terrorism.”

The event was held in collaboration with the Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region. The connection came as a result of the inaugural Jerusalem Preview, led by Jan Tecklin, Professor of Physical Therapy.

“We are very excited to be collaborating with the Consulate General of Israel,” says Tecklin. In spring 2012, Louis Balcher, Director of Academic Affairs and Community Relations of the Consulate General of Israel, contacted Tecklin in the hopes of strengthening interdisciplinary programs in Philadelphia and abroad. “We’ve developed a wonderful relationship,” adds Tecklin. “We are exploring possibilities for future events.”