Geneva, 22 March 2005

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Director for International Liaison, Dr Shimon Samuels, met at its Geneva headquarters with World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) General Secretary, Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro.

Samuel protested the "Witness Report" of a visit to the Palestine Authority by World YWCA Vice-President and US Board Member, Doris Pagelkopf, which stated: "I strongly felt the correlation to World War II. During that war Hitler tried to exterminate the Jews and now a group of Israelis … is trying to choke off and rid the land of the Palestinians."

Samuels denoted the statement "an offense to the Jewish people and the victims of the Holocaust, actionable under European laws that penalize excusing genocide, and a mockery of decades of interfaith initiatives."

General-Secretary Kanyoro expressed sympathy for Jewish outrage, describing Pagelkopf’s words "as unfortunate and which the YWCA would not endorse."

Samuels pointed to the statement as structurally inevitable "due to the one-sided distortions in the programme of YWCA ‘Witness Missions’ to the Middle East", adding that "such trips violate the YWCA mission statement that it is ‘seeking to be mediators and reconcilers in conflict situations’".

He proposed that the tours include meetings with Israeli survivors and families of terror victims, as also Israeli Arab Christians targetted by Jihadist Islam.

Kanyoro expressed "a commitment to the human rights of both peoples and, having taken courses at Tel Aviv University, an understanding for Israel". She condemned suicide bombing and encouraged current measures to reach peace, but admitted that the YWCA/YMCA youth missions are "organized by the East Jerusalem YWCA host", adding that "we would welcome another partner to see the bigger picture."

Dr. Kanyoro concluded: "In a future trip, we will turn to you [the Wiesenthal Centre] to open the doors."