NEW YORK, Nov. 30, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement on the passing of Israeli Ambassador (ret.) David Peleg:
"We mourn the loss of our dear friend, David Peleg, who passed away this week in Israel at the age of 71, after valiantly battling an unforgiving illness.
"I first met David more than 25 years ago, when he was the Minister of Public Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. For me, it was respect and friendship at first sight. That link only grew over the years, as David took on other key positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"My AJC colleagues and I had the privilege of working closely with him when he served as Israel's Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and then as Acting Permanent Representative; as the Ambassador to the UN in Geneva; as Deputy Director-General for the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; and, in his last diplomatic post, as Ambassador to Poland.
"After retiring from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, David became Director-General of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), where he brought his considerable diplomatic skills to bear in pursuing unresolved Holocaust claims in the nations of Central and Eastern Europe.
"David was an Israeli patriot, proud of the country he represented and angered by the efforts to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state. He knew his nation was not perfect – what nation is? -- but he witnessed first-hand the hypocrisy and double standards too often employed in the international community when it comes to Israel, and especially in the UN in New York and Geneva during the time he served in those two posts.
"He was a proud Jew, who felt a visceral connection to Jews everywhere, be it the large community in the United States or the remnant and rebuilding community in Poland, where he lived for five years as Israel's envoy. He was a voice for strengthening the bonds of Jews worldwide, and in particular between Israel and the Diaspora. He helped keep alive the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust through his work as a diplomat and later at the WJRO.
"I will never forget his powerful speech in June 2004, when, as Israel's ambassador to Poland and accompanied by 200 officers of the Israel Defense Forces, he joined the Government of Poland and AJC for the opening of the memorial site at the Nazi death camp Belzec, where 500,000 Jews were murdered in the span of less than a year.
"'The sovereign State of Israel is a guarantee that such a Holocaust will never happen again" he declared on that occasion. 'Who knows what would have been the fate of European Jewry if Israel had been established ten years before? Belzec wrecked our body, but didn't succeed in breaking the spirit of the Jewish people.'
"And, last but by no means least, David was a mensch. I realize this is an overused term these days, but some people really do qualify for the description. He was one of them. He was unfailingly warm, compassionate, modest, and a devoted friend. We will miss him greatly.
"AJC extends heartfelt condolences to David's three children and five grandchildren, as well as to the other grieving members of his family. May the memory of this wonderful man always be for a blessing and an inspiration."
SOURCE American Jewish Committee