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Fighting terrorism in the Middle East includes the need to strengthen the forces of moderation in the region

11/09/2017 Leave a comment

dp1_-_sc_at_icts_17th_world_summit_on_counterterrorism_-_11_sept_2017It was an honour to speak at the 17th World Summit on Counter-Terrorism that was organised by the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC) in Herzliya. In my remarks I thanked Prof Reichman, President and Founder of the IDC and Prof Ganor, Founder and Executive Director of the IDC for organising the event.

It was quite symbolic that we met on September 11th. I opened by saying that

I was also humbled to speak before an audience in which there are many who sadly remember and have lived through many other terrorist attacks. Israel is a country that has lived with terror for decades. Decades in which most families have been hurt by violence and terror. Decades in which most families have remembered the losses, the sadness, the fear and the trauma that terror causes.

I spoke at the forum also as someone who has sadly lived with that phenomena for most of my life. The first car bomb was at the age of seven. In Iraq I had lost friends and colleagues. My own country has experienced its most recent terror attack in 2012 when Hezbullah killed five Israelis and one Bulgarian in a bus bombing.

In the last couple of years, as the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, I can attest to how vastly destructive the impact of terrorism is, not just on human beings but also on the prospects of peace.

Sadly, in this part of the world, extremists have chosen terrorism as their most prominent tool to destroy political processes, to destroy the prospects of peace. That is why standing up firmly to terror must be an integral part of any peace effort, not just in words but also in deeds.

Just as we often speak of the need to promote peace through sustainable development and economic opportunity, so we must insulate efforts to achieve peace in the region from the risks that terror and violence bring.

In the Middle East of today, we face a reality in which terrorist threats are interconnected. To tackle them we need a broad approach that extends well beyond the borders of any one country and go beyond the region as a whole.

Today’s reality demands a new international approach on how we deal with the new threats that the Middle East and North Africa face. I spoke about three processes that together unfortunately create the perfect storm that we see unfolding right now in the Middle East, before making some suggestions of how to deal with these challenges.

Firstly, we see a process of collapsing states that lack democratic legitimacy, that lack strong institutions, or the ability to deliver services to their people. In Syria a president stood up against his own people. In Iraq, a collapsed state was replaced by ethnic and sectarian divisions.

When such states are unable to meet the legitimate demands of their people for representation, economic and social development, security or human dignity, they create space for radical groups and extremists.

In late 2013, the Iraqi people in the Anbar province and elsewhere took to the streets demanding jobs, dignity and fair economic and social opportunities. They were not met with dialogue but with guns. Soon their protests that had turned into sit-ins that were infiltrated by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and ISIL and by the spring of 2014. Their agenda was hijacked by radical extremists with a destructive agenda.

Had the government reacted differently, perhaps that would not have happened.

At the same time, we see across the Middle East the implosion of marginalized communities. Groups that are impoverished, or have been disenfranchised, or feel marginalized or discriminated against quickly collapse under the pressure of radical extremists; And become breeding grounds for terror, mass atrocities and violence.

Almost two years before Mosul fell to the hands of ISIL, all the signs were there; and the United Nations had been warning the world. For years the people in Mosul lived in fear of the central government. They felt that their dignity was not respected. Their lacked economic opportunities, institutions were corrupt and ineffective. People felt marginalized. In the period before the fall of Mosul to the hands of DAESH, practically every single elected representative was killed, maimed, kidnapped or kicked out by the terror organizations.

Terror struck in waves; first it struck elected officials, then it struck civilians, then it struck religious communities, and last but not least, it struck schools.

In the last couple of months before the fall of Mosul, we had a surge of terror attacks in which suicide bombers attacked schools. This destroyed the social structures of society.

As states collapse, as social structures implode, the international community lacks the tools to deal with the trans-border threats that face the region today. Our instruments were designed to deal primarily with state-to-state conflicts. They would have helped us deal with a war between Iraq and Syria, but how do we deal with a war inside Iraq and inside Syria that risks to spread and engulf everyone around them?

These are some of the challenges that today we need to find the answers to and to deal with at an international, regional and national level.

We in the United Nations, together with our many partners around the world, are investing great attention and resources in trying to fix our own approaches so that we have a better understanding of what needs to be done.

We are investing not just in providing humanitarian relief to suffering communities but also working to help still-functioning states and as-yet-unbroken communities in the region protect themselves from the vulnerabilities of what is happening around us.

It is very important that we take the necessary actions to prevent further conflict.

UN Secretary-General Guterres has been very much focused on developing a new vision for the Organization; one which prioritizes prevention over response. As part of his efforts to focus on preventing violence, conflict and mass atrocities, he has also established a UN Office for Counter-Terrorism.

My colleague, Jehangir Khan later spoke more specifically to these developments.

I focused on five objectives related to how we deal with terror in the international community that warrant some discussion.

Firstly, is the moral foundation for our work — zero tolerance for the justification or legitimization of terror. In Israel, this is particularly pertinent discussion. It is however a very valid discussion well beyond the borders of your state.

We must constantly reaffirm and strengthen the clear international consensus against terror. Let me quote a UN General Assembly Resolution (49/60), adopted in 1994: “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them”.

So first we need to condemn terror, then secondly we have an obligation to promote inclusive political solutions to conflicts.

Experience in this part of the world has shown us that if you create hope, and then take hope away, most of the time you end up with violence. This is particularly pertinent to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Today, we live in a historical period in which the hope for peace and for a solution to the conflict is well beyond the reach of political leaders on all sides.

Terrorism strives where there is division and suffocates when the core grievances that people have are addressed.

This is one of the reasons why in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is important to create the hope for peace by recreating a political horizon to address the final status issues. Such a political process needs to be accompanied by economic and social measures that improve the lives of Palestinians and a regional framework that insulates the process from those who will seek to destroy it.

The third objective that we must focus on is the need to address the political and socio-economic factors that breed violent extremism. Across the region, this means investing in development, upholding human rights and strengthening the resilience of communities against extremism.

Fourth, we need to focus on the coordinated fight against the drivers and enablers of terrorism at an international level. We need to strengthen the international response to incitement and radical propaganda; focus on illicit weapons smuggling and production; the financial flows to terror groups; the movement of foreign fighters; and the question of accountability for states in upholding their international obligations.

Last but not least, we also have a political objective that I believe is very important and that is to strengthening the forces of moderation in the Middle East. Over the last year or so, we have seen a growing understanding among leaders in some countries of the Arab world of the need to focus on this priority and this a welcome development.

These are just some of the priorities that I suggested we should look at in our international efforts to address the threat of terrorism, particularly here in the Middle East. Much more can be said and certainly much more can be done.

In closing, I reminded everyone that sadly terrorists have a doubly de-humanizing impact on all. On the one hand, they brand entire populations as legitimate targets. On the other, they stigmatize their own ethnic or religious groups as potential terrorists. We should not allow them to win by caving into this bias. The negative action of one terrorist today still resonates widely, while the actions of many individuals who work every day to prevent violence remain unnoticed.

I expressed my hope that this conference will be able to speak to how we challenge this visibility bias and the de-humanizing effect of terror.

But I also encouraged participants not to shy away from the political task that we have before us — how to strengthen the forces of moderation and how do we increase the residence of communities so that we can together stand against violent extremism and terror.

I condemn today’s #terror attack in #Jerusalem. Deplorable that #Hamas glorify such acts

09/10/2016 Leave a comment

jerusalem-shootingI condemn this morning’s terror attack by a Palestinian perpetrator in occupied East Jerusalem which killed two Israelis and injured six others. Nothing can justify such attacks.

My thoughts are with the families and friends of all victims and I hope for a full and speedy recovery of the wounded.

It is deplorable and unacceptable that Hamas and others choose to glorify such acts which undermine the possibility of a peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis

New #Duma arson attack; #Israel must ensure vulnerable #WestBank #Palestinian communities are protected

20/07/2016 2 comments

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-ATTACKI am concerned by reports of yet another arson attack on the home of the Dawabsha family last night in Duma in the occupied West Bank. If confirmed, this despicable act would be the third incident in this particular village in the last year.

Since the 31 July 2015 terrorist arson attack in which Jewish extremists torched the Dawabsha home, killing three family members and leaving four year-old Ahmed orphaned, indictments have been made, but the perpetrators of this terrible crime have yet to face justice. I call upon the authorities to move swiftly in bringing the perpetrators of this terrible crime, as well as this latest incident, to justice.

I also urge Israel, as the occupying power, to ensure that vulnerable Palestinian communities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are protected in line with its obligations under international law.

#BREAKING: #MiddleEast Quartet report on #Israel #Palestine published

01/07/2016 Leave a comment

You can download the full report here.

Its objective is not to be a scorecard for assigning blame, but to provide a constructive way forward towards achieving a negotiated two-state solution. Any other outcome entrenches a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict that is incompatible with realising the national aspirations of both peoples.

I hope that on the basis of this report the Quartet can engage with the parties and the region in creating the conditions for a return to meaningful negotiations.

http://www.unsco.org/Documents/Key/Quartet%20Report%20and%20Statement%20-%201%20July%202016.pdf

Visiting the Palestinian village of Duma

01/08/2015 Leave a comment

The room in which toddler Ali Dawabshe lost his life (photo credit: Murad Bakri)

Walking through the burned down remains of the house, talking to the relatives and knowing that this was intentional is truly a heavy experience. I have seen my fair share of blood and destruction from the immediate aftermath of Taliban rocket attacks in Afghanistan to the Hezbollah terrorist attack in Burgas that killed seven Israelis and one Bulgarian. But burning down a toddler while he is sleeping is pure evil…

Earlier this morning I met with President Abbas agreed with Abu Mazen that what is most important now is to make sure that the perpetrators are quickly apprehended and brought to justice. This is key. People need to see that terrorists are treated equally before the law.  On behalf of the Middle East Quartet Envoys, I also extended our condolences and condemnation of the terrorist attack.

President Abbas and the Palestinian leadership have spoken clearly against this attack and called for justice. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that “terror is terror – and we need to fight it wherever it arises”. President Rivlin has said that “what we request [to fight terror] from our neighbours, from our opponents and our enemies of the last 100 years – that what we ask of them we must first ask of ourselves”.

The UN Secretary-General has condemned the act and pointed out that “continued failures to effectively address impunity for repeated acts of settler violence have led to another horrific incident involving the death of an innocent life”. In a press statement the UN Security Council  has strongly condemned “all such acts of violence, which have affected both the Palestinian and Israeli people”.

The European Union has called this cold-blooded killing “a tragic reminder of the dramatic situation in the region that highlights the urgent need for a political solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict”. The United States has also condemned the vicious attack.

The world has condemned this latest tragedy. It must now come together to stand not just against terrorism, but also against incitement.

For what its worth none of our words, statements or condemnations will bring little Ali back. But our words and actions can prevent the destruction of more lives. In this process the UN has a key role to play globally, in the Middle East, but also here on the ground where we must work both with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to revive the political process and the prospects of a two state solution based on justice, security and mutual recognition.

The visit to Duma today was a poignant reminder of that responsibility. In Bulgarian ‘duma’ (дума) means ‘word’. Words can kill, but words can also save lives.

9/11

11/09/2006 Leave a comment

It has been five years since the horrific attack on September 11th 2001.

Many people died horrible deaths, many lost friends and relatives, and many came close to losing their loved ones. It was a tragedy that will not be forgotten easily. Should not be forgotten easily. There are days in humanity’s history that are decisive for whole generations. My generation is ‘fortunate’ to already have two such dates – Nov 9th 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Sept 11th 2001.Today, five years later, as memories get blurred and life moves on we often forget what actually happened on that day. We all say that the world changed, but do we really understand how it changed. One hears voices out there that begin to question things. Did we – America, Europe, the West – not bring this onto oursleves? Who and what failed in that fatal day? Can we fight the war on terror successfully? Some even begin to question that there are forces out there bent on destroying our democratic way of life, who want to mould our societies to their twisted visions of extremist oppression. And coming from a country which has effectively regained its independence 16 years ago and has struggled for more than a decade to establish a functioning democratic system I am very sensitive to such questioning. To question is healthy. In fact to be able to question and criticise – freely and openly – these are two of the pillars of our freedom. Two pillars that came under attack five years ago.We should not forget the hope that the fall of the Berlin Wall brought to millions of people around the world, as we should never forget the realision that 9/11 brought – namely, that we must protect and advance the G-d given freedom that we have and that millions in the world still strive for.

Let us today pay tribute to those who died on Sept 11th, but let us also pay tribute to the nameless victims of terrorism and hatered around the world.

“…and it might well happen to most of us dainty people that we were in the thick of the battle of Armageddon without being waware of anything more than the annoyance of a little explosive smoke and struggle on the ground immediately about us.” George Elliot – Daniel Deronda

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