Top UN official to Jpost: Israel important in fighting terror

Security Council Counter Terrorism Director Weixiong Chen made the comments to 'the Post' on the sidelines of IDC Herzliya’s International Institute for Counter Terrorism conference.

A PEACEKEEPER of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stands at a lookout point in the village of Adaisseh near the Lebanese-Israeli border. (photo credit: REUTERS/KARAMALLAH DAHER)
A PEACEKEEPER of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stands at a lookout point in the village of Adaisseh near the Lebanese-Israeli border.
“The UN believes Israel is a very important partner... in the issue of counterterror,” United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism director Weixiong Chen told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Chen made the comments on the sidelines of IDC Herzliya’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism conference.
The UN official listed four areas where “the UN recognizes Israeli contributions” in combating terrorism.
He mentioned an efficient general working relationship as well as “Israel’s strength in aviation security at airports” as two areas in which the UN and other countries could gain from Israel.
Further, he cited Israel’s excellence “in crisis management and in how to share intelligence effectively” as two other points.
“This is what the UN wants you to do more,” he said, to directly assist some countries and provide an example to those countries which politically might not want to publicly be seen directly learning from Israel.
Chen said he understood that some Israelis were angry at the UN because of many resolutions passed against the Jewish state.
Rhetorically he asked, “Which UN are you referring to?” He then explained that the UN should not be viewed as a single unit and that criticism from other organs of the UN or parts of the human rights community should not impact Israeli cooperation with his UN counter-terrorism unit.
“We like you. You have many areas of strength” in counter-terrorism, he said, noting his top deputy was Israeli and that he would be bringing his positive message to Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
Besides his connection with Israel, Chen has several message about the state of counter-terrorism efforts globally – and he knows he has his work cut out for him.
He said that as ISIS in Syria and Iraq fades, many of its foreign fighters returning to their countries of origin or third countries will continue to pose a danger.
Moreover, homegrown terrorism – in which lone wolves produce improvised explosive devices or attack with trucks – are “difficult to manage and protect against.”
If in earlier eras some terrorists could be traced to meetings in mosques or other specific locations, now many are using the Internet or even the so-called dark web to recruit, meet and exchange information.
This is difficult even for rich countries to police, but “most countries have no capacity for this – no technology, no cyber,” Chen warned.
He emphasized it was important for countries with technology and resources to help poorer countries, lest the poorer countries be used as havens from which terrorists regain their strength and eventually export terror back to advanced countries.
Chen said that border control in many areas was a disaster, whether with porous borders where people could cross undetected, or in areas lacking any computer software to pre-detect or flag terrorists on watch lists coming through.
He said countries with border issues needed technology, financing, equipment and training.
Further, there needs to be a jump in “community engagement. Governments think it is their own job. It is the entire community,” Chen said, emphasizing the need to reach youth through local schools and teachers.
Amid all of this, Chen recognizes that he has an uphill battle as many countries – most notably the US under the Trump administration – are looking to cut their contributions and have lost patience with many multilateral efforts.
He said one solution was to get specific sets of countries to work together to finance solving issues in their regions. Another solution is funding expertise through existing multilateral organizations like the International Civil Aviation Organization, the World Customs Organization and others.
Also speaking at the ICT Conference on Monday was Dr. Jehangir Khan, director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, who hammered away at the point that global efforts against terrorism “must move from rhetoric to reality.”
Khan said that countries must stop patting themselves on the back for narrow successes in preventing terrorist attacks and must get serious about addressing terrorism’s root causes.