Maintenance of Intnl Peace and Security:
Lessons of War
Delivered to the Security Council by Ambassador Ron Prosor on 29 Jaunary 2014
Thank you, Mr. President.
I stand before you as a man who has seen and experienced war - as a soldier, as a diplomat, and as the father of children who themselves have been sent to war. I speak to you today, drawing from these experiences and as the son of a man who fled Nazi Germany to escape the annihilation of his people.
Two days ago, the United Nations recognized its International Holocaust Day commemorating the six million Jews, including one and a half million children, who were murdered by the Nazis.
The Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax in Auschwitz and Treblinka, but signs of the impending catastrophe where evident years earlier. Jews were systematically demonized - robbed of their dignity, then robbed of their possessions, and finally, robbed of their lives.
In the last century, this pattern of defamation, degradation, and bloodshed has been the hallmark of an impending atrocity. Despite the pledges – even in this chamber – of “Never Again,” we have seen the pattern repeat itself over and over again.
War doesn’t begin with the firing of weapons or the deployment of troops. War begins when
the seeds of hatred and intolerance are sown in the hearts of ordinary men and women.
This April will mark 20 years since the Rwandan genocide – a genocide characterized not only by unspeakable brutality, but by the fact that it was entirely preventable. In the months leading up to the genocide, General Roméo Dallaire, commander of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Rwanda, warned that Hutu extremists were planning a campaign to exterminate Tutsis.
He knew what was coming because the warning signs were evident. The radio waves filled with ugly messages demonizing and dehumanizing the Tutsis. Vulnerable members of society became targets – children were conscripted and women were assaulted. And a list was drawn up detailing the names of people to be killed. General Dallaire tried to warn the world, but his warnings fell on deaf ears.
As photos and stories of the genocide emerged, the world was haunted by the atrocities it failed to prevent and once more pledged “Never Again.” Just a few years later, it ignored the lessons of history and the cycle of defamation, degradation, and bloodshed was repeated in Darfur.
From Cambodia to Bosnia to Somalia, the international community has failed and failed again to prevent the killing of innocent people. Each of us has a role to play in the struggle for human rights and human dignity. We cannot tolerate governments brutalizing their people. We cannot rest while barrel bombs are falling on Syrian citizens, executions are on the rise in Iran, and sexual violence is rampant in the Central African Republic.
We must break down the wall of silence. We must overcome indifference. We must know what we stand for and then stand up for what we believe in - never indulge racism; never ignore incitement; never be silent when confronted with the warning signs or war.
In schools, mosques and media across the Middle East, people are being taught to hate, vilify and dehumanize Israelis and Jews. As we speak, a generation of Palestinian children is being taught that murder is moral, racism is righteous and terror is tolerable. The Palestinian Authority's media quotes Hitler, describes Jews as less than human, and displays maps that erase Israel’s existence.
Today, we are witnessing state-sanctioned incitement in Iran where Ayatollah Khamenei describes Israel as a "cancerous tumor" and calls for its eradication “from the face of the earth."
This is a regime that has stood in this very institution and threatened Israel with annihilation. For all those who say “that was in the past,” just two months ago, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Tehran and chanted, “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”
Even in Egypt, after 35 years of peace, the government has failed to educate against incitement. In 1979 President Sadat courageously travelled to Israel’s Parliament to forge an historic peace agreement between our two nations. Today, official Egyptian media outlets promote anti-Semitism, movie theatres show films that portray Israel as the "enemy;" and maps show a Middle East without Israel.
Peace on paper doesn't mean much if there is no peace between people. It is each government’s responsibility to educate their citizens towards tolerance, justice and mutual respect.
It is not enough to claim that war is intolerable. It is not enough to pledge “Never Again.” We must heed the warning signs and take action – beginning by uprooting incitement and hatred.
The horrors of history are too often met with silence. Many members of this institution called the United Nations have failed to speak out in a united fashion and collectively condemn those who call for the annihilation of other Member States.
From this chamber I want to warn the world – do not close your eyes to the atrocities around you; do not turn away from the animosity that ensues. It is your responsibility to speak out against hatred clearly and unequivocally.
Equip the next generation with words and not weapons. Arm them with ideas and not radical ideologies. Teach them tolerance and not terrorism. War is not inevitable - it is not a force of nature or a part of human nature.
War can be prevented, but only if we stand together to denounce indifference and defend peace.
Thank you, Mr. President.