Israeli envoys promote anti-incitement accord at UN

Dore Gold tells 'Post:' There is a global interest in addressing problem of terrorism; Prosor presents draft accord.

Dore Gold 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Dore Gold 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Several current and former Israeli envoys convened a meeting of diplomats and United Nations officials at the world body’s New York headquarters at the end of February to propose an international convention for the prevention of incitement to terror, according to Dore Gold, a former ambassador to the UN.
Gold told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that he believed there was a global interest in “creating an international consensus and convention which would address the problem of incitement to terrorism.”
The meeting was conducted under the auspices of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), a think tank Gold now heads.
Joining him were the current ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor; Yossi Kuperwasser, director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry and a former senior officer in the IDF’s intelligence branch; and Alan Baker, a former ambassador to Canada and chief legal adviser at the Foreign Ministry, and today director of the JCPA’s Institute for Contemporary Affairs.
Together they presented the draft of an accord written by Baker.
Speaking to the Post, Gold recalled that two of the biggest failures of the international community during the 1990s were the genocide in Rwanda and the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. In both conflicts, “incitement was cited as a trigger for the wars that broke out,” he asserted.
“Many people thought the Bosnian conflict resulted from ancient hatreds that go back centuries,” he said. “The war in Bosnia [actually] began with a deliberate policy of incitement against Bosnian Muslims by Serbian media.”
When the UN considers how to prevent that kind of violence, he continued, “it must [look] front and center at the issue of incitement.”
During the presentation in New York, Kuperwasser presented an update on Palestinian incitement that, according to Gold, showed “current trends in Palestinian incitement which unfortunately haven’t abated.”
The initiative is being overseen by the JCPA with what Gold called “full assistance” from the Israeli government. He described it as a “partnership” with Israel’s UN mission.
“This will need governmental backing,” he said, adding that the think tank was “an NGO, so there is so far [we] can take this [alone].”
Nevertheless, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry told the Post that to the best of his knowledge the ministry was “not involved.”
Gold and his colleagues hope to deliver their final draft to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the world body’s legal advisor, and also to go through the UN’s Sixth Committee, which deals with the development of international law.
Baker’s draft states that “direct or indirect incitement to commit an act of terror shall be considered to be an international crime.”
Gold said that based on this language, “once the criminality of incitement to terrorism is determined, it opens international institutions that may be used to consider how to move against those who undertake this kind of activity.”
Addressing concerns regarding freedom of expression, he noted that the draft had used the First Amendment to the US Constitution as a guideline. He explained that speech considered to be the equivalent of a direct call for action, which is the criteria used by US courts to determine the applicability of free-speech laws, was the primary target.
He said he preferred not to establish a “timetable” for convening a summit to discuss the draft.
Itamar Marcus, director of the anti-incitement watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch, called the JCPA initiative “very valuable” but expressed concern that the draft “never defines ‘terror.’” Marcus wondered whether it would prohibit speeches like that given last year by the PA’s mufti, Muhammad Hussein, who quoted an Islamic teaching saying that Muslims were destined to kill all Jews.
“Would the mufti’s saying that God wants Jews killed be seen as legitimate religious teaching of incitement to terror?” he wondered.
The Palestinian Authority, Marcus explained, “defines all its terror attacks against civilians not as ‘terror’ but as legitimate and even heroic ‘resistance.’ ... The [JCPA] initiative needs a clear statement defining terror.”