Disrupting the ecosystem of extremism

We cannot rest until the evil ideologies that fuel terror become nothing more than relics of the past.

January 23, 2013 00:02
Hezbollah head Nasrallah speaks at Beirut protest

Nasarallah adresses crowd in Beirut. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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There is a specific kind of ecosystem that creates terrorism. Terrorism is rooted in hate, watered with instability and state support, and then planted in the next generation.

Every roadside bombing, every suicide attack, and every act of terrorism begins with words and thoughts of hate. It begins with al-Qaida websites that turn suicide bombers into jihadi celebrities. It begins with Hezbollah summer camps that use arts and crafts to glorify martyrdom and teach bombmaking skills to children.

It begins with statements by Hamas leaders like Atallah Abu al-Subh, who recently said on public Palestinian television (and I quote) “The Jews are the most despicable and contemptible nation to crawl upon the face of the Earth.” This is the poison that is being fed to people across the Middle East, day after day.

So I want to take the opportunity of this debate to ask the simple question: how do we truly counterterrorism? Yes, we must combat terrorists wherever they seek to strike. Yes, we must attack terrorist infrastructure, and go after those who support and finance terrorism.

However, true counterterrorism must also begin by disrupting the ecosystem of extremism in which terror thrives. It means advancing education that teaches peace, not hate, and mutual understanding, not martyrdom. It means speaking out against incitement and all forms of terrorism, even when it is politically inconvenient.

We are far from that reality. In too many corners of the planet, extremists have the tools to grow the next generation of terrorists. In this very council, some states offer justification for certain terrorists, while condemning others.

The Counter-Terrorism Committee, the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, and the 1540 Committee all remain essential parts of the global effort to isolate terrorists and deny them the means to inflict harm.

Israel appreciates the work of the UN’s counterterrorism agencies. The UN has expanded its counterterrorism efforts over the past decade – in particular by coordinating and facilitating technical assistance to member states.

Israel is proud to be an active partner and donor in these efforts. We continue to share the knowledge and experience that comes through years of combating terrorism. We remain committed to implementing the relevant Security Council resolutions, and to that end, we recently submitted our periodic report, in accordance with Resolution 1540. We also support the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. All four pillars of this strategy must be treated as a whole.

Israel is working closely with many states and regional organizations to advance counterterrorism cooperation in areas from aviation security to border protection to terrorist financing. These activities reflect our fundamental belief that terrorism can only effectively be confronted through international cooperation.

No state should stand alone.

It takes a network to beat a network.

The challenge we face is growing as a result of an increasingly linked network of smuggling rings, transnational criminals, and terrorists. Ayman Juma was recently indicted in a US court for smuggling 85 tons of cocaine into the US and for laundering $850 million for a Mexican drug cartel. He took a 14 percent commission for these efforts on behalf of his bosses, the Hezbollah terrorist organization.

Juma is one of many thousands of Hezbollah operatives in a network that spans from West Africa to the Middle East to Latin America to Europe. This global criminal network funds Hezbollah’s terrorist activities, and provides the logistical support to carry them out.

Make no mistake. There is a direct connection between powder cocaine smuggled from Latin America and the gunpowder of Hezbollah weaponry in Lebanon.

CRIMINALS ARE not the only supporters of terrorists. Many states – including some in this hall – work hand-in-hand with them as well. Iran stands chief among these nations.

Across the African continent, Iranian weaponry has become the tool of choice for some of the region’s bloodiest insurgencies and terrorists.

In Gaza, Iran is funding, training and arming Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorists, giving them the capabilities to strike Israel’s largest cities. Iran’s politicians and military commanders boast about providing terrorists with this assistance. The head of Islamic Jihad in Gaza said last November (and I quote) “The entire world knows that Iran is the main source of our weapons.”

Iran has also helped Hezbollah to build its arsenal to unprecedented levels in Lebanon, amassing 50,000 deadly missiles – in flagrant breach of resolution 1701. These weapons can reach all of Israel and well beyond. Hezbollah intentionally stores its weapons in civilian areas. Just last month, a large Hezbollah weapons storage facility exploded in the Lebanese village of Tair Harfa, just 300 meters from a school.

The people of Lebanon are more valuable to Hezbollah and Iran as human shields than as human beings.

We face the frightening possibility that Hezbollah could soon get its hands on Assad’s vast stockpiles of chemical weapons. This council must act today, not tomorrow. We have a responsibility to prevent the world’s most dangerous weapons from falling into the hands of the world’s most dangerous actors.

This council cannot turn a blind eye to those states that sponsor, support and arm terrorists. The international community must hold them accountable for the violence that they spread – and the lives that they have taken.

We have passed many resolutions in these halls in the global fight against terror. Our collective efforts cannot end there. The voices of the victims of terrorism call to us. They demand our united action.

We must take the words from the printed page and breathe life into them every day. We must be steadfast.

We must be strong. We must, as Churchill said, “seek victory however long and hard the road may be.” We cannot rest until the evil ideologies that fuel terror become nothing more than relics of the past.

The writer serves as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. This oped is adapted from his recent address to the UN Security Council on counterterrorism

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