David Capitanchik

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search
David Capitanchik

David Bernard Capitanchik (born 5 November 1934) is a former academic and e-learning development officer who is a popular ‘terrorism expert’ in the British media. His appearance as an 'expert' largely occurred after he ceased to be an academic, prior to which he appears to have been primarily interested in Jewish and Israeli politics, rather than terrorism.

Education and career

A biographical note in a 1985 book states that Capitanchik studied at the University of Southampton[1] and a spreadsheet containing alumni at the University of Southampton lists him as class of ’68 Alumni in the department of mathematics.[2] This seems to conflict with reports that he lectured at Aberdeen University from 1967 but it is certainly the correct David Capitanchik because Helen Capitanchik who is also listed in the spreadsheet is his wife. It seems likely therefore that the list refers to the date of Capitanchik’s PhD award rather than his graduation.

According to his biography at the Robert Gordon University, Capitanchik was Senior Lecturer in Politics at Aberdeen University, from 1967 until 1993. There he specialised in the politics of the Middle East and in international terrorism.[3] Capitanchik's career is unusual in that he left that academic post in 1993 and took up an apparently administrative post in the Further Education college in Aberdeen (Aberdeen College) where he was Strategic Development Executive until 1999.[4] Capitanchik was also appointed a director of Aberdeen Skills and Enterprise Training (ASAT) in April 1993. ASAT is a subsidiary company of Aberdeen College and provides specialist training to the Oil, Gas, Marine, Electrical, Transportation and Health & Safety industries.[5] Corporate records also reveal that Capitanchik joined an obscure PR company between March and May 1995 called Norseman P.R. Ltd. Later in September that year Capitanchik hosted an ad hoc radio station Offshore Europe Radio, which was set up specifically for the Offshore Europe '95 exhibition and conference in Aberdeen.[6]

In 2000 Capitanchik moved to Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University, where he was a Project Development Officer with the Department of eLearning.[7] At Robert Gordon University Capitanchik again seems to have been involved in providing long distance training to the oil industry. He is quoted in a University publication as saying “The Virtual Campus has already proved itself as an ideal platform to deliver lifelong training to the oil industry in a cost-effective way, especially for offshore workers"[8] Capitanchik retired from his post at Robert Gordon University in December 2004.[9]

It would appear therefore that Capitanchik ceased to be in an academic post in 1993 and appears to have never published any academic journal articles on the issue of terrorism, the subject of his 'expertise' in the media.

Since Capitanchik left Aberdeen University in 1993 has often been described as being affiliated with his former employer. Some examples:

  • David Capitanchik, of the University of Aberdeen[10]
  • David Capitanchik, a terrorism expert at Aberdeen University[11]
  • Professor David Capitanchik of Aberdeen University[12][13]

A blogger called Gerry Smith wrote to Aberdeen University to enquire about Capitanchik links with the establishment. According to his blog the University replied that:

Capitanchik was employed by the University of Aberdeen some 12 years ago, and recently retired from The Robert Gordon University.[14]

Capitanchik is reportedly an "honorary lecturer" at the University of Aberdeen,[15] and is often misreported as being still at the University.[16] A Lexis-Nexis search for 'David Capitanchik' and 'Aberdeen University' or 'University of Aberdeen' (minus any references to 'Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen') returns 123 articles.[17] A total of eight of these are from the period until the end of 1993, the year he departed from Aberdeen. A further eight mention his 'honorary' status at Aberdeen (one from 1996 reporting his publication with the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and seven from 2006). Four further articles refer to him as a 'former' employee as in 'formerly with Aberdeen University's centre for defence studies'.[18]

Academic writings

Capitanchik was most active as an academic during the '80s and '90s. The academic database ISI Web of Knowledge lists 48 papers authored by Capitanchik between 1981 and 2003, only four of which were published this decade. Only three of those 48 publicaitons were academic papers; the remainder are book reviews, predominantly on Israeli politics and society. Most of the reviews appeared in International Affairs (23) and the Jewish Journal of Sociology (13). Of these 48 it appears that there are only three journal articles and that none of them are about 'terrorism'. (Titles: 'Between Lebanon and the Gulf', 1984; 'The People Fail to Decide: The Israeli General Election of 1988', 1989 and 'The Israeli General Election of 1996 - Another Upheaval?' 1996). Capitanchik also wrote two books (The Eisenhower Presidency and American Foreign Policy, 1969 and Defence and Public Opinion (co-authored withRichard C. Eichenberg) 1983. - Full details below) Again, neither appear to be about terrorism. The basis of Capitanchik's 'expertise' in terrorism is thus a little hard to perceive.

Early work

One of his books - the 1983 Defence and Public Opinion, was co-authored with US academic Richard Eichenberg. It was published as number 20 in the series 'Chatham House Papers' by the elite think tank the Royal Institute for International Affairs. Running to less than one hundred pages it is something between a pamphlet and a book. In the preface it is claimed that Capitanchik wrote five of the nine chapters (including the introduction) as well as taking the major responsibility for the conclusion. Among his contributions was the chapter on the UK. The book is interesting to the extent that it sheds light on elite worries in 1983 about the rise of the peace movement and opposition to US imperialism. These are worries that extended across the ruling political class in the UK and certainly in the US. It was out of this ferment that the CIA and the British domestic intelligence agencies engaged in covert attempts to undermine the peace movement in particular and the left in general. This ran in parallel with a renewed interest in propaganda and ideological warfare or 'public diplomacy' as it was called at the time. It is this element of ruling concerns that animates the book. It notes in the conclusion that concerns that European public opinion was diverging from the needs of US elites but argues that things are not as bad as they might seem 'because 'public support for NATO remains high in all European member states. Nor is there any sign that the legitimacy and utility of military institutions have been rejected as a matter of principle, as the "pacifist" label would suggest'[19] Further it argues that 'the staying power of the consensus surrounding the need for standing military forces has been underestimated.[20]. As a resultthos theorists who have argued that 'military force was becoming increasingly irrelevant or dysfuntional' and instead want to advance 'non military instruments of security policy'(covert action, public diplomacy and propaganda) - are wrong. Specifically mentioned here are the proponents of 'soft power' Joseph Nye and Robert Keohane. Capitanchik goes on to put this rather baldly writing in the year after the Falklands/Malvinas conflict: 'the actions of the British and French forces during the past five years hardly indicate a total lack of utility for the use of force'.[21]

The conclusion goes on to note three 'problems' of public opinion. Naturally public opinion is only a problem for the political elite if it is out of sympathy with elite concerns. The problems are lack of support for nuclear proliferation, increased defence spending and 'the recent dip in attitudes towards America'.[22]

The latter problem is 'especially important' and it is noted that the US ambassador in Bonn Arthur Burns - among others (Francis Pym and Hans-Dietrich Genscher are mentioned) - have been arguing that 'the younger "successor generation" must be brought to understand the reasons for security policies'.[23] But the authors suggest that the problem is less straightforward than simply the young. They note that opposition to increases in defence spending relates also to concerns about welfare spending and other social priorities such as tackling inequality. These concerns are widely shared in Europe and are not just the preoccupation of the young. They explain this in the UK (citing Harold Sprout and Margaret Sprout) as being the 'inevitable result of the extension of power to the working class'.[24]

This is - they say 'both a relief and a warning to Alliance governments' since the problem of youth does not exhaust the issue, while on the other hand the problem is not so serious since it comes from varying roots and is not an in principle reject of the Alliance. We can conclude from this that the approach taken in this book is consonant with the RIIA view of the worl which is less ideologically driven and more pragmatic than other similar views being propounded at the time by nascent neocons such as those emphaises soft power, the successor generation and the need for ideological battle and the subversion of the left.

Media presence

Chart showing Capitanchik media presence
Table showing Capitanchik media presence

As the table on the left and the graph on the right show, Capitanchik's role as a media 'terrorism expert' takes off in the mid-1990s and increased significantly during this decade. A Lexis-Nexis search reveals a handful of print media appearances in the 1980s, but returns only one reference to Capitanchik as a 'terrorism expert' (The Toronto Star, 17 July 1988). In the early 1990s Capitanchik appears in several articles commenting variously on the IRA, the PLO and the development of right-wing terrorism in the United States. In 1996 he reappears in print media advocating censorship of the internet because of "increasing racism, xenophobia, intolerance and bigotry"[25] This related to a report he had written for the Institute for Jewish Policy Research with Michael Whine of the Board of Deputies of British Jews on the use of the internet by extreme right-wing groups.[26] Later that year Capitanchik appears again, warning that the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in the United States may be the start of a "US neo-Nazi terror campaign"[27] and his media presence steadily increases.

Even before 1996 it would seem that Capitanchik had already developed a TV and radio presence because he is referred to in the editor's notes of a 1996 press release as "a frequent radio and TV commentator on terrorism and Middle East affairs".[28]

The table and graph above show Capitanichik's presence in the English print media up until the end of 2007. The figures were compiled by searching all English language news at Lexis-Nexis.[29]

Links to Israel

Prior to his academic career Capitanchik lived and worked in Israel, first in the Youth section of the General Confederation of Labour (the Histadrut) and subsequently, in the Israeli Civil Service.[30] In 1989 Capitanchik was personally invited by then Israeli Prime Minister Shamir to a Solidarity Conference in Israel. Capitanchik declined in protest over the Israeli government’s actions in the occupied territories. His objection was not particularly principled, but was based on the assessment that the occupation was too costly (“It has cost $1.5 billion, 2 per cent of Israel's annual rate of growth, and 100,000 army training days”) and ultimately counterproductive (“The existence of the hostile Arab population, and the need to protect the Jewish settlements in their midst, could make the territories a liability rather than an asset”).[31]

Links to the oil industry

A biographical note in a 1999 book states that Capitanchik is a member of the Institute of Petroleum[32] and there are several other facts linking him to oil companies. A Lloyd's List News Release in 1995 reveals that Capitanchik hosted an ad hoc radio station Offshore Europe Radio, which was set up specifically for the Offshore Europe '95 exhibition and conference in Aberdeen in September 1995.[33] During his time at Aberdeen College Capitanchik was a director of Aberdeen Skills and Enterprise Training (ASAT) which provides specialist training to the Oil, Gas, Marine, Electrical, Transportation and Health & Safety industries.[34] At the Robert Gordon University Capitanchik was again involved in providing long distance training to the oil industry. He is quoted in a RGU publication as saying “The Virtual Campus has already proved itself as an ideal platform to deliver lifelong training to the oil industry in a cost-effective way, especially for offshore workers"[35] Finally an April 2008 article in the Scotland On Sunday refers to Capitanchik as “a national security and oil industry expert with Robert Gordon University”[36]

Views on 'terrorism'


“I cannot think of a country where you are guaranteed to be safe...We are vulnerable right here in Britain. It would not take much for a suicide bomber to walk into Selfridges...” The Times, 31/10/02 [points out that we are always vulnerable.]


The Scotsman, 14/04/03 "I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true a number of senior Iraqis had escaped in a convoy of Russian diplomats. Since Saddam came to power the Russians have been very close to his regime. It must be remembered that Saddam owes Russia $12 billion for arms deliveries and economic aid and the two are closely tied through this." [comments on the possible location of Saddam and other senior Iraqis]

The Evening Express, 16/12/03 (via google cache) "Instead of the bloodshed of the Balkans I expect the new Iraq to be more like a devolved Britain." [predicts how events will unfold in Iraq. One of the few occasions he provides an optimistic prediction.]


The Scotsman, 17/09/04 "If it had been terrorists the consequences could have been horrendous. Suicide bombers would have blown themselves up or attacked someone with knives." [comments after journalists gain unauthorised access to the Scottish Parliament.]

The Sunday Times, 26/09/04 "It’s no excuse to say that security would have been tighter when the royal family are in residence. The palace is susceptible to a Brighton bombing-style attack, in which a terrorist was able to build a bomb into a wall (in advance)." [commenting on a reporter gaining access to Holyrood house.]

Alan Taylor, writing in The Sunday Herald, comments on the Tartan Bollocks Awards , 2004, "when due recognition is given to stories whose relationship with reality is tenuous to say the least."

In truth, there was never any doubt about whose bollocks would win the top award. Step forward Jason Allardyce of the teuchter edition of the Funday Times. In March, Mr Allardyce reported that “government experts” believed that the Holyrood parliament could be attacked by “a lone terrorist with a lightweight mortar” standing on Salisbury Crags... Credence was lent to this incredible tale by... rent-an-academic, David Capitanchik, “a terrorism expert” at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, who said he expected surveillance of the hills overlooking the parliament site to be stepped up in view of the danger of a mortar attack. Apparently, “terrorists were most likely to strike during visits by foreign dignitaries and eminent people.... The parliament is exposed,” added Mr Capitanchick observantly, “and if things get really tough for terrorists in London, which they are, and if they see things are not so tight in Edinburgh, they could come here. Al-Qaeda does not know much about devolution. We are as vulnerable in Scotland as any other place in the UK.”[37]


The Scotsman, 01/04/05 "I was surprised when Gordon Brown encouraged people to join the anti-poverty march which I think is an occasion to worry about." [warning against joining the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh]

Daily Record, 31/05/05 "Given the current terror threat, it would be unreasonable for Britain - the Americans' main coalition partner - to refuse their request." [agrees with Blair's decision to allow 2000 heavily armed US Marines to help guard Bush during the G8 summit.]


Publications - date order

Journal articles


  • The Eisenhower Presidency and American Foreign Policy by David Capitanchik ISBN 0710066414 / 9780710066411 / 0-7100-6641-4 Publisher Routledge & Kegan Paul, Limited, 1969
  • Defence and Public Opinion by Richard C. Eichenberg and David Capitanchik ISBN 071009356X / 9780710093561 / 0-7100-9356-X Publisher Brookings Inst Pr./London : Royal Institute of International Affairs ; 1983.ISBN: 071009356X[38]

Press articles

  • ‘Killers using the web to snare young minds’, Daily Mail, 18 September 2007
  • ‘Terrorism is here to stay; LEADER’, The Express, 2 July 2007
  • ‘Scotland is now in extremists' firing line’, Aberdeen Press and Journal, 11 August 2006
  • ‘There could be others planning and plotting’, Aberdeen Evening Express, 10 August 2006
  • ‘Why we needed a 90-day law to defeat terrorists, Aberdeen Evening Express, 11 November 2005
  • ‘World has been safer thanks to president’, Aberdeen Evening Express, 3 November 2004
  • ‘Why do we need an anti-terror text book?, Aberdeen Evening Express, 27 July 2004
  • ‘Could we be next soft target for Bin Laden?’, Aberdeen Evening Express, 26 April 2004
  • ‘Massacre in Madrid: it could happen here...or anywhere', Daily Record, 12 March 2004.
  • ‘Terror group still a force to be reckoned with’, The Scotsman, 19 May 2003
  • ‘Saudis risk the wrath of the US; by terrorism expert of the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen’, Daily Record, 14 May 2003
  • ‘Diplomat is the US’s greatest catch’, The Scotsman, 25 April 2003
  • ‘Hope and fear at despot’s end’, The Scotsman, 12 April 2003
  • ‘Gradual success at winning local support changes nature of war’, The Scotsman, 8 April 2003
  • ‘Guerilla war the only option for Iraqi army’, The Scotsman, 25 March 2003
  • ‘War on terror: the prime suspect: he’s set to be the ultimate martyr, The Mirror, 23 October 2001
  • ‘Enduring freedom: Britain turned a blind eye to fanatics’, Daily Record, 16 October 2001
  • ‘Taliban could be out within a week, Daily Record, 9 October 2001
  • ‘Question US must ask itself’, Evening News (Edinburgh), 12 September 2001
  • ‘Fighting factions have to hold it together’, Daily Record, 6 October 2000
  • ‘Bombs will not find a solution to crisis’ Evening News (Edinburgh), 25 March 1999,
  • ‘Open access for closed minds; Off line’, The Guardian, 2 May 1996
  • ‘Fatah landslide assured as Palestinians vote’, The Scotsman, 20 January 1996
  • ‘Candidate standing as voice against autocracy’, The Scotsman, 18 January 1996
  • ‘Shamir and solidarity’, The Jerusalem Post, 10 March 1989


  1. Sami G. Hajjar, The Middle East: From Transition to Development (Brill Archive, 1985) Contributors’ biographies on p.153
  2. University of Southampton 1968 Lost Alumni (accessed 2 June 2008)
  3. RGU News February 2005
  4. RGU News February 2005
  5. Aberdeen Skills and Enterprise Training, (accessed 4 June 2008)
  6. Lloyd's List, 'Energy World: In the Pipeline', 24 August 1995 (accessed via Lexis Nexis)
  7. RGU News February 2005
  8. Internal Magazine of the Robert Gordon University, June 2004
  9. RGU News February 2005
  11. Duncan Campbell, Richard Norton-Taylor and Conal Urquart The targets 'They say why attack a tiger when there are so many sheep?' The Guardian, Friday July 8 2005
  12. Daily Record July 8, 2005, Friday THE DAY WE KNEW WOULD COME: SCOTLAND 'ON HITLIST FOR AL-QAEDA BYLINE: By Keith Mcleod SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 12
  13. Some of these references were also posted at A Big Stick and a Small Carrot Expert Predictions Thursday, July 14, 2005
  14. Garry Smith, Expert Predictions A Big Stick and a Small Carrot, Thursday, July 14, 2005
  15. e.g. Serge F. Kovaleski, 'For Britain's young Muslims, forks in the road', International Herald Tribune, 30 August 2006
  16. see for example Duncan Campbell, Richard Norton-Taylor and Conal Urquart, 'They say why attack a tiger when there are so many sheep?', The Guardian, 8 July 2005; Kathryn Westcott, 'Tourism in an uncertain world', BBC News Online, 30 November 2002; Joanna Vallely, 'More police to patrol airports and stations', Scotland on Sunday, 1 July 2007
  17. Lexis Nexis search on 2 June 2008
  18. Scotland on Sunday July 28, 1996, Sunday Low-tech device points to 'militia' racists BYLINE: By Severin Carrell SECTION: Pg. 2
  19. D. Capitanchik and Richard C. Eichenberg Defence and Public Opinion RIIA, 1983.p.80
  20. Ibid., p. 81
  21. Ibid. p. 81
  22. Ibid, p 82
  23. Ibid. p. 82
  24. Ibid. p. 84
  25. David Capitanchik, 'Open access for closed minds', The Guardian, 2 May 1996
  26. M2 PRESSWIRE, 'Jewish think-tank calls for regulation of the Internet to curb abuse by race-hate groups' 11 September 1996 (accessed via Lexis Nexis)
  27. 'Nightmare on the way says expert', Daily Record, 29 July 1996
  28. M2 PRESSWIRE, 'Jewish think-tank calls for regulation of the Internet to curb abuse by race-hate groups' 11 September 1996 (accessed via Lexis Nexis)
  29. details of the search used are as follows: All English Language News > (((david W/S (Capitanchik) and DATE(>=[year]-01-01 and <=[year]-12-31)
  30. Sami G. Hajjar, The Middle East: From Transition to Development (Brill Archive, 1985) Contributors’ biographies on p.153
  31. David Capitanchik, ‘Shamir and Solidarity’, The Jerusalem Post, 10 March 1989
  32. Jonathan Cooper, Liberty, Liberating Cyberspace: Civil Liberties, Human Rights and the Internet (Pluto Press, 1999) p.viii
  33. Lloyd's List, 'Energy World: In the Pipeline', 24 August 1995 (accessed via Lexis Nexis)
  34. Aberdeen Skills and Enterprise Training, (accessed 4 June 2008)
  35. Internal Magazine of the Robert Gordon University, June 2004
  36. Marc Horne and Richard Elias, ‘Bank crisis, high street blues and now petrol pumps could run dry’, Scotland On Sunday, 20 April 2008
  37. The Sunday Herald December 19, 2004 HACKS HAVE A BALL WITH TENUOUS TALES BYLINE: Alan Taylor SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 20
  38. http://isbndb.com/d/person/capitanchik_david_b/books.html