Geneva, March 19, 2008 – In testimony this week before the United Nations Human Rights Council, StandWithUs International Director and CEO Roz Rothstein provoked the ire of Egypt and Iran when she addressed issues of racism in Darfur and Holocaust denial by Iran’s President Ahmadinejad.
Delivering a statement on behalf of UN Watch, the Geneva-based human rights organization, Rothstein’s speech was interrupted by an objection from the Egyptian representative, a leader in the Arab and African blocs, after she dared to mention the killings in Darfur. When she resumed speaking, her mention of anti-Semitism by Iran’s leader was quickly interrupted by the Iranian envoy, who formally objected to any mention of Iran on a discussion of racism.
As a result of the repeated objections and the chairman’s caution, Rothstein was denied the right to read her section on the anti-Semitic incitement of Hamas and Hezbollah and the murder of 8 students from Jerusalem while Hamas distributed candy in Gaza. However, the full written statement will form part of the official U.N. record. Interruptions of NGO statements are rare, and generally indicate acute sensitivity on the part of the objecting party.
“What we saw today from Iran is that the truth hurts,” said Hillel Neuer, UN Watch executive director. “Our statement dared to speak truth to power. It is a sad day for free speech and the founding principles of the United Nations when NGOs are denied the right to name racists in a debate supposedly dedicated to the subject of racism.”
UN Watch Oral Statement
Agenda Item 9: Review of Mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on Racism Doudou Diène
UN Human Rights Council, 7th Session, March 19, 2008
Statement delivered by Roz Rothstein
Thank you, Mr. President.
We strongly support renewing the mandate against racism. We wish to address the draft resolution that is before us.
For me, the issue of racism is not academic. My parents survived the Nazi Holocaust. Eighty of my relatives were murdered.
Mr. President, I know what racism, hatred and anti- Semitism can lead to. What began with racist words, ended with genocide.
The United Nations and its Commission on Human Rights were created to prevent such evil from ever happening again. Tragically, however, it has happened-in Cambodia, Rwanda, and today in Darfur.
Equally, the evil of anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head, and it is rightly addressed in the proposed resolution. There are many examples. Iran’s President Ahmadinejad actively promotes Holocaust denial, and calls for eliminating the Jewish state. We salute the expert on racism for condemning this.
Hamas and Hezbollah, however, systematically promote the same kind of genocidal anti-Semitism in their sermons, websites and media broadcasts. A terrorist translated this incitement into deed in Jerusalem two weeks ago, murdering eight young Jewish students in a religious school. And in Gaza, the Hamas government-who’s Charter openly advocates killing Jews and destroying the Jewish state-passed out candy to celebrate.
Organizations such as StandWithUs are doing vital work to educate against hatred. But the UN and all nations gathered here, must do more to fight words that kill.
At Durban in 2001, a conference meant to combat racism saw some of the worst displays of anti- Semitism since the Holocaust. Leaflets were distributed with Hitler’s picture, calling for the destruction of Israel.
As this Council prepares the 2009 follow-up conference, its noble goals must not be hijacked by the forces of intolerance. Nations must rise to defeat words that kill. For all these reasons, we support a strong mandate to combat racism. Thank you, Mr. President.