New Normality? – Abstract #9

Myriam FeinbergStates of Emergency in France and Israel—Terrorism, “permanent emergencies,” and democracy

This article examines the consequences on democracy of “permanent emergencies” linked to terrorism, through the examples and a comparison of France and Israel’s states of emergency (SoE). France was under a SoE for two years. Israel has been under a SoE since its creation in 1948. In both cases, a new terrorism law was adopted which was intended to replace the SoE but which, in fact, enshrined a number of emergency measures into regular legislation. The article includes a comparative examination of the SoE regimes in France and Israel in their relationship with counterterrorism. It then focuses on three angles to provide an analysis of the consequences on rule of law principles of continued SoE adopted or used for counterterrorism purposes: The suspension of the principle of separation of powers, both in SoE regimes and in counterterrorism in general; the confusion between legal categories and the tendency to treat terrorism as an exceptional threat, which requires an exceptional response; and the tendency to focus on terrorism as an external threat, which leads to discriminatory measures.

Dieser Artikel untersucht die Folgen eines “permanenten Ausnahmezustandes” (State of Exception – SoE) im Zusammenhang mit Terrorismus für die Demokratie anhand des Vergleichs der Ausnahmezustände in Frankreich und Israel. Während Frankreich sich zwei Jahre lang im Ausnahmezustand befand, gilt dies für Israel seit seiner Gründung im Jahr 1948. In beiden Fällen wurde ein neues Terrorismusgesetz verabschiedet, das den Ausnahmezustand ersetzen sollte, aber in Wirklichkeit eine Reihe von Notfallmaßnahmen in reguläre Rechtsvorschriften aufnahm. Der Artikel enthält eine vergleichende Untersuchung der Ausnahmezustandsregime in Frankreich und Israel in ihrer Beziehung zur Terrorismusbekämpfung. Anschließend werden drei Aspekte analysiert, um eine Analyse der Konsequenzen für rechtsstaatliche Prinzipien im Rahmen der Verstetigung des Ausnahmezustandes zu liefern, wie sie zur Bekämpfung des Terrorismus angenommen oder angewandt werden: Aufhebung des Prinzips der Gewaltenteilung sowohl in Ausnahmezustandsregimen als auch in der Terrorismusbekämpfung im Allgemeinen; die Verwirrung zwischen den Rechtskategorien und der Tendenz, den Terrorismus als außergewöhnliche Bedrohung zu betrachten, die eine außergewöhnliche Reaktion erfordert; und die Tendenz, sich auf den Terrorismus als externe Bedrohung zu konzentrieren, was zu diskriminierenden Maßnahmen führt.

Keywords: State of emergency, Terrorism, France, Israel, Permanent emergencies.

This article is part of the forthcoming issue Matthias Lemke  / Ece Göztepe / Olivier Cahn (Ed.), New Normality? State of Emergency as Contemporary Government Technique.

Abstract 10/15: Myriam Feinberg (University of Haifa) – Terrorism – The Permanent Exception. A Comparison of France and Israel


This paper aims to examine the consequences on democracy of ‘permanent emergencies’ linked to terrorism, through the examples and comparison of France and Israel’s states of emergency. France has already extended the state of emergency, originally declared after the November 2015 attacks, for over a year. Israel has been under a state of emergency since its creation in 1948. In both cases, the existence of a state of emergency allows the government to adopt a number of measures which wouldn’t be legal otherwise.

Terrorism is often treated as an exceptional crime which requires an exceptional response, including the adoption of states of emergency. The changing nature of the terrorist threat requires a flexible legal framework, but there are a number of issues with creating exceptional regimes to deal with it, especially if these exceptional regimes become permanent. Exceptionalism might justify extreme rules and a wider range of measures because usual rules are considered insufficient. Yet, the desire for a symbolic message and swift action against terrorism should not cheapen the strength of existing legal measures, which run the risk of piling up without being actually implemented. In fact, we witness an inflation of terrorism legislation often adopted hurriedly and without proper implementation tools or sufficient budget. In turn, these emergency measures tend to settle in the long run as people get used to a new normal, leading to a slippery slope of what is acceptable. For instance, the new terrorism law in Israel enshrines in regular legislation measures that were, on principle, only applicable under the state of emergency.

In addition, emergency fosters extremes and often targets specific groups of people that can then become ostracized. In turn, this can create a climate of fear and resentment towards those suspected of terrorism, as well as discriminatory measures. States will tend to focus on the external and exceptional threat, instead of addressing long-term and domestic issues, which contribute to terrorism, such as radicalisation and integration.

Finally, under states of emergencies, the executive often adopts the primary role in setting the norms, which puts aside the review role of the judiciary. Yet, both in France and Israel, courts have increasingly become involved in ensuring the protection of fundamental freedoms and the separation of powers under states of emergencies, two intrinsic components of democracies. The paper will examine these three particular issues in the two states, and draw conclusions on the impact of exceptional counterterrorism measures on democracy and the rule of law.