Below is the full text of the speech delivered by Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, on February 28th 2013 on the subject of Incitement to Terror and Violence, at a United Nations Conference.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honor and a privilege to welcome you to this important conference. This event is an extraordinary opportunity for us to meet in the halls of the United Nations – and share our collective insight on combating global incitement.
First and foremost, I would like to thank the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs for organizing this conference. I’d especially like to thank Ambassador Dore Gold for leading our discussion this morning. Dore not only has nerves of steel when it comes to diplomacy, but also a gold standard when it comes to peace and justice.
I’d also like to welcome Yossi Kuperwasser, Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, who is not only a great strategist, but also a dear friend.
Finally, I’d like to welcome Ambassador Alan Baker. As his name implies, Alan has a true gift for baking the right amount of charm and legal thinking to form the perfect recipe for diplomacy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
64 years ago, the United Nations ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The convention was written with the horrors of the Holocaust still fresh in the mind of the international community. One of the Convention’s key provisions made it a crime to “directly and publicly incite” to commit genocide.
Last August, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went on public television and insisted that (and I quote), “the very existence of the Zionist regime is…an affront to all world nations.” He called on “all human communities to wipe out the Zionist regime from the forehead of humanity.”
One does not need the analytical skills of a literature professor to detect the incitement to violence in these statements.
Yet, in the face of this explicit cry to destroy a UN member state, the UN barely said anything. And most of the world did not even utter a single word.
Their silence is deafening. And it is because of that silence that we are here this morning.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Terrorism does not begin with an attack on a bus or a raid on a village. That is how terrorism ends.
Terrorism begins when its perpetrators are indoctrinated with words and thoughts of hate.
It begins when prominent sheikhs claim that that it is a “sacred duty” to slaughter Christians – and that it is “not a taboo” to rape Christian women.
It begins when Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi-Amoli, a cleric based in Iran, tells his students that homosexuals are subhuman, inferior to even dogs and pigs.
It begins when people like Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a prominent Pakistani imam, tells his thousands of viewers on public television, (and I quote), “When the Jews are wiped out, the world will be purified, and the sun of peace will begin to rise.”
This is the kind of incitement that is poisoning the hearts and minds of the next generation, day in and day out. In classrooms, textbooks, and houses of worship across the globe, children are being taught hate instead of peace; violence instead of tolerance; and martyrdom instead of mutual understanding.
As technology evolves, so does the threat of incitement. Twenty years ago, Hutus in Rwanda used radio stations to label Tutsis “cockroaches” – and identify individual Tutsis to be publicly slaughtered.
Today, as we speak, Al Qaida splinter groups are publicizing terror attacks on Twitter – and turning their perpetrators into jihadi celebrities.
In the new millennium, we face a new frontier of terrorism. Extremist groups have exploited the internet and viral videos to spread the virus of incitement.
Yet, while our enemies have embraced the technology of the future, our thinking about terrorism remains mired in the past.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for an update.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, counter-terrorism does not just mean combating terrorists wherever they seek to strike. It does not just mean dismantling terrorist infrastructure – and going after those who finance and support it.
True counter-terrorism means disrupting the ecosystem of extremism in which terror thrives. It means advancing education that teaches coexistence and peace. It means speaking out against clerics who preach bigotry and intolerance, even when it is politically inconvenient.
And most importantly, it means recognizing the danger inherent in simple statements of prejudice. In the right hands, these words can be as dangerous as a sword or a suicide belt. The Jewish people know all too well that before a nation is dehumanized by the barrel of a gun, they are dehumanized by words and thoughts of hate.
Just as the international community has an obligation to bring terrorists to justice, it must also pursue those who build the foundations of terror by teaching children to detest and despise.
We have already lost an entire generation to incitement. Today, those of us here proclaim, loudly and clearly, that we cannot afford to lose another.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Israel knows full well how indoctrination can poison the well for peace.
Just south of Israel’s border, in Gaza, the Hamas government has created an atmosphere of extremism that vilifies Israelis and Jews to the next generation.
Gaza Kindergarten graduations feature “terrorist dress-up,” where five-year olds stage plays that glorify jihadists and suicide bombers.
Families in Gaza watch public television sermons featuring Hamas ministers like ‘Atallah Abu Al-Subh, who recently claimed that (and I quote) “the Jews are the most despicable and contemptible nation to crawl upon the face of the Earth.”
Incitement is no less prevalent under Abbas in the West Bank as it is under Hamas in Gaza. Under the PA, students learn history from textbooks that glorify terrorists – and learn geography from atlases that erase Israel from the map.
Sports facilities, streets, and public buildings are named after terrorists, such as Dalal Mughrabi, a woman who led an attack on a bus that killed 38 Israeli civilians – including 13 children.
Imagine if the Norwegian government named a playground after Anders Breivik – or if the US named a park after Charles Manson. What kind of message would it send to the children who play there?
Official PA television—the PA’s PBS—airs programs that feature children as young as six reciting anti-Semitic and violent poems. Just months ago, for example, a little girl recited a poem that claimed, (and I quote) “[Christians and Jews] are inferior, cowardly, and despised.” Three days earlier, on a different program, another young girl insisted that (and I quote), “Our wars are for the Al Aqsa Mosque, and our enemy, Zion, is a Satan with a tail.”
This is apparently what passes for “educational television” under the Palestinian Authority.
From cradles to kindergarten classrooms; from the grounds of summer camps to the stands of football stadiums, messages of extremism are everywhere in Palestinian society.
In the international community, there is no shortage of individuals to lecture Israel about what it must do for peace. Yet these same “human rights advocates” stutter, mumble and lose their voices when it comes to criticizing Palestinian incitement.
Ignoring words and thoughts of hate does no favors to the Palestinian people. It does no favors to families who seek to build better lives for themselves and their children. And, perhaps most importantly, it does no favors to Palestinian leaders who advance the language of peace instead of the dogmas of hate.
Laying the groundwork for a stable peace in our region will not happen overnight. But those who would like to foster better relations between Israelis and Palestinians must start by speaking out against incitement in Palestinian society. The next generation—both Israeli and Palestinian—deserve no less.
Ladies and gentlemen,
An ancient Jewish proverb teaches (and I quote):
מָוֶת וְחַיִּים, בְּיַד-לָשׁוֹן
“The instruments of both death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
We have clearly seen how extremists use words to create a culture of death. It is now time for those of us in this room to create a testament to life.
Lies, myths, and half-truths assume a life of their own if they go unchallenged. Their repetition is like Chinese water torture. Drop after drop after drop, ideas that were once considered unthinkable become mainstream. All of us have a responsibility to publicly and vocally challenge these statements.
Today, we commit ourselves to speaking out against incitement.
Today, we proclaim that the best weapons against words of hate and discord are words of tolerance and understanding.
Today, we insist that silence cannot be an option in the face of expressions of extremism across the globe.
For the only way to dismantle an ecosystem of terror is to show zero tolerance for the indoctrination that causes it to thrive.
I want to thank you all for joining us today. Together, let us combat incitement and bigotry in all its forms – and replace words of hate with words of coexistence, mutual understanding, and peace.