In an op-ed for the Jerusalem Post, B’nai B’rith CEO Dan Mariaschin and Director of U.N. and Intercommunal David Michaels urge the international community – particularly Interpol and empowered governments – to combat terrorism in the Middle East not only because of its grave criminality, but for the possibility of peaceful Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, too.
Over 100 days after Hamas’s atrocities in Israel on October 7, focus in the international community has shifted overwhelmingly to Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip. With the conflict reduced to a simple contest of death tolls and unsettling imagery, the prevalent formula for ending the hostilities has been just that: ceasefire.
In other words, we’re told, now that Hamas terrorists – along with Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Yemen’s Houthis, and their common patron, Iran – have again escalated atrocious acts of violence, the prudent response by those on the receiving end is permanent passivity.
Even worse, South Africa, a country whose government is silent on grievous human rights abuses globally, has outrageously asked the International Court of Justice to charge Israel with “genocide,” disregarding not only Israel’s extensive attempts to limit civilian losses but the jihadists’ overtly genocidal ideology and efforts to maximize those losses on both sides.
All this does nothing but incentivize more bloodshed. Rather than granting impunity for the terrorist tactics that spur conflict, emphasis should be placed on preventing their repetition. Israel has been trying to do just that by reaching out and striking the perpetrators. But beyond Gaza, Interpol, the 100-year-old agency for cooperation in fighting crime, can play an essential role. So can governments empowered to act on the body’s recommendations and requests.
Calls for one-sided restraint by Israel already began to resurface days after October 7, well before any Israeli ground operations in Gaza. Indeed, with virtually no global soul-searching over inaction on the buildup of Iran’s anti-Israel axis – or its calculated exploitation of civilian infrastructure like hospitals – the tired narrative of Palestinian terrorism not coming “in a vacuum” has proven reflexive.
But Israel had withdrawn from Gaza completely and unilaterally in 2005 and offered Palestinians virtually all their demands, including statehood, in 2000 and 2008. Israel also facilitated massive aid into and guest workers’ entry from the self-governing Palestinian territories. The problem has not been Israeli practices or Palestinian circumstances.
Rather, the problem remains that significant forces in the Middle East – entirely disconnected from diplomatic circles and the values of post-religious Western societies – are utterly invested in a doctrine of violent fanaticism.
This makes preventing conflict not as easy as simply making the right concession. When the same forces sanctify death among their own populations as “martyrdom” and perceive that casualties among their own noncombatants are a surefire path to preventing the other side from responding effectively to atrocities, they will continue to target civilians from among civilians.
States must outlaw support for violent extremists
Which brings us to active, collaborative law enforcement: outlawing support for violent extremists, sanctioning terror sponsors, enforcing warrants, and following through with prosecutions wherever possible. These can help prevent mass murder when persuasion doesn’t.
While the United Nations is frequently more inclined to critique a democratic member state like Israel than to tackle malign, nominally non-state actors like Hamas, Interpol could hold offenders accountable by issuing “red notices” urging the arrest of those guilty of carrying out, directing, financing, and inciting deliberate carnage.
This is in addition to other steps available to the body, including “purple notices” to seek information on criminals’ operations and hiding places, “blue notices” to obtain information on individuals of interest in criminal investigations, and “yellow notices” to locate missing people.
Over 130 innocent people – the majority of whom were abducted by Hamas in October – continue to be held hostage in Gaza, without access to the Red Cross or other humanitarian personnel. Every country committed to international security should undertake both domestic and multilateral action to choke off the activity of the terrorists, their partners, and enablers – especially an Iranian theocracy with an illicit nuclear program that stands at a frighteningly advanced stage.
After all, like too many other jihadists, these elements have wrought carnage indiscriminately, not just among Israelis and Arabs, but also, on October 7, citizens of some 40 nations.
Predating the rise of al-Qaeda and ISIS, Hezbollah, working closely with the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has been implicated in major terrorist attacks and plots in Lebanon, Argentina, Bulgaria, and beyond.
The Houthis, whose flag declares “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse Upon the Jews,” are threatening global economic stability by assaulting multinational cargo ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. And the indoctrination of young people in extremist ideology – widespread in Palestinian official media, mosques, and schools – imperils both the demonized and the indoctrinated.
Some will counter that both Israelis and Palestinians have died since October 7.
That is tragic, though it obscures critical realities. There was not a single Israeli Jew in Gaza on October 6, while Israel itself is a pluralistic society whose citizenry is over 20% Arab. Israeli governments have eagerly established peace with every willing Arab and Muslim interlocutor; the terrorists, for their part, openly pledge Israel’s complete destruction.
If more wars in the region are to be prevented, terrorism must be combated as the grave international criminality it is. The global community can contribute to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence by constraining those most responsible for thwarting it.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO, and David J. Michaels is director of UN and intercommunal affairs at B’nai B’rith International.