AJC Statement on Terrorism

AJC Statement on Terrorism

Adopted by the Board of Governors on December 5, 2005

AJC Statement on Terrorism
Adopted by the Board of Governors on December 5, 2005

The American Jewish Committee, outraged by the failure of individual states and multilateral mechanisms to adequately respond to terror attacks around the world, and convinced that these incidents pose a profound security and moral challenge to civilized society, calls on all members of the international community to reject terrorism, irrespective of any cause its perpetrators purport to advance, as well as the extremist ideologies that contribute to it in all their forms and manifestations.


We fully subscribe to the view expressed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, that “there can be no acceptance of those who would seek to justify the deliberate taking of innocent life, regardless of cause or grievance.  If there is one universal principle that all peoples can agree on, surely it is this.”  We call upon the United Nations General Assembly to adopt a comprehensive convention on terrorism during its present 60th session, including a legal definition of terrorism that reflects this basic moral principle and rejects all attempts to provide a pretext for distinguishing between “justifiable” and unacceptable terrorist acts.


We reject the proposition, promoted by certain states and non-state actors, that the definition of terrorism should also include “state terrorism.”  There exists a strong set of international norms and laws – including the Charter of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions – that regulates and constrains states’ decisions to use force.  States can be accused and found guilty of war crimes, if they gravely violate these internationally accepted norms.  There is no similar normative framework regarding non-state actors.  Therefore – and without prejudice to states’ obligations to refrain from harboring, sponsoring and financing terrorism – the term “act of terrorism” is applicable, in our view, only to non-state actors.


Terrorism is a direct assault on democracy and freedom, seeking to impose the will of the perpetrators on society through force and fear.   Terrorist attacks constitute acts of war on civilization itself.  Indeed, the goal of al-Qaeda and other global terrorist organizations is to impose their own brand of fanatical totalitarianism in as many countries as possible.


We urge all nations to recognize the extent and urgency of the terrorist threat, which is indivisible and threatens every state, and to take prompt and comprehensive action, individually and collectively, and without compromise.


The landmark resolutions of the UN Security Council that followed the horrific attacks of September 11, including resolutions 1373 (2001), 1566 (2004) and 1624 (2005), mark a turning point in the international community’s efforts to eradicate the scourge of terrorism.   These resolutions call for prompt and serious action.  Resolution 1373, in a key passage, notes “the close connection between international terrorism and transnational organized crime, illicit drugs, money-laundering, illegal arms-trafficking, and illegal movement of nuclear, chemical, biological and other potentially deadly material,” and urges “enhance[d] coordination efforts on national, sub-regional, regional and international levels in order to strengthen global response to this serious challenge and threat to international peace and security.”  Such concerted action remains essential to confronting the terrorism threat.


The campaign against terrorism and extremist ideologies underlying it must be waged, in a manner consistent with internationally accepted human rights norms, on all fronts: diplomatic, financial, economic, educational, public information, military, intelligence, and legal.   Political and religious leaders, educators, and civil society institutions must be full participants in the campaign.


Terrorists do not operate in a vacuum; we will never be successful if we only go after the terrorists themselves.   Rather, they depend on the financial and logistical support, assistance, and safe harbor granted by state-sponsors of terrorism.  The international community must isolate and punish state-sponsors through diplomatic, economic and, if necessary, military means, denying terrorists safe havens from which they can operate with impunity.


Further, all states must proactively and measurably prevent the encouragement, incitement and moral and religious justification for terrorism, as called for in Security Council resolution 1624.   Extremists must be condemned by their own societies for promoting or committing murder and other atrocities in these societies’ names or in the name of their religion.  Religious leaders must be condemned for preaching that murder, suicide and other acts of violence are expressions of God’s will.


Political leaders must halt incitement in state-sponsored media, educational materials in schools, and other means of public information; they must also take the necessary political, legal, and administrative steps to stop the export of incitement outside their own countries through satellite television broadcasts and other media.


The norms of civil society demand that every nation regard every terrorist attack as a heinous crime: a cause for grief, introspection, and forthright action.


Date: 12/5/2005 12:00:00 AM