U.S. Ambassador and the Annual Human Rights Address

May 17, 2010 by Henry Benjamin
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Jeff Bleich,  the United States’ Ambassador to Australia, delivered the annual B’nai B’rith Human Rights Address at Sydney’s Central Syanagogue last night.

Ambassador Jeff Bleich

The subject of the address was Human Rights: Love, Power and Trust and the quietly-spoken diplomat told the audience that conflict around the world was an every day occurrence and confessed that even within his own and loving family there were frequently issues to be dealt with. Ambassador Bleich whi had told the audience that he had spent 20 years of his life resolving conflicts peacefully, said: “As the father of three, conflict is pretty much what I wake up to every morning when I go for breakfast.”

During the address, organised by the Alfredy Dreyfus Anti-Defamation Unit, he advocated the need for a positive attitude to be adopted in the effort to resolve conflict and highlighted how small humanity was in the overall scheme of things.

He said: “Conflict and power struggle are inevitable. We live in a world of limited resources, of unequal distribution, different ideas, different traditions, different beliefs. It’s inevitable that some of these differences are going to create tensions among people. Somebody, somewhere is always going to try to bend others to their ways.”

Bleich told of his time dealing with problems as a lawyer and in the inner workings of the White House. He said: “Conflict is in the air that I breathe.”

He said that people are the same all over the world. They have their own ideas, birthdays, loved ones.. their own favourite foods and their own views. “I can disagree with them, often very strongly, without having to demonise them or deny their essential humanity. Often the process of disagreement is what leads to better results. Conflict is not the problem…it is inevitable. So when I imagine peace, I don’t imagine a world without conflict. I imagine a world in which conflict is real and constant but it’s managed in a way that doesn’t promote violence. I imagine a world in which people can resolve their conflicts without having to kill or be killed in order to do it. We have to agree that each human life has dignity.”

He went to say that Love and Power were not in conflict with each other but actually worked together. He said: “As a Jew, my faith teaches me tolerance and non-violence. But we need to be vigilant and we need to be prepared to use power against those who would do us harm.”

He spoke about a hostage situation in the B’nai B’rith Washington office in the 1950s created by gunmen furious about s decision handed down by a Jewish judge and said the conflict had been resolved thanks to the intervention of three Muslims for Iran, Egypt and Pakistan.

In returning to the theatre war, Bleich said: “The measure of success of any battle is the peace that follows”.

His message – “we have to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another. Conflict will never go away but we should deal with them with courage, wisdom faith and forgiveness.”

B’nai B’rith invited students from five schools…Ascham, Emanuel, Masada College, Scots College and MLC to join the community to listen to Ambassador Bleich.

Also attending the address by Ambassador Bleich were Federal Attorney-General Senator Robert McClelland, local Federal member Malcolm Turnbull and the Chief Justice of New South Wales, James Spigeleman.

Ernie Friedlander, President of the Alfred Dreyfus anti-Dafamation Unit,  said: “It is most important for us to realise the purpose of the ‘ Human Rights Addresses ‘  – it is to inform and consider the various formats in ‘ making our world safer and better ‘.

To see that obstacles and conflicts can be overcome , by considering different approaches and moving on positively”.

Ambassador Bleich and Ernie Friedlander

Malcolm Turnbull, Robert Goot and Rabbi Levi Wolff

Senator Robert McClelland and Ambassador Bleich

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