Malaysia opened an Islamic conference on terrorism yesterday, branding both Palestinian suicide bombers and Israeli soldiers as terrorists and urging the UN Security Council to approve "deterrent sanctions" against Israel.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, recalling the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews during World War II, said Israel should pull its troops out of the Palestinian territories and urged the world to intervene by force if it did not.
"The Holocaust did not defeat the Jews. A second holocaust with Arabs for victims will not defeat the Arabs either," Mahathir told foreign ministers from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
"Israelis must come to their senses and opt for de-escalation of terror rather than escalating it. If the Israelis won't, then the world must forcibly stop them."
A resolution calling on the Security Council to "take the necessary measures to provide international protection for the Palestinian people and apply deterrent sanctions against Israel" was approved unanimously.
The resolution, adopted at the first session of a conference, said Israel's actions were "posing a threat to international peace and security, and dragging the region toward an all-out war."
Delegates urged the US and Russia, as co-sponsors of the Middle East peace process, the UN Security Council and the EU to press Israel to withdraw its troops from all occupied Arab and Palestinian territories.
The OIC called the conference to dispel perceptions equating Islam with terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks by Muslim radical airline hijackers who killed almost 3,000 people in the US.
Ministers or their representatives from most of the OIC's 57 members -- who range from Albania in Europe to Indonesia in Asia, Guyana in South America and Mozambique in Africa -- were in Malaysia for the three-day meeting.
Mahathir proposed a definition for terrorism encompassing all violence targeted at civilians, which he said included the Sept. 11 attacks, Palestinian and Tamil suicide bombers as well as assaults by Israel in the Palestinian territories.
"I would like to suggest here that armed attacks or other forms of attacks against civilians must be regarded as acts of terror and the perpetrators regarded as terrorists," he said.
Mahathir, who faces a challenge from Muslim radicals at home, said the root causes behind acts of terror could not be ignored.
"We cannot just dismiss them as senseless perverts who enjoy terrorizing people," he added, referring to the perpetrators.