Athens News Agency Interviews David Harris

Athens News Agency
January 30, 2012

AJC Executive Director Speaks to ANA
About the Holocaust, Iran and Middle East Peace Process


January 30, 2012 -- Thessaloniki, Greece -- “Today, the number one Holocaust denier is the President of Iran. That is a shame. What I find equally repugnant is that so many countries are ready to overlook or play down his hideous statements in favor of ‘solidarity’ or ‘business as usual’,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, who found himself in Thessaloniki for the events of the Holocaust Remembrance Day of Greek Victims of the Holocaust, in statements to ANA.

The common denominator of Holocaust deniers is “undoubtedly their hatred towards Jews” noted the AJC Executive Director, wondering: “Why else would one deny the reality of perhaps the most documented genocide in human history?”

Mr. Harris believes that having suffered from the Nazis itself, Greece knows the truth about the Holocaust better than everyone else. For this reason, as he said, “we are depending a lot on Greece to speak loudly when deniers present themselves and whenever anti-Semitism, which created the basis for the Holocaust, raises its ugly head.”

“Who knows the truth about the Holocaust better than Greece? Who knows about the suffering from the Nazis better than Greece? And who knows that this evil must be confronted and not appeased or rationalized better than Greece, which has its own example?” he stressed.

"Yes" to the sanctions against Iran

With regard to the recent decision of the European Union to impose sanctions on Iran, Mr. Harris mentioned that the AJC agreed, and, as he stressed, “the American Jewish Committee” has traveled around the world, including Athens, in order to draw attention to the increasing Iranian threat.”

(In Iran) “We have a regime that represses its own people, plans terrorist threats abroad, threatens the oil supply of the planet, intimidates its neighbors in the Arab Gulf and calls for a world without Israel. Now imagine this regime with a bomb and its finger on the button. It’s scary, isn’t it?” he added.

Referring to possible consequences of sanctions against Iran for certain countries, he noted: “I understand that the sanctions might bring certain economic difficulties for a Europe which is struggling, including Greece, but there are alternative energy suppliers today in order to minimize the disruption. And the cost of inaction in the long-term, in any case, would be much higher than this current action. For example, what would Greece do if Turkey decided it needed a bomb like Iran’s?”

When asked about whether or not he would agree with even taking military action against Iran, Mr. Harris notes that “as President Obama and the leaders of the EU have said, it must remain on the table.” ‘The irony is that the threat of a possible Western military action, if credible, may be the thing that convinces the mullahs in Iran to back down,” he added.

The "Arab Spring" and Arab-Israeli Relations

With regard to Arab-Israeli relations in light of the latest developments in many Arab countries like Egypt and Syria, the AJC Executive Director sated that: “In the immediate future, the prospects of a more general progress in Arab-Israeli relations do not look very promising. I should, however, add that the picture is not uniformly discouraging. I am pretty pessimistic about Egypt’s current path and I am not expecting miracles in Syria. Lebanon remains under the finger of Hezbollah and Gaza is in the hands of Hamas. Libya is not in a hurry to directly proceed to a stable democracy. At the same time, in certain parts of the Arab world, ties with Israel, including economic ones, are developing quietly.”

In addition, Mr. Harris feels that “the acceptance of Israel and the open relations which should be the goal, require political courage in the Arab world, like the kind shown by the late leader of Egypt, Anwar Sadat,” noting that “this courage, and I am sorry to say it, is missing completely at the moment.”

The "recipe" for peace between Israelis – Palestinians

When asked if he believes the Palestinians have the right to live in an independent state next to Israel, Mr. Harris responded: “Of course. For a long time, the American Jewish Committee has been supporting an independent Palestinian state next to Israel that will be the result of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. What other realistic political agreement could somebody imagine?”

With regard to the “recipe” that may lead there, he noted that: “Above all, a Palestinian leader capable of telling his people that the 63-year–old dream of exterminating Israel has ended and that compromise is the answer. Four continuous Israeli Prime Ministers of various political backgrounds came out in favor of a Palestinian state. However, with one excuse or the other the Palestinians bluntly rejected all of them. Don’t you think the time has come for them to stop saying “no” and begin saying “yes” for the future generations?”

American policy and the Arab – Israeli Conflict

In light of the U.S. Presidential election next fall, ANA asked Mr. Harris if there is continuity in American policy with regard to the Arab–Israeli conflict, regardless of who is in power.

“It is sometimes difficult for non–Americans to understand the depth of support which exists for Israel among Americans in general, but it exists, it is real and recorded in every election every year. Americans equate Israel with a democracy, a reliable ally, a technological incubator, the birth of Judeo-Christian civilization and a country which defends itself against most enemies. That is why I am convinced that no matter what party exercises power in the White House, or has the majority in Congress next year, American–Israeli relations will continue to prosper. Of course, there are also certain critics, but the attention they get from the media is usually disproportionate to their number within the country,” said the AJC Executive Director.

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