Politicians and statesmen from around the world gathered in New York, Tuesday, for a United Nations symposium on the victims of terrorism.
The day-long forum, called for by UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, is intended to support the victims of terrorism and to encourage civil society’s involvement in a global campaign against it. It manifests objectives laid out in the General Assembly’s 2006 Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
The symposium will have 18 victims of terror and 10 experts from around the world as participants. Among them are two Israelis: Arnold Roth, who lost his daughter in the Jerusalem Sbarro bombing, and Daniel Carmon, the deputy head of Israel's UN delegation, who lost his wife during the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992.
Other participants include Ingrid Betancourt, who was recently released from six years in captivity in Colombia and Ashraf Al-Khaled, whose wedding in Amman, Jordan, was marred by terrorist bombings in November 2005. Victims of the bombings of Sept. 11, the London underground bombings, and the UN headquarters in Baghdad will also attend.
Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General and Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, said the forum will serve as an opportunity to put a human face on the suffering of survivors and their families. “We have all heard the voices of terrorists; too seldom do we hear the stories of their victims,” he was quoted as saying by the UN news center.
Orr added that the symposium will work to spark a change in the “often-strained dynamics” between governments, who at times react defensively to criticism for not doing enough to help victims, and the victims themselves who often feel their needs are not sufficiently addressed.
He emphasized that the symposium is not intended to be a political event, but rather is “solely designed to focus on concrete ways to better support victims of around the world.”
Arab group calls for Palestinian victims to participate
The symposium garnered criticism by several Arab representatives, who protested that the symposium was biased because it had not invited Palestinian victims of 'Israeli terror' to speak.
In late August, an Arab group led by Palestinian Ryadh Mansour met with Orr , reported the Kuwaiti News Agency (KUNA) to complain about the UN "lack of transparency" in organizing the event and demand that Palestinian victims be invited to attend.
"Our position is that if Israel is going to be invited to participate with victims, Palestine has to be invited with victims too because nobody suffered as much as the Palestinians from Israel's state terrorism and from the Jewish settlers," Mansour told KUNA.
Mr. Orr addressed this claim implicity when he responded to journalists' questions of how victims can be invited to such a symposium when the term “terrorism” itself has yet to be defined. According to him, there are 16 international conventions and protocols that provide a solid base for identifying acts of terrorism.
He asserted that individuals invited to participate in the symposium have “suffered from an act of terrorism as defined under these international legal instruments.”
Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to this article