Dan Diker was confirmed in Jerusalem last week as Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress, the umbrella organization of nearly 100 Jewish communities throughout the world, now in its 75th year. The following is from his acceptance speech:
We watch with a sense of urgency, hope and trepidation, as millions of our Arab neighbors rise up against despotic governments and tyrannical rulers – from Tunisia to Syria, from Yemen to Libya. They demand human rights, political rights, and freedom. The world calls this the Arab Spring.
We don’t know if the Arab Spring will blossom into a warm summer or descend into a cold winter. But what we know for sure is this: another spectacular revolution for freedom took place more than 3000 years ago. And guess what? We celebrate that revolution every spring, year after year. We might even want to call it the Jewish Spring.
It happened when a reluctant Jewish leader named Moshe demanded freedom for his people from an Egyptian tyrant called Pharaoh. That was the first time that a people rose up and demanded the right to freedom and liberty under law. That was the defining moment of history . . . That powerful confrontation between an Egyptian despot and a Hebraic Leader -- more than three millennia ago, gave birth to the entire notion of human rights, civil rights and equal rights which has shaped the free world today. . . .
[A]s we celebrate the universality of human rights, let us always remember our particular Jewish rights. … Because as the world increasingly embraces the language and agenda of universal human rights, ironically, the global political assault on our basic human rights, our Jewish rights, is intensifying. … The scourge of anti-Israel sentiment is merely the new, and politically correct, form of anti-Semitism. . . .
Just as we remember the courageous uprising of the Jewish people against tyranny over 3000 years ago, our own Jewish spring, let us here, in Jerusalem – the eternal capital of the Jewish people – once again reaffirm to ourselves, and the world, our commitment to Tikun Olam through the implementation these Jewish ideals.
Let us demand that the world uphold the same rights, ideals and principles that began with the Israelites in Egypt, that were sanctified on Mount Sinai, that brought us here to Jerusalem, and that have shaped the modern world, and must – for the sake of humanity as a whole – continue to shape our world in the 21st Century. . . . Human rights … civil rights … equal rights … Jewish rights -- that is our eternal Jewish spring.