"I am honored to welcome you to the Middle East Media Research Institute's (MEMRI) fourth annual Capitol Hill event of the Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial." – Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)
"I am pleased that the Lantos Foundation joined forces with the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) to establish the Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial." – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
On July 18, 2012, The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) held its fourth annual commemoration of the establishment of the Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial (http://www.memri.org/TomLantosArchives), presenting the third 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.
The event, which took place in the Speaker's Dining Room of the U.S. Capitol, included remarks on the promotion of Antisemitism and Holocaust denial in the Middle East. Speakers included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat (former U.S. ambassador to the European Union and member of the MEMRI Board of Advisors), Dr. Samuel Pisar (UNESCO Honorary Ambassador, Special Envoy for Holocaust Education and Polish-born Holocaust survivor), Prof. Mehnaz Afridi (Pakistan-born Director of Manhattan College's Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center), Katrina Lantos Swett (Chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, and daughter of the late Congressman Lantos), 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.
View the video on MEMRI TV here: http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/12100.
- Visit the Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial: http://www.memri.org/subject/en/51.htm.
- Visit the Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial Blog: http://www.thememriblog.org/antisemitism.
Transcripts of Addresses At MEMRI Annual Tom Lantos Antisemitism And Holocaust Denial Archives Commemoration On Capitol Hill, July 18, 2012
Levi Tillemann-Dick, Grandson of Tom Lantos
To view the clip of the introduction on the MEMRI YouTube page, click here:
"Welcome to the Fourth Annual Tom Lantos Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial Archives commemoration. I'm Levi Tillemann-Dick, and Tom Lantos was my grandfather. Growing up, Tom Lantos was always this towering figure in our lives, and he took a very hands-on approach to helping raise his 17 grandchildren. I'm sure he did this in hopes that we can continue his legacy fighting for human rights. And on that account, I'm very pleased and proud to be here today.
"Last year, when I emceed this event, I spent some time talking about the importance of language, and the potential of language to inflame, to heal, to build up, and to tear down – and, in fact, if language is the seed for the actions that follow. But this year, I think it's important to focus a little on the way that this important issue of human rights, and anti-defamation, brings together both sides of the political aisle in Washington D.C. For Tom, my grandfather, these issues were too sacred to be tainted by partisan squabbles. It is a strong testament to his legacy that even in this season of bitter political contest, our America remains a fortress of tolerance in this respect. It has its problems, but a broad political consensus supporting the ideals of human dignity and equality is powerfully manifested by the sponsors of today's event.
"We sit in the Speaker's Dining Room at the invitation of the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, for which we thank him. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be joining us shortly. I also carry additional letters of support from both the Vice President and the Secretary of State. And I know that we have many other dignitaries who are here, who represent their various organizations throughout the Washington community. We thank them for their concern regarding these issues. And, you know, I think that it is a fantastic testament to the spirit of our nation that we can bring together such a powerful group of witnesses to speak on issues that MEMRI addresses.
"First of all, before I start I would like to read the greetings from Secretary Clinton... and John Boehner that have been sent to us today... Starting with a note from our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton."
Statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
"Dear friends, I commend the vital work of the Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust denial. The late Congressman, Tom Lantos was a friend and role model who exemplified the best of public service. He worked tirelessly to end antisemitism, discrimination, oppression, and genocide. Sadly for Tom Lantos, these evils were no mere extraction – they were tragically real.
"Tom, a brilliant and patriotic young Hungarian Jew, was caught up in the horrors of the Shoah as it swept across Europe, taking most of his family and friends in its wake. Tom survived due to the heroism and humanity of the great Swedish diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, who is responsible for saving tens of thousands of innocent Hungarian Jews in those terrible days of the war. Tom never forgot the debt of gratitude that he owed this great diplomat and, when he was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1980, his first legislative initiative was to have Raoul Wallenberg named an honorary U.S. citizen – only the second individual after Winston Churchill to be so honored. Tom honored Wallenberg's legacy in an even more meaningful way: by becoming the Congress' foremost advocate for human rights and justice. As the only survivor of the Holocaust ever elected to Congress, he was particularly outspoken in exposing and condemning antisemitism wherever and whenever it reared its head. That is why I am pleased that the Lantos Foundation joined forces with the Middle East Media Research Institute to establish the Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial.
"These archives are an ongoing source of documentation of the high levels of antisemitism and Holocaust denial that persist in writing, broadcasting, teaching, and preaching in various parts of the world. Through the work of the Lantos Archives, policy makers, the media, academics, opinion leaders, and civil society can become aware of these human rights violations.
"I am grateful that the work of my friend and colleague Congressman Lantos continues. The Lantos Archives plays a crucial role in exposing the age-old evils of antisemitism, and thereby helping us to combat it in all of its forms. As Tom so often reminded us, "the veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are its guardians, and we can never rest." I commend the Lantos Archives for its valiant work. The valiant work it does to promote human rights and exposing truth.
"Sincerely yours, Hillary Rodham Clinton."
Statement from Speaker of the House John Boehner
"Dear friends, I am honored to welcome you all to the Middle East Research Institute 4th Annual Capitol Hill Event of the Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial. Today, we honor the life and work of Tom Lantos, the only member of Congress to have survived the Holocaust, who dedicated his life and work to the expansion of human rights in the ongoing fight for justice.
"Fittingly, the MEMRI project is named in his 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 today's world will face these injustices with a path towards truth and peace.
"Sincerely, John Boehner."
"...I will [now] hand the podium over to... my aunt, Katrina Lantos Swett... Although her activities in education, politics, and public service are broad, a particular significance for this event is Katrina's role as the founder and CEO of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. She was also recently appointed to the United States Commission on International Freedom of Religion, and elected as the chair of that body by her fellow commissioners. So, Katrina, thank you for joining us."
Katrina Lantos Swett
To view the clip of the address on the MEMRI YouTube page, click here:
"Well, thank you all for being here with us today... [T]he person who was at least as responsible for the remarkable work of my late father, Tom Lantos, in the field of human rights... and she continues to lead us as chairman of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.
"I also want to briefly just pay tribute to the people with whom I would be sharing this podium, and who I am sharing this room with today because this room is filled with human rights heroes. We have, of course Yigal Carmon, who with his brilliant leadership of MEMRI is doing extraordinary work on a daily basis. And those of us who know Yigal know it's pretty much 24 hours a day that he does this extraordinary work to bridge the language gap, and to bring to the light of day and to the attention of the world the appalling things that are going on in other parts of the world. Stuart Eizenstat – his distinguished record I know will be recited by Levi later, but he's been both a dear friend to the Lantos family and an extraordinary leader on an incredible range of crucial issues in the world today. I want to recognize Dr. K. King, who for many years was a key leader in my father's congressional office [and] also very graciously served as administrative assistant for my husband, Dick Swett, when he was a member of Congress, and who has also been side by side with us in so many human rights battles. And then, of course, Ambassador Pisar, who we will be hearing from later.
"... I want to thank you all for your presence here, and tell you how much it means to us. You know, I had an interesting experience this morning as I was making my notes for my remarks today. The pen I was using leaked all over my hands, leaving a dark blue stain. And I immediately rushed to the bathroom and began trying to wash it out with soap and water. Well any of you who have ever had a stain- a really big stain on your hands knows that it doesn't come out with just soap and water. It needed more powerful medicine, a more powerful disinfectant. Antisemitism in all its forms, both egregious and subtle, is the persistent, ancient stain on the hands of humanity. And it also does not come out easily with soap and water. It also requires stronger, deeper cleaning.
"My old boss, Joe Biden, whom I suppose I should now refer to in more distinguished terms as the Vice President of the United States, used to say that sunlight was the best disinfectant, that exposing evils to the bright light of day was the best way to deal with them. And that really is the task of the Lantos Archives. Despite the imagery that the word 'archives' conjures up, of a dusty library, and information secreted away in a place that nobody goes to, we at the Lantos Archives, and at MEMRI, are actually in the sunlight business. Through the extraordinary work that our partner, MEMRI, does day in and day out, we are exposing the vile and pervasive antisemitism that lies at the heart of so much of the Middle East, and beyond.
"Now, for those of us of Jewish heritage or faith, there is a very powerful, personal reason for fighting to expose the evils of antisemitism. We know too well the consequences of allowing this cancerous stain to spread unchecked. My late father, Tom Lantos, as has already been said, was the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress. And he understood better than most the need for constant, unyielding vigilance in this fight.
"But it is not just on behalf of the Jewish people that we seek to expose and eliminate antisemitism and its attendant evil of Holocaust denial. It is only the oldest and most virulent manifestation of a religiously directed bigotry that is directed against other peoples and against other faith communities around the world.
In my new role as chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, I have the sad privilege of monitoring and speaking out against such discrimination in virtually every part of the world. Whether it is the Baha'i in Iran, the Ahmadiyya in Pakistan, the Falun Gong and Uighurs in China, the Copts in Egypt, moderate Muslims in Islamist Muslim states – the persecution and suffering they experience is cut from the same cloth as the hatred and persecution experienced by Jews since time immemorial. And new research is clearly demonstrating that such intolerance and bigotry is not just a moral wrong in and of itself. It is also a huge anchor on the progress of society. The positive correlation between societies that are religiously tolerant, pluralistic, and free are overwhelming.
"...Before I turn the podium over to [Senator Reid] – obviously he needs no introduction – I just want to say that Senator Reid... was an incredible ally and friend of my father during my father's lifetime... We're deeply, deeply grateful to have you here. Thank you, Senator."
Senator Harry Reid
To view the clip of the address on the MEMRI YouTube page, click here:
"... When I first knew him, Tom Lantos, in 1982. I was running for Congress, he was already here. I knew who he was, he became a... university professor in California, and he sent me money for my first election. And when I got here, he was one of the first people I met, and he told me, and suggested it would be good if I'd join the Foreign Affairs Committee, which I did. And that was a wonderful experience. I served for two years there. I tell everybody it was like going to school and not having to take the test. Because you learned so much every time there was a meeting.
"Tom Lantos was really a role model for me... [H]is speaking ability, I have to be honest with you, that's something I always envied. He could stand and give a speech and even if he didn't have much to say, it sounded good. He had that very slight Hungarian accent... I was happy to come here today because it gave me the chance to reflect with you [on] what a beautiful human being Tom Lantos was. The times we spent together traveling the world, the times that we spent together calculating what we should do politically for someone we wanted to be elected president or chairman of a committee, those were remarkable for me.
"Today, let me just share one experience that I had. Senator Daschle and I with a number of other senators had traveled to see what was going on in the Balkans. And our place, so we could move around to different countries, was... Hungary. And we spent more than a week there, in and out of Hungary. During part of that time, we met up with Tom Lantos. He spent the better part of a day taking us around and showing us where some of the things that had happened to him when he was trying to escape, and did escape on a number of occasions, the Nazis. That was a wonderful tutorial. It was for us, taught not only by a college professor, but someone who had survived the Holocaust....
"It's important that people are – even [if] sometimes they don't want to be – reminded of what took place in the Holocaust, and people who deny it should be reminded that what they're talking about is absolutely false, misleading, and untrue..."
Katrina Lantos Swett
To view the clip of the address on the MEMRI YouTube page, click here:
"Well said. Thank you again, Senator... I want to quickly wrap up my remarks because there are a lot of other outstanding people you are going to be hearing from. So let me just resume where I had stopped. I was referring to the increasing body of new research that is clearly demonstrating that intolerance and bigotry of the sort we're talking about, is not just a moral wrong in and of itself. It is a huge anchor on the progress of a society. The positive correlations between societies that are religiously tolerant, pluralistic, and free are overwhelming. They are more stable. They are more prosperous. They are more democratic. Women have higher status and more rights in such societies. And they are above all, more peaceful. In other words, the countries that continue to foster and tolerate rampant antisemitism, as well as other dark religious prejudices will never, I repeat, never, be able to become modern, successful, democratic nations unless and until they confront this sickness that for too long they have nurtured. It is in their own self-interest to heed the lessons that the Lantos Archives have to teach them.
"There is yet another reason why the work of MEMRI and the Archives is so important. Virulent, open antisemitism is not just an insignificant though repulsive plant growing in an obscure corner of the world's garden. It is an invasive, choking species. It's an invasive, choking weed, that if allowed to grow with impunity will spread as it has in the past, even to countries where we thought this scourge had been eradicated. In my parents' native land of Hungary, a magnificent country and culture that the Lantos family has a deep and abiding love for, we have seen a recent disturbing resurgence of open antisemitism on the far right. And Hungary is just one of a number of countries in Europe facing this disturbing pattern. I don't know [whether] the Hungarian Ambassador is with us here today, I know he intended to join us. I want to say that many of these countries are taking important steps to try and combat this. The Embassy of Hungary, for example, hosted a month-long Yom HaShoah commemoration in which they, among other things, showed a remarkable film called 'There Once Was,' which tells the story of the vanished Hungarian Jewish community from a small village in Hungary.
"But not enough is being done, and if we do not identify and target antisemitism in the Middle East, if we allow it to thrive with impunity there, the cancer spreads, as I say, even to places where we thought it had been eradicated. The work that we are doing, that MEMRI and the Lantos Archives are doing, is truly God's work, or if you prefer, humanity's work. We will not let up. We will not cease to expose these evils and hold them up to be ridiculed and rejected by what we hope is a more sane world. We do this, not only on behalf of the Jewish people, but on behalf of the more just, decent, and moral world.
"As my late father used to say, and as is often quoted: 'The veneer of civilization is indeed paper thin. We are its guardians, and we can never rest.' Thank you very much."
"Thank you, Katrina, for those elegant words, and thank you to the Senate Majority Leader. We're very honored to have his presence here today. We are no less honored to hear from our next speaker, Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, who is ubiquitous in Washington D.C., and has been for about 40 years... The scope of the Ambassador's accomplishments is almost too wide to address, but I will just go over a few of them now. Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat has, during his career of public service, held key senior positions in three U.S. Presidential administrations, including Chief White House Domestic Policy Adviser to Jimmy Carter. That was in 1977. U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, Under Secretary of State for Economic Business and Agricultural Affairs, and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration.
"In addition, Ambassador Eizenstat is a member of the MEMRI Board of Advisors. At the same time, Ambassador Eizenstat has also provided belated justice for victims of the Holocaust, and other victims of Nazi tyranny during World War II. As a result of his leadership in the Clinton administration, a special representative of the President, and Secretary of State on Holocaust era issues, he successfully negotiated major agreements with the Swiss, German, Austrian, French, and other European countries covering the restitution of property – payment for slave and forced laborers, recovery of looted art, bank accounts, and payments of insurance policies.
"His book on these events, Imperfect Justice, Looted Assets, Slave Labor, and the Unfinished Business of World War II, was widely acclaimed, and has been translated into German, French, Czech, and Hebrew. And all of this great work has really made Ambassador Eizenstat kind of a senior statesman, not only in the United States, but for the Jewish people as a whole. [He is the author of The Future of the Jews:] How Global Forces are Impacting the Jewish People, Israel, and Its Relationship with the United States, which surveys the major geopolitical, economic, and security challenges facing the world in general, and the Jewish world and the United States in particular. We are honored to have you here, Ambassador Eizenstat."
Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat
To view the clip of the address on the MEMRI YouTube page, click here:
"Thank you very much, Levi, Annette, Katrina, the whole remarkable Lantos family. [It is a] singular honor to be asked to speak at this event. Tom Lantos was my friend, my mentor, my hero, my inspiration. And MEMRI, grandly led by Yigal Carmon, is a critically important institution with which I've been associated for many years, and whose 24/7 blanket objective coverage of the era of the Muslim media is an indispensable tool for governments around the world, policy makers, and citizens seeking to better understand the direction of the Arab and Muslim world.
"I first met Tom and Annette when Tom volunteered to work with me in the 1976 Jimmy Carter presidential campaign, taking a leave of absence from his professorship at San Francisco State University. He played an important role in placing human rights in the forefront of the administration's foreign policy after the election. And we became very close personal friends...
"Tom's personal history from our first meeting really inspired my work during the Clinton administration years later, and even during the Carter Administration when my memorandum to the president led to the creation of a presidential commission headed by Elie Wiesel to propose the Holocaust Memorial Museum. And that museum is a testament, really, to Tom and to his life, and indeed appropriately, because of his leadership in Congress, the 15th Street side at the museum is named Raoul Wallenberg Way.
"As the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress, Tom brought a sense of mission to his work. Supporting human rights around the world, and I think it's fair to say that during his 17 years in the House of Representatives, no single member had a greater impact, nor endeared himself more to his colleagues on both sides of the aisle than Tom.
"During those years, his work with MEMRI was also legendary, because MEMRI provide the materials which Tom depended on to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial. Not simply by words, but by deeds, because it was Tom's legislation against antisemitism, fed again by the information from MEMRI, that led to the 2004 Global Antisemitism Review Act, which called for the monitoring, and combating of antisemitism, and established an office within the State Department – ironically within the State Department, which I served for many years, because it was the State Department's inaction which led to many Jewish refugees being unable to find safety on these shores.
"But in this office, there is now a special representative on combating antisemitism, now ably headed by Hannah Rosenthal, our special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism. And this is the only country in the world in which there is a major senior figure devoted solely to monitoring and combating antisemitism. That speaks well of this country, but it speaks well of Tom's leadership as well.
"I want to talk to you today about a new form of antisemitism. But before I do, we can't leave the more traditional forms either, because they continue to rear their ugly head in Europe, as Katrina mentioned. What is perhaps different from the pre-World War II and World War II eras is that now, as a result of Tom's leadership, and of the elevation of the issue of antisemitism, leaders take action. For example, France has made antisemitic acts a punishable hate crime. Under Tony Blair, the U.K. established a special commission, the McShane Commission, to review the scourge of antisemitic acts occurring against school children in Great Britain. And Germany, for decades, has made Holocaust denial a crime. So while traditional antisemitism has been by no means erased, it has at least been combated.
"And let me, again, before I go to the heart of what I want to say, I want to talk for a minute about the Holocaust because – when we see the contributions that Tom and Annette have made, it makes us realize what was lost by the six million who did not survive. By the one and a half million kids who never had a chance to make their mark on the world. There were 17 million Jews in the world in 1939, at a time when the world had two billion people. There are 13.5 million today, in a world of seven billion. And if we're fortunate, there will be maybe 14 or 15 million in a world of 10 billion by mid-century. The Holocaust didn't spring from thin air, it didn't come simply from the hands of a few Nazi madmen. It was the culmination of centuries of bigotry, discrimination, mob violence, separate housing, separate clothing, loss of job opportunities, dreadful pogroms, blaming calamities like the Black Plague in the Middle Ages [on them]. All of this preceded the Holocaust.
"And I want to stress now a new form of antisemitism aimed at delegitimizing Israel as a Jewish state. With Jews worldwide as targets and servants for anger and violence against Israel. This is different from the antisemitism that is religious based, which Annette and Tom faced in Hungary, and which almost took their lives. This antisemitism is cloaked as anti-Zionism, and it takes many different forms. Radical groups like Hamas and Hizbullah, directly supported by Iran, seek nothing short of the violent elimination of a Jewish state in the Middle East, and view Jews worldwide as acceptable targets. This can be seen, for example, in the destruction of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, and of AMIA, the Argentine Jewish Community Center [there], in 1990. Or, recently, the 2008 attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai by Pakistani militants... And the tragic deaths, even this year, of a teacher and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France.
"There are major elements of Muslim society, from the leadership of the Palestinian Authority to the monarchies of the Gulf, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia willing to live in peace with Israel, and yet even they support unremitting U.N. resolutions against Israel far out of proportion to those against serial human rights violators. More than half of all the resolutions condemning human rights violations passed by the U.N. Human Rights Council are against the state of Israel – which has a viable democracy and is not a human rights violator at all. This insidious form of new antisemitism employs symbols, and images, and a language equating Zionism and racism, as at the Durban conference, suggesting that Israel practices apartheid, depicting Israeli soldiers with Nazi swastikas.
"This new antisemitism has now been adopted in different forms by some European labor unions, calling for boycotts of Israeli products, Palestinian advocates on college campuses, and some academics. They crossed the line from legitimate criticism of Israel, to which all states must be subject, and seek to undermine the very foundation of the Jewish state within any borders. I've had some personal experiences with this as Under Secretary of State. I traveled to Cairo to talk about economic issues, but I took the occasion to meet with then-foreign minister Amr Moussa, later head of the Arab League and a candidate for the presidency just a few months ago. And I presented to him, with the permission of the Secretary of State and the State Department, a series of grossly anti-Israel cartoons in Al-Ahram, the official state newspaper. Depicting Israeli soldiers with Nazi emblems, distorted antisemitic characteristics, crushing poor Palestinians. And I presented them to the foreign minister, and I said, 'Mr. Minister, you are' (at that time they were) 'the only state in the Arab world with a peace treaty with Israel. This is undermining the very basis of that treaty and teaching your people the very wrong lessons.' 'Ah,' he said, 'We have a free press in Egypt. We can't deal with that.'A few years later, as Vice President of Freedom House, we met with the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States and presented to him copies of the curriculum of the Saudi educational system – which are, in the most gross terms, anti-Christian and anti-Jewish. Talking about Jews and Christians as being dogs, and other vile allegations. He agreed that these were unacceptable and said he would change the school curriculum of the school under his direction in northern Virginia. [But] while there have been some modest changes, much of that language remains.
"Now, it is necessary to be careful when one uses the term antisemitism. It is a highly loaded term. If it is used too often, it debases real antisemitism, and so we must distinguish between [that and] legitimate criticism of Israel, which like any modern state is appropriate. But we must make sure that we understand the difference between that criticism and de-legitimization. Perhaps the best test for that was presented by Natan Sharansky, now head of the Jewish Agency, of course, a famous Soviet refusenik and a former Israeli cabinet member. In what he calls the three Ds, is Israel being demonized by having its actions blown out of proportion? For example, falsely comparing Israeli actions to those of Nazis, and Palestinian refugee camps to Auschwitz. Second, is there a double standard by which Israel is treated differently from other countries? For example, being singled out, as I've mentioned, by the U.N. Human Rights Council for human rights abuses while Iran, and Syria, Sudan, and Zimbabwe are left untouched. [And third,] is the attack an effort to undermine the very legitimacy of a Jewish state, and to deny that legitimacy?
"Well, there can be no doubt on which side of the line a speech given only two weeks ago by the vice president of Iran lies. In a Tehran conference sponsored by the U.N. on June 25, Iranian Vice President Mohammed-Reza Rahimi said that the Talmud, the central text of Judaism, was responsible for the spread of illegal drugs which the conference was designed to deal with. Second in line to President Ahmadinejad, himself a serial Holocaust denier, including before the U.N. General Assembly, he said, and I quote, 'The Talmud teaches to destroy everyone who opposes the Jews' and that 'Zionists are in firm control of the illegal international drug traffic," and that also "gynecologists were taking orders to kill black babies on the order of Zionists.'
"And yet I want to close on a more hopeful note. MEMRI has found some signs of less virulent anti-Israel rhetoric in Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah has convened a conference with Jewish and Christian clerics calling for religious tolerance. In 2002, and restated thereafter, the Saudi peace plan now adopted by the Arab League calls for full normalization with the Jewish state, albeit with several unacceptable conditions. The secondary boycott of Israel has been eviscerated. Beginning, if I may say, by legislation that President Carter proposed, and that Tom Lantos helped champion, and that I helped draft, outlawing U.S. participation in the Arab boycott of Israel. And Israel has recently been selected to [join] the major organization of industrial democracies, the OECD. And old fashioned European antisemitism, as I've indicated, is more marginalized, and when it happens, it is attacked. And when Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust at the U.N., Secretary General Ban Ki-moon himself said that this was an unacceptable statement.
"Over 2,500 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah had a vision following the destruction of the First Temple. He said, 'I will gather them from the utmost parts of the world, the blind and the lame among them, women with child and women in travail.' Twenty-five hundred years later, this and more has been achieved by Israel. The empires which sought to destroy the Jewish people, the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans, the Nazis who tried to destroy all Jewish civilization – and who in fact destroyed two-thirds of the flower of European Jewry –... and the Communist empire, have all vanished, while the indomitable, indestructible Jewish people thrives and will continue to make contributions to the world far beyond our small numbers, both in the Jewish state of Israel and outside. This to me is the greatest gift and the greatest testament to the work that Tom Lantos has done and that Annette and his two daughters continue to do. And may all of you go in memory as well from strength to strength. Thank you."
"Thank you, Ambassador Eizenstat, for all of your work and for those profound words. And for your work with MEMRI – which segues nicely into our next speaker, who I'm sure all of you know, Yigal Carmon, who is both the president and founder of MEMRI, and he's done something truly remarkable with the building of this organization. He has also built an army against intolerance. Some of you may recall that Elie Wiesel has said that you don't sleep well when people are suffering, and as a result he doesn't sleep much. Well, Yigal Carmon has built an organization that is spread around the world with more than a dozen researchers... in many languages who never sleep. And their eyes are constantly awake looking for these signs of intolerance and shedding light on them for the entire world to see. We are deeply grateful to your work, Yigal Carmon."
To view the clip of the address on the MEMRI YouTube page, click here:
"Thank you all. Like every year, I will present the main points of the annual report on the status of antisemitism and Holocaust denial in the Arab and Muslim world (you have the full material [in] the folders and the DVD). We will show a 12-minute compilation of expressions of antisemitism and Holocaust denial in different parts of the Arab and Muslim world. This is just 12 minutes out of many hours that are all recorded on our website, memritv.org. And after we watch it, I will devote five minutes to observations regarding the year in general. So let's first see the clips. Some of it is hard to watch, but still we have to watch it."
Compilation screened (to view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here).
"A few short observations regarding this last year. Notwithstanding the dynamic changes that have occurred in the Middle East, the central components of antisemitism and Holocaust denial in the Arab and Muslim world remain. These components are the following:
"1) Antisemitic motifs rooted in the Koran and the Islamic traditions, namely, the Jews as the descendants of apes and pigs; prophet killers (who tried to assassinate Muhammad many times); cheats and swindlers, etc. Accordingly, the Jews are promised punishment like the punishment they received in the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century. That is the "promise of the rock and the tree," which has a deeper meaning, namely that nature itself will rise against these abominable Jews and purge itself of them. This is a recurring theme. A motif that has been added recently is that the Jews will be punished for their deviance at the hands of the Muslims. This began in the last year or two. We have shown figures like Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, the most prominent scholar in the Sunni world, who said that the Jews received a "divine punishment" at the hands of Nazis, and next time, God willing, "it will the hands of the believers." There was also a TV show that showed scenes from the Holocaust, no less, and said the same thing.
"2) Antisemitism based on Western traditions, such as the blood libel and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
"3) Holocaust denial. This year, an added element was the collaboration between the well-known French comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala and the Iranian regime, which produced a co-production: [the film] The Antisemite. The good news is that, by exposing this, we managed to ban the airing of his comedy programs in both Canada and France.
"4) The general demonizing of the Jews.
"How does the Arab Spring affect this phenomenon?
"First of all, the quantity of antisemitic expressions has diminished, since these countries are preoccupied with other battles and other enemies – not perceived enemies, but real ones. Lies that were promoted by the dictatorial regimes don't work so easily anymore. The Arabs realize who is killing them, and it's neither the Jews nor Israel. It is important to stress that the collapsing regimes are the ones who keep carrying the antisemitic message, not the rebels. Though obviously, the rebels are divided into many groups with different characteristics. But the major thrust of antisemitism is associated with the collapsing regimes.
"Secondly, in the past, we used to see both religious and non-religious figures spreading antisemitism, in more or less equal numbers. Now we are seeing more religious figures and fewer non-religious ones. In fact, considering the ascendancy of religion in the political arena in the Middle East, antisemitism might become the mainstream narrative.
"A distinction should be made between those who carry this message in the Arab world – who, when exposed, back away, deny it, and do all sorts of things to distance themselves from this message – and the spokesmen of the Iranian regime, who do not care about exposure at all. On the contrary, the more you expose them the bolder and more vociferous they become. An example is what Ambassador Eizenstat mentioned. Just last month, the Iranians sponsored a conference at the UN, at which Iranian Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi blamed the Talmud for all drug trafficking in the world.
"Also worth noting is the recurring focus on American Jewry. Part of this is the repetition of a Nazi propaganda story from the 1930s about Benjamin Franklin. According to this story, Benjamin Franklin (who is described as a president, which he was not), warned America about the Jews and about their coming to America.
"And the last observation is that there are new Nazi parties all over the Arab world, like the one in Egypt, which you saw in the video. Next year we will devote efforts to exposing this new phenomenon.
"To conclude on a more optimistic note, I would like to report that, as a result of MEMRI's immense efforts of exposure and its cooperation with the main TV regulating body in France (the Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel, or CSA) we managed to shut down and ban the airing of antisemitic channels, Iranian and other.
"And perhaps the more important impact is that we encourage the exercising of self-discipline by the Arab media, as you will see in the short video that we will present now. The renowned Muslim intellectual Dr. 'Azzam Tamimi, who resides in Britain, warns the Arab TV channels to be careful using words like 'Jews' and 'Holocaust' because MEMRI is watching. We even caused him to acknowledge on camera that there was a Holocaust. He said: 'By the way, denying the Holocaust is unwise, because it did happen.'"
"Thank you, Yigal. Well, those were certainly powerful and disturbing clips. However, we have an equally inspiring and uplifting speaker to follow. Professor Mehnaz Afridi is director of Manhattan College's Holocaust Genocide and Interfaith Education Center. And she is really living evidence of Mark Twain's aphorism that travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. Professor Afridi has grown up throughout the world, and confronted so many different cultures and different people that despite that fact that she grew up in a society that was steeped in bigotry, she has now done some incredible work in exposing the truth behind the Holocaust and the humanity of all people to the Muslim world. Michael Birnbaum, former director of the Research Institute at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, described her work as 'almost a dream come true.' So with that, I would like to introduce Professor Mehnaz Afridi."
Professor Mehnaz Afridi
To view the clip of the address on the MEMRI YouTube page, click here:
"This is not going to be easy after that video, right? Thank you so much. I appreciate your introduction. I want to begin with a quote from Elie Wiesel. 'There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice. But there must never be a time when we fail to protest.' Elie Wiesel. I'm deeply honored to be here, and thank MEMRI and the Tom Lantos Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial Archives for their important work and for inviting me to speak among such honorable people. As you saw, antisemitism is everywhere. Lurking in the streets of Cairo as the revolution unfolds, in the alleyways of Karachi as drone attacks are deployed. In the minarets of Saudi Arabia as women are dismayed. In Damascus as tanks roll in and in Tehran as a president calls for Holocaust denial.
"Antisemitism is everywhere. Like smog that looms in the air, thick, dirty and hard to breathe in. Even in Karachi where I was born, the Jews are everywhere, although they have not lived there as a community for several decades. As a Pakistani-American woman, this is my challenge. And by now the familiar themes of European antisemitism, the blood libel, the Protocols of Zion, the international Jewish conspiracy, and the rest have become standard fare in much of the Muslim world. In the schoolroom, the pulpit, the media and even at the butcher's in the Karachi marketplace – who as I recall blamed bird flu on Jews for spreading their disease. I was able to take the poster down and talk to them, but how can I talk to so many?
"But I'm here today because I have a dream. A dream that many would find peculiar. But this dream is about humanity and dignity for the other. Dreams that can turn corners and make people think how one comes to places of conviction, protest and witnessing. In 2007, I wanted to pay my respects to the victims of the Holocaust. So I visited Dachau. I remember praying at Dachau for the victims and thinking of the injustices that continue on. And I recall the fear in my body as I walked through the crematorium that so many deniers mock.
"As a Muslim, aware of the antisemitism and Holocaust denial in many parts of the Muslim world, I was dismayed, frustrated and sad. And more importantly, I was troubled at the silence of non-Jews about antisemitism. And so here I am, doing, hoping and working towards my dream. As I've journeyed throughout these issues for several years, there are certain silver linings and glimmers of hope that have found me by surprise amidst an isolated place. This lining of hope comes from my own professional life as a Muslim academic, who teaches Islam at Manhattan College, a Catholic institution, and directs the Holocaust Genocide and Interfaith Education Center.
"As a minority, I'm privileged to hold these positions, but the crucial fact remains that I have dedicated my life to speaking out against antisemitism and Holocaust denial. Working hard to stop antisemitism, I've discovered there are many positive ways to bring this education to the Muslim world: through speaking the truth, rejecting antisemitism, learning the history, and sharing the positive role of Muslims during the Holocaust. As Tom Lantos once said, 'We are optimistic but we are optimistic in a cautious fashion.' I, too, am optimistic in a cautious fashion. So in my cautiousness and optimism, I decided I wanted to meet with survivors and interview them. I wanted to listen to them and talk with them about antisemitism. But then curiously, I found that talking with them, they wanted to know about me. They wanted to know my faith, the parallels between Jews and Muslims. They wanted to know about genocide. They wanted to know about Bosnia. They wanted to know about Sudan. They wanted to talk about the Holocaust. They were curious and I have to admit, at times prejudiced against Islam and Muslims.
"And that is something we have to discuss. On February 27, 2010, I looked into the sky blue eyes of Albert Rosa, an 85-year-old survivor, for hours, as he spoke about his experience with the Shoah at Auschwitz-Birkenau. As I left him, he told me with his wet and teary eyes that he wanted someone to write his life stories since he had very little formal education. He asked me, 'How can I express in words how I felt when my sister was bludgeoned to death in front of me by an SS woman? Or when I saw my elder brother hanging from a rope when I had tried to defend him?' I looked into his eyes that had pierced in me all day and wondered how could I as a Muslim tell his story in words without losing the emotional strength and physical strength. He spoke of maggots crawling on his body as he was ordered to move the dead. The gold he stole from the bodies of the dead. The urine he saved to nurse his wounds from a Nazi German shepherd. The roots that he dug out with his fingers for nourishment. The ashes he swallowed from the crematorium as he built Birkenau. When I left Albert's home, I gave him a hug because my words of gratitude seemed incomplete. And he smiled as he hugged me back and he said, 'This is the first time I've ever hugged a Muslim.' I told them that this should not be a surprise like the last time, since I said Muslim women are not so cold and segregated as you think.
"Albert and I exchanged the first step in dialogue, by humanizing one another. My interviews with survivors and now, friendships, have taken a life of their own, for I am no longer an interviewer, but in dialogue about Islam and the Holocaust. I had a dream about bringing Muslims and Jews together. And this dream is and will slowly come true cautiously, but optimistically. We all know that because we live in the United States, where our dream, our vision – or, in Arabic, alru'yaa – is one of faith, hope, and reconciliation with the other. We must take note of the extremists, of all kinds amongst us who are dreamless people, blinded by egos and the path of zealots who create God's work as a deceitful work of human beings. And those of us that are faithful know there is no one who knows the work of God, but God himself.
"As a Muslim, I'm obligated by my faith, Islam, to speak out against false testimony and false rumors. The Qur'an, my Bible, states: 'Oh, you who believe, stand up firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, your relatives, or whether it is against the rich or the poor.' With Islamic principles in mind, and my own ethical responsibility, I have to speak out against false testimony and rumors. My work is about the Holocaust, and not the politics of Israel and Palestine, although I'm not afraid to discuss it. But, because I hope that through this work, Jews through Muslim eyes and Muslims through Jewish eyes may be humanized, and Muslims can finally allow Jews their unique place in the list of terrible genocides. We must acknowledge that antisemitism has taken on many forms throughout the years.
"However, today, examples such as the ban of circumcision in Germany and certain laws that have been created to curb Muslim migrants in Europe impact Jews equally, and perhaps even more. On the other hand, we've witnessed Holocaust glorification in Middle Eastern media, some of which is state-owned and operated. Some have gone as far as to call to finish the annihilation of Jews, or Holocaust relativism where some governments, museums, and academic institutions are comparing the Holocaust with other terrible human events. My dream continues, and my dedication to this will change the trend, I hope, cautiously and optimistically.
"Through my new initiatives and programs of Muslim-American education of the Holocaust, and my own position as the only Muslim to head a Holocaust center at a Catholic college, and my writings as a Muslim who stands up to all injustices and discrimination against Jews and all people, many will have to listen to a Muslim woman who was touched by the soul of victims. I have a tough and challenging road. And perhaps, in my lifetime, the silver linings of hope are the many people and friends that have invested me their trust and vision. This is the dream that cannot end here, but will continue to revolutionize the minds of my Manhattan College students, my community in New York and yes, my Muslims who do invest in me.
"In 2011, I sat with Elizabeth Mann, Hungarian survivor, in the Hearst Theater at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. Riveted by her story as a survivor, it was deeply emotional, one of the most difficult moments of my life, as she sobbed about her guilt of letting her younger brother go into the gas chambers with her mother. I laid one hand upon her knee and squeezed her warmly. She said to me, 'Mehnaz, I hope you don't take offense to this, but I'd like to say something to you.' I smiled. I told her that she could say anything. And she continued without hesitation and said, she believed in souls that linger on for thousands of years. And she thought that I might have a Jewish soul, thousands of years ago. I smiled and said, 'Perhaps.' But, as a Muslim, it was not surprising to me. My soul might have been Jewish. After all, we all came from the same source, Abraham.
"Finally, I ask all of us to confront bigotry, but especially our leaders, who hold the keys to change upon this famous Capitol Hill. We must eradicate this hatred with sensitivity to the others who are marginalized everywhere. We must sustain and create laws that uphold our principles of our own country, as we, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. Thank you."
"Thank you very much, Dr. Afridi. And next, we're truly honored to hear from Ambassador Samuel Pisar, a Polish-born Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. An acclaimed international lawyer, author and human rights activist, Ambassador Pisar serves as UNESCO Honorary Ambassador and Special Envoy for Holocaust Education. In his memoir, Of Blood and Hope, which received the Present Tense Literary Award in 1981, he tells the story of how he survived the Holocaust. A founder of Yad Vashem France, Mr. Pisar is also distinguished as a commander of the French Legion of Honor and a commander of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, and an honorary officer of the Order of Australia for service to international relations and human rights. Drawing on his personal harrowing experiences in the Holocaust, Mr. Pisar, at the urging of Leonard Bernstein, wrote and narrated an oratorio, "Kaddish," to Bernstein's Third Symphony, which was based on his experiences and his anger at God. He says that the ideas came from Bernstein, who felt Pisar could bring a more authentic voice to the symphony than he could, not having gone through the Holocaust himself. For any of you who have heard this, it is an extraordinarily powerful piece and I highly recommend it. We look forward to your words today. And now, I give you, Ambassador Pisar."
Ambassador Samuel Pisar
To view the clip of the address on the MEMRI YouTube page, click here:
"Ladies and gentlemen, it is an immense honor to address this distinguished gathering at the Capitol, where I once worked for several committees of the Congress, and where both houses have once voted a special act to award me U.S. citizenship – an act signed by President John F. Kennedy, whom I served as an adviser.
"I wish Congressman Tom Lantos could be with us here today. I was fortunate to know this exceptional personality, whose family perished in Auschwitz, like mine. On one occasion he ask me to tell him what I had seen and heard as a 15-year-old prisoner there, when the cattle trains were discharging the 400,000 Jews from his native Hungary.
"That was in 1944, after the Normandy landings, when the gas chambers were killing at the rate of 10,000 innocents every day – more than all of General Eisenhower's soldiers who fell on their 'longest day.' This may throw some light on what motivated Congressman Lantos' noble, life-long efforts to ensure that such horrors never happen again.
"Dear friends, antisemitism and Holocaust denial is a huge subject for a short speech. To make it meaningful I must summon the voice of the other individual who still inhabits me – the skeletal adolescent with shaved head and sunken eyes who dodged death in Auschwitz, Maidanek, Dachau and other infernos, until I escaped from my torturers and was liberated by an armored column of GIs, yelling: 'God bless America!'
"Today, within the historic walls of Congress, I feel emboldened to say to you that I have experienced the epicenter of the greatest catastrophe ever perpetrated by man against [man], under the eyes of a largely indifferent world.
"That there the human animal revealed himself to be morally flawed, capable of the worst as of the best, of hatred as of love, of madness as of genius. That the unthinkable, the unimaginable is again possible. Indeed, even a global apocalypse engulfing all mankind cannot be excluded, with new plagues of toxic gas, atomic mushroom clouds and ballistic missiles in the hands of contemporary tyrants and fanatics.
"In our newly inflamed and destabilized world, the ashes of the Holocaust therefore speak to us not only about the past, but also about the present and the future. Yet today's despots and demagogues, some with nuclear ambitions who call the Holocaust 'a myth,' are again plotting to wipe us out, and possibly other vulnerable peoples as well.
"Antisemitism, whether religious, racial or ideological, has been a scourge since time immemorial. But in our era, which began in September 2001, it is taking on a different character. In parallel with the old variety practiced by the extreme political right, which has sharply receded in recent decades, there has emerged a new variety that is thriving among radical extremists in the Muslim world. In some ways this new antisemitism is synonymous with anti-Zionism, and targets Jews in the Diaspora, no less than in Israel.
"Moreover, it spreads its poisonous propaganda not only in the Arab world, but also in European and other countries with large and growing Muslim populations. Faced with this, one is tempted to ask if the MEMRI and Lantos archives should not extend the scope of their precious research to these increasingly troubled places, too.
"The new hydra of violence and terror is spreading its tentacles in many directions. France, which has the largest Jewish community in Western Europe, and no institutionalized antisemitism whatsoever, is currently its principal victim. Nothing has demonstrated this more clearly than the tragedy that struck in April the city of Toulouse.
"There, Mohammed Merah, a fanatic jihadist manipulated by Al-Qaeda, shot at random three children and one adult in a Jewish school, after having murdered four soldiers of Muslim origin, the former out of hatred for Israel and the latter of France – his country of birth – because it had a military contingent in Afghanistan. 'I love death more than you love life,' he told morbidly his interrogators while under arrest.
"That drama triggered a rash of other aggressions against Jews by fanatics of similar ilk – mostly isolated individuals or groups emanating from overcrowded Muslim suburbs mired in joblessness, misery and hatred, and spurred on by fiery preachers after Friday night prayers in the mosque.
"Similar aggressions are now rife in other West European capitals, notably Berlin, London and Amsterdam. In the eastern half of the continent, antisemitic incidents are of a more classical racist or neo-Nazi kind. What is reassuring is the fact that civil society at large, political authorities and moderate religious leaders are actively cooperating with the local Jewish communities to control and eliminate these worrisome trends, even if leftish circles in the political spectrum tends to sympathize with the radicals.
"Looking back at the crises and upheavals that once destroyed my universe, I shudder to think what might happen if a weakening Europe, threatened by economic and political setbacks, fell prey to mounting unemployment, insecurity and fear. For when rampant fear drowns reason, populist folly recruits merciless saviors. This is how democracies perish and hunts for scapegoats begin. Jews are always first in the line of attack.
"Meanwhile, sworn enemies go on killing and maiming everywhere, including their own kin. And this in the name of our common Abrahamic God.
"In conclusion, let me end on an optimistic note. For last year's commemoration of the Holocaust I found myself in Auschwitz-Birkenau at the behest of the so-called 'Project Aladdin' sponsored by UNESCO and the French foundation for the memory of the Shoah. Some 200 Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders, including heads of state, chief rabbis, grand muftis and eminent cardinals also joined the pilgrimage. My mission was to bear witness, in the name of the martyrs and the survivors, that far from being a 'myth' the Holocaust constituted a supreme warning for mankind of horrors that may still lie ahead.
"Surrounded by the mind-boggling evidence that was staring us in the face, united by common pain and shared moral values that unlikely, ecumenical assembly transcended all political, racial and religious strife to pray together for a safer and better future. Everyone seemed to reject the cynical allegations that what we had endured in body and soul, never happened. They also seemed to approve when I suggested that such slanders were unworthy of people who worshipped the same monotheistic God.
"Following that rare moment of solidarity, I was invited to lead a group of the participants to testify before the Committee of Foreign Affairs of this house, where similar sentiments were expressed. Here the grand mufti of Bosnia, Dr. Mustafa Ceric, repeated the moving declaration he made in the ruins of the Birkenau crematoria, for the benefit of his own co-religionists as for the rest of us: 'I came here to see the evil humans can do to humans… and to say that those who deny the holocaust of Auschwitz and the genocide of Srebrenica, are committing holocausts themselves.'
"Of course, I was fully aware that one nightingale does not make a spring, particularly an Arab spring. But these unexpected encounters and exchanges have fortified my hope for an eventual reversal of the unpredictable momentum that is taking us to fateful crossroads: either regression toward another dark and bloody age, or continuation of the human adventure with new leaps of imagination, innovation and creativity that can mobilize the enthusiasm and energies of younger generations which reject the idea that they are hereditary adversaries forever."
"Well, thank you for that haunting reflection on the darkest impulses and utterances of humanity. Unfortunately, we hear the echoes of these disturbed voices today.
"To close, I'd just like to read a poem that your story reminds me of, and then strike a counterpoint to that poem with the work of MEMRI. This is by W.B. Yeats. It's a poem called "The Second Coming." And I'll just read the first few lines. But to me, it recalls this era of fluidity, where so many things around the world seem to be spiraling out of control.
"It says, 'Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/ Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/ The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/ The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ are full of passionate intensity.'
"Fortunately, we have a group of the best here that are full of passionate intensity. And they have a powerful weapon, which is encapsulated by the dictum Vincit omnia veritas, or truth conquers all. Our hope is that it may always be so. I thank you for your time and support in this battle. And as my grandfather said, 'This is our battle and we must never rest.'"