International Holocaust Remembrance Day: a message from Benjamin Netanyahu

January 27, 2016 Agencies
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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu send a message on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Dear Friends,

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Christmas Greeting - 2015 - YouTube 2015-12-25 09-14-48

Benjamin Netanyahu

Preserving the memory of the Holocaust is more important today than ever for in this period of resurgent and sometimes violent anti-Semitism, it is commemorations like this that remind us all where the oldest and most enduring hatred can lead.

Unfortunately, in Europe and elsewhere, Jews are once again being targeted just for being Jews. Around the world, Jewish communities are increasingly living in fear. We see anti-Semitism directed against individual Jews, and we also see this hatred directed against the collective Jew, against the Jewish state. Israel is targeted with the same slurs and the same libels that were leveled against the Jewish people since time immemorial.

Islamic extremists incorporate the most outrageous anti-Semitism into their murderous doctrines. We see this in Gaza; we see it in Raqqa; we see it in Tehran. And it’s not just Islamic extremists in the Middle East and Europe. Even respected Western opinion leaders have become afflicted with hatred for the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

The obsession with the Jews – the fixation on the Jewish state – defies any other rational explanation. While across the region, Islamist militants brutalize entire populations, enslave and rape women, murder Christians and gays, the UN Human Rights Council repeatedly condemns Israel. More than North Korea. More than Iran. More than Syria. More than all of them put together. Some things just don’t change.

But one thing has changed. We have changed. The Jews have changed. We are no longer a stateless people endlessly searching for a safe haven. We are no longer a powerless people begging others to offer us protection.

Today we are an independent and sovereign people in our own homeland. Today we can speak out against the voices of hatred and those seeking our destruction. Today we can protect ourselves and defend our freedom. We have changed and we stand and speak out and we defend ourselves. But where is Europe? Where is the rest of civilisation?

When a state like Iran and movements like Daesh and Hamas openly declare their goal of committing another Holocaust, we will not let it happen. But Europe and the rest of the world must stand up together with us. Not for our sake; for theirs.”

World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder said it was incumbent upon the world to ensure that the atrocities that befell the Jewish people during World War II are never repeated.

Lauder said: “Seven decades after the Holocaust, dangerous forms of anti-Semitism are rearing its ugly head again all over the world. Compounded with the threat of Islamic terror, we are living in difficult times. It is our duty, as global citizens and proponents of human and civil rights to make sure that the words ‘never again’ are more than just an oft-repeated slogan, but rather guide us in our actions. And that means we must defeat ISIS and similar groups carrying out acts of brutal mass slaughter of people.”

‘Shoah survivors in many countries live in poverty’

The WJC president also urged that particular attention is paid to the plight of many elderly Holocaust survivors who often struggle to make ends meet. “It’s important for us to commemorate the Shoah and the six million Jews who were murdered. But it is equally important to address the dire situation that so many survivors are facing today. They are entitled to lead their lives in dignity.” An estimated half of all survivors of the Nazi genocide live in poverty, a study published last year found.

In 2005, the United Nations designated January 27 as an international memorial day to commemorate the victims of the Shoah. The World Jewish Congress will take part in a series of events this week marking the day in New York, Paris and Athens.

Paris: UNESCO to host round-table discussions, exhibitions and memorial ceremony

The WJC will be supporting the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s commemorative programs in Paris on January 27, which will comprise a number of roundtable discussions, exhibitions and an official ceremony. WJC General Counsel Menachem Rosensaft will be among the speakers at a roundtable discussion on “In the Shadow of the Past: Countering Antisemitism and Hate Speech Today”.

The ceremony will be held in the presence of UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, President of the Shoah Memorial Eric de Rothschild, and Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama Hacohen.

Roman, Kent, chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, will be the guest of honor at the event. More details about the event can be found at http://www.unesco.org/new/en/in-memory-of-the-victims-of-the-holocaust.

New York: ‘Woman in Gold ‘ to be screened at United Nations Headquarters

The WJC will partner with the UN’s outreach program in New York on January 28 to screen the film ‘Woman in Gold’, the true story of a Jewish woman’s quest to retrieve the famous Klimt painting that belonged to her family in Austria and was looted by the Nazis. ‘Woman in Gold’ Director Simon Curtis will be a guest of honor at the event.

Other participants will include Cristina Gallach, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information; Evelyn Sommer, Chair of World Jewish Congress, North America; Monica Dugot, International Director of Restitution, Christie’s; and Wesley A. Fisher, Director of Research, Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and Head of the Claims Conference-WJRO Looted Art and Cultural Property Initiative. Those who wish to attend the screening must RSVP at http://bit.ly/2016FilmScreening.

Athens: Greek Jewish community to commemorate Holocaust

The World Jewish Congress will also be in attendance in Athens, Greece on January 27, for the Greek Jewish community’s official ceremony at the theater of the Hellenic Cosmos Cultural Center, featuring as keynote speakers the Israeli author Michal Govrin and the Metropolitan Bishop of Nea Ionia Gavril.

Last year on this date, the World Jewish Congress, together with the USC Shoah Foundation, arranged for 100 survivors of Auschwitz to attend and participate in the official observance of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of that German Nazi concentration and death camp, which was organized by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and the International Auschwitz Council.

Eleven million people, including six million Jews, were murdered during the Nazi Holocaust from 1941 to 1945. Approximately 500,000 survivors are still alive today.


Archive photo: Survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp with Ronald S. Lauder (7th from left) at the infamous ‘Arbeit macht frei’ gate, 26 January 2015 (credit: Shahar Azran)

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