Civil servants asked to consider Hamas as freedom fighters in King’s College course

Israel repeatedly named in counter-terror training as a ‘prime example’ of whether a state can commit terrorism



Government employees were asked to consider whether Israel could commit terrorism during a counter-terror course at King’s College London, a former civil servant has claimed.

The "Issues in Countering Terrorism" course has drawn criticism for its treatment of topics related to Israel, Hamas, and Islamist extremism.

Former civil servant Anna Stanley recounted her experience at the training in a blistering article for the online publication, Fathom, this week.

She claimed that the course suggested that Islamist extremism had been exaggerated, promoted the idea that some view Hamas as freedom fighters, and cautioned against using the label "terrorist".

In the introduction to the course aimed at civil servants and professionals, Stanley alleged that one slide said, “condemning terrorism is to endorse the power of the strong over the weak”, and that the course stated that labelling an organisation as “terrorist” was problematic because it “implied a moral judgment.”

Stanley claimed: “Israel was referenced throughout the course. We were told some consider Hamas terrorists as freedom fighters whereas Israel was provided as a prime example when considering the question of whether a state can commit terrorism.

“In this perspective, Israel is seen as a powerful aggressor and the Palestinians militarily disadvantaged in asymmetric warfare,” Stanley wrote, adding that this “fuels the view that Israel is a terrorist state and Hamas’ atrocities are justifiably ‘contextualised’.”

Stanely attended the course before the Hamas terror attack on October 7. She said that post-October 7, she had “no doubt the pogrom would have been contextually justified [on the course] as ‘merely the oppressed countering the oppressor’; with Israel’s response described as morally equivalent (or worse) to the atrocities.”

The ex-civil servant said that “everything was viewed through the lens of power.”

According to Stanley, one attendee on the course professed that her brother had been radicalised to fight in Syria for Islamic State (Isis). Stanley recalled how this person proceeded to deliver a presentation about the UK’s counter-terror strategy, Prevent. Stanley claimed: “She argued Prevent is inherently racist because it focuses on Islamist extremism. The mere mention of Islamist extremism makes Muslims ‘feel uncomfortable’, she argued.”

The same attendee also recognised a jihadi fighter in a terror advert that was shown to the course and told the room “He used to go to my school! I know him!”. Stanley noted that she “appeared to be the only one to find this extraordinary.”

Stanley said that “the course’s overriding emphasis was that Islamist extremism is exaggerated. Right-wing extremism was given more weight than is proportionate.”

She claimed one lecturer had argued that Douglas Murray and Joe Rogan were members of the far right, and asked “To what extent should Joe Rogan and Douglas Murray be suppressed?” The lecturer went on, she alleged: “Society needs to find other ways to suppress them.”

Stanley characterised the training as "existentially depressing and alienating," expressing relief that her article received widespread support. However, she noted that her concerns were not widely shared among the course attendees.

A King’s College London spokesperson said: "This private, invite-only course for civil servants was delivered on behalf of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and as with all our courses, attendees were taught by eminent experts using impartial and evidence-based resources in an environment where different theories, concepts and questions are shared to prompt discussion”.

A Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office Spokesperson said: “The Issues in Countering Terrorism course at King’s College London offers those working on counter terrorism within HMG a comprehensive introduction to Counter Terrorism trends, analysis, academic insight and space for discussion and debate.”

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