Remarks by Abraham H. Foxman
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
ADL Annual Meeting
Los Angeles, November 6, 2014
The murder of Daniel Pearl, the young, dedicated Wall Street Journal reporter who was abducted and killed in Pakistan in early 2002 while pursuing a story about international terrorism, shocked a world still numb from 9/11.
Danny was dedicated to building cultural bridges, intent on bringing to his American readers what was going on in the Muslim world. He was killed by those who were instead intent on burning bridges, on sowing sectarian discord, and promoting hate and violence.
Danny was a proud Jew, the son of Israeli parents and he hoped one day to see Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims, coexist and live side by side in peace. In the last moments of his captivity, just before he was murdered, Danny’s kidnappers forced him to say, as if admitting some horrible secret: “I am a Jew. My mother is a Jew. My father is a Jew.” This brutal action still resonates with us today.
To memorialize Danny and the values he sought to promote, and through the caring and generosity of our long-time friends and ADL supporters, George and Ruth Moss of Los Angeles, the Anti-Defamation League established the ADL Daniel Pearl Award. It is given to those who have made a positive impact on the image of Jews and Judaism, be it in journalism, interfaith or human relations, politics, diplomacy, culture or other arenas.
By this award, ADL seeks to reignite the spark of Danny Pearl’s life, career, and the principles by which he lived. Danny lived the truth that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” for he used his words to instruct, to make people see things fresh and with a new understanding, and to bring light into dark corners.
This year we are proud to recognize the groundbreaking work of The Aladdin Project, whose purpose and projects are so consistent with what Daniel Pearl strove to accomplish.
Founded in Paris in 2009 under the patronage of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Aladdin Project’s goal is to “build bridges of knowledge between Jews and Muslims” in order to bring about changes in attitudes and perceptions and develop a culture of peace and tolerance.
It was so named because Aladdin, both in Middle Eastern folk tale and as a name, is shared by different cultures and symbolizes the intercultural bridge, while the genie lamp, a symbol of light against darkness and ignorance, reflects the hope that knowledge can destroy age-old myths and breakdown insurmountable barriers.
Hoping to educate the Arab and Muslim world about the Holocaust, the Aladdin Project has translated Anne Frank’s Diary, Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz and Raul Hilberg’s The Destruction of European Jewry, and other books into Arabic, Persian and Turkish, and posted them online to enable readers to download the books directly.
They translated Claude Lanzmann’s epic film Shoah as well, and arranged for it to be broadcast in full on Turkish television, and via an American satellite network into Iran. They have organized conferences on the Holocaust across the Middle East and North Africa.
And to educate about the “other,” The Aladdin Project has developed “A Guide to Judaism for Non-Jews” and “A Guide to Islam for Non-Muslims.”
The work of The Aladdin Project – while obviously difficult – is so important. As ADL documented in its Global 100 Survey, in the Middle East and North Africa of those who have heard about the Holocaust, an alarming 63% believe it is a myth or exaggerated.
And so, just like Danny Pearl did through his all-too-short life, the Aladdin Project has taken bold and courageous action in order to promote understanding and awareness.
We are very pleased that Aladdin’s president, Anne-Marie Revcolevschi has come to accept the award. She is a former Director General of the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah, which was created in 2000 as part of the recognition and compensation for the Holocaust in France, and she was also former Director of International Cooperation, at the French Ministry of National Education, Research and Technology. We are also pleased that Aladdin’s executive director Abe Radkin is here with us today.
The award consists of a $5,000 stipend and an extraordinary sculpture, a torch with an eternal flame to commemorate Danny Pearl's unquenchable spirit, his words, and his heritage.
The flame is embossed with Danny's Hebrew initials, Daled-Peh, they spell the word Daf in Hebrew which means "page," a written or printed page of a book, a letter, or a newspaper. So perfectly appropriate for the writer Danny was. This award was created especially for us by the Jewish artist Michel Schwartz, of blessed memory.
We are honored to present the 2014 ADL Daniel Pearl Award to the Aladdin Project.