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Talk December 2005

Mark Regev started by talking about Iran. He pointed out that Iran′s leadership is perceived internationally as chillingly honest and serious, not merely posturing. Ahmedinejad believes that Israel needs to be wiped out and his starting position is to train suicide bombers. This is a problem for the whole world, that a fundamentalist Islamic state should acquire nuclear weapons.

For a local OZ audience he said we should picture it as though Jemaah Islamiyah has taken over Indonesia, and the regime makes an immediate policy priority to acquire nuclear weapons. One consequence of the fact that Ahmedinejad denies the Holocaust is that he is thereby in contravention of the UN resolution on antisemitism November 1 2005. Part of the text of the resolution, which was adopted by the UN without dissent, and without a vote says:

The General Assembly,
Bearing in mind that the founding principle of the Charter of the United Nations, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, is testimony to the indelible link between the United Nations and the unique tragedy of the Second World War,
Reaffirming that the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice,
1. Resolves that the United Nations will designate 27 January as an annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust;
3. Rejects any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or part;
5. Condemns without reserve all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, wherever they occur;
42nd Plenary Meeting 1 November 2005

Talking about Hamas and the Palestinian elections, Regev points out that there is a large body of opinion which tries to tell the world that if you allow a group like Hamas into a position of responsibility - to be inclusive - they will moderate, "mellow out". Unfortunately none of the proponents of these views has any evidence to support them, and Mark believes it is mere wishful thinking (ed. as is so much advice that the world gives Israel).

Highlighting the difficulty of dealing with Hamas, Regev suggested a hypothetical. Ask a commited UN supporter such as a VIP from France or Norway: "What is your best projected outcome from the Middle East peace process?". His answer is likely to cover three major points:

  1. There should be a cessation of violence, with resolution of all issues (current and future) by mutual negotiation.
  2. There should be a viable Palestinian state alongside a viable Israel.
  3. There should be a proper democracy for Palestine.

Regev points out that Hamas rejects all three of these principles and therefore is at odds at the very core of even a typical EU country′s aims. Hamas refuses to reject terrorism, it refuses to accept the right of Israel to exist, and it would impose a Taliban-like regime over all of future Palestine. The EU needs to be reminded again and again that Hamas is not onside with their aims.

Note that Regev′s skill lies in shaping the picture from the point of view of his audience, in this example pointing out that Hamas is acting against the interests of Paris or Oslo. It goes without saying that this is more powerful than pointing out to EU members that Hamas is acting against the interests of Israel.

UN Resolution 1373 was passed after 9/11. Extract of its text is as follows:

The Security Council, .....

“Reaffirming further that such acts [as Sep/11], like any act of international terrorism, constitute a threat to international peace and security,

“Deeply concerned by the increase, in various regions of the world, of acts of terrorism motivated by intolerance or extremism,

“Recognizing the need for States to complement international cooperation by taking additional measures to prevent and suppress, in their territories through all lawful means, the financing and preparation of any acts of terrorism,

“Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

“1.   Decides that all States shall:

“(a)  Prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist acts;
“(b)  Criminalize the wilful provision or collection, by any means, directly or indirectly, of funds by their nationals or in their territories with the intention that the funds should be used, or in the knowledge that they are to be used, in order to carry out terrorist acts;
“(c)  Freeze without delay funds and other financial assets or economic resources of persons who commit, or attempt to commit, terrorist acts or participate in or facilitate the commission of terrorist acts; of entities owned or controlled directly or indirectly by such persons; and of persons and entities acting on behalf of, or at the direction of such persons and entities, including funds derived or generated from property owned or controlled directly or indirectly by such persons and associated persons and entities;
“9.   Decides to remain seized of this matter.”

Note that 1373 is a chapter 7 resolution passed unanimously by the UN Security Council under its coercive provisions. For those audiences who consider the UN to be important (likely not Australian or American audiences) this resolution is International Law. Hamas is on the EU list of terrorist organisations. Therefore any government which funds Hamas is violating 1373 and International Law. For these reasons Xavier Solana has said publicly that if Hamas takes part in the elections EU money for the PA is "questionable". Until such time as Hamas can get itself off the EU terrorist list any EU funding has to be questonable.

Part of Hamas′ power lies in the fact that its structure is totalitarian in the original meaning, the true sense of the word. It gets things done. Ie, the popularity of Hamas is partly a negative vote for an inept PA under Abbas. Hamas is seen as potent. Regev drew the analogy with Hitler whom people voted for out of frustration. His suggestion is that if the PA could actually stamp out corruption and start acting responsibly its vote would return and Hamas′ power would be reduced.

In answer to a question about Iran and the nuclear threat, Regev spoke about the language of threats and deterrents, all terms from the cold war which many diplomats have grown up with. He asked: Does the cold-war conceptual framework hold true where a whole regime has the mentality of a suicide bomber? No one knows, and how do you suggest we find out?

Israel′s official line on Iran is that it is the world′s problem. Israel will support international action against Iran. The first thing which must happen is that Iran′s file of violations needs to me moved from Vienna (Headquarters of the IAEA) to New York where the Security Council sits. When asked "What will you do if the world fails to act against Iran?" Regev would answer that the world will have to deal with the consequences of not acting.

Regev pointed out that Israel is the only place in the world which has documented a reduction in terror within its borders in the last 3 years. So much so, that even Palestinians have begun to look at intifada as a weakening of their position. (Obviously, the core Islamic fundamentalists do not accept this proposition). He pointed us to an article Dramatic split in Fatah blamed on Arafat′s ′follied′ PA leadership by Donald MacIntyre in the Sunday Independent Dec 16 2005.

After a question from the audience he spoke about the Sunni / Shia dichotomy in Islam and said that the traditional textbooks have got it wrong. He described the relationship as being similar to the Trotsky / Maoist split in the Left: it never prohibited both factions from uniting against a common perceived enemy, such as the US during the Vietnam conflict. Iranian shiites support  Hamas sunni action.

When asked about the fence, and whether it is a de-facto new border Regev said emphatically no. The border has been moved in response to Israeli court decisions. He pointed out that when speaking about the fence to the hypothetical French or Norwegian MP he doesn′t only mention the reduction in terrorism and the saving of Israeli lives, but also that the fence allows the peace process to revive. Again this speaks to the EU vested interest in "The Peace Process". No peace process can continue in an environment of terror. The mere existence of the fence is like an aspirin to the peace process, alleviating one of the symptoms which was blocking it.

Anybody who seriously supports the peace process would be mad to suggest that it would be enhanced by pulling down the fence. (Again, my comment is that while I am uncomfortable relegating the human toll of terrorism to the status of a "bad symptom" of the conflict, Regev is brilliant in framing the issue for his hypothetical audience, and that is what communication is. He has explained to them why the existence of the fence is in their interests). A further point about the fence, is that the Gaza pullout would not have taken place were there no fence. Indeed any future pullout from anywhere will require a fence to define for the PA where Israel is pulling out of, and therefore the fence is going to be an integral part of the creation of a Palestinian State.

You should also read ICJS summary of Mark Regev′s previous talk June 2005 (drop me an email Send Regev Talk June 2004.

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