Remarks by Henrique Cymerman on Receiving the ADL Daniel Pearl Award
Posted: February 10, 2012
Acceptance Remarks by Henrique Cymerman
ADL Daniel Pearl Award
February 10, 2012 - Palm Beach, Florida
Dear Abe, thank you very much for your words. Thanks to the Pearl and Moss families for perpetuating Daniel Pearl's legacy with this award, and thank you to all of the ADL lay leaders and staff.
Dear colleagues from the press, and especially from my network, Univision.
Dear friends, good afternoon.
It is the first time I am so deeply moved by receiving an award. This award makes me proud as a professional and a human being committed, like the Anti-Defamation League, to fight racism, all forms of intolerance and discrimination, anti-Semitism, and terrorism, and to ensure justice and peace for all.
"My mother is a Jew, my father is a Jew and I am a Jew." Those were Daniel Pearl's last words.
First of all, I have a confession to make: I never managed to watch until the end of the video disgustingly uploaded to youtube of the final moments of this brilliant, young journalist. It happened exactly 10 years ago, while he was simply pursuing the truth. So many times in my life I've found myself in similar situations in the past 20 years; when I visited the Headquarters of the Islamic Jihad in the Jebalya refugee camp in Gaza, in the Hamas training camps in Kalkilya, West Bank, or in the Muslim Brotherhood's center in Cairo. The question I always ask myself is: do they know who I am? What would they do if they discovered? And I am here today to say that under no circumstance, as we learned from Daniel Pearl, should one allow to feel paralyzed by fear.
I remember several moments of danger, in which everything suddenly falls into clear perspective. Circumstances, in which you think of your truly loved ones, as if they were there by your side, your parents, the woman you love, your children, or in Daniel Pearl's case, the son he never got to know, even though he surely felt his presence in mind and soul.
I received the ADL letter announcing this emotional Award, when I was in Qatar, in the Persian Gulf, moderating a United Nations International conference, with a delegation from Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and with dozens of representatives from 140 countries and from Arab countries as well. Some of those attending the Conference were the activists leaders who initiated the revolutions on the Arab streets through Facebook and Twitter. I also met with Mr. Omar Osama Bin-Laden, son of the number one terrorist in history, and his wife, both of which openly condemned his father's actions, and confirmed that the so-called Arab Spring indicates primarily the deterioration of the World of Jihad. I kept thinking of the fact that Osama Bin Laden was indirectly and intellectually responsible for Danny's fate. If fate would have played a trick on me, it could have easily been the other way around: that Daniel Pearl could have been receiving the Henrique Cymerman Award today.
Dear friends, I was born in Portugal, to a Polish father and a Spanish Sephardic mother, so while growing up in Oporto, we spent the holidays in Spain with all my family. The Iberic Latin blood, passion and culture run in my veins.
I then went to live in Israel when I was 16 years old on my own decision, and since then it has become the centre of my world. Just like Sir Yeshayahu Berlin, I believe that a minority must become a majority in order to truly develop its maximum potential. That is why I decided to live in a country that on the one hand is building a society based on liberty, democracy and traditional values and on the other has more start-up companies on NASDAQ than all 27 countries forming the European Union.
And I never regretted my decision. Israel, with all its problems, is the most fascinating human laboratory on the planet. Something like a Disney World for Journalism. As the famous satirical writer Ephraim Kishon used to say, "Israel is the only nation that doesn't believe in miracles, but truly relies on them".
We're talking about a country that even though is smaller than Massachusetts, has the highest number of reporters per square meter. There are more than 1500 correspondents representing 450 media entities from across the globe, as well as thousands of special envoys each year. There is a larger concentration of Foreign Correspondents in the neighborhood of Ramat Sharet in Jerusalem, than in the entire African continent!
It is true that, specifically from the U.S., there is a relative decrease in media presence due to the world economic crisis. However, the emerging superpowers, Brazil, China, India, Russia, their presence, is ever increasing.
A few months ago two Chinese fellows appeared in my office in Tel Aviv, speaking fluent Hebrew. Surprised, I asked them, since when are you here? And they replied, just two weeks. But we studied Hebrew at the University of Beijing.
The state of Israel is in a state of war since its foundation. In fact, the War of Independence has not ended yet. In parallel, the Palestinian state finds itself in the heat of a War of Independence. Last September, the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, admitted to me in an exclusive interview, for the first time ever, that the Arab leaders made a critical mistake in 1947, when they declined the UN Partition Plan.
And the result was war. Alongside the different conflicts forced on our region, there is a media war going on, no less lethal. The media today should be an integral part of any military or political decision. Cameras, microphones, and computers are weapons. They affect reality no less than the weapons of war. That is why we, as professionals, are required to be extra cautious. Einstein said: "It is easier to destroy an atom than to destroy a prejudice". Especially during the second Intifada, I was testimony of how some European, Latin American, or North American reporters would arrive to the area with a report written beforehand. This isn't a Western movie where you have the good guys and the bad guys. In this reality, you have two different history books which do not coincide with one another.
And as if that wasn't enough: now we are living the Arab Unrest, or Arab Spring. A little more than a year ago, a fascinating phenomenon began to emerge. It is undoubtedly, the most significant event of the 21st century. I admit that the meteorological explanations – Arab Spring, Arab Winter, do not do justice with the truth. I prefer the four seasons of Vivaldi.
It is difficult to call the events in Syria today, the daily slaughtering in Syrian towns, a "Spring". But it is also difficult to ignore the millions of youngsters whose cyber-solidarity brought them together, and became forces of change in their respective countries. What they wished when it all began was to put into practice Bernard Shaw's words said over a century ago: "Politicians and diapers have to be replaced frequently… for the same reasons.
Many of these revolutionaries are frustrated because Islamists, who were not related to the revolution, are picking up the fruits of their work. That is why dictators such as Mubarak totally neutralized secular opposition in their countries, but tolerated the Muslim Brotherhood, keeping them active for 83 years. Why is that? In order to intimidate the West and warn it: if I fall out of power, these are the radicals that would take over the country.
The tiger was freed by the revolution, and the islamists are riding that tiger now. But if they do not deliver the goods to the population, they too, will fall over and be devoured.
When the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989, I saw a graffiti saying: "The future is not what it used to be".
I believe we're living a sandstorm, which will take long to settle, but we must be patient. As for Iran, it is maybe the most menacing element on the regional stability, and no less, the world's stability. The question is whether the Ayatola's regime will reach a nuclear bomb first, or is the Spring going to flourish in the streets of Teheran through a democratic revolution picking up its pace.
Israel cannot allow itself to show its back to the events taking place around it. One of the most brilliant and visionary leaders in Jewish history, David Ben-Gurion, used to say that it is forbidden for an Israeli leader to be caught without initiative. He used to claim that the tougher issues are solved immediately, the impossible ones, take a little bit longer.
Despite appearances, approximately 70 % of the Israeli population supports the creation of a Palestinian State alongside Israel based on peace and security. It is true that there still are some Israeli left Wing Extremists that suffer from deep feelings of guilt towards the Arabs, or on the other hand, minority groups in the Israeli extreme Right Wing, that are still fighting the British Mandate, or still haven't left Masada.
There are still numerous Arab leaders, and radical movements, that would rather see the Israeli State abolished from the map. But, no, no one will ever wake up in the morning to see that the other nation is gone, and it is about time to think about the day after.
"My mother is a Jew, My father is a Jew, I am a Jew". This is the terrible confession that the kidnappers forced Daniel Pearl to admit. And he did just that. With the same nobility and determination with which Jews did, when tortured centuries ago in the Spanish Inquisition. Daniel was educated by his parents Ruth and Yehuda that as a Jews, we must climb up the hill to see where the journey is heading. And he climbed the hill. Once and again, like the most brilliant ones do. Knowing where he came from, in order to define where he was going.
When I ask President Shimon Peres, where he gets his infallible optimism from, he always replies: "Both optimists, and pessimists, die eventually. But optimists live much better". This is the same optimism with which my mother, Cotta Benarroch, at the age of 86, just 6 months ago, left her home of 40 years, Barcelona, and came to live in Israel with her husband Pablo. Since she arrived, she is absolutely flourishing, despite some hard moments. Her physician was so taken by her personality, that she made her "life coach" of American university medicine students and interns who come spend a year in the Tel Aviv University. Needless to say that she often regrets not having done so, many years ago.
Here with me today, there is another amazing woman, Yael, whom I met when she was just a baby in Portugal, and I was 11 years old. My parents took me to the first Independence Party for Israel in my life. Yael's parents were the Israeli Consuls to Portugal, and she was born a few months prior. Her father, Michael Kehat who fought as a soldier in the Six Day War and was severely wounded, had told us stories about the creation of a nation, and of the fact that there is no peace without tears. At that very moment, I announced to my parents of my intentions to live in Israel, and to become a journalist.
When I met Yael again many years later, in Tel Aviv, we were so taken by each other that we've been together ever since. For some masochist reason, she even accepted working with me. She thinks I did not understand that this was, in fact, her way of trying to protect me.
My eldest daughter, Dana, will be 27 in a few days. She was born in Barcelona but was raised in Israel her entire life. Today after completing her studies, she works as a Project Manager in a big Advertising Company in Tel Aviv. A few days ago, when I called her up to inform her of the Daniel Pearl Award, she blessed me and said: I also have news, dad. My boyfriend Yaniv and I decided to get married. It is very rare for me to remain speechless. But I admit this is exactly what happened.
To these three special women, my mother, Yael and Dana, who represent the past, present and future, I dedicate this important Award.
And to you ADL members many thanks for what you are doing on behalf of human dignity, thank you for keeping alive Daniel Pearl's memory.
Thank you very much and bless you all.