On Capitol Hill, in the Dining Room of the Speaker of the House, on January 28, 2014, The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) held its fifth annual commemoration of the establishment of the Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial, and presented the fifth report of its findings. The Tom Lantos Archives are the world's largest resource on this subject, featuring materials from Arabic, Farsi, Urdu/Pashtu, and Dari media (click here to visit the Archives).
The event, which took place in the Speaker's Dining Room of the U.S. Capitol, included the following speakers: Elie Weisel, MEMRI board member and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, in a video opening statement; Ira Forman, U.S. State Department Special Envoy to Monitor & Combat Antisemitism; Senator Bill Nelson; Sheikh Hassen Chalghoumi, the Imam of Drancy, Paris (who was unable to attend); Dr. Lotfi Maktouf, Tunisian-French scholar; Representative Paul Ryan, 2012 vice-presidential candidate; Katrina Lantos Swett, Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, and daughter of the late Congressman Lantos; Levi Tillemann-Dick, grandson of Tom Lantos (whose forthcoming book on the resurgence of electric vehicles, The Great Race, will be published by Simon and Schuster in 2014); and MEMRI President and Founder Yigal Carmon.
Video Compilation Screened At Event Available For Viewing
At the event, MEMRI screened a video compilation of translated clips of antisemitic content from Arab and Iranian TV stations from the past year, from the Archives. The video can be viewed on MEMRI TV here.
- Click here to visit the Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial.
- Click here to visit the Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial Blog.
Transcripts Of Addresses
Statement From Speaker Of The House John Boehner
In his statement marking the occasion, Speaker of the House Boehner said: "Welcome to the United States Capitol, which owes its status as the world's greatest symbol of freedom and democracy to the service of unshakeable leaders like Tom Lantos. I am so proud that the Capitol hosts an event in Tom's name and advances his work of ensuring the past will never be questioned or repeated. This is how, one gathering of people of goodwill at a time, we summon the courage to face the injustices of our own time and chart a course towards truth and peace. Congratulations to the Middle East Media Research Institute and best wishes to today's participants. Sincerely, John A Boehner."
Video Statement From Elie Wiesel
The event opened with a welcoming statement by MEMRI board member and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Weisel, who said: "MEMRI is an important organization. It is because it gives information that can be found in very few other places. It's always well-documented. It always gives us an insight into an area – which is disturbing – the other side, those who are not our allies, those who are not our friends, those who are not with us. And so, thanks to MEMRI, we know what they think, what they plan, and this is actually what MEMRI is all about...
"So, in the years, of course what MEMRI has tried to do is to give us the historical background... Whatever we see now simply cannot be judged in the present, we must go beyond it, and above it, not without it, ever. MEMRI, I believe, is essential... in the world. We need to know more. And this is MEMRI, it always gives us more. So, what we think of MEMRI, we all can say with gratitude that we are glad, we are happy, we are grateful, that MEMRI exists." (View Elie Weisel's statements in full here.)
Levi Tillemann-Dick, Grandson Of Tom Lantos
To view the clip of Levi Tilleman-Dick's introduction, click here:
"Thank you for joining us today. MEMRI and the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice would like to welcome you to the fifth annual Tom Lantos Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial Archives Commemoration at the U.S. Capitol. Before we get started, I'd like to take care of a few procedural matters. Could everyone please turn off their cell phones or silence them, so we don't have any disruptions during the meeting?
"Today MEMRI will present and release its annual Report on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial in the Arab and Muslim World. This is a report that both exposes the purveyors of hatred and bigotry but also recognizes champions of civility, equality, and justice.
"I'm Levi Tillemann and my grandfather was Congressman Tom Lantos. Today most of the work I do is in clean energy, but I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to join MEMRI, to pause and consider some of the challenges we face in this arena that is so important to the future of our world and was so deeply important to my grandfather. Before I introduce our long list of distinguished guests, I would like to thank the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, who graciously sponsored our event. I will read a brief statement, an excerpt from his greeting message, for all of you now.
"The Speaker says, 'Fittingly, the MEMRI project is named in Lantos' memory and continues to thrive inspired by his legacy. In this spirit we commemorate the critical work done by the Antisemitism and Documentation project as they continue to ensure that the past will never be forgotten, that the brutal injustices unleashed by the Nazis during the Holocaust will no longer be questioned nor ever repeated, and that today's world will face these injustices with a path towards truth and peace.'
"When I got Yigal's email asking me to join him for this event, I seemed to remember the last time we held this event, it was significantly warmer outside. Originally this event was slated for July, but because of concerns regarding the sequester and impending government shutdown, it was postponed for six months. In some ways, today's the better date.
"Tonight Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews will gather in this very building for one of our nation's most sacred displays of if not national unity, national cohesion, the State of the Union. Regardless of our religious beliefs or ideological persuasions, Americans come together to affirm the unity of our great democracy.
"On this day it's inspiring to see the overwhelming bipartisan support for the issues MEMRI is dedicated to. My grandfather, Tom Lantos, would certainly approve. His family is eternally grateful for the support of his friends and colleagues on both sides of the aisle in promoting human rights across the globe, whether it be in Sudan, Cambodia, or his birthplace, Europe.
"At the same time, Tom would certainly be troubled by the resurgence of antisemitism in many European nations, nations that the U.S. counts as friends and allies. Yigal will speak in a few moments about some of the truly disturbing displays in France from just this past weekend. Perhaps nothing is more distressing than the flippant displays of chauvinism by modern youth.
"This summer I was in France for a wedding. In Bordeaux I met a young Jewish piano teacher and we ended up having a long conversation about our heritage and what it meant to each of us. Afterwards she confided to me that it was a great relief to be able to speak about these issues so freely. In France she almost always sought to hide her Jewish identity. In France she said Jews are almost always under attack.
"Across France the sad truth is prominently under display. Today legions of French youth photograph themselves performing a modern-day antisemitic fascist salute that mimics the Nazi [salute]. Each of today's speakers is a general in the battle against this kind of intolerance. Each has seen how lies, hatred, and bigotry form a toxin that corrupts entire nations and often lingers for generations.
"We must stand with them at the threshold of history and proclaim, Never again."
Katrina Lantos Swett, Vice Chair Of The U.S. Commission On International Religious Freedom, President Of The Lantos Foundation For Human Rights And Justice, And Daughter Of The Late Congressman Lantos
To view the clip of Katrina Lantos Swett's address, click here:
"You know, I'm almost as proud of Levi as I would be of one of my own children. So, one of the special benefits for me of being here today is to see this brilliant young man who I've known his entire life. And not only am I proud in the way that an aunt is proud of a talented and accomplished family member, but I'm also proud to see a legacy being carried on.
"I know how much his grandfather, my late father, loved him and how often they would talk about what it meant to carry the burden of history, to be the grandson of Holocaust survivors. And so it really is just a wonderful thing to see Levi and so many of our family members stepping up to meet this challenge.
"I want to say at the outset that it's always a very special day for me when I am with my dear friend, Yigal Carmon, who is the passionate founder and leader and moving force behind the extraordinary work of MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute.
"MEMRI is informing and educating and changing the world on a daily basis with their really unprecedented work, bridging the language gap, making the world aware of some of the extraordinarily disturbing and outrageous evidences of antisemitism, Holocaust denial, and other forms of racism, bigotry, and prejudice around the world.
"And often people are unaware of the work they are doing. It is eagerly snatched up by those in positions of influence, whether in the media, in politics, in academia. And this is one time in the year when we can gather to acknowledge really the source of so much of this invaluable research and information.
"I also have a very special place in my heart for MEMRI and for Yigal because shortly after my father passed away and we were just beginning as a new human rights foundation to build partnerships and friendships with other like-minded groups and organizations and beginning to see our path forward, Yigal came to us and said, you know, we want to partner with the Lantos Foundation. We want the work that we do to be associated with the extraordinary work of Tom Lantos and with his memory and his legacy.
"And so I sort of feel like our marriage was the first in a few liaisons that the Lantos Foundation has had, but this is the most enduring and the most important in so many ways of the many partnerships we have formed over the years. And I cannot tell you how proud I am, how proud I am so often to say we are partners with MEMRI.
"And I must tell you, Yigal, you don't even know this, but I rushed over to this event from an opportunity to speak at the Heritage Foundation. Always an interesting experience for me because as you know, I'm a lifelong Democrat, the daughter of a Democratic Congressman, and the Heritage Foundation is known as sort of favoring, if you will, the other side of the aisle. And so I always feel like I'm a little bit, you know, going undercover when I speak at the Heritage Foundation.
"But it was a very interesting discussion of the upcoming Sochi Olympics. And my fellow speaker was Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. As I say, you know, I'm a Democrat. He's certainly a prominent and admired Republican. And as is often the case when you deal with issues of human rights and fundamental justice, the bridges are built because these issues transcend and go far beyond any of the partisan differences we have.
"But as we were sort of shaking one another's hands at the end of this event and I said, you know, we invite you to join us if you have time, and mentioned the name MEMRI, and his eyes lit up and he said well, of course everybody knows MEMRI. Everybody has such respect for this organization. It is doing work that no other organization is doing. And so, Yigal, once again, it's a great pleasure and honor for me to be part of this work with you and to be in partnership with the tremendous work that you do.
"In the few minutes I have, I'd like to share a couple of episodes and anecdotes. About a year ago, a little over a year ago, I was part of a delegation of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which traveled to Egypt as part of our work monitoring the status of religious freedom globally. One of the many meetings we had there, and they covered an enormous range, religious community leaders, NGO organizations, democracy activists, women's activists, you name it, we met with them to discuss the state of politics and human rights and religious freedom in Egypt at that time.
"And this was, of course, still under the Mursi presidency. And one of our meetings was with a deputy prime minister who was reputed to be one of the closest advisors to President Mursi, a Salafist. And this was not too distant from the time when, thanks to the work of MEMRI, a recording had been made public of President Mursi speaking to a group of Egyptians and saying the following, 'We must raise our children and our grandchildren on the hatred of the Jews, to the last generation.'
"Well, we were sitting as close as you and I are in this meeting, perhaps a little closer, and it was an interesting situation because the deputy prime minister had indicated he didn't speak English and so our conversation was taking place through translation. But our encounter with one another was to prove to me quite rapidly that he actually spoke and understood English, and you'll understand why when I explain what happened.
"So, we sat close to one another and kind of went through our respective talking points. Very often when you're going in in an official capacity, there's a certain formality to these encounters. But as I sat there, I could feel the spirit of my late father right here on my shoulder, and he was saying you speak up. You put down those talking points and you say something about this outrage.
"And so I looked at the deputy prime minister and I said, 'Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, not long ago it came to light that in the recent past your president said to a gathering of Egyptians that we must raise our children and grandchildren on hatred of the Jews to the last generation.' It suddenly got very quiet in the room.
"I paused for a moment and then said, 'I am the daughter, the Jewish daughter of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.' That was my first clue he understood English because the look on his face changed rather dramatically before the translation. And I said, 'What your president is saying is that the children of Egypt must be raised on hatred of me and of my seven children. For shame.'
"I said, 'This is a stain on the honor of a great nation and a great civilization. This calls down the greatest dishonor upon you and your people that could ever be imagined.' Very quiet in the room. And then I pivoted and I said, I'd like you to engage in a little thought experiment with me.
"Let's imagine what would happen if next Friday at Friday prayers when your president speaks to a large gathering of Egyptians in a public square here in Cairo, an honorable and ancient city, if he were to stand up and say my fellow Egyptians, no more. No more.
"I and too many of us here in this country have over the centuries nurtured and watered and grown a despicable hatred for our cousins, the Jews, for no other reason than their Jewishness, and this is unworthy of us. We have many, many disagreements with Israel and we will continue to.
"And in the realm of politics and foreign affairs and defense policy, we can argue and we can disagree and we can fight for what we think is right for our nation, but we will no more engage in this despicable demonstration of racism, bigotry, antisemitism, and hatred. I said well, I can tell you what I think would happen, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister.
"I believe that your president would earn a place in history. He would earn the deserved plaudits and commendation from leaders and people across the world because he would have done something brave. He would have begun to turn a corner in history and to say to hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world, no more.
"Why should we stain our character with this irrational and unacceptable hatred? Well, we looked at one another and after a moment he said something to the effect of we hate Israel and Israel is bad. And the moment passed and we moved on. The very next day I was in a meeting with a group of women rights activists in Egypt and I recounted briefly this encounter to them.
"And the head of these women, a very beautiful, very distinguished woman a few years older than I am, who had been active in human rights causes in Egypt for a long time, nodded and she said, 'Oh, you are absolutely right. The day after President Mursi would say such a thing, tremendous praise and admiration would come in from every corner of the world, but the day after the day after he would be killed by his own people.'
"I don't know whether she was right or wrong, but I knew then something that we all know here in this room, and that is that there is a big, big problem. And the only way we can push back against this evil, this inexplicable and seemingly unquenchable evil, is with unfailing vigilance, vigilance, vigilance. And that is, of course, the work of the Lantos Archives.
"I want to close my remarks today by sharing another recent episode, if I may, because I think it shows that while MEMRI is focused on the Middle East, its mandate is broader than that and the problem is broader than that.
"Just a few days ago, the Lantos Foundation, in cooperation with the Hungary Initiatives Foundation and the Hungarian American Coalition and the Hungarian government and the Carl Lutz Foundation, opened a magnificent new exhibit at the United Nations to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Hungarian Holocaust, the particular tragedy that touched my own family so closely.
"Many, many family members on both sides lost their lives in that Holocaust, and my dear mother and my dear late father survived only thanks to the heroism and courage of Raoul Wallenberg, one of the great, great humanitarians of our time. And we were gathered to remember, but as I said to the people who were there for the opening of this exhibit that an exhibit such as this is not really like going to an exhibit to admire a Matisse at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. An exhibit such as that is intended to teach, to remember, to educate but also to arm us here and now in the present for the very real challenges we face today.
"And sadly those challenges, as Levi suggested, include a disturbing resurgence of antisemitism in Hungary, in my parents' home country, in Europe, in the very place where 6 million were slaughtered in the lifetimes of some of us in this room today.
"And, very sadly, just in the last few days in Hungary there was another example of these disturbing trends. The head of a historical institute established by the government made a comment in reference to a tragic 1941 deportation of nearly 20,000 Hungarian Jews to Ukraine. Those 20,000 Hungarian Jews deported to Ukraine were massacred in one of the first mass atrocities of the Hungarian Holocaust.
"And this happened in 1941, three years before Hungary fell under German occupation. And I took the occasion of that opening to call on the Hungarian government to repudiate the statement of the head of this foundation who had made the following comment, that the deportation was simply a local police action against illegal aliens.
"Well, we can never permit history to be whitewashed, to be revised, to be desecrated in this way. And as I said, vigilance, vigilance, vigilance must be our watch word. You know, when we were at this opening of this exhibit at the United Nations, right across the street is a memorial to Raoul Wallenberg. Five columns with an orb on the top, but the most compelling part of this memorial to Raoul is his suitcase, his briefcase.
"They bronzed it with his initials on it, and it stands there on the sidewalk alone, a symbol, of course, of his unfinished business because Raoul Wallenberg was taken, kidnapped, and disappeared into the Soviet Gulag. And there it sits, but to me it is not only a reminder of his unfinished business, it is a reminder of our unfinished business.
"And as I look out on each of you here today here because we're fellow travelers, we share the same passion and conviction and belief, I know that Raoul Wallenberg's suitcase is waiting there for me and it's waiting there for you. It is waiting for each of us to pick it up and to carry on his work. My late father used to say that the veneer of civilization is paper-thin. We are its guardians, and we can never rest.
"Speaking for myself, Levi, my mother, and the Lantos Foundation, speaking for my dear friend, Yigal Carmon, you have our pledge that we will never rest, and today we ask for the same pledge from you. Thank you."
MEMRI President Yigal Carmon
To view the clip of Yigal Carmon's address, click here:
"Thank you all for coming. Thank you, Katrina, and thank you all guests. Today's gathering will cover a year and a half. As we mentioned, we couldn't do it last year so we are talking about 2012, 2013. We will have after I speak a video, 15 minutes, but you have in your folders 30 minutes of material.
"And the main thing that marks those two years actually or more than two years is that they are bringing us into, deep into, the Arab Spring and all that the Muslim world has been going through since early 2011.
"The question that poses itself is, naturally, what impact, if any, has this historic turbulence in the region had on the phenomenon of antisemitism and Holocaust denial. Before we answer this question, we have to recall the past. The hatred of Jews has Islamic sources, Western sources, and general [sources], and an approach to the Holocaust which is simultaneously denial and approval and calling for another one.
"And all this was a part of a system of indoctrination [employed] for many years by the Arab dictators to justify their being in power, the Emergency Laws, everything that could justify their saying that there are enemies around you; people, you have to stick with us, you have to accept anything because we are your defense. We are protecting you.
"[Of course,] they were anything but defense, but this was the argument. And this was done in the education systems, a huge government effort with education, and in the media. So, in the media, in religious institutions, in every possible way.
"Now... some of [those dictators] have fallen, others are fighting for their lives. The question is, what would be the impact of that on this despicable phenomenon? And the answer is a question: Will this go down, will it disappear, will it not be needed anymore? And the answer – and I would say it's quite a positive answer – is that it has not grown as it did in the past.
"It has not disappeared, but it hasn't grown. The[se countries'] immersion in the inner struggles and battles have exhausted those regimes, and they no longer have the capabilities to widen this phenomenon. More than that, the people know who is killing them, who is torturing them. It's their brothers, not the Jews.
"You cannot fool anybody anymore in this Arab world. It can remain, and it does remain on the symbolic level, because what entered into the education and the indoctrination for generations cannot disappear in two years or three years. But at least I would say that Europe has had these developments for many centuries, and we [still] cannot talk about disappearance of the phenomenon. It's still there.
"But one thing did happen, which some would look at it in a funny way as a funny thing, and others as a sad thing. Since the Jew is the ultimate evil, [a new form of] antisemitism in many cases is accusing each other of behaving as a Jew.
"So, for example, the [Egyptian] Muslim people would accuse Minister Al-Sisi of being of Jewish origin, that his mother was a certain [Jew] from Morocco, and that's all you need to say. He is a Jew. Alas, that's it. You don't need to explain any more. This is [all you need to do].
"And this explains – and it's the Protocols [of the Elders of Zion] of course, and it's the Jewish control all over. I would remind some of you who were here last year that this is how the human rights activist, a wonderful woman, a young woman from Libya, spoke about Gaddafi, and she said 'that Jew.'
"This is the [main issue] – not the fight against the Shi'ites that says, well, the Jews and the Persians have been together since before Islam and other such things.
"Even more, certainly the Holocaust is [now] recognized, because the accusation is that you are doing to us like what was done to the Jews. So, hallelujah. There was a Holocaust. It happened and it happened and now someone is doing [it] to the other, and recognizes what has happened. What historic irony.
"Still, there is one area, a geographic area, where this phenomenon is taking a very serious direction. And that is the antisemitism in parts of the Islamic Muslim communities in Europe. Particularly, one can see it today in France.
"MEMRI has a special project that covers not only what comes out of the Arab world but also what is happening in France itself, and we do it with the blessing of the French government. We research the jihadist element but also the antisemitic element of it. And in the last two years, we have exposed the activities of French comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, who has acted in cooperation with and with the help of Iran.
"With [Iran's] help he produced the movie 'The Antisemite.' Some of you will recall that we showed it here. A very despicable movie mocking the Holocaust and basically denying it altogether. And he is currently active in France in inciting people, in inciting the unemployed in the Muslim communities and immigrants in France.
"Lately, he invented a gesture that is the opposite of the Nazi 'Heil Hitler' salute. And you will see in a minute a movie, but you have it in your report in your folders. You can see the whole story about him [there]...
"But he went beyond that. On the eve of International [Holocaust] Remembrance Day, which was yesterday, on the 26th, there was a big demonstration in Paris in which many elements united: French right wing people, French from the left, communists and unemployed, Muslims and youth, all together.
"You could hear there the nationalists' song, and the communists' songs of resistance – and in the middle [of all that,] of course: 'Jews, Jews, Jews, France is not yours. Go away.' We will show it now just to have an idea of what is beginning to unfold in France."
Screens short video.
"Now, as you could see, it's not only the invented gesture, with one hand down and the other hand on the shoulder – but also the 'Heil Hitler,' the regular [salute], is there also. This situation is going to expand. Now, why is this important? What is the connection to here? This is the work of Dieudonné.
"He wasn't there [at this demonstration] – but it was he who, on January 11, first announced this demonstration, to be against the Interior Minister. It was he who called upon the Muslim immigrant community – come and join, he said, this is not going to be against Islam. Because, you know, right‑wingers were coming, and some [of the Muslims] would not come to such an event. [But] he assured them that it would not be against Islam. You should come, he said.
"This populist leader is a very [smart] guy, and as you can see, the combination of right, left, and unemployed is [like the conditions of] the 1930s. And that means that history can repeat itself – and it will if no one takes forceful action.
"Now, another element that I want to mention before we move to see the year's report, which [includes] about 15 minutes of videos, and so many [printed] reports in the folder, in a CD – a lot of printed material, not videos. No one has enough time to read, I know, but at least skim it and to see that those videos are just the tip of the tip of the iceberg.
"The other element that is important to mention is Iran, and its new leadership that came out in the June 2013 elections. They – [through] the smiling face of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif – are trying to tell everybody that the old times of the previous president are gone, no more. The Holocaust denial is over. It was all him, his issue – not ours. And then [the new president, Rohani] said that the claim that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had denied the Holocaust was not true – that it was a mistranslation. Well, we [at MEMRI] went to the website of the Supreme Leader and [found there that] everything was perfectly translated – [Khamenei] had called it [the Holocaust] a myth. And not only that, but he commemorates Holocaust denial, to remind people of his great legacy.
"So, this Iranian claim that this new Iranian regime is a different one is – absolutely untrue.
"The Holocaust denial in Iran comes from the top down, and that is a major part of the regime. Now, we will move to the video. And in it, by the way, you will see a reference to the legislation that the late Tom Lantos sponsored, the first ever legislation to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial. Some refer to it particularly in the report, as you will see.
"After what you see – right after that, to balance it out – we will move on to what should keep us from desperation, keep us from not giving in. There are wonderful liberal reformists, intellectuals, leaders in Arab and Muslim society, who are fighting this phenomenon, and they are under threat. But nevertheless they speak out, they talk... We had planned to have two such [speakers] them today, two who represent enlightenment, morality, fraternity, dialogue, and peace among religions and people, who reject antisemitism and Holocaust denial.
"One is indeed with us today – he will speak in a few moments. The other was unable to make it. We will come to that part of the program in a second. But now we will see the very disturbing report taken from the film, as I said. You should also at least skim the printed material on the CD, and you have more in the CD that you have in your folders. So, we will see the report first."
Dr. Lotfi Maktouf, Tunisian-French Scholar
To view the clip of Dr. Lotfi Maktouf's address, click here:
"Good afternoon, everyone. This is a quite, I must say, painful moment for me to speak after what I just saw. Anyway, Yigal, thank you very much for this invitation. You were able to do all this because you [are driven by] passion.
"And I told you yesterday that's what united us. I don't think you could have done it in any other way. And this is an important lesson to remember. You need passion for these kinds of undertaking. You can't do it just as a mission.
"I took note from what Katrina has mentioned. It was quite a moving testimony. I also took a few notes from this very rich video. And I asked myself as a Tunisian, as a Muslim, what is antisemitism?
"And very early found out that, you know, it's racism. It's as simple as that. And Arabs and Muslims should be expert on this. They are victims of racism. And I'm sorry, I would like to recount my own anecdote about this.
"As Levi mentioned, I was fortunate enough to go to school to France, to the Sorbonne, before coming to the U.S. and was fortunate also to go to one of the best schools in this country. But when I arrived in France from Tunisia as a, you know, bright student, I was admitted at the Sorbonne like many other Tunisians.
"By the way, Tunisia before what happened in the revolution is a country which based everything on human resources, on people because we have, thank God, no oil or gas. So, the only thing we had was just to get up in the morning and go to school.
"I come from a very humble background, but the founder of modern Tunisia, President Bourguiba, understood that. He was educated and he knew that the only tool, the only weapon possible for a country like Tunisia is education. So, he devoted 30 percent of the budget to education. We had virtually no army.
"And his famous quote was, 'What would you do with an army? I mean look, we're surrounded with Libya and Algeria. They can have us for breakfast. So, let's focus on education and that's the only way out.' And he was right. It was the best investment ever.
"And so I remember getting to France and being a victim of racism in a million ways, including at the Sorbonne with my professor. And I don't remember ever hearing him mentioning my name. He never looked me in the eyes, and that's disturbing, you know, for a young chap sitting there, even vis-à-vis the other students.
"And one day he was quite aggressive with me, very aggressive after my presentation, which I thought was quite fine. I prepared it, you know, day and night. No comment. Nothing. He didn't even acknowledge it. Whereas, prior to that, you know, in earlier sessions, he always [congratulated] the students and, you know, made some comments if there are problems and also congratulate the students, but in my case nothing.
"In fact, just after that he looked at his diary and he said okay, so we'll meet next Thursday or whatever. Okay. We can finish off early today. He got up and left. I felt naked on the desk alone, not knowing what to do really. And so and this is really a private thing. I'm sharing it with you because with this video you moved me beyond words.
"That day I decided to go back to Tunisia. That day I told myself I don't belong here. This is another civilization. These are other people. I don't belong here. And just in my mind I was thinking what I could just buy as small presents for my family to just cover this major defeat.
"And I heard someone calling me, 'Mr. Maktouf,' with my last name, and it was – I remember it was, for those who are familiar with France, the Sorbonne is on [a hill] so you go down straight to the metro. And it was very cold. And a voice, a female voice was saying, 'Mr. Maktouf.' So, I turned around.
"She was the assistant to the professor. And so she came. It was very cold, as cold as today, you know. And it's interesting because she didn't even look at me... She kept walking right next to me and she said, 'This is the best presentation I ever heard. Congratulations. Carry on. Don't make a big fuss about it. He doesn't like you. He doesn't like women. He doesn't like Jews.'
"And she carried on and I went down to the metro station and I decided to stay on and to finish my school[ing] and to go on to Harvard and carry on with my life. I discovered that day that as a Muslim, as an Arab, I share something in common with all those who fight for this type of nonsense.
"And I have always been surprised hearing these types of things. So I told myself this is racism. And of course racism has no foundation. It's irrational and it's carried and it's conveyed from generation to another generation from some people to another kind of communities or tribes like we saw. It gets from, you know, the entire Arab world from Egypt to Tunisia and back and so on.
"It only flourishes because of something called ignorance, because no one in his or her right mind properly educated could ever buy this. I mean to us here it's unbelievable. But you have to picture this.
"You have rural areas with a totally disastrous economic condition, with people who have been there totally ignored by the central government, who have never had a voice in their own affairs. And some people will tell them, by the way, that girls don't even need to go to school. The only book they need to know is the Koran and they can only learn Arabic and that's enough.
"How would you expect a 14-year-old girl to actually resist this intellectually, emotionally? She doesn't have an alternative. She didn't read books. She didn't know other languages to compare. What does MEMRI do so remarkably well? Precisely, creating a bridge.
"As painful as it can be, and it is very painful, it tells the West look, guys, this is what some people are conveying. This is the type of message that is coming out. But that bridge that MEMRI puts [out there] is not a one‑way bridge. It's a return also in two ways.
"First, it means that not all Muslims are what you just saw. I'm Muslim. I'm Arab. I'm proud of both, but I'm also proud of being a Harvard graduate, of sharing your same values, and fighting for the same cause as Yigal is fighting for.
"This is a minority. It doesn't mean that we have to disregard it. Quite the opposite, because it's a very vocal, powerful determined and well-funded minority serving a very clear agenda. So, ignorance can be fought with only one means.
"And I wish previous governments in this great country understood that. You can fight threat with physical armies, but ignorance can be fought only through education. And after the revolution in Tunisia, I was not supposed to really – I didn't live in Tunisia before the revolution.
"As Levi mentioned, I lived in the U.S., then [went] back to Europe where I have my investments and my activities and charitable activities as well. But after what happened in Tunisia, I thought it was my duty to do something in this country. And I was just the example of what happened in Tunisia. As I told you, I come from a humble background, and I was able to really, you know, get a good education and managed to make a good living.
"So I wanted to go back and give something back to my country. I went on a four months' listening tour. I told my family, my wife, I told her look, this is what I would like to do, and I explained it to her. She was all for it. And so I spent four months touring the country and learning so much about this small country of Tunisia, my country of birth and origin.
"But very early I saw that the failure of the entire economic model, social model goes back to absence of democracy. Today is not the forum to talk about democracy and prosperity and the link between the two, but I found out that there is a small group of guys who understood everything and who were ahead of the game.
"And... they decided to really enter and penetrate the very fabric of the society and go through the grassroots level to really capture everything, capture even the social dynamics of these places. And they were able to do so because these places, these areas were just below the education threshold, and ignorance is the best ally of extremism, of antisemitism, of everything.
"And so I decided to just engage and create a foundation in Tunisia called Almadanya, focused on education. I'll give you just a few examples of what we do and which is so intimately connected to what Yigal is doing.
"Yigal, sometimes I think that you are just a lone soldier. I always picture you more often alone than surrounded with companions, with people, with help. You need help. You can't do what you're doing just alone. It's only a fraction of the equation of what you're doing.
"The other part must come from people like myself, and I'm here to help you, but also from within communities like in the U.S., like in Israel, like everywhere to demonstrate now that we have diagnosed the problem, what can we do about it? Otherwise that's fine. Okay. We know. Once we saw the video, that's it. We know what's going on.
"We have to move to the second step. What can we do about it? And so, as you know, we're doing something about it. Every morning, today at 7:30 in the morning in my country we transported 8,400 young girls from their villages to the nearest school.
"If we don't do that, they just stay at home, and if they stay at home, they listen to these guys. Worse, this is what they will tell their own children. And we will be embarked in a vicious circle with no end. What we do is – and I'll give you just one or two anecdotes to understand.
"I'd love for you, without forgetting what's going on here, to at least carry a favorable positive note with you. We take these girls. We stop the dropping out of school for them, because, as I told you, otherwise they wouldn't go to school. We also organize field trips to museums.
"Tunisia has one of the best, richest museum for mosaics, for example, dating back to Carthage times. I mean, at one point Tunisia ruled the world and shared it with Rome, you know. So, picture this. A 12-year-old girl, part of her school trip went there to visit Carthage. They love the baseball hat. We give them the sandwiches.
"The guide's explaining the history where they come from. And they would stand on the archeological site of Carthage and draw themselves back into 3,000 years of history. And we follow these kids back to their schools and get the report on their debriefing, so‑to‑speak.
"This girl told her teacher when he asked her, 'So, what did you bring back with you?' she said, 'Well, I think the imam is lying.' She said, 'What? Why? Why are you saying that?' 'Because he told us that Tunisia was a dark place filled with elephants, snakes, and lions until the Muslims came and enlightened us.' 'And so?'
"'Well, the guide told us and we saw things way before the Arabs came to us. And I know it because when Queen Dido went to try to conquer Rome, she had to prepare her troops, her vessels, and you can't do that in total darkness. So, he's lying.' That's enough.
"The same spirit of criticism she applied to that imam, she will apply to these videos and she'll say this guy is talking rubbish. We can't judge someone other than on his or her character because she read that and she would read that. She will listen even in a song. So, this is what I would like to tell you, that what MEMRI is doing is only one part of the equation.
"The other is education. We have done so much in the three years we've been active in Tunisia. First, I'm very proud to say that if we have a constitution today, actually from yesterday, which is really kind of more or less balanced and kind of more or less modern because I don't trust many of the articles, and I'm a lawyer so I know you can hide so many things in what you're writing.
"It's thanks to the civil society work in what we do and the campaigns we lead with respect to antisemitism. I can tell you two or three instances of great importance because it's a daily fight. The vigilance you are talking about, Yigal, is daily, day in and day out, because these videos are prepared daily. So, you have to counter them on a daily basis.
"We fund a small awareness, a cancer awareness program for women in Tunisia. And one day the lady, the manager was on TV, and I'll finish with these remarks, and she said – she voiced an antisemitic comment. It almost went just unnoticed in Tunisia except that we picked it up.
"I was told that this is what – I wanted to see the video. I wanted to make sure this is exactly what happened. I called up the lady. I said, 'I'm sorry, I disagree with what you said. What's the relationship between cancer awareness and what you just said?' And she said, 'No. It's because it's really more – it's like a popular [saying]...'
"I said, 'I don't care. I'm withdrawing our help unless you do two things. You apologize publicly and you leave the leadership of the association. Otherwise we'll stop funding you. Not only that, I will also keep writing to the ministry until they cancel your license to raise funds.' This is what happened. She apologized and she left.
"We have another instance, which is quite really painful. We have a – Tunisia is a sporting nation, and one of the young chaps managed to really climb up the ranks in tennis, and he was trained overseas...
"This tennis player, a young tennis player. A Tunisian aspiring champion trained in Europe. His best friend, his roommate, his training partner happens to be Israeli.
"And so fate I suppose made it to have them come to play up a game, official game in this ATP tour, junior level. Tunisian government, Islamists, call the coach and said he can't play with him. So, the young guy couldn't understand: Why not? He's my best friend.
"He happens to be Jewish and Israeli, but he's my roommate. We've shared an apartment for the last three years. He's the man I trust most. You don't want me to play against him. Why? I disagree. I want to play against him.
To cut a long story short, of course the official line was maintained and he was forced not to be present on the ground.
"We took on this story and we didn't want to let go. And we launched a very aggressive campaign and we managed to get this guy who put the whole story together at the government level not only to apologize, but we managed to get him fired. We have sometimes, you know, ways of getting it done.
"And, especially, it allowed us on Facebook and other social media to seize on that stupid decision, to show and demonstrate that it's out of ignorance that this government decided to do that and that a democratically elected government cannot do that and they do not represent the majority of the Tunisians. And we manage.
"We have other stories. I don't want to bother you, but, you know, it's an ongoing daily fight. And at least we know the remedy to it. It's education. And I keep repeating this to my volunteers on the ground in Tunisia, education, vigilance. It's not always easy because it requires money, but more than money really awareness.
"And this is what [my organization] is doing in Tunisia and this is what you guys are doing. And I use so much, as I told you yesterday, of your videos because it's also a tool of research. In writing my book it was interesting actually because I was fortunate enough to publish it in a mainstream very important publishing house in France called Fayard, for those who are familiar with it.
"And they said, 'What's this MEMRI thing?' What's this? I mean half of your references are in video. I think because they're not used to this, and it's not French and it's... I said, 'Because this is recent. This is a new undertaking for someone who would go out there, find what's said.' Sometimes not easy. Don't think that all what MEMRI is doing is just coming from satellite TV [that's] very easy to tap.
"Sometimes it's very difficult to just get into these private video recordings, especially for someone who doesn't live there. Anyway, so they accepted these references. And, you know, the power of the image and the sound sometimes go beyond words. And I want you to know that and thank you for all the stuff you're doing.
"And I just want to finish with these remarks. And again education, cooperation between these activist channels and ... we wish that the mission, as someone else said, mission accomplished. It's not accomplished. It will never be accomplished, but we have to work very hard because on the other side it's – in French there's a wonderful word... meaning that this is their trade. This is their trade.
"If you take the Jewish antisemitic language and topic out of them, that's it. They'll be naked and then they will not be able to talk to you about anything else. And we ask these guys, we say what are you doing for your community? We are [enabling] girls to go to school. What do you do?
"They're just taking advantage of the money from these guys because they're very rich and fueling these messages through madrassas in rural areas under the pretense of providing education, giving them lunch, and so on. Thank you very much for bearing with me."
Rep. Paul Ryan
To view the clip of Rep. Ryan's address, click here:
"I thought you were going to give me a Green Bay Packer cap. [laughter] Yeah. Well, that's wonderful. Thank you for that very interesting introduction. How many people kissed a fish before? Okay, that's two of us in this room. Yeah.
"It's a real pleasure to be here and to welcome you to the Capitol. Tom Lantos was a friend of mine. I got to know Tom. I think we overlapped about a decade in Congress, and I was a young newcomer to Congress and he was this icon, this giant of a man, Tom Lantos. And the one thing we had in common was my mentor was a man named Jack Kemp who was close friends with Tom Lantos.
"And from that point on with that introduction that occurred when I first came to Congress by Jack, Tom was just one of the most gracious people I ever served with. We didn't always agree on every particular issue, especially on domestic policy, but when Tom Lantos spoke, everybody stopped, everyone listened, and everybody knew that it came from the heart. There wasn't an ounce of malice in the man's mind, in the man's voice.
"And so he was one of those greats that we had come through here that set a great example, which is sorely missed these days I would argue. And so looking at his life story, which most of us who served with him and most of us since then know about need to retell what his life represents and his work here represents. His son-in-law served in Congress with us.
"His family, I don't know if any of his family are here. They're dedicated – oh, you are his – oh, you didn't tell me that ahead of time. I didn't know that. I apologize. Well, that's great. So, I wish the mission of the Foundation was already fulfilled. It would just be nice to say that this wasn't necessary. That's not the world we live in.
"I mean it's kind of astounding to think that someone could deny the Holocaust. It's kind of astounding to think that after what all the things we experienced in the 20th century that we would be reliving these, that we would have to retell these stories, but it is what it is. When you hear the kinds of rhetoric coming from places like Iran, it just shows us that the mission is all that much more important, that Tom's legacy, which was a bipartisan legacy, is one that needs to be amplified even more.
"And so when we see the kind of foreign policy challenges we have today – and on those issues we agreed quite a bit with each other. When we see what kind of rhetoric is coming around the Maghreb, around the Middle East coming from Iran, we need to speak with a singular voice. We need to amplify our voices, and we need to get behind the kinds of efforts that are taking place with the Lantos Foundation.
"And so each of us in the younger generations who had the opportunity to serve with the greats like Tom Lantos, who had the opportunity to learn from Holocaust survivors about their stories or who have family members who were part of the GIs who help liberate these camps, we have to pass these stories on. We have to make sure that we take our kids to the Holocaust museum down the street, that we make sure that this kind of evil that had occurred in many people's lifetimes in this world that occur today is repeated and told so that we can try and sever this awful legacy of history.
"And so that's why I just wanted to say welcome to the Capitol. It is great to be here to just celebrate a really neat great person. This probably falls in the information TMI, but Tom was a morning gym guy, as I am. Every single morning we had basically a similar conversation while we served together, and it always went something like this. My friend, how are you doing this morning? How is your family?
"Tell me what – how old are your kids now? What's going on? And then I'd ask him some question about his history, about his life, and it'd just – some neat story every time would come from Tom Lantos. A real class-act gentleman who made us proud and whose life is one that is just an example that's great for us all and a story that needs to be told and told and told again. So, thanks for coming. Welcome to the Capitol, and let's make sure that this mission is fulfilled so that hopefully we don't repeat these mistakes. Thank you. I appreciate it."
Ira Forman, U.S. State Department Special Envoy To Monitor & Combat Antisemitism
To view the clip of Special Envoy Forman's address, click here:
"Well, thank you very much for that over‑long but kind introduction. I want to start by thanking MEMRI. One-half of the job that I do is monitor antisemitism. The other half, of course, is combating. And in the monitoring piece, the MEMRI material that we get on an ongoing basis and every year is vital to our work and is reflected in a lot of the reports you'll see, the two most important government reports I think that come out every year, the Human Rights Report, which we should see in February, and the International Religious Freedom Report.
"And so I thank you for that and thank you for your ongoing work. And it's a little daunting to address a group like this because of your great knowledge, and I've only been on the job for eight months in this important job. So, you'll forgive me any errors I make and you hopefully will correct me as well. So, what I'd like to do today is speak a little about how I see antisemitism in 2014, how bad is it, and talk a little bit then about the trend lines I see, and then perhaps what we can do about it.
"So, how big a problem is antisemitism in 2014? Well, for me, the best way to look at this is to go back to history. And many people much smarter than I have debated the question of – I see Senator Nelson in the back right here. This might be a perfect time for me to take a break.
"So, we were talking about how I assess after a little over eight months the state of antisemitism in 2014. So, as I said, the best way I know how to do that is to look at history. And one of the debates I've heard over the last few years as we view the situation with antisemitism, is the question are we back in the 1930s?
"Are we repeating that history? And frankly, there are some parallels. In Europe today we see parliamentary parties with significant representation who are openly xenophobic, openly antisemitic; who talk about blood libel in parliament; who talk about The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; parties like Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary; and – and this is the crucial piece – the street militia.
"When was the last time we saw that? [In] 1933, before the Nazis took over in Germany. Secondly, all across the world we see Der Stürmer‑like cartoons and material coming out in droves, dehumanizing the Jew oftentimes, [sometimes] other material dehumanizing others.
"We have a country, Iran, which is dedicated to destroying a country of 6 million Jews. And we are facing the worst recession since the Great Depression. These are important parallels, but there are also some differences. And I think it's important to recognize the differences as well as the parallels.
"First, Iran is not National Socialist Germany. It is not the preeminent world power. It is a great threat to peace, but it is not Nazi Germany. Secondly, Israel can take care of itself, can self-defend, and Israel can take care of other Jewish communities around the world.
"Thirdly, except for perhaps the State of Iran, we don't have the same type of openly antisemitic governments around the world that we had even beyond Nazi Germany in the '30s. Most governments try to protect their Jewish populations. And there are other countries where Jews can go to. This was not the case, as many of you know, in the 1930s. There was no place to go.
"Jews today in Europe, for example, have European passports, EU passports. There are many countries they can go to. They can go to Israel. And though we don't have an open immigration system here like we had before the 1920s, many people can come here. There are places to go. So, the answer to that question, are we like the 1930s, unfortunately is an ambiguous one. There are parallels and there are differences.
"It's important for us to be concerned, very concerned, but it's not yet time to say the sky is falling. And to add to that problem, if you look at the problem of antisemitism in the world and let's compare it to, for example, the problem with the Soviet Union that we faced in the '60s and the '70s and the '80s. There is no single address that we can go to like we used to be able to go to the Kremlin to solve this problem.
"The differences in antisemitism between even within Europe are dramatic, and I see it every day. And the differences in that we see in places like the Middle East are even more dramatic. So, let's talk about trend lines if we can't say if it's exactly the '30s. What is the trend? Well, there are some good trends. Already I've heard from two of the speakers who talked about the bipartisanship. In a time when we have very little bipartisanship, the question of antisemitism is one of the classic bipartisan issues.
"This office that I hold was created in 2004 by co‑sponsors as diverse as Tom Lantos and George Voinovich, a Republican from Ohio. Of course Lantos, a Democrat from California. Republican Chris Smith from New Jersey. And the support for this office by both Democratic and Republic administrations has been consistent. That's one of the good news.
"And just yesterday on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Obama put out a good statement and my boss, Secretary Kerry. I urge you to go to the State Department website. A very powerful statement not just about historical antisemitism but about antisemitism today. And because of his own personal story, his great-uncle and great-aunt perishing in the Holocaust, he understands directly the connection between the Holocaust of yesteryear and what's happening today.
"And even very interesting, I ask you to go to the U.N. website where our ambassador to the U.N., Ambassador Power, talks about how the Holocaust and genocide are not inevitable. She talks frankly about January of 1944 when President Roosevelt put together the War Refugee Board that resulted in perhaps 200,000 Jews being saved.
"But Ambassador Power asked the question, What if the War Refugee Board had happened a year before in January of 1943 and that power that went to the treasury to save Jews and sent Raoul Wallenberg to Budapest, what if it had happened in January 1943 when we knew the Holocaust was happening? Could perhaps another million have been saved? And what about if it had happened in January of 1942? Perhaps another million could have been saved. And going back to 1939, Ambassador Power quotes from people who said – who were saying that perhaps Hitler was not destined to take over his neighboring countries.
"It is never inevitable, is what Ambassador Power says, and that we need to be inevitably and always vigilant. And it's not just our government; it's NGOs. This one is a great example, but there are many more. As I travel throughout Europe, the most hopeful thing I see is young people, Jews but frankly non-Jews as well, Christians and Muslims and agnostics and atheists all combatting antisemitism, xenophobia, all forms of hate in almost every country, and their enthusiasm is palpable.
"And we have a representative here, I see at least one, from the Holocaust Museum, which is an institution that didn't exist for most of these last 70 years and yet does amazing work every day. In the same way I use MEMRI's information, I rely on the Holocaust weekly to help us fight this fight because what they are about is historical truth.
"And to fight antisemitism you need not just historical truth, you need other tools, but it's the beginning because if you can't accept what happened in the past, you can't fight what's happening now. And there's even foreign governments that we can take some hope from. We're not always happy with exactly what everything the French Republic does, but there is a recognition in my visits to Paris, unlike I've been told 10 or 12 years ago, of the depth of problems of antisemitism in France.
"And even in the last few days the President of Hungary amazingly said – took responsibility that it wasn't just the Nazis but it was Hungarians who perpetrated the Holocaust and nearly a half a million Jews perishing. But there's plenty of bad as well in the trend line, and frankly I think there are more bad trends than good.
"A country like Romania that was not even on my radar in the last, most of the last eight months, last month on its public television network aired a program on local, I gather, local Christmas traditions. And one local group sang a Christmas carol that essentially dealt with Jews and not very nicely. And its last line I think was something along the lines of the only thing a Jew is good for is smoke in a chimney. A Christmas carol.
"In France this weekend, those of you who go to You Tube, 17,000 people on the street, an anti‑government demonstration, and I see a beautiful exposé here in MEMRI put out on Dieudonné. But 17,000 people, many of them supporting Dieudonné, anti-government, many of them with their modified Nazi salute, yelling out through the streets, 'Jews, France is not yours. Jews, France is not yours,' 2014. This is not 1933 or 1939.
"Can you imagine downtown Paris, 'Jews, France is not yours'? We talked about Hungary. And it's not only Jobbik in Hungary. Just in the last few weeks the director of the state-sponsored Veritas Historical Research Institute spoke about the 16,000 to 18,000 Jews who were deported in August of 1941 to Ukraine. And what were they deported to? Mass extermination.
"And how did he describe that? He described it as police action against aliens. That's not accepting Hungarian responsibility for the Holocaust. And then looking today at the MEMRI website and seeing all these cartoons that I had seen before under the title of 'Dehumanizing Jews in Cartoons,' the Jew as vermin, rats, flies, cockroaches.
"The Jew as snake. The Jew as humanoid, something lesser than human. As one of our previous speakers spoke about already, that's the first step. That's the first step to the Holocaust. And then another topic that I hesitate to call strictly antisemitism because it's not, but it should be very concerning for all of us who want to see remaining Jewish communities in Europe.
"We have increasing numbers of calls for bans on circumcision in Europe. Now, this doesn't affect, of course, just Jewish communities because most of the 30 percent of the world that circumcises is Muslim except for the United States and North America. But bans – just this weekend Swedish and Danish medical societies called for a ban on circumcision before the age of 12 so children can make their own decisions.
"The five Nordic ombudsmen for children's rights in Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden have called for an outright ban on circumcision. The Norway ombudsman said if only Muslims and Jews would just be educated, they would understand how barbaric a custom this is. And just today at the Parliamentary Assembly of Europe of the Council of Europe, there is debate on another resolution on circumcision.
"Last fall circumcision was compared to in that resolution, in their resolution, to female genital mutilation, and there were calls for studies of bans. Now there's a new resolution people are trying to put together. Many Israelis are trying to overturn the original one, but I noted that the one American witness that I saw was not the American Pediatric Society, which of course finds circumcision medically useful and recommends it, but a 30-year activist out of Boston, Mr. Goldman, who says that circumcision is unnecessary and is not even part of Jewish tradition.
"So, that's what we face in Europe today. So, in conclusions, I don't think the trend lines right now are very good, and that's very frightening for Jewish communities around the world. And we didn't even talk about the antisemitism that we see in the Middle East now; antisemitism without Jews, antisemitism often focused on Israel, a very disturbing trend.
"And there's another thing. One of the things I have come to realize is that long after I'm gone and done with this office, long after I'm gone from this earth, long after all of you are gone from this earth, antisemitism and other forms of bigotry will be around on this earth. We are not here to eradicate it. That won't happen.
"But there are two things that give me hope in this job. One is that one person can make a difference. We're going to show a movie this Thursday at the State Department called There was Once, about a Hungarian school teacher who took it upon herself to find out what happened to the Jews of her village 70 years ago. And from that in teaching her students she created a monument and a memorial in her town and brought survivors back.
"And now she's trying to bring that story all through Hungary. One person can make a difference. Tom Lantos made a difference. When I met Tom Lantos for the first time, he was to me, as I was a young kid, an elderly gentleman with a European accent, and I could never imagine that within two years he would be a U.S. Congressman.
"And more than that, that he would create the legacy that we see here today. And if he did nothing else – and he did many, many more things – but that he made Raoul Wallenberg a household name. Talk about one person making a difference. That gives me hope.
"And the other final thing is I always like the saying of one Jewish scholar, one sage, Rabbi Tarfon, who said that we're not expected to complete the task, but neither are we absolved from beginning it. So, thank you all for beginning it."
Senator Bill Nelson
To view the clip of Sen. Bill Nelson's address, click here:
"It was during that time in the House that I had the privilege of serving with Tom Lantos. By the time he came to the House, Tom had already become a leader in human rights issues, and he co-founded the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in 1983.
"And he introduced legislation that had enormous influence that spanned the globe. Let me give you an example. Tom led the charge to criticize the government of Iraq over the treatment of Kurdish refugees. He supported democracy and human rights in China.
"He was deeply concerned about ethnic Albanians living in Yugoslavia. And on the subject of antisemitism, Tom's voice was one that everybody listened to. He condemned acts of antisemitism wherever, from the Former Soviet Union to the United Nations, using every tool that he had.
"And whether through many acts of Congress that he passed or through fiery speeches or through hearings, briefings, whatever it was, no one dared to challenge him on the subject because he knew what he was talking about. And sadly, we lost Tom's voice six years ago.
"It wasn't just a loss for his family and his friends; it was a tremendous loss for human rights defenders around the world. And the causes that Tom championed continue to challenge us this very day. As he rightfully feared, ignorance remains rooted in societies of even our closest allies.
"Tom put it best, and I'm going to quote from a floor speech in 2005: 'The lessons of the Holocaust are crucial today because once again we are witnessing against Jews and other minorities the same process of de-legitimization and dehumanization that paved the way to destruction.'
"He continued, 'Let us not forget the brutal extermination of a people began not with guns or tanks but with words, systematically portraying the Jew, the other, as less than legitimate, less than human.' And today you've heard much more on these trends from the other speakers here.
"They are the experts. But what is emerging is clear. We all need to do more to reverse and eradicate such human brutality. Now, maybe there's a little optimism. Take, for example, and often what used to happen first in California, it seems now if it happens first, it happens in my state of Florida.
"You heard of the pastor in Florida who made himself a name by burning Korans. He seemed to think that he had found a way to combat radical Islam by matching hatred with hatred.
"Well, he was coming to the little town of Mulberry, Florida, east of Tampa. And a group there invited him to carry out this stunt on their property. And so a small group of Mulberry residents, Mulberry, Florida, mobilized.
"And they met and they brainstormed, how could they dissuade the pastor? So, they started a Facebook group called Not in Mulberry, Pastor Jones, which quickly received quite a few likes. And the group's main organizer asked the fundamental question: Why come to our town and stir up the pot of hate and division?
"So, why some optimism? If a few people in Mulberry, Florida stood with that organizer and stood with them instead of with the pastor, it gives me hope that the forces of tolerance can indeed outnumber the forces of division.
"The residents of Mulberry give us this hope. And when we challenge hatred together, we can have an impact. By the way, we can start right here in our own politics on the division that is going on in this country.
"And it's one of the things that Tom believed in. It's something if he were here today, he would ask us to do more, which is to bring people together, to find the common bonds of decency in each of us and bring us together as a people, as a human race.
"And so, as one of the people who loved Tom Lantos, who admired him, how he would go home every weekend all the way to California and work his constituency, who would take the redeye on Sunday night coming back and change clothes as he changed planes in the St. Louis airport so that he was ready to step off the airplane in Washington and go to work, let's use his example of what we should do today. Thank you."
Video Tribute About Sheikh Hassen Chalghoumi
Yigal Carmon: "We'll now see a short video of [Sheikh Hassen Chalghoumi, the Imam of Drancy] – the person who couldn't make it. It's a mystery to me why we didn't manage to get him a visa. Hopefully in the spring he will come here.
"He is an activist in France, also of Tunisian origin. I guess our guest, Dr. Maktouf, will speak about the Tunisian Exception. But just five minutes of [Sheikh Chalghoumi's] activity in Paris and beyond."
To view the Sheikh Chalghoumi video, click here:
At the event, MEMRI released a special publication, "Imam Of Drancy Sheikh Hassen Chalghoumi." The following are excerpts from it:
Prior to 1996, Chalghoumi was a member of the Tablighi Jamaat, a Pakistan-based Islamic missionary movement. He studied in Syria and Pakistan at fundamentalist madrassas before coming to France in 1996.
In 2004, he underwent a complete transformation and began to defend moderate views. His book 2005 book A Clear Heart, published in Arabic, reflects that change. He became a French citizen in 2004.
As an Imam in Drancy, a township in the suburbs of Paris from which nearly 70,000 Jews had been deported to Nazi death camps during the Second World War – and the site of a memorial in remembrance of these Jews – Chalghoumi became increasingly aware of Jewish history and of the need to fight antisemitism, especially within the French Muslim community. His fight has gained him much media attention, and he became known as THE Imam of Drancy.
Imam Chalghoumi has been attacked by French Muslim fundamentalists for his moderate views, and as a result the French government provides him with a special security detail.
Imam Hassen Chalghoumi With Top French Officials
Imam Hassen Chalghoumi (center) with French President Francois Hollande (center left).
At wreath-laying ceremony at Drancy Holocaust Memorial, 2013. Left to right: A French Republic official, former CRIF president Richard Prasquier, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, and Imam Hassen Chalghoumi
Imam Chalghoumi with Bahraini ambassador visiting Holocaust memorial center (source: Akhbar Al-Khaleej, Bahrain, December 10, 2013)
Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, behind French Interior Minister Manuel Valls (center), former CRIF president Richard Prasquier (left) and French Jewish intellectual Marek Halter (right)
Imam Chalghoumi shakes hands with former French prime minister François Fillon
Imam Hassen Chalghoumi with former French Youth Affairs and Sports minister Jeanette Boughrab
Imam Hassen Chalghoumi Visits Israel With Delegation Of Imams
Imams in delegation shake hands with Israeli President Shimon Peres
Imam Hassen Chalghoumi and Israeli President Shimon Peres
Left to right: former French ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot, Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, and Israeli President Shimon Peres
Left to right: former French ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot, Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, and Israeli President Shimon Peres
Imam Hassen Chalghoumi Brings Delegation Of Imams To Yad Vashem
Sheikh Hassen Chalghoumi
Hassen Chalghoumi, born 1972 in Tunis, is known as the Imam of Drancy. He studied theology in Tunisia, then at Damascus University, and received his theology degree in Lahor, Pakistan.
He became the Imam of Bobigny, France in 1996; 10 years later, he participated in the annual wreath-laying ceremony in Drancy, France commemorating the deportation of French Jews from that city to Auschwitz during World War II. The next year, in 2007, he established the Drancy mosque and became president of the Cultural Association of Drancy Muslims.
In 2009, he participated in the Third Convoy for Peace to Gaza and Sderot of the World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace. That same year, he established the Conference of French Imams, which comprises all France-based Imams who share the values and principles of the French Republic.
In 2010, he declared his support for a law banning the burqa in public places in France, and in 2012 he formed the White Bird of France association, which is aimed at helping the French government foster social cohesion and fight juvenile delinquency and radicalization.
Last year, as part of a delegation of France-based imams, he met with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Tel Aviv; together the two decided to plan a week in Israel for 40 French youths from the immigrant suburbs, to promote mutual understanding. Also last year, he was received by Pope Francis in the Vatican.
Imam Chalghoumi is against Wahhabism and Salafism, and favors establishing imam-training institutes that are independent of foreign states’ influence and funding.
He is the author of three books – A Clear Heart, in Arabic, in 2005; For a French Islam in 2010, and this year's Let's Act Before It Is Too Late, with renowned French journalist and commentator David Pujadas. He is married and the father of five.