The terrorist attack against Israeli civilians in Bulgaria, the flurry of drive-by visits from members of the Obama administration to Israel in the past few days, and the president’s failure to visit the Jewish state throughout his tenure should prompt a consideration of the extent to which Mr. Obama really understands Israel’s life-and-death struggles.
Particularly telling is the recent rollout of the president’s signature global anti-terrorism institution, the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). The GCTF was announced by Secretary Clinton last September, but in June and July it held its first “ministerial level plenary” and “High Level Conference on Victims of Terrorism.” Successive announcements from State Department officials from Clinton on down have described the GCTF as a “major initiative,” “an international counterterrorism network as nimble and adaptive as our adversaries,” “a global venue to identify essential priorities,” and a “platform for senior counterterrorism policymakers and experts from around the world to devise solutions for addressing key counterterrorism challenges.”
And yet, the Obama administration selected Turkey as its co-chair and then agreed to Turkey’s request to veto Israel’s participation.
The founding members of the GCTF include the EU and virtually all other members of the “Western European and Others” (WEOG) regional group of the United Nations — which the Obama administration has long claimed ought to include Israel — along with eleven Muslim-majority nations. According to Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, the State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, the “key” Muslim states were included because they “are on the front lines in the struggle against terrorism.” A criterion that should have put Israel at the top of his list.
Even more disconcerting are the priorities and solutions that the front-line GCTF players have identified. The United Arab Emirates has been charged with creating one of the main “deliverables,” namely, an International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism. In the words of a State Department Fact Sheet of June 7, 2012, the UAE center “will focus on training, research, and dialogue and collaboration, to counter violent extremism in all of its forms and manifestations.”
No wonder Ambassador Benjamin declared at the forum’s September launch that the Obama initiative would not “go through the same old rather sterile debates of what constitutes terrorism.” Every one of the “key” Muslim nations in the GCTF is a party to an international treaty called the Convention of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Combating International Terrorism. That treaty exempts from “terrorist crimes” “armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism, and hegemony, aimed at liberation and self-determination.” Consequently, terrorism against Israelis, or Americans accused of being in the wrong places, will not be appearing on the center’s agenda.
On the contrary, what the UAE means by terrorism in “all its forms and manifestations” was unequivocally spelled out by its UN representative, Ali Alshemail. Speaking at the General Assembly on October 6, 2010, he said:
[We] emphasize that elimination of the danger of terrorism requires us to address all forms and manifestations of terrorism without exception, including the state terrorism which violates the right of peoples to self-determination. …
[W]e support…a clear definition of terrorism and to differentiate it from the legitimate struggle of people under foreign occupation.
In short, Israeli civilians are fair game.
Furthermore, instead of the GCTF modifying the views of its Muslim members, the spillover effect appears to be operating in the opposite direction. At its September 2011 launch all members of the GCTF — including the Obama administration — adopted the so-called Cairo Declaration on Counterterrorism and Rule of Law. Published by the State Department itself, the declaration states: “Noting the importance of relevant regional and international instruments.” The relevant regional instruments include the OIC terrorism treaty — and its exception clauses.
Moreover, Secretary Clinton gave the UAE’s counter-terrorism center a vote of confidence at the GCTF meeting on June 7, 2012, in Istanbul, Turkey. She said:
[T]he UAE took an important step when it announced it would host the first-ever international center developed to combat extremism and develop those best practices that will do so. I am pleased to announce that the United States will support this effort with both funding and expertise…
Particularly disturbing has been the repeated omission of Israel and Israeli cities in lists of terrorist victims prepared by Obama administration officials connected to the forum. Here’s Clinton at the September 22, 2011, launch in New York: “From London to Lahore, from Madrid to Mumbai, from Kabul to Kampala, it’s innocent civilians who have been targeted.” Here’s Attorney General Eric Holder at the Inaugural Meeting of the GCTF “Criminal Justice/Rule of Law Working Group” on November 3, 2011, in Washington: “All around the world — from New York to London; from Lahore to Madrid; from Mumbai to Abuja — we have seen the devastating effects — and costs — of terrorism.” At the GCTF meeting in June 2012 Clinton’s statement mentions terrorism in only Mali, Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, the Maghreb, Turkey and “lone-wolf killings” in Europe.
The confusion of the Obama team on the subject of terrorism was also in evidence at the most recent GCTF meeting in July. At that conference, Maria Otero, Obama’s under secretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights highlighted the work of the non-governmental organization “Sisters Against Violent Extremism” (SAVE). This is an NGO which Secretary Clinton also singled out at the “Special Operations Command Gala” on May 23, 2012, in Tampa, Florida. The work of Sisters Against Extremism in the Israeli-Palestinian context is spotlighted in a video which features two grieving women, Israeli Robi Damelin and Palestinian Siham Abu Awwad.
The SAVE video states that Abu Awwad’s “brother was killed by an Israeli settler.” Robi states her son was killed by a Palestinan sniper when serving in the IDF, and she gives this explanation: “He didn’t kill David because he was David. He killed David because he was a symbol of an occupying army.” More specifically, Robi’s son was killed while he worked as an IDF officer at a checkpoint, a constraint which exists for the purpose of preventing terrorism. During the attack by a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade which killed her son, the terrorist also killed six other Israeli soldiers and three civilians. According to films featuring the death of Siham’s brother Youssef, he was “killed by an IDF soldier while trying to cross a check point.”
The moral relativism and twisted perceptions of terrorism that the GCTF will perpetuate, rather than solve, is perhaps simply illustrated by the Obama administration’s choice of a co-chair of the GCTF rule of law working group. The co-chairs are the United States and Egypt. So today, the Muslim Brotherhood is working with the Obama administration on “good practices for effective counterterrorism practice.” While Israel is denied entry.
As Israelis grieve still more acts of terrorism, it is disheartening that the President of the United States is quick to speechify and less ready to take the necessary steps to forever delegitimize terrorists and their enablers.