CEG response to Government’s Prevent Review ‘Progress Update’

One year on progress report – public support for Hamas shows more work needs to be done

Sir William Shawcross’ concerns about the implementation of his Prevent review should prompt the Government to action.

In the press yesterday, Sir William criticised the Government’s ‘One year on progress report’, arguing that there are key areas among his 34 recommendations that have not been adequately addressed.

In his original review, published last February, Sir William criticised Prevent for overlooking an in-depth investigation into the domestic Hamas support network (IRP, p.25), despite the terrorist group being proscribed in full in late 2019.

Troublingly, since the 7 October 2023 attacks by Hamas and affiliate militants on Israel, we have seen regular marches on our streets – driven by a coalition of organisations some of whom have links with the Hamas leadership. The pro-Hamas narratives and virulent antisemitism which has soared in recent months is, we would argue, the most pressing radicalisation risk that Prevent faces today. Western intelligence chiefs have warned that the Israel-Gaza war could radicalise people towards violence.
At least from the public’s perspective, Prevent appears absent in tackling this problem. Yet there are several ways in which Prevent can, and should be responding to the UK Hamas support base.

Challenge pro-Hamas themes: Part of Prevent’s role is to offer a civil society response to the scourge of radicalisation; its purveyors and influential narratives. This includes funding community initiatives to tackle extremist views locally, particularly in areas considered high risk. Sir William expected to see more of this being done publicly (IRP, p. 27) and, particularly in the current climate, it is striking that Prevent does not appear to have played a visible role in challenging the pro-Hamas narratives circulating widely since 7th October.

Address the “culture of timidity” towards Islamism: Prevent must reflect the radicalisation and threat picture. Yet Sir William revealed a wholesale failure of the programme to adequately understand or grapple with Islamism, from training provided to officials and frontline practitioners, to Home Office research products and institutional Prevent referrals. Islamist ideology drives the majority of the terrorism threats facing the UK – and post-7th October will likely continue to do so for some time. The progress report says that “work is focused on the current threat and [is] proportionate across ideologies” and “thresholds are being applied consistently and proportionately”. Yet the latest Home Office stats show that a deep seated problem remains – Islamist referrals have now reached a new low of 11% despite three quarters of MI5’s terrorist caseload being Islamist. Clear public guidance on what Prevent thresholds look like should be developed to assure Ministers that this issue has abated.

Enhance Prevent Disruptions to reduce the influence of Hamas’ support network: Prevent has a unit tasked with ‘disrupting the activities and influence of those who seek to radicalise others’ (IRP, p.38) but fall beneath criminal thresholds. In effect, Prevent should be using all legal means available to thwart chronic radicalisers – such as those subscribing to the Muslim Brotherhood’s worldview, which includes Hamas supporters. Whether that means ensuring venues are not exploited by radicalisers, schools are provided support when facing threats from extremists, or working alongside law enforcement to reduce the influence of Hamas-linked figures and terrorist-supporting networks.

Prevent is not to blame for the radicalisation risks facing the UK, particularly in the wake of 7th October. That sits solely with those who celebrate Hamas terrorism – in our streets, our mosques, and online – leading many British Jews (and increasingly MPs) at risk of attack.

Nonetheless, as the Government’s primary means of combating radicalisation, Prevent plays a critical role in overcoming this challenge. While the progress report evidences meaningful and important changes, the Government should heed Sir William’s warning that key issues are still being overlooked.