The Epidemic of Terrorism
Delivered to the General Assembly by Ambassador Ron Prosor on 12 June 2014
At the outset, allow me to thank you for convening the Fourth Review of the United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy. I would like to thank Ambassador Çevik and his team for their skillful facilitation of the resolution’s negotiations.
Before I begin, I would like to say that the thoughts of the Israeli people are with the abducted members of the Turkish consulate and their families. We pray for their safe and speedy release.
Every morning as we flip on the television or scroll through the headlines, we are overwhelmed by stories of terrorism – 49 people taken hostage in Mosul; the gunman who opened fire at the Jewish Museum of Brussels; hundreds of girls kidnapped from their school in northern Nigeria; a mall overrun by militants in Nairobi; tourists targeted
by a suicide bomber in Bulgaria, and the list goes on and on.
When our children are not safe in their schools and our families are not safe in malls and
museums then we – as an international community - have failed. We have failed to stand up to terrorism and failed to fight back the plague that threatens to overrun entire nations.
From the Nigerian Delta to the Bay of Bangkok, nations are confronting an epidemic of terrorism as dangerous as the most lethal virus. Terror groups prey on unsuspecting hosts – particularly those nations already weakened by instability and intolerance.
Sleeper cells spread quietly, gaining strength, and waiting for an opportune time to strike. Terrorist groups are determined enemies, adapting and mutating to avoid detection. Left untreated, they attack their host from within, destroying individuals, devastating families, and shattering communities.
In Iraq, militants have taken control of Falluja and parts of Ramadi. Just this week, they overran the northern city of Tikrit and Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. Iraq is on the brink of collapse and violence threatens to engulf the entire region.
In Syria, terrorists groups have created the worst humanitarian disaster of this generation. What began as peaceful protests against an authoritarian regime has transformed into a brutal and protracted conflict that has claimed over 160,000 lives and displaced millions of people.
Fundamentalist groups are taking advantage of the bloody instability to advance their own radical strain of terrorism. Sunni and Shiite fighters have poured into Syria and are fighting Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas. More than 10,000 foreign terrorist fighters have joined the fighting and some have already returned home infected by radical ideologies. Mehdi Nemmouche, who was recently arrested in connection with the Brussels museum shooting, is a veteran of the Syrian jihad.
The bloody conflict in Syria is fuelled by the world’s primary sponsor of terrorism – Iran. Qassem Suleimani, who oversees the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, is the conflict’s chief genetic engineer - breeding new, virulent strains of terrorism that threaten to further aggravate sectarian tensions and inflame the region.
Since its rebirth 66 years ago, Israel has found itself under constant threat from terrorist organizations. In the south, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups rain rockets on our cities and towns. In the north, Hezbollah has amassed over 100,000 rockets and missiles capable of striking the very heart of Israel.
Israelis are also the targets of a terror campaign directed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah. Iran’s fingerprints can be seen on attacks from Bulgaria to Kenya to Thailand, where just a few weeks ago, authorities foiled a plan by Hezbollah agents to attack Israeli tourists.
Out of this persistent need to defend our citizens, Israel became a specialist in the field of counter-terrorism – with technologies and tools unmatched by any other country. Every day we are using our expertise to keep our citizens safe from the threats that surround us. Over the years, terrorists have become increasingly sophisticated and Israel has been forced to evolve its counterterrorism efforts to stay one step ahead.
At the same time, Israel’s legal system has evolved to uphold the freedoms enshrined in its Declaration of Independence. We have matched our commitment to respect the rule of law with our determination to combat terrorism. As former Israeli Chief Justice, Aharon Barak said, “…a democracy must sometimes fight with one hand tied behind its back. Even so, the democracy has the upper hand.”
In too many parts of the world, all of the elements are in place for extremists to infect the next generation of terrorists. No nation is immune and no nation should face this epidemic alone.
The prescription is clear: We must denounce all those who spread hatred and fear. We must isolate terrorist groups by cutting off their funding and dismantling their networks. And we must strive to produce an antidote so that we can eradicate the virus of terrorism before it eradicates us.
Thank you, Mr. President.