September 28, 2007

Press Release: Pakistan and UN Islamic Bloc Slams Holocaust Survivors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Media Relations
media1@unwatch.org

Geneva, Sept. 28, 2007 — An international coalition of non-governmental organizations today published a protest against a U.N. speech by Pakistan that accused Holocaust survivors of "campaigning against Muslim symbols in the Western world" and that called hatred of Muslims "a cruel form of Anti-Semitism." The letter was sent to Masood Khan, Pakistan's UN envoy in Geneva, who made the comments on Tuesday before the UN Human Rights Council, speaking on behalf of the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference. (See full text of Joint NGO Letter below, or see www.blog.unwatch.org)

The letter was signed by a coalition of nine human rights and non-governmental organizations from Switzerland, Russia, and the U.S., including UN Watch, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the World Union of Progressive Judaism and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung foundation's German Forum Human Rights.

The Islamic group holds signficant influence at the UN's highest human rights body, and this week continued its recent practice of debating reports on the alleged "defamation of Islam." The council has adopted 11 Islamic-sponsored resolutions against Israel since its inauguration in June 2006, but none against any other state.

"The U.N. human rights commission was founded in 1946 in response to the Nazi atrocities, and so it is tragic that some are now perverting its principles and denying its history," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch.

(To watch video and read full text of Pakistan's speech, visit www.blog.unwatch.org)

Joint NGO Letter

His Excellency Ambassador Masood Khan
Organization of the Islamic Conference
Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the UN in Geneva
Geneva, Switzerland

Dear Ambassador Khan,

We, the undersigned human rights groups and non-governmental organizations, write to express our grave concern over certain remarks that you delivered before the UN Human Rights Council this past Tuesday, 25 September 2007, which offend Holocaust survivors around the world and harm the cause of equality and human rights for all.

In your statement on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, you addressed the issue of "Defamation of Religions." As representatives of civil society, we express our firm condemnation of all violations of freedom of religion. We strongly support universal respect for citizens of all faiths without discrimination.

We therefore can neither comprehend nor accept your unprecedented remarks which effectively accuse Holocaust survivors of practicing discrimination and promoting disharmony. In addressing accomodation for Muslims in the Western world and the potential for political and social harmony, you said that "in many instances Holocaust survivors, instead of promoting such harmony, are campaigning against Muslim symbols in the Western world. They should be the most ardent advocates against discrimination. Islamophobia is also a cruel form of Anti-Semitism."

We are unaware of any such "campaigning" by Holocaust survivors. Moreover, even if it were true that individuals were engaged in such an alleged effort, it would constitute unjustifiable stereotyping to label an entire group -- particularly surivors of a genocide -- on the basis of the alleged actions of a few.

We believe that Holocaust survivors, elderly men and women who are often frail and suffering from illness, are deserving of our sympathy and respect, not denigration in a speech at the United Nations.

We also regret that the baseless accusation of discrimination on the part of Holocaust survivors was compounded by remarks that effectively deny these and other victims of Antisemitism recognition of their particular form of suffering. Islamophobia, Christianophobia, and Antisemitism are the recognized terms for the hatred of Muslims, Christians and Jews. However, saying that Islamophobia is itself a "form of Anti-Semitism" only serves to corrode and confuse the very meaning and existence of Antisemitism, the term coined in the 1870's by proto-Nazi Wilhelm Marr as a euphemism for the German Judenhass, or "Jew-hate".

Not only is it nonsensical to claim that groups other than Jews are the objects of Jew-hatred, but it has the pernicious effect of blurring the meaning and impact of any condemnation of Antisemitism. We are gravely concerned that this is not the first time that Pakistan has made such statements at the UN.

Once again, pursuant to the values of the UN Charter, we express our unqualified support for the respect of all religions, and opposition to discrimination of any kind.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration and respect.

Sincerely,

Hillel C. Neuer
Executive Director
United Nations Watch
Switzerland

Dr. Theodor Rathgeber
German Forum Human Rights
Germany

Angela C. Wu
International Law Director
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
USA

Roy W. Brown
Main Representative at UN Geneva
International Humanist and Ethical Union

Rabbi François Garaï
Chief Representative
World Union of Progressive Judaism
Switzerland

Rene Wadlow
Chief Representative to the UN Geneva
Association for World Education

Klaus Netter
Representative
B'nai B'rith International
Switzerland

Dr Francois Ullmann
President
Ingénieurs du Monde Anatoly Kanunnikov
President of Social Ecology Foundation
Russia

www.unwatch.org

UN Watch is a Geneva-based human rights organization founded in 1993 to monitor UN compliance with the principles of its Charter. It is accredited as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).