The international conference for terror victims

Maria Otero, US undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights kicked off counter-terror forum.

July 19, 2012 00:12
3 minute read.
Maria Otero

Maria Otero. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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As was reported yesterday in this paper, at the Global Counter-terrorism Forum’s High-Level Conference on Victims of Terrorism on July 9 in Madrid, Spain, Maria Otero, the US undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights kicked off the forum, speaking on behalf of the State Department and Hillary Clinton.

Ms. Otero praised the UN-sponsored organization called the Global Survivors Network and mentioned a film it had produced that included the stories of victims of terror from 11 countries. Guess what country is not included in the organization? Guess what country is not included in the film? Israel. Guess whose victims’ rights aren’t being addressed? Israelis.’ And who else’s? Americans murdered by terrorists in Israel.

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Simon Wiesenthal Center founder Rabbi Marvin Heir was quoted in The Jerusalem Post saying the forum “excluded the country with the most expertise in dealing with terrorism.”

The State Department’s decision to exclude Israel from the forum reinforces the movement to delegitimize Israel, as well as the suffering of Israelis and Americans, Jews and non-Jews, who have had their lives destroyed by terrorists in Israel.

America colluded with Turkey in appeasing the Arab world.

The undersecretary’s speech is appalling in another way. She touted four areas that the United States believes should be part of a comprehensive strategy for governments to address the needs of international terror victims’ rights:

• Governments should provide information and resources – medical care, psychological services as well as legal representation.


• Terror victims should have the opportunity to participate in the accountability process, including access to the court proceedings, so that the victims may work toward psychological recovery.

• The government should support families’ efforts to bring terrorists to justice, both as witnesses and advocates for accountability.

• There should be an environment of support and recovery for terror victims with the opportunity to meet other survivors and share experiences as each person advances in his own healing.

THESE FOUR areas were all supposedly addressed in the Koby Mandell Act, named after our son Koby, who was stoned to death by Palestinian terrorists in 2001 when he was 13 years old. The Act directed the US government to provide information, resources, legal representation and accountability to the families of Americans murdered by terrorists in foreign lands.

The law mandated that the Department of Justice establish an office to pursue terrorists who murdered American citizens in Israel and other foreign countries. Named the Office of Justice for Victims of Terrorism, the unit was supposed to advocate for victims of terror such as ourselves. It was supposed to do everything the undersecretary espoused in her speech.

But the office has never done anything to prosecute Palestinian terrorists.

The Koby Mandell Act’s feeble execution has become a source of psychological pain, rather than an aid to our recovery.

Instead, in the past few years the families of Americans murdered by terrorists in Israel have been at the forefront of the fight to fulfill these goals. And we have been fighting alone, without government support. In fact, in most cases we have been fighting against the American government.

For example, for the past 10 years, the organization we established, The Koby Mandell Foundation, has been running programs that the bring Israeli terror victims, many of them American Israelis, together to aid and promote sharing and healing. In fact, 400 children are now experiencing the healing power of a therapeutic community at Camp Koby in the northern Galilee.

Since last February, the Global Terrorism Forum has included international terror victims in their preparations. As Otero told them in her speech: “Over the next several days, we will deliberate how states can increase their support of victims of terrorism, and how we can better integrate victims into the global effort to counter extremist narratives.”

We have a suggestion that might help meet Otero’s goal: start by inviting Israeli victims to the table. Our experience and expertise can add immeasurably to the discussion. If the Global Survivors Network won’t invite Israelis, the US State Department has an alternative – as the major sponsor, it can pull the plug.

Rabbi Seth Mandell and Sherri Mandell are the founders of of the Koby Mandell Foundation. Sherri Mandell is the author of The Blessing of a Broken Heart, which won a National Jewish Book Award.

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