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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

WORK IN PROGRESS


With the US President out-of the country – courting the Saudis in Riyadh – the US East Coast experienced January 27 2015 winter storm Juno that while sparing New York City was nevertheless the most expensive storm in US history thanks in part to the anticipatory moves taken by the region’s mayors and Governors and the fact that it did bury Boston under a heavy layer of snow.

At the UN that date was bracketed in between two very important event. The one on Monday January 26th that was held as scheduled – right before the shut-down of the UN for Juno’s Tuesday the 27. The other event was supposed to be held on Tuesday the 27 Which was the Holocaust Memorial Day HMD, but was postponed for Wednesday the 28th – the day the UN gates were opened again.

We present here the two reports by Irith Jawetz who participated at the two events at the UN.


“Staying together – Dialogue in the Face of Extremism”

This event was the last one before the United Nations shut down because of the approaching of what was described as the “Blizzard of the Century” in New York City. When we left the building at 3 p.m. we were led out through the basement, since the main entrance and exit doors were already shut down. The UN expects to reopen again on Wednesday, January 28th. The Holocaust Memorial Ceremony, originally scheduled for Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 was postponed for Wednesday, January 28th due to the inclement weather.

It was a High-level Panel on “Staying Together – Dialogue in the Face of Violent Extremism” and took place on Monday 26 January 2015, 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm at the Trusteeship Council, UN Headquarters

The event was co sponsored by The Permanent Missions of Sweden and Indonesia to the United Nations.
It was chaired and moderates by Ghida Fakhry who did an outstanding job. Ms. Fakhri is a Lebanese broadcast journalist who has been one of the primary broadcasters for the news Al Jazeera English since its launch, and is currently based at the channel’s main broadcast center in Doha, Qatar.

Opening Remarks were given by H.E. Ms. Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden who welcomes everybody and thanked us all for attending the event in spite of the weather. She started by quoting Mahatma Gandhi who said ” There is no way to Peace – Peace is the way” . Sweden has had its problems since it has taken in refugees from Iraq, and now Syria, but she believes that dialogue between ethnic groups and religious leaders is the right way to combat those problems. Sweden encourages dialogue between leaders of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders.

The panel included:

H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations;
H.R.H. Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights;
H.E. Ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO;
H.E. Mr. Iyad Amin Madani, Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC);
H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilisations (UNAoC);
Dr. Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin, representative of the Indonesian civil society;
Paul Berman the New York essayist;

Closing Remarks were given by H.E. Mr. Desra Percaya, Permanent Representative, Indonesia

Mr. Jan Eliasson stressed that we have to stay cool and find the root causes to the problem of extremism. It is important to stop recruitment of new extremists, we have to isolate extremists and the job should be done by everybody who has some power, i.e. political leaders, religious leaders, parents, Grandparents, teachers, community leaders, whoever comes in touch with the public. It should be a wake up call.

Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, who told us that she was marching on that march in Paris, stressed the importance of educating your children and young adults about Cultural diversity and global citizenship. She stressed that the most influential people would be the religious leaders. Their roles are important.


H.R.H. Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stressed the idea that violence and extremism are consequence of circumstances. Those people believe that their actions are justified because the circumstances created them. Torture and killing are wrong but necessary. Just like spying is wrong but necessary. What bothers him that there are no real protests in the Arab world against extremists.

Mr. Paul Berman introduced a new word: Islamism. By Islamism he does not mean Islam, or Islamists, but Islamism which is just like Fascism, Nazism, Stalinism. People who practice Islamism believe in conspiracy theory, the western world is against them, Zionism is against them, and he also stressed that those elements must be fought by all means.

The Consensus of the speakers was that recent acts of violent extremism around the world remind us that dialogue is more important than ever. We must stay together, united against those divisive forces which challenge the diversity and core values of our societies. A multifaceted and comprehensive approach is key. The counter-narrative to polarisation is inclusive participation.

This high-level event aims to give new impetus to the promotion of a culture of peace, dignity and respect for human rights, drawing on existing initiatives of the United Nations. Here, the UN Alliance of Civilizations and UNESCO’s “Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures” afford examples of intercultural confidence-building in practice. How can we together step up efforts to strengthen the voices of moderation? Can we, jointly, find new ways to co-operate in order to counter violent extremism whilst safeguarding a culture of dialogue?

The event was informative, and one can only hope that the ideas expressed will not stay only on paper and measures will be implemented.

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2015 International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

The International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust is marked every year on January 27th, the date on which Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated in 1945 by Soviet troops. This year’s observance, on the theme ‘Liberty, Life and the Legacy of the Holocaust Survivors,’ coincides with two milestone events: the 70th anniversary of the Second World War’s end and the founding of the UN.

This year the event took place on January 28, 2015 at the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations in New York. It was originally set for Tuesday, January 27th, the correct date, but because of the snow storm on Monday on the East Coast of the United States it was postponed for Wednesday.

The Hall was crowded and the first rows were reserved for holocaust survivors.

Ther motto of the event was “Liberty, Life and the Legacy of the Holocaust survivors.”


Opening remarks were delivered by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. He started his speech by greeting the new elected Israeli President H.E. Mr. Reuven Rivlin, and all the holocaust survivors present.

“Anti-Semitism remains a violent reality; Jews continue to be killed solely because they are Jews. Extremism and dehumanization are present across the world, exploited through social media and abetted by sensationalist press coverage. The targets are as diverse as humankind itself,” the Secretary-General said.

“In Europe and elsewhere, Muslims are under attack, the victims of bigotry at the hands of political opportunists and ultra-nationalists. Vulnerable populations everywhere bury their dead and live in fear of further violence.”

“I take heart from counter-demonstrations, rallies and interfaith dialogue. We must all remain on our guard. We must uphold human rights, democratic freedoms and our responsibility to protect people at risk. And we must respond to terrorism and provocation in ways that resolve – instead of multiply – the problem,” he underscored.

“As we remember what was lost in the past, and as we recognize the perils of the present, we know what we must do – and we know we must do it together,” said Mr. Ban .

H.E. Mr. Reuven Rivlin started his speech in English and continued in Hebrew. He explained that the Hebrew language is the language of his parents, his people, and it is befitting that this talk should be delivered in that language.

In his address, Reuven Rivlin recalled the “brutal,” “perverted” extermination of Jews during the Holocaust “in the most horrifying crime ever committed in the history of the human race.” The United Nations rose on the ruins of the Second World War, he said, stressing that the International Day was not just a gesture because the pledge ‘Never again’ was “the very essence of the UN,” and the principle and primary reason for its existence.

However, since the UN was founded, more nations and communities had been slaughtered. “We must ask ourselves honestly: is our struggle – the struggle of the General Assembly against genocide – effective enough?” he said. “Are we shedding too many tears and taking too little action?”

Mr. Rivlin noted that the Convention on Genocide was now 64 years-old but remained a merely “symbolic document” that had not realized its objectives. The international community had a duty to lay down the red lines defining genocide and to make clear that crossing those lines must mean intervention. Humanitarian and moral considerations had to take precedence over economic, political or other interests in the fight against genocide.


“Nations cannot be saved and must not be saved as an afterthought or from considerations of cost-benefit,” Mr. Rivlin said. “Unless the moral fire burns within us, the lessons of the Holocaust will never be learned.”

The General Assembly must act as a determined and unified international community or else risk leaving the ‘Never again’ oath hollow and defiled.

“We must remain silent no longer. We must rise up and take action,” he said.

In his remarks, General Assembly Vice-President Denis Antoine also underscored the importance of drawing lessons from the tragedy of the Holocaust and the need to “pass them on to the present and future generations,” particularly as the world continued to confront instances of violent intolerance and brutal prejudice.

A very remarkable speaker was Youth Advisor Ms. Charlotte Cohen. In September 2013 British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the establishment of a national holocaust Commission in order to ensure that Britain has a permanent and fitting memorial to the holocaust and educational resourced for generations to come. Ms. Cohen won an essay contest on the subject “Why is it so important that we remember the Holocaust and how can we make sure future generations never forget”. Charlotte came to the United Nations to speak on that important day and t stress the need to “never forget”.

Two emotional speeches came from two Holocaust survivors. The first was Mrs. Jona Laks who was nine years old and living with her family in Lodz, Poland, when Hitler invaded Poland. Together with her family she was forced to live under inhuman conditions in the Lodz Ghetto, and in 1944 was transferred to Auschwitz. She and her twin sister were subject to the experiments undertaken by SS Dr. Josef Mengele. She described the horrors she had to endure and there was not one dry eye in the audience. She managed to survive the Death March and ended up in Israel, the sole survivor of her family.

The second survivor was Soviet Army Veteran Mr. Boris Feldman who spoke in Russian. He was born in 1920 in Vinnitskaya Oblast, Ukraine, and was taken by the Nazis to the “Chernevetsloe” ghetto where he remained until March 1944 when the ghetto was liberated by the Soviet Army. Later he joined the Soviet Army and fought as an infantryman in Eastern Europe against the German Army. He was decorated with several military medals.

For the “musical” part of the ceremony we listened to Israeli Grammy Award winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari who co-founded the Gedenk Movement. She explained that the word “Gedenk” means “Remember” in Yiddish. She helped create the non profit organization in 2006 to expand young people’s awareness about the holocaust and antisemitism and its negative consequences in today’s world.

Cantor Shimmy Miller from Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, New Jersey recited El Maleh Racahamim and Ani Ma’amin. He was accompanied by Mr. Daniel Gildar on the Keyboard.

A moving ceremony befitting its motto: “Liberty, Life and the legacy of the Holocaust survivors”.

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Irith Jawetz worked 1972-2010 – for 38 years – as part of the Austrian Government Foreign Service – with Austrian Holocaust survivors that restarted their lives in the United States.

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