The UN conference on Antisemitism, a threat to Global Peace and Stability, co-hosted by Caleb T. O. Otto, Ambassador of Palau to the UN, and Ron Prosor, Ambassador of Israel, was held in New York on September 8, 2014.
Copyright: Israel Mission to the UN, New York
Ladies and gentlemen,
We must never lose sight of the fact that every human being is an individual – a person with feelings, thoughts, ideas and dreams. As the renowned Israeli poet Zelda Mishkovsky wrote,
לכל איש יש שם שנתן לו אלהים ונתנו לו אביו ואימו
"Unto every person there is a name given to him by God and given to him by his parents."
And yet history has shown us that there are always those who believe that some lives are worth less than others because of their faith, because of their nationality, their ethnicity or even their ancestry. From Australia to Argentina, from the United Kingdom to the United States. Jews have been attacked on streets for wearing a kippah, their businesses have been vandalized, and riots have erupted outside their synagogues.
These are not acceptable protests – they are the words and actions of bigots who seek to demonize a democracy and its people. According to reports from the World Zionist Organization, and listen to this the number are absolutely staggering, there has been a 130% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, an over 400% increase in anti-Semitic attacks in Europe, and a 1,200% increase in South America.
Ladies and gentleman,
I want to share with you the story of a young mother named Anna and her 6-month old baby. The two left their home in the center of Paris on a beautiful spring morning and walked the short distance to a near-by station. As they stood waiting for the bus an elderly women walked up to Anna and yelled, "Dirty Jews. Enough with your children already," and the elderly woman began violently shaking the baby’s stroller. People passed by without saying a word.
Four hundred miles away in the heart of Berlin, a 12 year-old boy named Shmuel stood at a metro terminal. As he searched through his backpack looking for a sandwich, a group of teenagers walked up and shouted, "Look! The Jew is eating our bread. Jews are stealing our food." And although the station was crowded with commuters, no one said or did anything.
The attack on Shmuel took place in 1937 while the attack on Anna took place two months ago. Seventy-seven years may have passed, yet it seems that there is little difference for a European Jew in 1937 and 2014.
There are countless Jews – all with a name, a family, and a story – who have found themselves under attack in recent weeks. Anti-Semitic rhetoric morphed into violence and led to the firebombing of a synagogue in Wuppertal, Germany, earlier this month. It reminded me of the first torching of a synagogue that took place during the Nazi pogroms in 1938.
Where is the outrage? Where are the universal calls of condemnation?
My friends – the silence of 2014 sounds very very similar to the silence of the 1930s.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am here to tell you that we all have a responsibility. We all have a responsibility to stand up and fight and we all have a responsibility to stand up and win.
We are here in the heart of the United Nations where the countries of the world are represented. When you walked through the gates you passed the flags of 193 member states. There are 25 flags with a cross on them, 15 with a crescent and only one, single Jewish Star of David.
For some peoples and some nations – one Jewish state is one too many. They would like to see the day when Jews are once again scattered, homeless, persecuted, and defenseless.
Throughout history, bigots found a pretext to hate the Jews:
- Either because they were too rich or because they were poor;
- Either because they were capitalists or because they were communists;
- Either because they kept them for themselves or because they assimilated.
There is no logic or reason to this sort of hatred. As Israeli peace activist, Amos Oz pointed out: in the 1930s, anti-Semites declared, ‘Jews to Palestine.’ Today they shout, ‘Jews out of Palestine’…They don’t want us to be there; they don’t want us to be here; they don’t want us to be.
Ladies and gentleman,
Here in the United Nations, Israel is under attack on a daily basis. The attacks may be masked as criticisms of Israeli policies or the Israeli government, but let’s not be fooled. When heads of state and ambassadors in this institution compare Israel to Hitler and the Nazis – is that legitimate criticism? Of course not. It is just the newest incarnation of the world’s oldest hatred.
The danger today is greater than ever before because Israel is on the frontline of fighting against radical extremism. What is at stake today is truthfully the future of freedom itself.
Israel is surrounded by violent and radical groups that suppress the rights and beliefs of millions of people, and yet it has shown that it can be and still be a true and vibrant democracy. To have a free press, to have an independent judiciary, each and every day, under enormous pressures, since the establishment of the State of Israel.
It is time for the rest of the world to pick a side. Will you stand with terrorist groups that shoot rockets into cities, kidnap girls from their classrooms, cut off the heads of journalists, and execute minorities? Or will you stand up with the democratic nations that believe in human rights, tolerance and freedoms?
I walk the halls of the United Nations tall, every day, and proud of whom I represent and what I represent. We ask you to stand tall beside us – because it is the right thing to do and because there really isn’t any other choice.