"I cannot tell you how honored I am to speak to the members of this great organization, who understand better than anyone the imperative of a free, independent Jewish State and who know that a secure, successful Israel serves the national interests of the United States of America.
My friends, Israel does not stand alone in this world. Her fight against those who would seek her destruction is America’s fight as well – as it should be the fight of all who love liberty and reject terrorism.
As we work to establish democracy in Iraq, we must unequivocally and unalterably reaffirm our support for the Middle East’s only democracy.
And standing side by side, we must not relent until victory over hatred, terror and anti-Semitism is this generation’s lasting legacy.
No people on earth have been subjected to more bigotry and violence than the Jewish people. And no people are more in need of a sovereign, secure homeland to provide safe haven and to protect identity.
So, today, three weeks after the 56th anniversary of Israel’s independence, let us honor her determination to fulfill the vision of Zionism’s founding father, Theodor Herzl, who observed, “If you will it, it is no dream.” Through courage and will, Israel was born, and the dream of generations was made real.
And let us never forget the declaration by David Ben-Gurion: The security of Israel, he said, “is a question of the survival not only of the people of Israel, but of the Jewish people the world over.”
Members of AIPAC, the special bond that exists between the United States and Israel is stronger than ever.
Ours is a relationship of principle and conscience, of shared values and common aspirations, of peace and opportunity, and of a mutual commitment to freedom and democracy.
In Congress today, support for Israel and her cause is bipartisan and overwhelming.
When the Majority Whip in the House, Roy Blunt, and I circulated a letter last year urging President Bush to adhere to the principles for peace that he articulated in June 2002, 313 Democrats and Republicans signed it.
When the House considered a Resolution last year expressing America’s solidarity with Israel in the war on terrorism, 399 Democrats and Republicans supported it.
This level of support is important and encouraging. But the effort to maintain it must be ongoing. That, of course, is AIPAC’s reason for being and daily mission.
It is in that spirit that I led 28 other Democrats to Israel last August.
I have been to Israel in each of the last four decades, six times in all. But this was the first visit for many of my colleagues. We traveled throughout Israel, and met with senior officials, including Prime Minister Sharon, Labor Party Chairman Peres and Knesset Speaker Rivlin.
And we saw first-hand the security challenges that confront our ally every single day.
I will never forget watching a young Israeli lieutenant monitor the Lebanese border to prevent a surprise attack by Hezbollah terrorists.
I will never forget talking to an Israeli father who said that he puts gas masks in his children’s book bags every day because he can never be sure when an attack might come.
And I will never forget being transported to a meeting in Gaza with former Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas in an armored personnel carrier, a stark reminder of the proximity of danger.
This trip left an indelible impression on all of us, and provoked strong agreement on several important points.
First, Israel’s security is an absolute precondition for peace. The Palestinian side must completely cease its campaign of terror against Israel.
Second, the security fence is a reasonable, acceptable effort to prevent terrorists from attacking the Israeli people, which undermines any possibility for peace.
Third, it is essential that the Palestinian leadership dismantle terrorist organizations – which so far, it has refused to do.
And fourth, the plight of the Palestinian people must concern all of us. Their cause has been diminished by depraved and corrupt leaders, led by Yasir Arafat, who employ the tactics of terror, incite their people to hate and refuse to seek peace – thereby relegating their own Palestinian people to poverty and severe insecurity.
The sad, inexplicable and debilitating truth is that, since the Intafada began, the Palestinian leadership has not taken one concrete step to stop terrorism against Israel and her citizens.
It is this absence of leadership on the Palestinian side, the absence of a sincere negotiating partner, that spurred Prime Minister Sharon to offer his recent disengagement plan.
This effort is the latest example of Israel’s willingness to take risks and offer a bold initiative that could further the cause of peace, enhance Israel’s security and lead toward providing the Palestinian people with a homeland of their own.
And that is why President Bush supports it; that is why John Kerry supports it; and that is why Members on both sides of the aisle in Congress support it.
I am hopeful that Congress can express bipartisan support for principles the President articulated during Prime Minister Sharon’s recent visit to the United States. And I look forward to working with Tom DeLay to accomplish that end.
Sadly, the security of Israel is threatened not only by extremists and fanatics in the West Bank and Gaza, but, as well, by entire populations in the Middle East, who are infected with an obsessive hatred of Israel, who embrace terrorism and who seek the most lethal weapons in human history.
As the threat grows greater, so too must our resolve.
I commend President Bush for imposing economic sanctions last week under the Syria Accountability Act, legislation which passed the Congress with broad bipartisan support.
The message to the Assad government in Damascus is clear: Syria cannot claim membership in the civilized world while continuing to sponsor and give sanctuary and aid to terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.
If these sanctions fail to persuade Syria to change its course, then I will help lead the effort in Congress to strengthen the United States’ response.
Many senior Israeli officials with whom I spoke last summer were even more animated about the Iranian threat. Just two weeks ago, the House passed by an overwhelming vote a Resolution condemning Iran for deceiving the international community about its nuclear activities and programs, and calling on the United States to “use all appropriate means to deter, dissuade, and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”
We must be tough and realistic regarding Iran. Israel, of course, must do what it deems necessary to protect itself. The United States, meanwhile, must work with the European Union, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure that Iran is held accountable for its conduct.
But let me be clear: An Iran with nuclear weapons is not only unacceptable to Israel, it is unacceptable to the United States as well. The proliferation of nuclear weapons to state sponsors of terror is a clear and present danger to all the world.
Let me say, too, that the time has come for the United States and the rest of the civilized world to pressure Saudi Arabia to crack down on those within its borders who fund, facilitate and rationalize terrorism.
Furthermore, the Saudi government can no longer escape responsibility for supporting and exporting the intolerant brand of Islam known as Wahhabism, which breeds hatred of other countries, including the United States and Israel.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reported one year ago that official government textbooks, published by the Saudi Ministry of Education, include offensive and discriminatory language, and in some cases promote intolerance and hatred of other religious groups.
The Commission found that Israel is regularly referred to as a “wicked nation.” Such language belies any rhetorical support for peace.
We know that repugnant acts of anti-Semitism continue against Jews throughout the world, and we recognize that such hatred is as dangerous as it is unacceptable.
Yet, we must not overlook the “new” anti-Semitism that grips entire countries in the Middle East and infects others.
The new strain of anti-Semitism, as Mortimer Zuckerman points out, is not directed at individual Jews or even Judaism itself, but rather against the Jewish collective, the modern State of Israel.
And the public record is replete with outrageous examples.
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah recently blamed “Zionists” for violence in the kingdom, and his views were endorsed by Prince Saud.
The Malaysian Prime Minister told Islamic leaders in October that, “Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.”
And, sadly and shockingly, his remarks were met with a standing ovation.
Fifty-nine percent of the citizens in the European Union recently identified Israel as the world’s greatest threat to peace.
And the United Nations General Assembly continues to single out Israel for unfair and discriminatory treatment. In the current Session of the General Assembly, the United States has had to vote against anti-Israel resolutions 22 separate times. No other country receives such intensive and unfair treatment.
Anti-Zionism is still anti-Semitism, no matter how it’s cloaked. And we must expose it, condemn it, and exorcize from the international body politic.
We know from wrenching experience where the toxic brew of hatred, intolerance and violence can lead. We know that anti-Semitism is a cancer, that left unchecked, will metastasize and poison entire societies, and such poison will threaten all other minorities in their turn.
And the United States of America, as a matter of moral conscience and strategic interest, must vigilantly combat it.
Finally, let me say that the United States, Israel and the rest of the civilized world must never equate legitimate acts of self-defense, by any State, with illegitimate, unspeakable acts of terror.
Freedom fighters do not attack innocent men, women and children with the intention of inflicting as much carnage as possible. Terrorists do.
Freedom fighters do not send their youth to their deaths as homicide bombers. Terrorists do.
Freedom fighters do not execute four beautiful little girls and their pregnant mother, in cold blood. Terrorists do.
Members of AIPAC, Israel’s fight is our fight.
The late Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson – a committed friend of Israel – once remarked “that it is both wrong and foolhardy for any democratic state to consider international terrorism to be ‘someone else’s’ problem.”
“When one nation is under attack,” he said, “the rest must understand that democracy itself is under attack.”
9/11 awakened America to the obligation this generation owes to its heritage and its progeny, and we must not ignore it.
The battle we are in today requires us to stand side by side with Israel against those who would undermine freedom, security and democracy by the wanton, indiscriminate and calculated killing of innocent people.
Those who sow hate in our world are the common enemy of all.
Working together – with courage, perseverance and resolve – the United States, Israel and our allies must prevail over those forces that seek to plunge Israel and freedom-defending peoples into an abyss of tyranny and terror.
I know that AIPAC, as it has for half a century, will continue to be an outspoken and effective champion of that victory. And I am proud to count myself as your brother in that cause.