Address by Ambassador Dan Gillerman, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, to the Security Council
October 5, 2003

Mr. President,

I wish to congratulate you on the assumption of the Presidency of the Security Council. Let me also express to you my regret that your first meeting is of this nature and taking place on this day. I wish also to express to Sir Emyr Jones-Parry my great appreciation for his able and fair stewardship of the Security Council last month.

This meeting of the Security Council is being convened within hours of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is the holiest Day of the Jewish calendar. I deeply regret that the Council could not meet after this most important religious day, so as to allow Israel to participate fully in the debate. I will, unfortunately, have to leave this meeting after I make my statement to observe this Holy Day.

Yesterday, a Palestinian suicide bomber entered a crowded beachfront restaurant in the port city of Haifa, murdering 19 innocent civilians and wounding at least 60 others. The restaurant, a symbol of Arab-Israeli co-existence was frequented by both Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, and among the victims were four Israeli Arabs, and 3 children and a baby girl. Five victims were members of the same family, and three were members of another family. Whole families were wiped out by this horrendous act.

Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization that operates freely from Palestinian Authority territory and has headquarters in Damascus, Syria proudly claimed responsibility for this massacre. Islamic Jihad is an organizations committed to the destruction of Israel through holy war and engages in the deliberate and widespread murder of innocents to that end. It opposes moderate Arab governments and actively supports terrorist attacks against Western targets. There could not be a more obvious example of a terrorist organization.

The massacre in Haifa, is the latest in over forty terrorist atrocities committed by Islamic Jihad in the past few years. Among the attacks perpetrated by this organization is the massacre of 21 teenagers at a discotheque in Tel-Aviv on 2 June 2001; the bombing at the Meggido Junction of 5 June 2002 which killed 18 Israelis; the bombing of a commuter bus on 21 October 2002 which killed 14 citizens; the attack on a shopping mall in the Israeli town of Afula on 19 May 2003, in which 3 civilians were killed and over 70 wounded; and the attack on March 30, 2003 where a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a cafe in Netanya wounding 58 civilians.

Mr. President,

The encouragement, safe harbor, training facilities, funding and logistical support offered by Syria to a variety of notorious terrorist organizations is a matter of public knowledge. Among the many terrorists group that operate and benefit from the auspices of the Syrian dictatorship are Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hizbollah, and The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It is well known that the Secretary General of Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Abdallah Shallah is one of several terrorist leaders that operates freely in Damascus and receives immunity and support from the Assad regime.

Allow me to briefly detail, for the benefit of the Council, the extent of support that Syria, as well as the regime in Iran, affords to terrorist organizations such as Islamic Jihad who are engaged in the deliberate massacre of innocent civilians:

1) Safe harbor and training facilities are provided throughout Syria for terrorist organizations such as Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hizbollah, both in separate facilities and in Syrian army bases. The Ein Saheb base, which was targeted in Israel’s measured defensive operation today, is just one of these facilities sponsored by Syria and Iran. Recruits at camps such as Ein Saheb come from Islamic Jihad, Hamas and other terrorist groups. They are taught how to assemble bombs, conduct kidnappings, prepare suicide belts, gather intelligence and establish terrorist cells. Some have also received aviation instruction. Recruits training at these camps are slated to return to Palestinian Authority territory and other areas to set up cells and conduct terrorist operations.

2) Syria has itself facilitated and directed acts of terrorism by coordination and briefings via phone and internet and by calling activists to Damascus for consultations and briefings. Three such operatives, for example, Tarek Az Aldin, Ali Saffuri and Taabat Mardawi have been identified under investigation as specifically designated liaisons for relaying instructions between officials in Damascus and terrorist cells in the West Bank and Gaza. Mr. Mardawi has admitted involvement in many attacks including a bus bombing in Haifa in May 2001, a suicide attack at a restaurant in Kiryat Motzkin in August of that year and a bus attack near Nazareth in March 2002. Another example comes from an intelligence report provided by the Head of the Palestinian Preventative Security Apparatus on 31 October 2001, which asserts that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizballah were meeting in Damascus "in order to increase their joint acitivitywith the aid of Iranian money". Instructions are also given to halt terrorist activity when it suits Syrian or Iranian interests to avoid the spotlight, such as following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 in the United States.

3) Iran, through the use of the Syrian and Palestinian banking systems sustains a systematic money transfer system, and large sums of money have been transferred to Islamic Jihad as well as other terrorists organizations through Damascus for the planning and perpetration of attacks. Mr. Shallah himself, the secretary-general of Islamic Jihad, is known to have transferred funds in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from Damascus to the individual accounts of Islamic Jihad operatives, such as Bassam al-Saadi, who is responsible for Islamic Jihad financing in Jenin.

4) Syria uses its state run media and official institutions to glorify and encourage suicide bombings against civilians in restaurants, schools, commuter buses and shopping malls. To mention but a few examples, Radio Damascus, in a broadcast of 9 May 2002, lauded "The wonderful and special suicide attacks which were executed by some of the sons of the Palestinian nation". In another State-run announcement of 1 January 2002, Damascus radio declared that "The entire world knows that Syria, its political leadership, and its Arab peoplehave turned Syrian Arab soil into a training camp, a safe haven, and an arms depot for the Palestinian revolutionaries". And on 13 May 2002, President Bashar Assad himself announced in reference to so-called acts of resistance "If I had not been President of Syria I wouldn’t hesitate to participate in them". This was not said by Osama Bin Laden or even Saddam Hussein, these words were uttered by a President of a member of this council! Syria has also played host to a number of conferences in which senior terrorist operatives from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other organizations meet.

5) Syria has facilitated the transfer of arms to Palestinian terrorist organizations such as Islamic Jihad, by allowing the transfer of sophisticated weapons from Iran to Hizbullah through Syrian territory. Hizbullah, itself a viscous terrorist organization, has then sought to smuggle these arms to Palestinian terrorist groups, as was evidenced in the Karine A arms shipment and similar incidents.

Mr. President,

These are just a few examples of the extent and nature of the involvement of the Syrian regime in the deliberate murder of innocent civilians. Each and every one of these acts constitutes a grave violation of international law and Security Council resolutions, as well as a threat to international peace and security. There are few better exhibits of State-sponsorship for terrorism than the one provided by the Syrian regime.

Security Council resolution 1373 adopted under Chapter 7 of the Charter, which in an act of the highest hypocrisy Syria itself voted for, makes absolutely clear that States must prevent acts of terrorism, and refrain from any form of financing, support, safe harbor or toleration of terrorist groups. Syrian complicity and responsibility for suicide bombings is as blatant as it is repugnant. The membership of this arch-sponsor of terrorism on this Council is an unbearable contradiction and an embarrassment to the United Nations. For Syria to ask for a debate of the Council, is comparable to the Taliban calling for such a debate. It would be laughable, if it weren’t so sad.

And yet, Members of the Council and the United Nations can hardly be surprised at this shameless act of hypocrisy by the Syrian regime. This is the same regime that speaks so often of "occupation" while it brutally occupies the neighboring territory of Lebanon It is the same regime that speaks of international law and human rights while it subjugates its people under a repressive and primitive dictatorship, violating countless international obligations. It is the same regime that supported the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq in violation of Security Council resolutions, and to this day facilitates the infiltration of terrorists to attack civilian and military targets in Iraqi territory. And it is this same despotic regime that speaks so freely of double standards at the United Nations. Syria would do well to take a hard look at the mirror, and count itself fortunate that it has not yet, for unfortunate reasons, been the subject of concerted international action as part of the global campaign against terrorism. Not yet!

The Syrian delegate speaks a great deal about so-called resistance. Perhaps he can tell us precisely, without his familiar diplomatic word games and misrepresentations, how exactly the murder of children and babies in a restaurant is an act of legitimate resistance. Or perhaps he could tell us how the Syrians themselves have dealt with resistance, such as in the case of Hama in which some 10,000 civilians were murdered by Syrian Armed Forces.

Mr. President,

Israel’s measured defensive response to the horrific suicide bombings, against a terrorist training facility in Syria, are a clear act of self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the Charter. These actions come after Israel has exercised tremendous restraint despite countless acts of terrorism that have claimed hundreds of innocent lives for which Syria bears direct and criminal responsibility. It comes after Israel, and the international community as a whole, has called repeatedly on Syria to end its support of terrorism and finally comply with international law. And it is designed to prevent further armed attacks against Israeli civilians in which Syria is complicit, with a view to encouraging Syria to resolve its dispute through bilateral negotiations in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, as it is legally required to do.

May I ask what any other country sitting around this table would do in the face of the callous murder of hundreds of its civilians? This is not a hypothetical question. Many states in this organization, and in this Council, have been faced with terrorism of far less intensity and have responded with far less restraint and far less concern for human life. And yet, the Security Council has not seen fit to scrutinize their conduct. Indeed, on certain occasions the Council has specifically endorsed such defensive measures.

If there is a double standard in this Organization it is that while some states are afforded the right to protect their citizens, Israel too often is sent the message that its citizens are not worthy of protection. If there is a double standard, it is that some states are able to support terrorism with impunity, while those defending against it are called to account. If there is a double standard it is Syria sitting at this table, and raising one hand to vote against terror and the other to perpetrate and initiate terror! For the sake of peace and the reputation of this Council, let there be no such double standard today.

In the face of the rejectionism, aggression and terrorist sponsorship of the Syrian regime, together with Iran and the Palestinian Authority, what would the international community have us do? Like any state faced with such a critical and prolonged threat, Israel must exercise its inherent right and obligation to defend its citizens. What can we tell the Arab and Israeli mothers of children murdered in this weekend’s attack in Haifa? We could have prevented the death of your son or daughter? We could have stopped a terrorist from walking into your town, your school, your home, your bedroom, but our hands were tied? Israel remains committed to a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict, and is ready to make painful compromises to that end. But no peace can come while terrorism prospers. No negotiations can bring progress, while our citizens die on the streets.

Today, on the very eve of the Day of Atonement and the thirteenth anniversary of the Egyptian-Syrian aggression that initiated the Yom Kippur War, we call on members of the Council to come to the aid of the victims of terrorism, not their sponsors. Syria deserves no support for its complicity in murder and the Council would commit an unforgivable act of moral blindness were it to act otherwise. The time has come for the Council which adopted resolution 1373, and which has been at the forefront of the global counter-terrorism campaign, to hold to account a brutal dictatorship that is world-renowned for adopting terrorism as its primary tool. The world is watching. And today, more than on any other day, God is watching too.

Thank you, Mr. President.