My friends, we live in unsettling times. Since 9-11, life has changed for all of us and nothing can be taken for granted - not in Kenya, not in Jerusalem, and not anywhere else in the world. It is not only the phenomena of terrorism that the world faces, but also the reappearance of the old scourge of antisemitism. Not since the end of the Second World War has there been such a campaign of vilification directed against Israel and her supporters worldwide.
Many international forums have been hijacked and turned into hate-fests against Jews. As a Non Governmental Organization of the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's delegation served as Chair of all the Jewish delegations present at the U.N. Conference on Racism and Xenophobia in Durban, where Jewish delegates were spat upon, shoved and asked to leave public sessions.
In Europe's mainstream newspapers, cartoons continue to be published that cannot be distinguished from the infamous Nazi cartoons in the 1930's. For example, a cartoon in a leading newspaper in Greece shows two Jews in Nazi uniforms with Stars of David on their helmets stabbing two Arabs. The caption reads: "We were not in Auschwitz and Dachau just to suffer, but to learn." Similar cartoons have appeared in Spain's daily, El Periodico and Italy's La Stampa. The most pervasive attacks have occured in the Arab world, where there is tacit approval of the official newspapers and governments as well.
In Egypt, the 41-part television series, "Horseman Without a Horse," was shown during the Moslem holy month of Ramadan with a viewing audience in the tens of millions throughout the Arab world. The theme of this series was that there exists a conspiracy of Jews to control the world. Reacting to the criticism that the series is based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious antisemitic canard written in the late 1800's by the Czarist police and exposed as a fabrication by the London Times in 1920, the producers replied that even if that were true, "Zionism exists and it has controlled the world since the dawn of history." Not a single word of criticism was heard from the President of Egypt, from leaders of academia or the arts, even though this series incites hatred in direct violation of the Camp David Accords, which Egypt signed.
While at the same time, Syrian Defense Minister, Mustafa Tlas released the newest (and eighth) edition of his book The Matzah of Zion, in which he accuses Jews of murdering a Catholic priest, Father Toma, in Damascus in 1840 and then draining his blood to bake matzah for the festival of Passover. 18,000 copies of The Matzah of Zion were sold at this year's International Book Fair in Damascus, where Tlas announced the publication of English and French editions. The book also includes a chapter attacking the Wiesenthal Center for trying to discredit him and for preventing him from getting a doctorate from the Sorbonne University. He calls the Wiesenthal Center "Mossad agents" and writes in the introduction, "My intention in publishing this book is to bring to light some of the secrets of the Jewish sect. The hateful fanaticism and the implementation of the teachings of the Talmud."
Just two weeks ago, the Syrian official daily newspaper al-Thawra (The Revolution) published a lengthy article claiming that the Nazis and Zionists cooperated to kill Jews and that Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust by the Nazis at the request of the Zionist leadership.
The singling out of Israel applies even to the field of book publishing. In England the Saint Jerome Publishing Company terminated its contract with Bar llan University in Israel, refusing to sell them textbooks. There's no such ban against Saudi Arabia where human rights are consistently violated, where women aren't even allowed to drive to seek medical help unless accompanied by a male. Where two weeks ago the Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Naif blamed the events of September 11th on the Jews saying that: "We put big question marks and ask who committed the events of September 11th and who benefited from them. Who benefited from events of September 11th? I think they (the Zionists) are behind these events."
These are difficult times. Times to be vigilant but also times of opportunity. We are pleased to announce that because of our international work in the field of tolerance education, we have been invited to jointly sponsor, with UNESCO, an international conference on the recent upsurge of antisemitism. The conference will be held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on May 13th & 14th.
Not since the end of the Holocaust has there been a greater need for such a conference. Just a few miles from UNESCO headquarters in Paris, Flammarion Publishing Company has published a best selling novel, Dream of Palestine, written by a 15-year old Egyptian whose hero is a teenage Palestinian suicide bomber who fights "blood thirsty Jews who profane mosques and rape Arab women" and whose hero refers to Jews as a "doomed people." Many bookstores in France are selling this book in a section of the store that deals with the Holocaust.
To counter the Arab world's attempt to validate the infamous Protocols, the Center will release two new publications written by Center researchers. One, a refutation of the infamous antisemitic forgery, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. The other, Digital Terrorism and Hate 2003, the Center's newest report on the promotion of terrorism and hate on the Internet.
Only last week, antisemitic comments by a Canadian Indian Chief, David Ahenakew, who is a member of the prestigious Order of Canada, stunned the Canadian people. The Chief told a newspaper that the Jews were "a disease" and said, "That's how Hitler came in. He was going to make damn sure that the Jews didn't take over Germany or Europe. That's why he fried six million of those guys. Jews would have owned the G-d damn world. And look what they are doing. They are killing people in Arab countries." He went on to say if it were not for Hitler, "You would be owned by Jews right now. Who the hell owns many of the banks and many of the corporations?"
As you can see there is much work for us to do. Each and every day our representatives in the United States, Europe and around the world are on the frontlines combating these haters. But we cannot do it alone without your assistance. To have a presence at international conferences and to do the research takes resources. We can only be as effective as our means allow us to be. We rely on your support. You have been very generous to us in the past and in these difficult times we urge you once again to be generous in your support and stand with us.
Sixty years ago, the world appeased Adolf Hitler. The results were devastating. Golda Meir used to say that if the people of Israel were ever destroyed, the most eloquent eulogies would be delivered from the rostrums of the international community. But rather than wait for the eulogies, we prefer to take on the haters and bigots. As Theodor Herzl once reminded us, "A people can only help itself - if it cannot, that people cannot be helped at all."