In both a speech by Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary-General Iyad Ameen Madani and a communique issued at the end of the meeting, Israeli actions in the disputed territories were listed ahead of acts ranging from the burning alive of a captured Jordanian pilot to deadly attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and northern Nigeria, all carried out by groups claiming Islam as their motivation.
In the communique finalizing the meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the gathered OIC foreign ministers accused Israel of “continuous violations of the basic rights of the Palestinian people and [the] practice of state terrorism.” It specified “aggressions against people, land and sacred sites in Al-Quds As-Sharif [Jerusalem], and the blockade it imposes on the Gaza Strip in total disregard to international law and international humanitarian law.”
In his speech, Madani also referred to “incessant violations of the basic rights of the Palestinian people” and Israeli “state-sponsored terrorism.”
Turning to the broader fight against terrorism, Madani praised the OIC as “a pioneer in countering terrorism,” noting that when it adopted its Convention on Combating International Terrorism in 1999, “most international institutions were still debating the definition of international terrorism.”
What Madani did not say was that a primary reason for the U.N.’s failure – to this day – to agree on a definition of terrorism is the OIC’s insistence that “armed struggle against foreign occupation” does not constitute terrorism.
That very 1999 convention lays out the doctrine, declaring that “peoples’ struggle including armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism, and hegemony, aimed at liberation and self-determination in accordance with the principles of international law shall not be considered a terrorist crime.”
Reiterated at dozens of OIC and Arab League conferences since 1999, the exemption-for-occupation issue has flared up every time a U.N. “ad-hoc committee” meets in New York each year for a week to discuss a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, first proposed by India in 1996.
The OIC had refused to budge on the issue because doing so would remove what many Islamic governments regard as the legitimacy of the Palestinian “resistance” against Israel and the Pakistani-backed “resistance” against Indian rule in disputed Kashmir.
Despite that OIC policy, Madani in his weekend speech said he hoped the ministers would adopt a statement that “reiterates OIC’s position condemning all forms and manifestations of terrorism regardless of what and where.”
The meeting duly did so: The final communique included the line: “The meeting reiterated its principled position against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomsoever and wherever …”
The issue of “occupation” was alluded to elsewhere in the speech and the communique, where the OIC sought to highlight what it calls the “context” in which terrorism occurs.
“Terrorism cannot be effectively addressed through security or military means alone,” Madani said. “Due attention and concrete plans are needed to address the aspects, dimensions, and contexts of terrorism, including the political and socio-economic, contexts providing conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and violent extremism …
“We must also not forget the deep impact and legacies of historical injustices done to peoples colonized or under occupation, their sufferings, and the forced destruction of their national institutions, culture and identity, and the denial of their rights to self-determination,” he added.
The last sentence was included almost verbatim in the final communique.
Other highlights of the communique included:
--The meeting called for due attention and a concrete plan to action to address issues such as “the potential of external actors penetrating terrorist and extremist groups for the purpose of serving their own political agenda.”
--The meeting unequivocally rejected “all attempts to associate any country, race, religion, culture or nationality with terrorism.”
--“The meeting expressed serious concern over the increase of intolerance and discrimination against Muslims resulting into the upsurge of Islamophobia, a phenomenon which is an affront to the human rights and dignity of Muslims.”
In that regard it called for the implementation of a 2011 U.N. measure, “resolution 16/18,” which sought to balance free speech with attempts to counter speech regarded by some as blasphemous.
Implementing the resolution, the OIC ministers said, would help to “deprive terrorist groups of any justification for violent extremism on the grounds of ethno-religious stigmatization and discrimination.”