Special Session on Antisemitism
Delivered to the General Assembly by Ambassador Ron Prosor on 22 January 2015
We are joined today by Rabbi Yaacov Monsonego, whose 8 year-old daughter Miriam was murdered in front of a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012. There are no words to describe the heartbreak and pain your family has endured. Your presence here today should serve as a wakeup call to the nations of the world, because a terrorist who takes a child’s life is not only an enemy of the Jews - he is an enemy of the entire civilized world.
If Martin Niemöller, the German pastor who bravely spoke out against the Nazis, were alive today, I imagine that he would write: ‘First they attacked the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. Then they attacked freedom of religion, but I was not religious and so I did not speak out. Then they attacked the press, but I was not a journalist and so I did not speak out. Then they attacked freedom of speech and expression, but there was no one left to speak for me, because there were no freedoms left.’
Antisemitism is a topic that is very close to my heart. My grandmother, Elfrida, was born in Germany and endured the harassment and hardships that a Jew in Europe faced at the time.
By 1936 she knew that there was no future for her or her family in Germany. Just a few months earlier, the Nazis passed the Nuremberg Laws declaring Jews second-class citizens and revoking their political rights. Day by day, she saw Jews being degraded and dehumanized – they were being deprived of their rights, their jobs, and their freedoms. My grandmother took my father and his sister and fled Berlin for Israel.
I was born in Israel 13 years after the Holocaust ended. Growing up, I knew many Jews who had survived the barbarity of the Nazis. I saw the numbers tattooed on their arms and I heard their heartbreaking stories. In a few weeks, I will become a grandfather for the first time. My son’s wife, Maya, is sitting over there. It pains me to know that my granddaughter will be born into a world that it still stained by antisemitism.
The world pledged ‘Never again,’ but here we are again.
Seventy years after the Holocaust ended, European Jews are once again living in fear. Two weeks ago, we watched in horror as innocent Jews were murdered in a Paris grocery store. Before the Paris siege, it was the gunman who murdered a rabbi and three young children in front of a Jewish school in Toulouse, including Rabbi Monsonego’s daughter, Miriam, and the shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium.
Violent antisemitism is casting a shadow over Europe. Last summer, anti-Israel demonstrations in Paris turned into violent riots, graffiti reading “Jews your end is near” were scrawled on the walls of Rome, Jews were banned from stores in Belgium, an angry mob beat an elderly Jewish man in Hamburg, and firebombs were thrown at Jewish homes in Amsterdam and Berlin.
These hate crimes aren’t confined to the masses on the streets.
A theatre in London refused to host the U.K. Jewish Film Festival. An Italian historian called for Israel to face a “Nuremberg Trial.” And a popular Spanish newspaper published an article saying, and I quote, “It’s not strange [that the Jews] have been so frequently expelled.” End of quote.
The words of hate aren’t confined to places across the Atlantic.
Antisemitism can even be found in the halls of the United Nations. Disguised as humanitarian concern, a number of delegates have used the General Assembly, this podium, to voice their antisemitic sentiments.
Following last summer’s conflict in Gaza, a handful of delegations stood at this very podium and accused Israel of behaving like the Nazis and creating a Holocaust. This is not legitimate criticism of Israel. It doesn’t matter how much you are angered or frustrated by our conflict, there is no excuse for antisemitism – not on the streets, not in the media, not in your governments, and not in this institution.
There is no logic or reason to antisemitism. Israeli peace activist and author Amos Oz pointed out that 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.
If you believe in freedom and tolerance, then you must have the courage of your convictions. A number of international leaders have taken a clear and vocal stand against antisemitism and I commend them. Israel welcomes the historic joint statement put forward by more than 40 member states and we invite other states to join us in this effort.
Every nation must speak out as clearly as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls who declared, “When the Jews of France are attacked France is attacked, the conscience of humanity is attacked.”
Every nation must also speak as clearly as Chancellor Angela Merkel who said, “I do not accept any kind of anti-Semitic message or attacks at all, not least the ones that were…seen at the pro-Palestinian demonstrations, disguised as alleged criticism of the policy of the state of Israel.” End of quote.
Europe is being tested. We don’t need more monuments commemorating the Jews who were murdered in Europe, we need an enduring commitment to safeguard the Jews living in Europe. If the governments of Europe succeed in defending their Jewish communities, then they will succeed in defending liberty and democracy.
The days when Jews were the world’s victims are over. We will never again be helpless and we will never again remain silent. Today we have the State of Israel standing guard.
עַל חוֹמֹתַיִךְ יְרוּשָׁלִַם הִפְקַדְתִּי שֹׁמְרִים כָּל הַיּוֹם וְכָל הַלַּיְלָה תָּמִיד לֹא יֶחֱשׁוּ
On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night, they shall never be silent.
Israel will never be silent. We will stand guard and we will safeguard the Jewish state and the Jewish people.
We have seen the evil that man is capable of, and so we must be vigilant. We must spot the warning signs and act swiftly to condemn antisemitism. I call on every nation to stand tall beside us. Refuse to allow evil to take root. Refuse to be silent. And refuse to submit to indifference. Let the message echo from the halls of the UN to the streets of Europe to the capital of every nation – stand for human rights and human dignity by taking a stand against antisemitism.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.