On July 27, 2011, The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) held the third annual event on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial in the Arab and Muslim world.
The event, which took place in the Speaker's Dining Room of the U.S. Capitol, included speeches on the current state of antisemitism and Holocaust denial in the Middle East, by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Hannah Rosenthal, State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism; Sara J. Bloomfield, director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; Dr. Khaleel Mohammed, Associate Professor of Religion at San Diego State University; and MEMRI president Yigal Carmon. In addition, letters from Vice President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission co-chair Rep. Frank Wolf were read out.
The event was facilitated by Levi Tillemann-Dick, grandson of Tom Lantos.
The following is the transcript of the speeches at the event.
Levi Tillemann-Dick, Grandson of Tom Lantos
"This... event recognizes the importance of what MEMRI is doing with the Tom Lantos Archives on antisemitism and Holocaust denial. I'd like to start off by first recognizing some of our esteemed guests that we have here. Of course I'd like to start with the Congresswoman, Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen, who we're so grateful to have with us on this occasion. And then of course I'd like to recognize the ambassador from Hungary, György Szapáry... I'd also like to recognize Ambassador Paul Bremer and any Congressmen and other distinguished guests who I failed to notice in the audience, please forgive me, it's hard with such an esteemed group of guests here.
"With that, I'd like to move forward and actually read a couple of words from some guests who could not join us today, but send their warm regards. First, I'd like to read a short excerpt from a letter from the vice-president Joe Biden, about the foundation and about Tom, and his legacy and his mission."
Statement from Vice President Joe Biden
"Joe Biden says: 'Dear friends, I'm honored to pay tribute to the collaborative effort of the Lantos Foundation and the Middle East Media Research Institute. The Lantos Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial Archives will help future generations understand why we confront injustice, why we defend human rights, and why we honor all that Tom Lantos stood for. This is Tom's legacy. It shaped his family's foundation and led to the project we celebrate today. I think it's fair to say Tom would've been proud to be associated with an archive that not only documents past injustices, but acts as a tool to help prevent future intolerances. Sincerely, Joe Biden'...
Statement from Speaker of the House John Boehner
"I'd also like to recognize a letter from Speaker John Boehner, who could not join us today but is graciously sponsoring the event here in the Speaker's Dining Room, and here are a few short words from him.
"'Dear friends: In April of 1945, after inspecting the newly liberated Ohrdruf concentration camp near Weimar, Germany, General Dwight D. 'Ike' Eisenhower ordered all available American troops to go and witness the horrors he'd just seen. He also forced German citizens and officials from nearby towns to do the same…
"He understood that there must be a record, first-hand evidence, and incontrovertible answers to those who would deny the Holocaust. Ike's example is reflected in the work of the Middle East Media Research Institute. The Institute's Antisemitism & Documentation Project provides clear, analytical monitoring of modern antisemtism so that today's injustices may be confronted in the clear light of truth… I join with MEMRI today in honoring the life, achievements, and legacy of Tom Lantos... Sincerely, John A. Boehner'
"... Now, a few words from myself. Some of you may have gleaned from my remarks – I'm Tom Lantos' grandson. I'm very excited to be here with you, especially because of the time I spent with my grandfather and the fact that I know how dear he held his time at work to his heart. My grandfather placed a particular significance on the power of words. He knew that words can inflame, and they can heal, that they can ennoble and debase. Despite his thick Hungarian accent, Tom was one of the most gifted purveyors of the English language that I have ever met. And Tom knew that where words lead, actions often follow....
"I think that it's fitting to quote Winston Churchill from his June 4, 1940 address as the armies of intolerance, Nazi Germany, assaulted his homeland of, of Great Britain. He said, and I'll paraphrase slightly: 'We shall not flag, nor fail. We shall go on till the end. We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength. We shall never surrender.' And I think that everyone in this room would support those feelings, especially when it comes to the scourge of incivility, discrimination in all forms, and today, especially, antisemitism.
"And with that I'd like to introduce the Congresswoman, Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen. We're honored to have her with us today, a long-time friend of MEMRI and representing Florida's 18th Congressional District. Representative Ros-Lehtinen is currently serving her twelfth term in Congress and is the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the same position as held by my grandfather in his last term in Congress. Please welcome with me Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen."
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair
"Thank you Levi, for those great words. I'm so honored to share this podium with my good friend Paul Bremer, and a good friend of freedom and democracy, the Ambassador of Hungary. I'm delighted to be with so many of you today, such a meaningful and significant event. Thank you to Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. Special Envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, what an important role and responsibility and task that she has, and we thank her for her work.
"And as Levi so kindly pointed out, I had the extreme privilege and rare honor of serving with Congressman Tom Lantos when he chaired our Foreign Affairs committee and I was its ranking member… I'm so happy to be here to have this morning with all of you, because it's always a privilege for me to be present and to support Tom's legacy, and that is a legacy of unequivocal support for human rights everywhere. Tolerance everywhere and unequivocal opposition to those who seek to extinguish human freedom, for they are still present among us. And Tom was deeply committed, as all of us know, to the fight against antisemitism and Holocaust denial, and sadly that still goes on, incredibly so. He knew that hateful words have consequences, and that Ahmadinejad and many others who denied the Holocaust often seek to repeat that genocide.
"And so two years ago, the Tom Lantos Foundation which was established by Tom's amazing Annette after he passed away, teamed up with the Middle East Media Research Institute to establish this archive. And these archives chronicle antisemitism and Holocaust denial in the Middle East and elsewhere, and they provide us the tools that we need to fight this venom. These translated documents provide important first-hand information regarding the surge of global antisemitism.
"And additionally these archives honor those in the Muslim and Arab worlds who bravely combat antisemitism. The fight against the antisemitism and Holocaust denial is far from over, and we see these dangers, ever-present, throughout the world. But these archives are indicative of the fact that we have the tools to fight this fight successfully. These efforts are needed now more than ever as the Iranian regime draws ever-closer to having the nuclear weapons it seeks in order to make good on its genocidal threats to wipe Israel off the map, to achieve what they call 'a world without America,' and 'a world without Zionism.'
"So we must reaffirm and ensure that 'Never Again' is not an expression of the past, as sacred as it is, but it is a sacred responsibility of today. It is a call to action… Thanks to everyone involved in the Lantos Foundation and the Middle East Media Research Institute, we will continue, however humbly, to carry on Tom's fight and advance his legacy. So I thank you for this event today, I thank you for the encouragement that it gives us to reaffirm that the battle's joined, the battle continues, the fight rages on, and it is up to each and every one of us to counter those denials."
Yigal Carmon, MEMRI Founder and President
SUPPORT OUR WORK
"Before I begin first I want to say that all the work that MEMRI is doing is just the first steps of what is being done by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, under the leadership of Sara Bloomfield.
"The first part of my short presentation is... a 12-minute video of clips compiled from Arab and Iranian television channels from the past year. I wish to stress that what you will see here is a miniscule 12-minute illustration, from the large number of antisemitic clips on the website of the [Tom Lantos] archives. [In the archives,] you will find everything: conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, demonization of the Jews, education to hatred. You will find there the notorious forgery of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the blood libel, and the Koranic descriptions of Jews as descendants of pigs and apes. [They are not talking about] Israel, or about Zionists, as is often claimed – they are talking about Jews. And also in the archives you will find courageous voices speaking out against this phenomenon – and we make every effort to ensure that these voices too are heard in the world.
"In the second part of my presentation, after our guest speakers, I will discuss the present and the foreseeable future. Because the 2011 popular uprisings have begun to change the face of the Arab and Muslim world, we cannot only talk about the past and disregard these recent historic developments... We must address these new developments and deal with the questions that concern us all – 'Will this change have an impact on... antisemitism and Holocaust denial, and if so, what will that impact be? And when will it come?'
"So, let's begin our video presentation, and I will discuss these questions after our distinguished guests speak."
***(To view the video, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KANE564iql0.)
Sara J. Bloomfield, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Director
"I'm here, I guess, to bring a little bit of a historical perspective to this. For me, I think not only of the times we live in today, but for me, I think about this week 70 years ago. And at that time, as you all may know, if you know this history, Germany was flush with victories from its invasion of the Soviet Union. Amidst all this flurry of activity around this latest Nazi military triumph among many, a letter was hand delivered in Berlin. It was a letter from Hermann Goering to Reinhard Heydrich who was the chief of security and it conveyed Hitler's instructions to devise a comprehensive plan for what they called the 'Total Solution' of the Jewish question in Europe. Now, today we know obviously that those instructions were dutifully followed and to a great extent they achieved their goal with astonishing success. And it's understandable and obviously important for us to ask today, 'Could this happen now?'…
"What is different 70 years later? We certainly weren't showing films like this in the 1930s and 40s. We know that human nature has not changed. You've just seen a great example of it. But technology has, and that's why you see a great example of it. As our museum teaches though technological progress is definitely not moral progress. Today we have the Internet and we have weapons of mass destruction. At its peak Auschwitz was gassing 10,000 Jews a day. [Today,] we know that this can be accomplished in a second. So, that's why complacency is such a dangerous thing and why the work of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice and MEMRI is so very significant.
"Surviving the Holocaust gave Tom Lantos an understanding of human nature that the rest of us can only imagine. It gave him the insight that the unthinkable is of course indeed thinkable… And it gave him a special empathy for the oppressed. It gave him also a moral platform for his actions. Tom understood the need for frequent and powerful reminders to an often complacent country about the fragility of democracy, the nature of hate, and the danger of indifference. Tom Lantos had a keen understanding of the world. He once said, and I want to read this quote, 'It's a sad commentary on the absurdity of our times that an event so profoundly documented as the Holocaust would need to be reemphasized as a reality.' Now you might have thought that was said recently by Tom Lantos, but he said that back in 1996. Tom was on the front lines of many battles for human rights and many important issues.
"Today, all of us, everyone here in this room, is on the front lines in what I call the battle for truth, as we witness these constant assaults against truth. And that's what MEMRI is fighting for every day to protect the truth and to expose the truth. Hitler once said, 'Propaganda is a terrible weapon in the hands of an expert.' And of course with the Internet today, everyone can be an expert. After winning World War II and the Cold War, we thought our battles with hate and evil were done, but of course, as is said, human nature doesn't change, so we're facing old problems with new potential. Today, though, hate has never been deadlier. It's no accident that we're witnessing the rise of Holocaust denial and distortion just as we're losing the survivors and the other eyewitnesses. Nor is it an accident that antisemitism is rising, just as the ideals of democracy are clashing with the forces of extremism into totalitarianism. Jews have long been associated with those ideals.
"So, the partnership between the Lantos Foundation and MEMRI comes at a time of great urgency join in the talents of these two fine organizations is an enormous contribution to our understanding with the problem of antisemitism, which after many difficult years and the murder of six million Jews still plagues mankind. But no problem can be solved that is not first understood. And the first steps to understanding are documentation and study. The Holocaust Memorial Museum applauds the creation of this important archive and this partnership that working diligently towards our common goal of confronting antisemitism and all forms of hatred. For as we know from the Holocaust hatred is a virus, it never stays contained with one group. It always spreads and engulfs others in its wake. Confronting hate, promoting truth—these are the most powerful ways to honor Holocaust survivors like Tom Lantos and the memory of six million, whose fate was sealed in a hand-delivered letter 70 years ago this week. Thank you very much."
Hannah Rosenthal, State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism
"Good morning. It is an honor and a pleasure to be able to be here today. I was very fond of your grandfather, of his vigilance of his clarity of his voice and his ability to speak for so many who couldn't speak. And I thank the important work that MEMRI does in partnership with the Lantos Foundation For Human Rights and Justice, and of course thank you to Speaker Boehner for hosting us today.
"As the President's special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism in the State Department, I am charged with both monitoring antisemitic incidents and with combating such intolerance… I've been tracking antisemitism around the world and have witnessed its alarming presence and growth...
"I have dedicated my life to eradicating antisemitism and intolerance of all kinds, with a sense of urgency and passion... It's important to recognize efforts of individuals, of government officials, of religious leaders and organizations who speak out against intolerance. Just as the Tom Lantos Archives encourages Muslims to speak out against antisemitism and Holocaust denial, I have sought to work with all members of society regardless of religious affiliation to promote inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue and action. And I believe having non-Jews condemning antisemitism is far more powerful. As it is when I, as a Jew, condemn hatred of Muslims or Christians or any other vulnerable populations.
"In facing the increase in growth of Holocaust denial, I went with eight leading imams to Dachau and Auschwitz; two of [them] had been Holocaust deniers. My goal was to have them issue a statement condemning Holocaust denial. When we arrived at Dachau, Germany's first concentration camp, the imams were overwhelmed with the pictures they saw and immediately went to the ground in prayer. That was in front of the sculpture that commemorates the extermination of six million Jews. And at that moment, I knew that history was being made. All of the passersby, the tourists, the museum docents stopped in their tracks and they witnessed the spontaneous prayer of imams. But Auschwitz was more overwhelming for them. I'd say for most of them, transformational. We were walking amidst ash and bone fragments that remained there 66 years later. They were there because they were murdered because of who they were. And they were just not bearing witness, they were bearing the burden of understanding what the Holocaust was.
"They each had their catharsis there, and my goal, [which was] for them to produce a condemnation of Holocaust denial was totally surpassed. They issued a unanimous statement – remember, two of them were Holocaust deniers – condemning Holocaust denial and all forms of antisemitism. And they are now urging their colleagues and schools to join with them, and they are planning to take their youth on the same trip we took — to witness history, to understand it, to teach the power of unanswered hatred and the power that condemnation of such hatred can have.
"This MEMRI report will serve as an effective tool to other religious and educators to address that hatred and condemn it. And I cannot put into words how useful the materials you produce are to the work I do as Special Envoy. No government should produce materials that are intolerant of members of any religion, any racial group, any ethnic group, or should teach intolerance of any kind in their educational curriculum. The Department of State continues to focus on this important issue, and we express our concern to other governments that use such hateful lessons in text books, which call Jews the children of apes and pigs and teach the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a textbook.
"One of my primary goals this year is to address the issue of intolerance in textbooks and the media in the Middle East. It's critical to educate our youth about the Holocaust. While human nature may not have changed, children are not born with hating; they are taught to hate. And that's why we have to focus on how that teaching is happening. Many, if not most of the countries in the Middle East, do not teach about the Holocaust, and when I ask their foreign ministers, their ministries of education why, I am told, 'It might confuse the children or may not have happened, or at best it's an exaggeration.' Now how can we expect people to learn the lessons of history if we're not teaching the history? I've had the opportunity and the honor in this great job of mine to meet with ministers of education, ministers of culture, of information. And I've focused on the Saudi textbooks. And I got the commitments and I will take them at their word right now, that the language that MEMRI exposes will be changed. That there will be training of teachers. I did not get the commitment from Jordan that the schools will include lessons on the Holocaust or that it even existed. The minister of education looked me in the eyes and said, '"But we don't teach that it didn't happen." Sometimes I wonder if I'm making things up, so it's wonderful to have other witnesses in these meetings.
"In Lebanon I met with many multicultural and interfaith groups that are working hard to advance understanding in the Abrahamic faiths. But what the Lebanese mean in the Abrahamic faiths is Muslims and Christians, and so my job is to make sure they're learning about Jews, that there are Jewish members of the community, who are still there and who fear for their lives, are integrated into lessons and into the dialogues and discussions and conversations that Lebanon is trying to have.
"And everywhere I've gone, it's been because of the documentation, that I have thanks to MEMRI and to the Lantos Foundation that I'm able to show people the reality, the documents, the clips, the words, the quotes. So that people can't look me in the eye and say we have no antisemitism – never have, never will. Documentation calls for speaking truth to power. Tom Lantos was a strong advocator against hate. I identify with his resolve to promote mutual respect and tolerance, and I hope that I can continue with the same kind of commitment and dignity that Tom Lantos gave to the subject; gave to creating my job, and gave to the world in demanding that people learn history so that they can learn from it. Thank you all for all the good work you are doing."
Dr. Khaleel Mohammed, Associate Professor of Religion at San Diego State University
I was extremely honored when Yigal asked me to be here, and I felt more honored when I saw in whose honor I was speaking. But then I looked at the clips this morning and I felt a deep sense of shame. And I happen to look across at Special Envoy Rosenthal and I could not meet her gaze, because of the shame. I have felt ashamed because I am Muslim and except for one of the clips you saw, everyone on there was a Muslim.
"You missed perhaps that in two of the most important clips, because the Archives represents that which is past or that which we hope will remain just a memory, but two of those presenters spoke of the future. In two religions, their folklore eschatology preaches that for the world to come to a successful end Jews must be annihilated. Two of them referred to that. And when Sara Bloomfield talked about technology, I want you to focus on [the fact] that because of that technology the eschatological lore that was forming in books that might have been inaccessible to the illiterate, [but that] with the TV media now, and with the supposed revolutions in the Middle East, one of the quickest ways to appeal to get the support of the masses is [to say] for the things to come and that all of the world's problems will be solved when the Jews are annihilated.
"So, ladies and gentlemen, please pay attention to that. Levi... [paraphrased] Winston Churchill saying we will never surrender. I'll take that quote and tell you ladies and gentlemen we must, we can't ever surrender. Tom Lantos said the veneer of civilization is paper thin. Well, hate and technology in the service of hate now made that veneer very, very porous. So, you're just not fighting to protect it but to understand what has already been done to it.
"Again, I don't know how to get the message across any stronger, but antisemitism is just not a matter of something, it's a social call we take up. It is something that is there, it is something that is gaining in momentum. [International Union of Muslim Scholars head Sheikh] Yousef Al-Qaradhawi spoke of the continued business to be finished with the annihilation of the Jews. I can't say more to you except that please let us not surrender, and to remember that not all Muslims share in this nonsense about annihilating the Jews. Thank you."
Yigal Carmon, MEMRI Founder and President
"[...This] last year may have witnessed the peak of antisemitism in the Arab and Muslim world, with prominent Muslim figures such as Dr. Yousef Al-Qaradhawi no longer denying the Holocaust but actually expressing approval of it, and also, in Al-Qaradhawi's case, explicitly wishing that the next Holocaust against the Jews will be carried out at the hands of Muslims.
"But just as after 9/11 reformists and liberals [in the Arab and Muslim world] spoke out publicly against the ideology that brought about those horrific terror attacks, in the past six months, the hatred in the Middle East has begun to crack, as the popular rebellions in various Arab countries give rise to new trends. So I would like to focus not only on the antisemitism and Holocaust denial of the past year, but also on what we see in the Arab and Muslim world now, since the uprisings, and on what we can expect in the future.
"The Arab world has taken its first steps in endorsing the international values of human rights, freedom, and democracy. But this is just the first step. The road to achieving it will be long and arduous; years, maybe decades, with many setbacks and more bloodshed. The price that the peoples of the Middle East will pay will be no different than that paid by the Western nations in their historic struggles to achieve freedom and democracy from monarchy and dictatorships. If we look at the French Revolution, which led the European move from dictatorship of monarchy and church to today's free and modern democratic republics, with their endorsement of international human values, we can clearly see how long and painful the road will be for the Arab world...
"So, what does this mean for antisemitism and Holocaust denial? [There is room for both] optimism and pessimism – optimism because we are already seeing an Arab world that is for the first time looking inward and seeking the roots of its own predicament from within, and no longer blaming everyone else for its problems and faults – not America, little mention of Israel, and abandonment of the conspiracy theories of Jews as the source of all evil and responsible for their situation.
"While some of the dictators are claiming that others, mainly Jews, are behind the uprisings, the protestors are absolutely focused on the real causes. This means that the mindset is changing, from hatred of external elements and the 'other,' particularly the Jews – to a greater focus on the real problems: oppressive regimes, lack of freedoms, and disregard of human rights.
"But here is the pessimism. The hatred remains, all too deep, in both the popular stereotypes and at high-level circles. Let me give you two examples. On the Facebook page of Queen Rania of Jordan there was a discussion on whether the Holocaust was a myth. When MEMRI reported on it, the queen's office commented, 'We stand for free discussion of any subject.' But that thread in the discussion was removed in the end. That is the power of exposure.
"And, a young woman lawyer, a human rights lawyer, in Libya, who was raped and beaten by the Qaddafi regime and jailed, was eventually released, and spoke to her mother from Tripoli, and the conversation was broadcast by CNN with translation in subtitles. That is, almost all of the conversation was broadcast. The mother told her daughter, 'My daughter, since you are free, you can leave via the Tunisian border. Go, leave this country. Don't stay here.' And this young woman, who was fighting for a different Libya, says to her mother, 'Why should I go? I want to stay, this is my country. I want to stay here to fight. Let him [Qaddhafi] go – that Jew.' This is a great woman, a fighter. And she was looking for the worst possible term she could use to describe Qaddhafi – and it was 'that Jew.' That was the part CNN did not broadcast.
"Let us hope that in the future, CNN will not decide not to translate embarrassment like this. Not just because of journalistic obligation – but also because exposing it is the best way to cure it. But whether CNN does or not – MEMRI does, and will continue to do so; and the Lantos Archives will continue to show it, and will continue to amplify the voices of the courageous men and women coming out against it in the Arab and Muslim world. This is our mission and our responsibility, in safeguarding the legacy of Tom Lantos. As Dr. Mohammed mentioned, the veneer of civilization is paper thin.
"We are the guardians, and we are all inspired by Dr. Mohammed, in his teaching generations of students; by Sara Bloomfield, with the huge endeavor of the Holocaust Memorial Museum; and by Hannah Rosenthal, in her worldwide fight...
"Thank you all for joining us in this event."
Statement from Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Co-Chair Rep. Frank Wolf
"It is my honor to pay tribute to the Lantos Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial Archives. I would like to personally thank the Middle East Media Research Institute for their collaboration with the Lantos Foundation… The Lantos Archives will help ensure that the work of Tom Lantos – who as a Holocaust survivor was passionately committed to addressing the plague of antisemitism and to preventing future genocides – continues."
Links to the Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial
* 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.
* View video clips on Antisemitism and Holocaust denial from the MEMRI TV Project: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?p=PL4B39D00265A8FC1C.
* Follow the Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial Project on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MEMRILANTOS.
* Follow the Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Tom-Lantos-Archives-on-Antisemitism-and-Holocaust-Denial/101001566663735.