Stand With Israel
Here's the text of the main portion of remarks I delivered at Toronto's Stand With Israel rally, November 19, 2012.
There is a question that haunts every Israeli: Are we alone?
When rockets slam into Israeli schools and homes; when suicide bombers detonate themselves; when media organizations recirculate falsified images, like those today that purport to come from Gaza but really come from Syria; when international organizations condemn with fine impartiality both those who commit terrorist atrocities and those who defend against terrorist atrocities – when those things happen, as they do again and again, that is always the question Israelis ask: Are we alone?
Well, let them look at this hall and all the other halls joined by video link.
Israel is not alone.
I wish everyone in Israel could see this hall tonight. Here are gathered Jews and Christians; believers and atheists; men and woman and girls and boys of every age – gathered from so many countries of origin in this great multicultural city of Toronto – all to say: We stand with Israel.
All of us carry Israel in our hearts. Most of us carry a piece of Israel in our pockets. The camera in your smart phone is a technology invented in Israel. I hope you will make use of those cameras tonight: that you will take photographs of this great meeting to distribute via social media and the Internet, more technologies to which Israel has contributed so greatly. We want them to see this rally in Tel Aviv and know: Israel is not alone. We want them to see this meeting in Jerusalem and know: Israel is not alone. And yes, we want them to see this meeting in Gaza, in Cairo, in Doha … and in Tehran. We want them all to know: Israel is not alone.
No country on earth faces such hatred as Israel.
Yet we are not here to express hatred in return. We are here to express love: love for the land of Israel, the brave people of Israel, the heroic armed forces of Israel.
We are here to express gratitude to those good people of every faith and every country who have supported Israel and its people. In your millions, we thank you.
We are here to express respect for those in the Arab and Islamic world who work for peace alongside Israel. We yearn for a future shared with you.
We are here to express sympathy for the Palestinian men, women, and children who have exploited as human shields by killers – and who have been plunged into poverty, statelessness, and violence by leaders who flinched from leadership.
We are here to express sadness at the terrible cost of these long decades of unnecessary strife to all the peoples of the region.
We are here to express confidence that the people of Israel still live – and will ever live – in freedom, dignity, and democracy.
We are here to express tremendous pride in Canada. The state of Israel has no stronger and more reliable friend than Canada and its government, and the people of Israel know it. What a wonderful thing to say, and may Canadians always be able to say it.
The enemies of Israel are proud to say they love death. The friends of Israel do not share their nihilism. The Jewish people have known too much death. Israel loves life so much that Israelis risk their own lives to minimize the loss of life even among Israel’s enemies.
By the most recent count, 1,540 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel this year.
Nine rockets were fired in January 2012.
Thirty-six rockets were fired in February 2012.
173 rockets were fired in March 2012.
And so it went through October 2012.
Against this indiscriminate violence, Israel has responded with restraint. An advanced country like Israel possesses fearsome powers of destruction. But while Israel’s enemies respect no limits – while they are as happy to kill children as adults, to hit a hospital as to hit an airbase – Israel has applied its advanced technology to target as precisely as possible, to spare the innocent and to protect the vulnerable.
We mourn the death of non-combatants. We see and feel the grief of Palestinian parents weeping the loss of a child – even in those cases where we know that those same grieving parents would not mourn the loss of a Jewish child.
As the world media tally non-combatant losses in Gaza, we stand here today to bear witness to the truth that no country in the history of warfare has done more than Israel to protect the civilian populations of its enemies from the wars those enemies themselves started.
Even as the rockets fly from Gaza into Israel, electricity and drinking water continue to flow from Israel into Gaza. When Gazans are injured, they find treatment in Israeli hospitals; when Gazans are hungry, it is through Israel that international aid arrives.
When you see on TV or read online condemnations of Israel for this or that, think of this. Gaza is ruled by a terror group that would, if they could, commit genocide against the people of Israel. Israel is ruled by a democratically elected government that would , if it could, offer Gaza trade, aid, jobs, and development.
After so many years of terrorism, the people of Israel have mighty reason for anger. Yet the greatest anger in Israel is anger that Israel has again been driven to fight when Israel did not want to fight. The greatest anger is that Israel must waste the talents of its people fighting wars instead of curing diseases, inventing devices, and leading all the Middle East to freedom, prosperity, and peace.
It was only two months ago that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared before the United Nations to declare that if the Palestinians would commit to live in peace alongside Israel, Israel would be the first to welcome a Palestinian state to the United Nations. And even now, after those 1,540 rockets this year, and all the rockets last year, and all the suicide attacks of the Second Intifada, and all the wars waged against the State of Israel since before there was a State of Israel - even now, it is still true that Israel offers the Palestinians more than the Palestinians’ own leaders offer them: real nationhood, real peace, real progress.
We await the day when the Palestinians will produce leaders who can commit their people wholeheartedly to the path of peace with a Jewish Israel. We hope that day may come soon – and perhaps this latest round of unnecessary bloodshed may even hasten the day.
The world’s diplomats and politicians are rushing to negotiate some kind of ceasefire that will end this round of violence. We all hope their work succeeds. But if and when they do succeed, we need to remember that they have only suspended – not put an end to – the long war against Israel. The origin of that war is found in the radical rejection of the existence of a Jewish state in the historic Jewish homeland. It’s not only Hamas that rejects the Jewish state. In fact, if Hamas were the only rejectionist group, Israel’s problems would be more than manageable.
Over the horizon of this local conflict there looms a much more serious enemy, this one armed with rockets that can fly more than a dozen miles, this one seeking the deadliest warheads of them all. As Iran pursues its murderous ambitions, the Middle East will head to crisis compared to which today will seem a mere training exercise. Such a crisis must be averted. The day must never come when Israelis fear that the rockets aimed at them might carry a nuclear payload. Today is the warning of that more terrible possibility.
I do not want to send us into the night in a mood of alarm. The outside world has achieved remarkable success delaying and thwarting the Iranian nuclear program. We have reason to hope that this success will continue and even improve. The International Atomic Energy Agency has reported that Iran has unexpectedly shut down its reactor at Bushehr, an indication of serious trouble at the Russian-built facility. A word of advice to any aspiring nuclear powers out there: “made in Russia” is not a sign of a quality nuclear product.
Unfortunately, “made in Iran” will be a statement of nuclear terror.
Nobody should expect Israel to subject its people to such a terror.
Not before this latest barrage, and certainly not after.
Under communism, the Poles used to tell a joke. There were two possible solutions to the problems of the country, one practical, one miraculous. One solution was that communism would reform. That was the miraculous solution. The other was that the Virgin of Czestochowa attended by all the angels and archangels would descend from Heaven and put everything right. That was the practical solution.
Sometimes when we look at the Middle East, we may be tempted to a similar kind of despair. Think again. In every decade since the creation of the state, Israel has grown stronger, richer, tougher, and more secure. The lives of its people have improved – the standard of living inside Israel is double that inside Saudi Arabia, and will soon equal that of Italy.
Meanwhile, those who have taken up conflict against Israel have seen their societies regress into primitivism, fanaticism, poverty, and backwardness. They offer their people only frustration and disappointment, their young men no future other than a promise of a better life after a grisly death. The mighty prediction of almost 3,000 years ago still seems to hold today: I will bless them that bless you, and those who curse you, I will curse. The rockets backfire on those who shoot them. The people of Israel still live and thrive. We stand with them tonight, and know that as we stand, so do millions of people of goodwill, who seek what Israel seeks: a secure and lasting peace.