WORLD  UNION  FOR  PROGRESSIVE  JUDAISM

STATEMENT

 by Guest Representative Prof. Robert S. Wistrich, Monday (am) 29 March 2004

 (Read by David G. Littman for Robert S. Wistrich)

 

UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS (15 March-23 April 2004)

Chairman of the 60th session: Ambassador Mike Smith (Australia)

Question: Violation human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world (item 9)

 

Sir, I am reading the Statement of Robert Wistrich, who was down to speak on Friday.

 In the spirit of UN General Assembly resolution 34/175 re: “effective action against mass and flagrant violations of human rights”, and the role of the Commission to take urgent action, I welcome this unique opportunity to make a brief statement under item 9.

[As Professor of modern history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Director of its Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism. I participated in the 25 March seminar on “Judeophobia Today” and commented on the subsequent showing of the UK Channel 4 documentary: “Blaming the Jews.”]

It is fitting that this Commission should address the alarming wave of antisemitism which today characterizes not only Europe but a growing part of the Arab/Muslim world. Three written statements are available here on this growing plague: E/CN.4/2004/NGO/15, NGO/5 and NGO/89. To continue  to turn a blind eye is to ignore a major motivating force behind the ideology of jihad responsible for the shocking acts of Islamist terror that have left a bloody trail from Manhattan, Washington, Bali, Istanbul, Riyadh, Djerba, Casablanca, Jerusalem and Ashdod, and the recent atrocity in Madrid, a clear warning to Europe of what lies ahead. 

[The deadly cocktail of terrorism, jihad and antisemitism embodied in Islamist organizations from Al-Qaida to the Palestinian Hamas movement – represents a potent totalitarian threat to the open society and the cause of human rights. These totalitarian Islamists have hijacked and blackened the good name of Islam and are as much a threat to Muslims as they are to Christians, Jews and millions of other peaceful citizens going about their daily business.]

Europe’s reaction to this scourge has thus far been disappointing. It continues to permit Islamists to openly preach their anti-democratic values and poisonous antisemitism in the heart of Europe

 [– a continent in which only 60 years ago the Jewish people suffered the greatest mass slaughter in its history]. In the last three years, there has been an unprecedented wave of attacks on Jewish institutions, synagogues and individual Jews, who live in the European Union.

[Not only that, but the constant double standards applied to Israel, its denigration, defamation and delegitimization are a chilling reminder of Nazi propaganda in the 1930s. Everyone understands that no State is immune to criticism. Israelis themselves are Olympic Gold Medallists when it comes to criticizing their own Government. That is not the same as seeking the demise and disappearance of a member State of the United Nations. Such discourse is now heard even in mainstream circles in Europe, as has long been the case in the Middle East. It feeds antisemitism and it must stop.

I should like to remind this Commission that just as Palestinians have human rights which deserve to be respected so, too, do the victims of totalitarian Islamism. Israelis also have human rights – the right to walk down a street, to go to a shopping mall, to take a bus, to sit in a bar, a cafeteria, a pizzeria, to go to the cinema, the theatre, a disco or any other public place], to pray in the House of God or to study on a university campus, without being blown to pieces by a jihadist bomber. At my own University in Jerusalem, on 31 July 2002, I witnessed such an atrocity, carried out by the Hamas organization.

Like other Islamists, the Hamas uses antisemitic language, full of hatred towards Jews, ever since its foundation in 1987. In its Sacred Covenant [18 August 1988], there are frequent references to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which would have gladdened the hearts of Hitler and Goebbels. It is diificult to see what any of this has to  do with spirituality, works of charity, dialogue or the search for peace.]        

At the beginning of the 21st Century, jihadist terrorism, antisemitism and racism have become globalized. The struggle against these evils are an indivisible part of the campaign for human rights worldwide. In the New York Times [and IHT] of 25 March, Nicholas Kristof deplored (quote): “a campaign of murder, rape and pillage by Sudan`s Arab rulers that has forced 700,000 black African Sudanese to flee for their lives.” [As Mr Kristof rightly says. “ If we turn away simply because the victims are African tribespeople who have no phones and live in one of the most remote parts of the globe, then shame on us.” Only ten days ago, Mukesh Kapila, the UN resident coordinator to Sudan, speaking to the BBC, said that more than one million people were being affected by ethnic cleansing: “It is more than just a conflict. It is an organised attempt to do away with a group of people (…) This is ethnic cleansing, this is the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis, and I don’t know why the world isn’t doing more about it.” This crime against humanity is being carried out by Arab militias, backed by the Sudanese Government, who have driven hundreds of thousands from their homes.  A month ago, said Mr Kapila, 75 people were killed in the village of Tawila:“over 100 women were raped, six in front of their fathers who were later killed,” he said.  All these people are Black African Muslims. This matter and the still enslaved Sudanese Christians, animists and Muslim black Africans should again be addressed urgently by this Commission (and by Western and African countries).]

Members of the Commission, three thousand years ago, another human group—the children of Israel – fled from the Egyptian House of Bondage. This week, Jews begin the celebration of the Festival of Passover [which has inspired many peoples and many faiths—including Christianity and Islam – ever since.] This is a celebration which reminds us – all of humanity – that we all were once “slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt”. The Exodus is a foundation document for human  rights: a commandment to Jews – and for all mankind – to show solidarity with the poor, the needy and the oppressed without distinction of race or creed. That  ancient message: “let my people go!” is surely as relevant today as it has ever been.

Sir, we ask you to hear our appeal concerning the current tragedy taking place at this very moment in Sudan. Representatives of the Government of Sudan’s CEAWC [Committee for the Eradication of the Abduction of Women and Children] have accompanied over 500 Christian and animist slaves from Khartoum and other northern town to Mieram on the border with Southern Sudan. Government-sponsored militias have vowed not to allow the slaves to return alive to their home areas in the south. The slaves are stuck with inadequate food and water. They now risk being killed or becoming  again “slaves to pharoah,”[– this information is confirmed by sources in Khartoum –] but this Commission should insist NOW on their freedom immediately, so that they will all soon be intoning the memorable concluding words of Martin Luther King Jr. over 40 years ago:

 

“Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”