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Morris B. Abram Human Rights Award, 2011. UN Watch. Geneve, april 2011
Pilar Rahola´s Speech.

5 April 2011

Chamberlain versus Sendler: from darkness to light

"That is the moral commitment of our times: the defense of the values of civilization. It is the commitment of Irena Sendler, of Morris Abram, of Baruch Tenembaum, of Nazanin, of Esther or of Massouda, the religion and the culture don't matter, because we are united by those same values."

Dear friends good evening.

“Zog Nit Keyn Mol!” or, in English, “Never say that you are going your last way”... Thus begins the Hymn of the partisans of the Warsaw Ghetto, whose heroic struggle elevates human beings' soul. Upon knowing that I would have the honour of receiving the award that bears the name of Morris Abram, the great human rights fighter, I remembered the beauty of this sad hymn. What must Morris Abram have thought when he participated in the Nuremberg Trial, and had them before him, close up, that group of human beings turned into a shapeless, criminal, evil, mass?
Maybe he thought of the good people's silence, for the great cruelties of the world are not built upon the deeds of evil people, but rather on the heavy silence of good people.

About silence, about indifference and about treason. How many treasons to human rights and how much silence are accumulated by our free societies? Look at Libya. Were we worried by human rights when we embraced Gaddafi, when we invited gim to parties and when we sold him our toys of war? No, Gaddafi has only worried us when he has endangered our energy stability. A dictator in office is a friend, but a defeated dictator is only a dictator. Treason and silence. Look at the silence and the treason to those rights missing in the petro-Islam dictatorships, with their enslaved women , their tyrannic laws, their hatred of freedom. Look at the hundreds of dead in the Ivory Coast dying without television coverage, without Obamas, without Sarkozys, without allied wars of liberation. Look at Iran's madness, plowing forward in its nuclear race that would allow it to kill massively. Where are the noisy anti-Israelis that vociferate their solidarity with the victims of the World's streets, in front of these atrocities? Why don't they sail with their 'Freedom fleets' along the Iranian coastline? Along the Syrian coastline? And the magnificent United Nations, why does it have some of the most ferocious dictatorships in its Human Rights Council? Silence and treason. And thus, thousands of victims weep their tragedy away from the spotlights, away from the banners, away from the demonstrations, away from the UN resolutions.

That is why, dear friends of UN Watch, that I am very grateful for the award which today you offer me. I accept it as a prize against silence, against indifference and against treason. The recipients who preceded me honour the memory of Morris Abram with a standing which I cannot reach. And I can only feel pride in belonging to the same group of people. People such as the Iranian Nazanin Afshin-Jarri, or the Rwandan Esther Mujawayo or the Afghan Massouda Jalal, brave women of our time, authentic female Nelson Mandelas who have raised their voice against fear and against tyranny. I am a humble follower of their legacy, totally convinced that we, the women of the Twenty-first Century, will be the bearers of the flag of freedom.

Allow me to explain why I am here, in this crossroads of causes which encourages me to raise my voice. In the first place, because the only moral condition of an intellectual is commitment. Not the easy commitment with the predictable slogans, but rather with the values which configure us as a civilization. A commitment against tyrants. But also against our friends who prefer to look the other way and to shoot at easy targets, because fear or prejudice prevent them from knowing who are the real enemies. It is a commitment with the values which were born with the first foundational text of our modern history, the Tables of the Law, the beginning of modernity. And following in the wake of the Tables, came Roman Law, Spinoza's ideas, the Enlightenment, and finally the Human Rights Charter. That is the moral commitment of our times: the defense of the values of civilization. It is the commitment of Irena Sendler, of Morris Abram, of Baruj Tenembaum, of Nazanin, of Esther or of Massouda, the religion and the culture don't matter, because we are united by those same values... And without that commitment, our society wouldn't exist. I take advantage then of this extraordinary honour which UN Watch grants me, to denounce all those colleagues of the world of ideas, who remain silent before the enslavement of women in Islam, before the persecution of homosexuals, of Christians, of freethinkers; before the totalitarian ideas which spread around the planet. And while they remain silent in front of dictatorships, they scream against two democracies, for shouting against Israel and the United States costs nothing. In fact, against Israel, one lives better. But raising one's voice against fundamentalist Islam, really is a commitment full of risk.

I am also here because I believe that the values of freedom are threatened by a totalitarian ideology which has openly declared war on us. And I am not talking about a religion nor a culture, but rather about an ideology, that of fundamentalist Islamism. If in the Twentieth Century mankind had to face the totalitarian challenge of Stalinism and Naziism, in the Twenty-first Century it faces an ideology of death which contaminates thousands of brains and kills thousands of people. And it is not only about terrorist organizations hidden in the World's mountains. It is also about countries happily seated in the United Nations' General Assembly, whose legal evil enslaves its citizens, while it finances fanatic Imams all over the world. It is an ideology that uses Twenty-first Century technology but which wishes to return to the Middle Ages, and uses our democracy in order to destroy it. I am a free woman of a free country, but beside me millions of women cannot love who they want, can be genitally mutilated, lapidated, subjugated to feudal evil. That ideology that hates them, hates us all, because it hates freedom. I dedicate this award to them, to the women imprisoned in the burkas of evil laws. The countries which enslave them, are our friends in the United Nations, and nobody organizes demonstrations against them. One day we will have to ask ourselves what became of Eleanor Roosevelt's dream of a League of Nations which was supposed to guarantee the freedom of the people. Today the United Nations is the opposite of that, it's the whitewash of the dark entrails of many dictatorships.

I am here because I don't believe in the clash of civilizations, but I do believe in the historic clash between civilization and barbarity. I am here because I love all religions, but struggle against people who use God to promote hatred, fanaticism and death. That is why I am here, also, because the totalitarian ideology which enslaves human beings in theocratic dictatorships, also wants to enslave the minds in the western democracies.

And yes, I am here because I believe that Israel is the advance party in the struggle for those values of freedom. And that the criminalization it suffers by many western intellectuals has much to do with a cross-eyed sight which looks upside-down at the World and which, in its delirium, is betraying the values it claims to be defending. I am here because I believe in Albert Camus when he told Jean-Paul Sartre that defending Stalin was not defending freedom. To the many Sartre apprentices I tell, in homage to Camus, the same: defending freedom is not remaining silent before the evils of fundamentalist Islamism, is not minimizing terrorism, is not to weep only for some victims while scorning others, is not criminalizing a democracy which struggles to survive surrounded by dictatorships which want to see it destroyed. That is not to struggle for freedom. That is to perpetuate the worst tradition of the left, the one that didn't weep for Stalin's victims. And now, the same blindness: they do not weep for the victims of Islamist terrorism, and still pardon the Hamas and the Hezbollah.

Let me mention Neville Chamberlain and Irena Sendler. They are opposite poles of human behaviour, faced with a totalitarian challenge. While Chamberlain went for a walk with Hitler, shook his hand and decided to look towards the dark side of his conscience, Irena Sendler gave her hand to the victims, risked her own life and saved lives. Today exactly the same thing happens, and while some hide in their fears and believe that by giving their hand to the theocratic dictators they will ensure their opulent lifestyle, others give their hands to the victims. The great fighter for freedom, Wafa Sultan, told me: 'we have an Arab proverb that says: “If you need me, I own you”'. Is this what is happening to us? That since we need their oil, they own our silence? Is our system of liberties so fragile that it has to sustain itself in fear, in appeasement and in silence? Without doubt that is what the United Nations is nowadays and that is also an important part of our intellectual and political world: fear, appeasement and silence. Against fear, awards such as this one from UN Watch, which honours the struggle for liberties. Against appeasement, the commitment of Nazanin, of Esther, of Massouda, of so many courageous men and women. And against silence, free speech.

Winston Churchill said: “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because it is the quality that guarantees all others”. Courage! I dedicate this ward to them, to history's men and women who have had the courage to fight against barbarity and against fear, so as to defend freedom.

Thank you.


Pilar Rahola