NEW YORK, Nov. 18, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Diplomats, elected officials, interfaith and intergroup partners, and AJC leaders gathered at AJC headquarters this evening to pay tribute to the victims of last Friday's ISIS terror attacks in Paris, to express solidarity with France, to recommit to the shared values of democracy and freedom, and to resolve to defeat the evils of radical Islam.
Multiple violent assaults in the heart of Paris that left at least 129 dead and hundreds wounded were "attacks on all of humanity and the universal values we share," said AJC President Stanley M. Bergman to the standing-room-only crowd of more than 150 people. "No one in the civilized world is unaffected by this tragedy."
French Consul General Bertrand Lortholary, thanking AJC for organizing and hosting the solidarity event, said, "Our nation is still in shock," adding that "the solidarity showed by our American friends is great solace."
"France is battered and bruised but our people will never bow in the face of cruelty," said Lortholary. "We will not give terrorists victory. People are back on the streets enjoying life."
Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Israel's consul general, said that "terrorism is not going to defeat France, just as it has not defeated Israel. The greatest punishment will be to continue to celebrate life." Aharoni also reminded the audience that "Muslims themselves are the number one victim of radical Islam."
German Consul General Brita Wagener observed that those gathered at AJC in solidarity with France are a "testament to our resolve to uphold our life in a free society, to defend liberty and democracy."
"Whoever attacks France attacks freedom," said Bulgarian Ambassador to the UN Stefan Tafrov, who previously served as Bulgaria's ambassador to France. "It is important to stand by France, by Israel, by all our allies fighting for freedom."
AJC Executive Director David Harris called Friday's terror attacks, coming on top of last January's fatal attacks in Paris on Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket, attacks not just on France but on all of Europe, "the most successful peace project in history" that spawned the 28-nation European Union "on the blood-soaked soil of Europe."
"The center of the European project is the protection of human dignity," said Harris. "France has nourished our democratic identity, the rights of men, and the protection of human dignity."
Harris also pointed out the "moral courage and moral clarity" of French President Hollande and Prime Minister Valls, who have spoken clearly and forthrightly about the nature of the enemy, ISIS and radical Islam, and about France's determination to wage war against its declared adversaries.
"What was attacked was Paris, its spirit, its soul, its values," AJC Paris-based Director of Europe Simone Rodan-Benzaquen said via live video. "France is at war against radical Islam. The tumor has been growing and is now widespread."
She also announced that shortly before the solidarity event at AJC, a Jewish teacher in Marseilles was wounded in a stabbing attack that clearly had an anti-Semitic intent.
Diplomats from Australia, Austria, Czech Republic, European Union, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, Philippines, Portugal, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom attended the solidarity event, as well as representatives of Mayor Bill de Blasio, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Charles Schumer, Rep. Carolyn Maloney and New York City Council Member Mark Levine. Leaders of a number of religious and ethnic communities also joined the commemoration.
SOURCE American Jewish Committee