When Deterrence Backfires: House Demolitions, Palestinian Radicalization, and Israeli Fatalities

Michael Freedman*, Esteban F. Klor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Conflict points around the world involve government forces fighting terrorist groups. In this type of warfare, there is a danger that counterterrorist efforts may backfire, providing ammunition for additional cycles of violence. We study this issue focusing on selective and indiscriminate house demolitions employed by Israel during the Second Intifada. We exploit the temporal and spatial variation of this policy to assess its impact on Palestinians’ political views. We find that the civilian population does not react to punitive house demolitions, a selective form of counterterrorism. On the contrary, Palestinians are more likely to adopt more radical political opinions in response to precautionary house demolitions, an indiscriminate form of counterterrorism. We also show that political radicalization induced by indiscriminate counterterrorism leads to an increase in future terror attacks. Overall, our analysis provides explicit empirical support to the mechanism behind the positive correlation between indiscriminate counterterrorism and future levels of violence.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1592-1617
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • counterterrorism
  • house demolitions
  • political radicalization


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