'Don't lay groundwork for future murderous regimes'

Ambassador Yitzhak Levanon's address to the United Nations in Geneva to mark the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of Victims of the Holocaust.

yitzhak levanon un 29888 (photo credit: AP [file])
yitzhak levanon un 29888
(photo credit: AP [file])
Distinguished Guests, On this solemn day of somber remembrance of the past and hopeful vision towards the future, I am humbled to stand before you in multiple capacities: as an Israeli, a Jew, a representative to the United Nations and a simple citizen of the world. On this day of International Commemoration in Memory of Victims of the Holocaust, each one of these capacities takes on distinct, significant meanings. As an Israeli, this day calls forth immense pride at the establishment of my nation, from the ashes of the Holocaust, nearly 60 years ago, as a safe haven for those fleeing intolerance, persecution and the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust. A nation which can be and is rightfully proud of its tolerance, its diversity, its commitment to political and social freedoms, its contributions to culture and the arts, and its dedication to the rule of law and promotion of just causes. And yet this day also calls forth almost unbearable sadness at the memory of the millions who perished under the Nazi regime. To those who have survived the nightmare, the courageous survivors, some of whom are present with us today, I say to you: You are not forgotten. And you will never be forgotten, as long as mankind will exist. As a Jew, this day calls forth a poignant fusion of melancholy, gratitude and apprehension. Melancholy, of course, for the indelible knowledge that my people were targeted for extermination simply for their religious beliefs and ethnicity. And melancholy also for the countless others who were likewise deemed unworthy of existence simply because of racial norms. But this melancholy is tempered by gratitude, gratitude for the brave righteous among the nations, who - uncompelled by anything except their own moral compass, their sense of justice and their compassion - risked their own lives and livelihoods to shelter and save Jews from becoming part of the Final Solution. To those righteous present here today, I say our gratitude is never-ending, and remind you that "he who saves one human life is as if he had saved the whole universe." And yet, as a Jew, I can't help but feel an unnerving apprehension about the future. Anti-Semitism, and all forms of religious intolerance, is on the rise, and if such notions continue unchecked, the world will go down a frightening path. Perhaps it is already heading that way. That is why I say to the young generation present here today - you must endeavor to ensure that you promote tolerance and open-mindedness, and that you reject notions of racism, fanaticism, bigotry and anti-Semitism. To do otherwise risks laying the groundwork for future murderous regimes. As a representative to the United Nations, I must be honest and say this day calls forth mixed feelings. I am, and will remain, grateful to all the people and agencies of the UN that worked so tirelessly to make today's event a reality. As we all know, the UN was founded on the ashes of the Holocaust - indeed, upon the resounding cry of "never again." The UN's Commission on Human Rights, and its successor, the Human Rights Council, were created to avoid the recurrence of atrocities that the Shoah witnessed. And yet, a member state of this world body seems determined to ignore the significance of these facts. A member state who constantly disparages Israel, who questions our basic right to live, who calls for the destruction of an entire nation of six million lives. Six million Jews then, six million Jews today. What a macabre coincidence! However, I am heartened to see that last Friday, the UN General Assembly sent a resounding message to this member state, by adopting without a vote a resolution that calls on all states to reject Holocaust denial of any kind. There is a member state of the United Nations who makes a mockery out of the very resolution that established today's commemorative event by holding a conference which question the veracity of the Holocaust, thereby mocking the unjustifiable murders of millions so cruelly executed. Make no mistake - such morally indefensible behavior disgraces, dishonors and degrades everything the UN and its members purport to stand for, and such indefensible behavior cannot continue to be ignored in the hope it will quietly fade away. If we do not pay attention to such words, if we discard them as mere rhetoric, we may soon realize that they were meant, every single one of them. But then it will be too late. So I am here to put this member state on notice, and to them I say: Listen carefully. Your sordid maneuvers will not prevail. Finally, as a citizen of the world - this day conjures, above all, hope. Because if we - citizens of 192 diverse nations - band together today to remember the victims of the Shoah and reaffirm our commitment to "remembrance and beyond," I am hopeful for our collective future, and for the future relevance of the international community. Allow me to end with a quote from Ecclesiastes, which inspired the title of a book by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, himself a survivor: "What profit has a man of all his labor which he takes under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes, but the earth abides forever. The sun also rises, and the sun goes down. All rivers run to the sea, yet the sea is not full. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing." We cannot be satisfied either, and our task - individually and collectively - is to continuously remember the past, the only guarantee to save the future.