Balfour at 100: Hillel Neuer Speaks at Stockholm Rally

Today we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the first international recognition of the Jewish people and its historic connection to the Land of Israel. My remarks from the August rally for Israel in Stockholm:"On November 2nd, we will mark the second milestone: the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. On that date in 1917, the British government—with the approval of the Allied Powers in Washington, Paris and Rome—declared its support for the establishment in Palestine of 'a national home for the Jewish people.'Twenty years after the Basel Program, the international community had granted its first public recognition of the existence of the Jewish people, and of its right to a homeland in the Land of Israel. As the historian Martin Kramer notes, the Balfour Declaration was much more than the statement of one government; it was the 1917 rough equivalent of a UN Security Council decision. Britain acted with the support of the Allies, the U.S., France, and Italy, and with the endorsement of the Vatican, which controlled many Christian holy sites. “God has willed it,” Pope Benedict XV told the Zionist leader Nahum Sokolow. This international recognition was, five years later, expanded and enshrined by the League of Nations, in its mandate for Palestine, which granted recognition “to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine,” and “to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”When we mark the Balfour declaration, therefore, we will mark one hundred years since the world recognized the historic rights of the Jewish people—as an indigenous people to the Land of Israel.Later, on Nov. 29th, we will mark the third anniversary: 70 years since the United Nations General Assembly voted in 1947 to support a Jewish state—indeed, just as Herzl predicted, 50 years after the 1st Zionist Congress in Basel—and also to support an Arab state, following the British termination of its mandate in Palestine.Jews danced that night, and accepted partition of the Holy Land. The Arabs rejected partition, rejected the first international offer of an Arab state in Palestine, and declared war.We are here in Stockholm today to celebrate all of these anniversaries, taking place now and over the next two months.Yet a century after the world recognized the right of the Jewish people to their homeland—in 1917, in 1922, and in 1947—why does it seem, all too often, that this right is being called into question?"

Posted by Hillel Neuer on Thursday, November 2, 2017

Today British Prime Minister Theresa May is hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, the first international recognition of the Jewish people and its right to a national homeland in Palestine. On this topic, following are the remarks of UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, delivered at the Rally for Israel, Raoul Wallenberg Square, Stockholm, Sweden, August 27, 2017.

THE MORAL COURAGE OF STANDING WITH ISRAEL

Raoul Wallenberg has been called the greatest humanitarian of the 20th Century. During the darkest days of the Holocaust, as a Swedish diplomat in Budapest, Raoul Wallenberg was a beacon of light. Over six months in 1944, he rescued 100,000 Jews.

In the words of my teacher Professor Irwin Cotler, Raoul Wallenberg showed that “one person with the courage to care, and the commitment to act, can confront evil and transform history.”

Today, on Sweden’s national Raoul Wallenberg Day, it is an honor for me to be addressing you here, in Stockholm’s Raoul Wallenberg Square, together with representatives of the Swedish Parliament.

Today, here in Sweden and around the world, all of us should take the opportunity to reflect upon and be inspired by the heroism of this great humanitarian.

Raoul Wallenberg was a diplomat representing a neutral country in time of war. But what he did teaches us that humanity is a higher value that neutrality.

As Eli Wiesel said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Whenever human beings are persecuted, we must never be silent. Each one of us has a duty to intervene.

When Raoul Wallenberg acted, and other humanitarian heroes like Carl Lutz of Switzerland, they were very much alone. The great powers fought the Nazis, yet none intervened directly to stop the Holocaust. No air force bombed the tracks to stop the trains taking Jews to their death.

This year on Israeli Independence Day, former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who survived the Holocaust as a child, remarked that if the State of Israel had existed during World War II, things would have been different. Indeed, recalled Rabbi Lau, when in 1976 Palestinian and German hijackers hijacked an Air France plane to Entebbe, separating the Israelis and Jews from the others, Israel undertook a miraculous operation, flying its special forces thousands of kilometers to free the hostages.

In 1944, Raoul Wallenberg could only do so much. Today, there is the State of Israel. And we meet today at a time of three historic anniversaries for the Jewish State.

120th Anniversary: First Zionist Congress

One hundred and twenty years ago this week, in August 1897, Theodor Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. For the first time in two millennia, the Jewish People were gathered in plenary assembly, returned as a political entity on the world stage. In the Basel Program, the Congress declared its goal: “Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.”

When the conference ended, Herzl wrote in his diary: “At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will know it.”

100th Anniversary: Balfour Declaration

On November 2nd, we will mark the second milestone: the 100th anniversary of  the Balfour Declaration. On that date in 1917, the British government—with the approval of the Allied Powers in Washington, Paris and Rome—declared its support for the establishment in Palestine of “a national home for the Jewish people.”

Twenty years after the Basel Program, the international community had granted  its first public recognition of the existence of the Jewish people, and of its right to a homeland in the Land of Israel.

As the historian Martin Kramer noted, the Balfour Declaration was much more than the statement of one government; it was the pre-UN, 1917 version of a Security Council decision. Britain acted with the necessary support of the Allies, the U.S., France, and Italy, and with the endorsement of the Vatican, which controlled many Christian holy sites. “God has willed it,” Pope Benedict XV told the Zionist leader Nahum Sokolow.

This international recognition was, five years later, engraved in formal international law, when it was expanded and enshrined by the League of Nations, in its 1922 mandate for Palestine, which granted recognition “to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine,” and “to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”

When we mark the Balfour declaration, therefore, we will mark one hundred years since the world recognized the historic rights of the Jewish people—as an indigenous people to the Land of Israel.

70th Anniversary: U.N. Endorses Jewish State

Later in the month, on November 29th, we will mark the third anniversary: 70 years since the United Nations General Assembly voted in 1947 to support a Jewish state—indeed, just as Herzl predicted, 50 years after the first Zionist Congress in Basel—and also to support an Arab state, following the British termination of its mandate in Palestine.

Jews danced that night, and accepted partition of the Holy Land. The Arabs rejected partition—as they had rejected the Peel Plan, and as they would go on to reject successive offers of an Arab state in Palestine—and declared war.

We are here in Stockholm today to celebrate all of these anniversaries, taking place now and over the next two months.

Yet a century after the world recognized the right of the Jewish people to their homeland—in 1917, 1922, and 1947—why does it seem that this right is all too often called into question?

U.N. Human Rights Council

At the world’s highest human rights body, the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council, every session has ten items on the agenda. Item 4 addresses specific human rights situations around the world; Item 7, however, deals with “the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.” A special agenda item targeting Israel. No other country in the world—not Syria, not North Korea, not Sudan—is singled out. Only Israel.

From its 2006 creation until today, the Council has adopted 7 resolutions on Iran, 10 on North Korea, 25 on Syria—and 73 on Israel. Indeed, there are more resolutions against Israel than on the rest of the world combined.

Yet there have been:

·      Zero resolutions for victims in Turkey, even after Erdogan purged 100,000 teachers, judges, academics, and other public officials, and forced independent journalists like Can Dundar and Yavuz Baydar into exile;

·      Zero resolutions for victims in Venezuela, where the dictator Nicolas Maduro starves, beats, tortures, jails and kills his own people, destroying a naturally wealthy country;

·      Zero resolutions on China, despite the regime’s denial of basic human rights to one-fifth of the world’s population; and

·      Zero resolutions on Saudi Arabia, even as it subjugates women, tramples religious freedom, conducts beheadings, and indiscriminately bombs thousands of civilians in Yemen.

On the contrary: the worst criminals are themselves the judges. Council members today include such champions of freedom as China, Cuba, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Soon, Afghanistan, Angola, the “Democratic Republic” of Congo, and Pakistan will join as well, despite their abysmal records on human rights.

Meanwhile, at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, devoted ostensibly to strengthening gender equality and the empowerment of women, their annual session last March adopted only one resolution condemning a specific country: Israel.

This is the same women’s rights commission which now includes Saudi Arabia. When UN Watch revealed this scandalous election—and that at least five EU countries voted in the secret ballot for the Saudis—there was an outcry in Belgium, Ireland, Norway, and Sweden. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michael was forced to publicly apologize. “Je regrette,” he said before the Parliament.

However, Swedish Foreign Minister Wallstrom said this about electing Saudi Arabia: “If there is one place where they ought to be—to learn something about women—it is in the Commission on the Status of Women.”  How absurd!

UNESCO

And despite the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations Mandate, and the 1947 vote for a Jewish state, UNESCO repeatedly calls into question Israel’s historical rights at the holiest sites of Judaism: in Jerusalem, at the Temple Mount and its Western Wall, and in Hebron, the burial place of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah.

When in May UNESCO once again adopted a resolution singling out Israel for censure, Sweden was the only country in the European Union to side with the Arab dictatorships.

Those of us who truly care about the United Nations must speak out. For who is the true friend of the world body—those who do deals that enable dictators to hijack the organization and pervert its founding principles, or those who speak out and resist?

On Raoul Wallenberg Day, here in Raoul Wallenberg Square, we call upon Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom to follow Raoul Wallenberg’s example, and to show moral courage.

That is why UN Watch is honoring Dr. Andres Roemer, the former ambassador of Mexico to UNESCO. He had the moral courage to say “No.”

When the Arab states introduced a resolution that denied the Jewish heritage of Jerusalem, Ambassador Roemer was instructed by Mexico City to vote for the text. Yet in an unprecedented move, he stood up for his beliefs and walked out of the room. Dr. Roemer’s principled defiance cost him his job, but ultimately Mexico changed its position, announcing its withdrawal of support for the biased resolution.

Dr. Roemer’s dissent was a courageous act of resistance against the distortion of UNESCO’s founding mission to protect world heritage. His actions exemplify the principles that were upheld by founders of the UN, such as Eleanor Roosevelt. When the organization began to single out Israel for condemnation, Eleanor Roosevelt spoke out.

Moral Courage

Today, it is time for Sweden and other European Union countries to show moral courage, and to defend the true principles of UN, by resisting the vote trading and political deals which sacrifice the ideals of human rights.

To be sure, it will always be lucrative to make business deals with regimes like Iran. But when democracies such as Sweden’s self-declared “first feminist government in the world” sell out women’s rights to the likes of Iran and Saudi Arabia, we who are at the front lines at the U.N. have the rug pulled from under us.

What would Raoul Wallenberg say if he saw the cabinet members of today’s Sweden rushing to do business with a regime that helped Assad commit genocide against his own people, openly calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and spreads terror throughout the Middle East and beyond?

Per Ahlmark and Moral Courage

Resisting those who target the Jewish people has always required moral courage.

Jews have always been few, and their enemies are many. According to the Anti-Defamation League survey from three years ago, there are 1.1 billion adults in the world who are “deeply infected with anti-Semitic attitudes.” There are only 15 million Jews. That means for every Jew there are at least 70 anti-Semites. It will always take moral courage to confront the many in defense of the few.

Finally, here in Sweden I want to pay tribute to the European Co-Chair of UN Watch, one of the great Swedes of our time, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, the great Swedish writer and intellectual, Per Ahlmark.  He is not here today as he is not well.

Per was a leading figure in Europe in speaking out on all of the issues that I have just discussed. He would visit us in Geneva, and I would invite him to speak at the United Nations, and he would say to me, in a very serious tone, “Hillel, before you invite me, I must warn you: I will speak the truth about the U.N., and my words will be sharp.” And I would say, Per, please do. And he would speak out, with brilliance and courage, against antisemitism, anti-Zionism, anti-Americanism, and in defense of freedom, human rights, and democracy.

If we speak of Swedes and moral courage, we pay tribute to Raoul Wallenberg from a long time ago, and we pay tribute to Per Ahlmark today.

Ladies and gentlemen, what Raoul Wallenberg and Per Ahlmark teach us is that international diplomacy requires moral courage. As Eli Wiesel said, “we must always take sides.” When the choice is between a liberal democracy and a murderous terrorist group, we are not neutral.

Today we stand with Israel because we stand with democracy. If you believe in an independent judiciary, in a system that respects judges and the rule of law, you don’t stand with Hamas or the PLO— you stand with Israel.

If you stand for the rights of women and girls, you don’t stand with Hamas, Iran, Saudi Arabia, or any other Middle Eastern misogynistic regime—you stand with Israel.

If you stand for the freedoms of speech, of press, and of religion, if you stand for the principles of equality and non-discrimination, you don’t stand with Hamas or the PLO—you stand with Israel.

Israel is not perfect; no country is. But in today’s world, in the Middle East with everything that we’re seeing, it’s time for us to take a stand.

Let our voices be heard loud and clear: that on Raoul Wallenberg Day, here at Stockholm’s Raoul Wallenberg Square, we stand with Israel.

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