It is crucial to make sure that no UN platform is being abused for the dissemination of materials to promote anti-Israel messages. The UN must take its rightful place at the forefront of the battle to turn back this tide of hatred.
It almost seems a banality every time we speak of this as "the age of Information". Everywhere we look, everything we touch, everything we hear seemingly opens up a dam that releases a powerful stream of new information. So much information exists that it is crucial to have the ability to filter through reams of data and facts in order to decipher what is true and pertinent. This is true of discerning historical fact from fiction, informing mass audiences who may not be fully aware of the past and present, presenting what the future may entail in a clear and balanced manner or highlighting an important issue that is justifiably worthy of attention.
For all these reasons, the role of those bestowed with the task of disseminating information is so critical. If they fail to diligently execute their task in a professional and responsible manner, then fictions and lies fly within nanoseconds across the digital universe, spreading misinformation, doing a disservice to worthy causes and possibly creating real danger to innocent people.
Proper information can help defeat stigmas, break down barriers and empower those who are less fortunate.
We are proud that once again Israel was a co-sponsor to the UN observance of World Autism Awareness Day. We wish to recognize our co-sponsors the Permanent Missions of Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Denmark, the Republic of Korea, Peru, Poland and Sri Lanka. The event focused on measures required to support growth in employment opportunities for people with autism. It is essential that on this global stage we demonstrate that people with autism can be valued employees utilizing their unique and exceptional skills, as well as encourage the creation of work environments where people with autism can excel.
Speaking at this event Shirley Blair-Stein, an Israeli author and mother of an autistic child told the story of her son Dan and his unique blend of intuition and communication that can break down borders, skills that could serve him and potential employers well if given the chance. This demonstrates the positive use of the power of information.
The United Nations is the correct place to tell such stories. This must be a house that offers hope and encourages opportunity.
This past year we have been marking 70 years since the end of World War II when the world created this institution to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and ensure that the events of the Holocaust in Europe would never be repeated again.
Let me again quote the words of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in this very building nine months ago: "Never again is not just a pledge by the survivors, and not just a pledge by the world to the members of the Jewish people. Never again is, first and foremost, the very essence of this United Nations Organization, it is its mission; it is the primary and principal rationale for its existence. The slaughter of nations and of communities was not born in Nazi Germany and did not cease with the opening of the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek and Buchenwald. We must remember that evil is not the property of any specific religion, just as it is not the attribute of any specific country or ethnic group." End quote.
The proposed theme for the Holocaust remembrance and education activities in 2016 will be "The Holocaust and Human Dignity". Linking Holocaust remembrance with the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, this theme recalls the affirmation of the dignity and worth of every person in the United Nations Charter, and the commitment made by the international community through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all persons have the right to live free from discrimination and with equal protection under the law.
Once again, we look forward to hearing the stories of the survivors as well those who have made the preservation of the memory the holocaust, their lives’ work. That generation will not be with us for much longer and we must ensure that their legacy remains for future generations.
The same resolution that established the International Day of Remembrance also called for the development of educational programs to teach future generations about the Holocaust. Israel continues to be encouraged by the important work of the UN Holocaust Outreach Program and the significant growth in the audiences that are reached, including new member states. We are encouraged by the report of the Secretary General to this Committee in this regard. We look forward to the upcoming Kristallnacht commemoration to be held next month.
Israel would like to express its deep appreciation to Under-Secretary-General Christina Gallach and to the DPI and its Director, Ms. Kimberly Mann, for their tireless efforts to advance Holocaust remembrance and education.
Israel remains confident that the Holocaust Program will continue to enjoy appropriate resources that would enable it to maintain and enhance the scope of its important activities. The halls of the United Nations must be a place where information and truth lives on so that memories of the past remain as moral lessons for future generations.
During this past year we continued to witness unprecedented levels of antisemitism worldwide. Even as the Holocaust remains a part of living memory, Jewish communities around the world are facing a resurgent wave of prejudice and violent attacks.
The United Nations must take its rightful place at the forefront of the battle to turn back this tide of hatred. We recall the words of the Secretary General of the United Nations earlier this year: "Even today, after all we have witnessed, all that we know, all that we have pledged, and all we have done, we face widespread challenges to our common humanity. Antisemitism remains a violent reality. We have not yet found the antidote to the poison that led to genocide 70 years ago. As we remember what was lost in the past, and as we recognize the perils of the present, we know what we must do, and we know that we must do it together." End quote.
The UN’s action to date has been encouraging. Earlier this year, member states joined forces to call for an historic session of the General Assembly to send the message that the nations of the world are united in opposing bigotry and intolerance. This landmark session concluded with the issuing of a joint statement from 50 countries calling for action to eradicate antisemitism and appropriate specific action by the DPI in this regard. Israel looks forward to this event and urges the DPI to bring this plan to fruition.
These must be the chambers of openly sharing of information and not suppressing it, so that we can all defend ourselves against evil that unfortunately still exists in the world.
Israel remains deeply concerned about the DPI’s "Special Information Program on the Question of Palestine." Since its inception, this information program has offered a narrative of our region that is biased and misleading.
Similarly, it is crucial to make sure that no UN platform is being abused for the dissemination of materials to promote anti-Israel messages, including through social media platforms. We must be diligent in insuring that scarce resources are not being devoted to acts that are in contradiction to the UN’s values. We urge the DPI to work toward consolidating all political media platforms under one authority and to strengthen its oversight role and guarantee that all communications disseminated by UN bodies live up to the values of this organization.
Circulating prejudiced materials under the banner of the United Nations undermines this institution’s integrity and impartiality. Ensuring that information is true and that facts, about the past and the present, are accurate and unbiased is crucial to fulfilling the stated mission of this organization. This principle must be consistent across all United Nations Agencies, Organizations, and events, whether in New York, Geneva, Paris or elsewhere.
I wish to reiterate that Israel would be willing to engage in the formulation of a more constructive and balanced approach to future activities that must be aimed at the promotion of peace education, tolerance, mutual understanding, and the prevention of incitement.
I listened yesterday to statements made by the Palestinian representative and others. My colleagues in this room were unfortunately exposed to unfounded accusations, including from representatives of countries who consistently rank in the bottom 10 in terms of freedom of the press worldwide.
Information is a powerful tool. When leaders and their government-controlled press engage in incitement, the results are bloodshed. Young Palestinians are being exposed to television programs and books that encourage hatred and glorify "martyrdom". We must stand up against such phenomena. We cannot allow information and disinformation turn into a weapon.
Furthermore, we were witness on October 16th to a stabbing attack by a terrorist who attempted to use the immunity of the press to commit murder. Such are the dilemmas of democracies that cherish accepted values when they are faced with terrorists who wish to hijack these values for their purposes. We must stand up and condemn such actions of knife-wielding murderers who wear the words "Press" across their chests as a protective shield.
Information is a powerful tool. It has the power to empower. It has the power to suppress. It can enable. It can neutralize. It can educate. It can incite. The custodians of information are the custodians of truth. The promulgators of information must be the promulgators of truth.