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ICT Day 2: 1st Morning Plenary Session

Hi everyone, so, due to technically difficulties, these summaries are being uploaded a bit late. However, tomorrow, I promise to upload them in a timelier manner.

This Morning’s First Plenary Session featured speakers: Mr. Dan Meridor, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, Israel; Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, Former Head of Counter-Terrorism Unit of the Paris District Court and Former leading French Magistrate for Counter-Terrorism, France; Mr. Shiraz Maher, Senior Fellow, International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR), King’s College London, United Kingdom; and Brig. Gen. (Res.) Nitzan Nuriel, Director, Counter-Terrorism Bureau, Israel.

Mr. Dan Meridor – The “most characteristic feature of our time is the accelerated pace of changes” in various fields, including the economy, culture, defense, war, security, and terror. In the realm of war, Meridor splits the field into two: super-conventional, (i.e. nuclear weapons, such as by Iran), and sub-conventional, (i.e. terrorism). The change which has occurred in the field of terrorism, he stated, is the ability of a few individuals to cause mass casualties. Yet, change will continue to occur. Quoting Regan, he said, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”One cannot merely be well prepared for the old war, such as with “tanks, planes, and missiles.” It used to be, he noted, that wars were fought between states. Yet today, it is organizations fighting states, and unlike in the James Bond movies, where the organizations would always fail, today they are succeeding. According to Meridor, throughout the Muslim world there is a decline of identity by nation-state, or ethnicity, and the rise of the religion. The first identity has become religion. “An Arab, by nationality, and a Lebanese, by particular nationality, called Mr. Nasrallah, takes orders from a non-Arab, non-Lebanese, Persian, called Mr. Ahmadinejad, and they act together against other Arabs, because they are both Shiite Muslims…. The introduction of religion into decision making, into identity, not culturally, not family life, but in decision making in politics, in using arms, brings us into a different phase” danger because one is “willing to sacrifice much more, because you’re doing this in the name of God.” When God enters the picture, the element of compromise is removed, because you can’t compromise on God’s will. “This,” he said goes hand and hand in the decline or the weakening of the power of states”. Continuing, Meridor noted that money is no longer the determining factor in waging war. Terrorism doesn’t cost much. Moreover, hierarchy has become less important, particularly in the network of terrorism; there is no chain of command. Meridor argues that the “victory of what one can call Western ideas, liberty, democracy,… imposed on everyone…. [concepts like] certain basic rights which are above you [are] seen by them as an attack on their civilization, on their way of life, [and they are] using the technology that was invented by the modern world to fight this very world itself…” Our “enemies,” he said, “have developed a new paradigm of war to which we don’t have an answer.” This paradigm is comprised of three elements. First is the use of tens of thousands of rockets and missiles, which are not stopped by borders. According to Meridor, “there are over 44,000 rockets and missiles in Lebanon aimed at our country.… in the hands of Hamas and other organizations in the Gaza Strip… [there are] 5,000 rockets” some of which can reach the outskirts of Tel Aviv. This is problematic given that they have many rockets, which will only improve in quality, warheads, and range. Moreover, rockets are fired from within the civilian population against civilian populations… In addition, “when a war breaks out like it did in 2006 in Lebanon and 2008 in Gaza, in no time you’ll see a barrage of rockets sent by civilians… you don’t see soldiers, you see people like you and me going into an orchard where they hid something and pushing a button. No army there; civilians hitting civilians. On the larger scale, think of what it does to us or to any countries under this threat. You need a military way or operational way to deal with it.”

Judge Jean Louis Bruguiere – discussed the French strategy in combating terrorism. France, according to Bruguiere, has a strong legal system with which to contend with terrorist threats, and therefore does not need to rely on extra-legal activities. French laws make monitoring of its citizens somewhat possible, which is why Al Qaeda has asked its affiliates to use American providers, rather than European. At times, there may appear to be the need to infringe upon individual rights and freedoms to combat terrorism. Yet, according to Bruguiere, it is imperative that this not occur. Terrorism, he argues, must be fought against in within the framework of the law. Society must find the happy medium between efficiency and the law. France has had a practical strategy of combining intelligence with legal means in combating terrorism, and has suffered no attacks since 1996. Bruguiere stated that France has foiled approximately two attacks a year, since then. France, he noted, arrested over 50 jihadists in France in 2005 and 2006, including individuals from Nigeria, Mauritania, and Somalia, proving that other have joined the GIA in clandestine activities in France.
The terrorist threat is still grave and increasing. Bruguiere noted that the recent Time Square bombing attempt, the actions of the Somalian al-Shabab, and actions in Mozambique, demonstrate that the terrorist threat is difficult to grasp and that no nation is spared this threat. “It’s a matter of fact that radical Islamic organizations affiliated to Al Qaeda… are changing their strategy. They’ve scattered… [and are] using the Palestinian issue in propaganda to draw more people… [it is a] catalyst to recruit new followers.” Referencing the local region, Bruguiere turned to the Palestinians. The Palestinian organizations, themselves, have, for the most part, rejected such calls to join Al Qaeda. Since 2001, according to Bruguiere, Al Qaeda has been trying to convince the Palestinian organizations to embrace global jihad, and have attempted to provide the PIJ and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade with money and suicide belts, but they’re offers have been rejected. Yet, the Palestinian connection is not entirely lacking, as can be seen with the Gaza Flotilla in May 2010. The Turkish IHH was not simply carrying humanitarian aid. IHH, as an organization, is connected to both Hamas, in the 1990s, acted as a front for Al Qaeda, and supported militants in their fights in Chechnya and Afghanistan.

Mr. Shiraz Maher – discussed how liberal societies should deal with the threat. In his presentation, he focused on Britain’s response to radicalization. In the past, and even now, the British government has made a distinction between violent and non-violent extremist groups. According to Maher, in an attempt to prevent individuals from moving in the direction of violence, the British government has chosen to engage the non-violent groups. Yet, Maher asks, what is the price of such engagement? In many ways, the government’s engagement with these groups shows tacit approval and/or endorsement of the views that these organizations hold. Moreover, by engaging the Muslim constituents not as citizens who happen to be Muslim, but as Muslims who happen to be citizens, and primarily through these radical organizations, such as the Muslim Council of Britain, and Hizb ut-Tahrir, the British government, subliminally tells it’s Muslim citizens that “Muslim” or “Islamic” is, and ought to be, their primary identity. This undermines Britain’s own values. Moreover, he argues, it is ridiculous to act as though there is no connection between the violent and non-violent groups. Violence, he ntoes, stems from somewhere. Jihadists function within a society, “which supports, moralizes and gratifies them” which is particularly seen in the case of suicide bombers. It is essential to acknowledge and appreciate the link between the radicalization which is provided by the non-violent groups and the violence taken by radicalized individuals. Britain’s first suicide bombers, he recalled, who, in 2003, attempted to blow up Mike’s Place, here in Tel Aviv, were radicalized by non-violent groups, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Brotherhood. While these groups “may not have planned it [the bombing] they certainly set them on the path…” It is difficult to determine, according to Maher, which organizations are innocuous, and which have hidden agenda. Moreover, rather than pumping millions of poinds into such initiatives, which target the high-risk communities as Muslims, the government should focus on the other elements of their identities. Maher, further, argued, the government should clearly sate (and act accordingly), that while not all individuals/groups have to agree with the British value system, there is a British value system, and those who do not agree with it (including by supporting terrorism anywhere in the world) cannot and will not be made a partner. Last, Maher concluded by noting that local governments simply do not have the expertise to deal with radicalization, and therefore, efforts to that end should be coordinated on the national level.

Brig. Gen. (Res.) Nitzan Nuriel –Nuriel summarized the global jihad’s achievements, and the counter-terrorism communities weaknesses, and strengths. Regarding global jihad’s achievements, he noted that they rae doing “pretty well,” having the ability to launch (attempted, if not successful) attacks across the globe, whenever and where ever they wish. They are aided by the media, and, also, have their own media to spur their message. Their budget meets all of their needs, and are always able to procure funds and weapons. For 2011, global jihad will, according to Nuriel, likely try to increase their cyber-terrorism capabilities and start delving more deeply into non-conventional capabilities.
The counter-terrorism forces, on the other hand, are lacking. According to Nuriel, there are fewer forces with fewer capabilities than would like to be admitted. The main thing which, in his opinion, is missing, is a clear definition of terrorism. When the definition is unclear, he stated, different agencies contend with the events differently. In addition, there is no common database on terrorism and radicals. While human rights are important, Nuriel believes that there is a need to balance those rights against the need for better security tools. (He was very clear that this database should not be simply about Muslims, but rather of all radicals, regardless of religion, race, creed, etc.) Nuriel noted that when the international community determined that the phenomenon of pedophilia was unacceptable, the world created a common database in order to protect children. Under the same mechanism, it is possible, therefore, to develop a database which monitors those who are radicalized, given that radicalization, often, leads to terrorism. The “priority,” he said, needs to go to right to live, over the minor invasion of human rights. This, he stated, does not mean that governments should throw into custody those who check out radical websites. Rather, governments should be able to monitor such individuals and their activities with other pieces of information. Moreover, Nuriel argued, too many partners in counter-terrorism are conditional partners with low levels of commitment.
Positively, Nuriel noted that, today, “we” are better at sharing information than “we” were in the past… on all levels. In addition, the counter-terrorism community has become adept at developing weapons systems and using sophisticated technolog, though, in his opinion, it still needs to improve non-lethal weapons. Importantly, Nuriel stated that there is a good level of cooperation when dealing with terror financing. Concluding, he noted, that this is important for Israel, as well, as Israel must contend not only with terrorist organizations, but with nations, such as Syria, which provide aid to terrorists.

For more, you can follow the conference on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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5 Comments

  1. david

    9/13/2010 at 7:03 pm

    The report above is wrong. It wasn’t jihadists who were arrested in France.

    They were hirabis. These are the people who commit hirabah, typical of their actions.

    Jihadists follow the Islamic tradition of peace.

  2. dahlia

    9/14/2010 at 12:00 am

    David – it is highly likely that I misunderstood. I will try to get a transcript today so that I can confirm, and, if you are correct, I will change it. Thanks for pointing that out! 🙂

    • themiddle

      9/14/2010 at 4:31 pm

      Thanks for all of the reports, Dahlia. They are very interesting.

      • ck

        9/14/2010 at 10:45 pm

        Totally awesome job Dahlia!!!!

  3. dahlia

    9/15/2010 at 12:18 am

    thanks guys!

    david- haven’t forgotten about you… just still haven’t gotten a transcript…

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