Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
Delivered to the Security Council by Ambassador Ron Prosor on 12 February 2014
Thank you Madame President.
Allow me to take this opportunity to congratulate Lithuania on its presidency of the Security Council this month.
Jewish tradition places great importance on upholding the sanctity of life. The Talmud famously teaches:
כל המקיים נפש אחת כאילו קיים עולם מלא.
“Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” The Talmud goes on to teach that “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world.” In Syria, almost 130,000 worlds have been destroyed.
We will soon mark the third anniversary of the Syrian conflict and there is no end in sight. We cannot sit comfortably in this Chamber discussing the protection of civilians in armed conflict when, before our eyes, the crisis in Syria has reached catastrophic proportions.
We have all been criticized for not doing anything substantial to help the people of Syria. The endless meetings, discussions, and good intentions are not good enough. All of this is doing nothing to change the outcome on the ground.
Each of us represents a nation, but we also represent the aspirations of millions of people throughout the world. The Council has often been divided on the issue of Syria, but time is running out. The Syrian people cannot wait as the wheels of diplomacy spin in the mud of debates and dialogues.
How many nations can say that they truly help protect civilians? Looking back on 2013, it is clear that very few had the courage to act on their ideals.
When hostilities erupted in the Central African Republic, the African Union acted swiftly to avert a potential genocide. And when violent extremists began a campaign of terror in northern Mali, France took the lead with decisive action that saved the lives of countless civilians.
Each and every country must do its part. Horrified by the savagery and violence that has ravaged Syria, Israel refused to be indifferent to the suffering. We have treated hundreds of Syrians in desperate need of medical care.
When governments are unable or unwilling to protect their civilians, the United Nations is often the last line of defense. Peacekeepers have saved tens of thousands of lives, but the reality is that millions of civilians are in need of protection. These innocent men and women turn to the United Nations for help, but find themselves standing alone.
I want to thank the Permanent Representative from India for raising important questions that need to be addressed by this Council. In this modern age of warfare, it is difficult to distinguish the combatants from the victims and the bystanders.
Petty politics have drained the efforts and attention of this Council. Instead of opening the channels of humanitarian aid, little more than a trickle of assistance is reaching those who need it most.
If we are honest with ourselves then we will admit that we have not done enough. Somewhere in the world there is a mother shielding her children as rockets and mortars explode all around. Somewhere in the world there is a father crawling through the rubble searching for scraps of food to feed his hungry children. And somewhere in the world there are children laboring day and night to help ease the burden on their families.
Ronald Reagan said (and I quote), “Let us be sure that those who come after will say...that in our time we did everything that could be done.” These men, women and children should not stand alone. We should be standing at their side, easing their burden and ensuring a safer and more secure future.
We share the fundamental responsibility to protect civilians from the three ‘T’s - terror, torment and tyranny. We must set aside our differences and make a lasting change for generations to come.
Ladies and gentlemen, The clock is ticking and time is running out. It is time to stop talking and take decisive action. Every life we save is a world unto itself. No nation is free from responsibility. I call on each and every one to act now.
Thank you, Madame President.