President Reuven Rivlin opened his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday by addressing the attack on Israel's northern border in which two soldiers were killed. "I stand before you, at a time of great tension in our region. My heart and my thoughts, are with my people in Israel. Terrorism does not distinguish between blood."
Rivlin decided Wednesday to cut short his visit to New York by two days following the incidents on the border. He was to depart early as Wednesday evening so that he could visit the bereaved families and the wounded.
"I am here today moments before my address to the United Nations special session to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. However, my heart and my mind are at home in Israel," he said.
"I want to send my condolences to the bereaved families as well as my wishes for a full recovery to the wounded. I am certain that the IDF knows how to manage the situation, and that Israel’s leaders will work to calm the situation as much as possible. We are with you, even when we are required to do our job abroad, for our country and for our people."
The president, who was speaking at a special session in commemoration of the Holocaust and seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz, said in his remarks: "There has been no atrocity in the history of the human race to compare in its viciousness, its scope and its magnitude, with the Holocaust of the Jewish People. However, the slaughter of nations and of communities was not born in Nazi Germany and did not cease with the opening of the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek and Buchenwald.
"Now, in our own time, when the fundamentalist viper is raising its ugly head, we must remember that evil is not the property of any specific religion; just as it is not the attribute of any specific country or ethnic group," he added.
Rivlin continued: "It is evil, that by its very nature, seeks to differentiate and discriminate between one life and another, between one human being and another, while the only real difference is between good and bad; between humanity and darkness. For exactly that reason, those who regard Islam, Judaism, or Christianity, as enemies of the world are wrong and they mislead others."
The president said that the UN was founded on the ruins of World War II, and that the pledge "Never again" was "the very essence of this United Nations Organization, it is its mission, it is the primary and principal rationale for its existence."
Rivlin stressed that "the Holocaust of the Jews was not the final chapter in the brutal scheme of man against his fellow man. Each and every one of them were victims of genocide, even without wearing a yellow star.
"As a Jew, as a Zionist, as an Israeli, as a human being, even though my hands are tied – my heart weeps together with those anonymous people," Rivlin said, mentioning the grim situation in Bosnia, Syria, Sudan and Nigeria.
He further added: "On this day we must ask ourselves honestly, is our struggle, the struggle of this Assembly, against genocide, effective enough…I am afraid that the United Nations 'Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide' that came into force as long as sixty-four years ago, has remained a merely symbolic document. It did not succeed in realizing its commitment and fulfilling the objective that underpins the establishment of the United Nations Organization."
Rivlin reminded the audience that "this Assembly too, like any political institution, is motivated by many different considerations and interests. Even if we agree on clear red lines – that is not enough. We must agree that in the fight against genocide – the humanitarian and moral consideration must take precedence over economic, political and other interests."
"The lesson of the Holocaust will never be learned," the president said. "Communities and nations will continue to be murdered, children, women, men and the elderly will continue to march to their death to the enlightened music of the 'orchestra of death', against the background of a cynical and apathetic world, and through no fault of their own. The oath of "never again" will remain hollow and defiled, and we, all of us, will remain forever – prisoners of the camps."