Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust Hosts Holocaust Remembrance Day Event With Elie Wiesel, Jon Voight, Alan Dershowitz, Natan Sharansky,Shelby Steele and Patrick Desbois at the UN in Geneva

Date: May 08, 2009
Media Contact:

Rebecca Tobin
Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust

New York, N.Y. - Touro College’s Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day with a panel discussion on anti-semitism that included some of the world’s most distinguished scholars, activists, and human rights authorities. Participating in the panel, which was held at the United Nations in Geneva, were writer Elie Wiesel, Jon Voight, Alan Dershowitz, Natan Sharansky, Shelby Steele and Father Patrick Desbois, a French Catholic priest who leads a team of interviewers through Ukraine and Belarus in search of Jewish mass graves from World War II. Over 150 people attended the event, which was titled “Anti-semitism in the Here and Now.”

Holocaust Remembrance Day coincided with the UN’s week-long Durban Review Conference, which was intended to combat racism. The Conference drew criticism and sparked protests when it featured a speech from the controversial President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on its opening day.

The panelists at the Touro event discussed modern forms of anti-semitism and President Ahmadinejad’s controversial UN appearance the previous day.

Commented writer and political activist Eli Wiesel: “Here we are now in the United Nations, an organization created at the response to the atrocities of the Second World War, and we have to protest against an anti-semitic speech delivered by the head of Iran.”

Actor Jon Voight added: “We're witnessing a new type of Holocaust, and we, good people of all faiths, should express outrage and demand the truth be heard.”

“Anti-semitism thrives on distortion with the historical record of the kind we heard yesterday from Ahmadinejad,” said Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz. “The fact that Ahmadinejad was the first and major and most-covered speaker at this conference was an accurate reflection of what this conference is all about.”

Shelby Steele observed that “Anti-semitism is an expression of bad faith. That is what it always is, an expression of bad faith.”

Father Patrick Desbois told the audience, “Anti-Semitism will never die. It's why people of good will must stand and be strong together.”

“I have a frightening feeling that already the world of my past is coming back…I feel it here when the fight against racism means first and foremost a fight against Israel,” said long-time human rights activist Natan Sharansky.

Ms. Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, noted that “On the anniversary of Hitler’s birthday and the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the UN has given a voice to a person who denies the Holocaust itself while preparing another genocidal assault on the Jewish nation. This is encouraging anti-semitism, not combating it.”