On January 24, 2005, the United
Nations General Assembly will convene in Special Session to mark
the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the death camps. The Special
Session of the General Assembly will open a week of events to mark the
anniversary of the liberation of the camps, including a state ceremony
which will take place on January 27 in Poland,
with the participation of the president of the State of Israel.
This is the first time that the UN General Assembly
is convening to commemorate the Holocaust,
and the first time that the General Assembly is convening a Special
Session at Israel’s initiative. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on
January 11 welcomed the decision by United Nations Secretary-General
Kofi Annan to hold this Special Session.
The Israeli initiative regarding the convening of the
UN Special Session is intended to strengthen international awareness
of the Holocaust and the struggle against anti-Semitism, on the one hand,
and the related significance of the rebirth of the State of Israel and
the Jewish people, on the other.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the instruction
of Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, enlisted the assistance of 30 countries
(the United States, the 25 EU states, Russia, Canada, Australia and
New Zealand) in presenting a joint request to the UN Secretary General
to convene a Special Session of the General Assembly to mark the 60th
anniversary of the liberation of the death camps. Out of the 191 member-states,
over 135 countries have so far responded positively to the Secretary
General’s request, including Islamic countries and others that do not
have diplomatic relations with Israel, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh,
Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia.
This is the 28th Special Session of the General Assembly
which has been convened since the UN's establishment in 1946. The first
two Special Sessions were held in 1947 and 1948, and discussed what
was known at the time as the Palestine problem. No other Special Sessions
have dealt with issues relating to Israel. The most recent Special Session,
the global summit on children, was convened in 2002.
The Special Session of the General Assembly is the
most formal of all UN fora. It is the most difficult forum to convene,
since it is first necessary to obtain the support of a majority of the
UN member-states. This is a particularly difficult task for the State
of Israel, which faces an almost automatic UN majority of opposing Arab
countries and their supporters.
The UN Secretary General will participate in the Special
Session along with the President of the General Assembly (the Foreign
Minister of Gabon) and a large number of distinguished guests from around
the world, including the Foreign Ministers of Poland, Germany, Luxembourg
(the President of the EU), the President of the Italian Senate and a
delegation from the US Congress.
The UN General Assembly Special Session will open with
a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, to be
followed by addresses from the UN Secretary General, Israel’s Foreign
Minister, representatives of the liberated countries, representatives
of the countries that initiated the Special Session, spokespeople of
the regional UN groups, and Eli Wiesel, who will speak on behalf of
Israel’s delegation to the UN Special Session is headed
by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom.
The Minister invited Holocaust survivors to participate as part of the
official Israeli delegation at the event, including former Knesset
speakers Dov Shilansky and Shevah Weiss, Holocaust Survivor Association
head David Greenstein, Maj.-Gen. (res) Yossi Peled and actress
On the day of the UN Special Session, at 6 p.m. (New
York time), Foreign Minister Shalom and the UN Secretary General will
inaugurate an exhibit organized by the Yad
Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority about
the Auschwitz death camp. It will be displayed over a number of weeks
in the foyer of UN headquarters in New York. Foreign ministers, representatives
of the US Congress, Jewish leaders from around the world, ambassadors
and other public dignitaries will attend a special reception to mark
the opening of the exhibit.
The convening of the Special Session is a significant
accomplishment for the State of Israel and the fight against anti-Semitism.
Israel views the session as an event of the highest importance for the
Jewish people and the entire world. This is the very first time that
the international community is convening formally to commemorate the
Holocaust, its victims and the bravery of those who fought and defeated
the Nazis. Israel is proud of the fact that it has succeeded in convening
this unique historic event under the auspices of the United Nations.