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It is a distinct honor for me to address this summit, particularly at such a critical time in history.
I bring greetings from the United States Congress, and in particular from President George W. Bush. He extends his best wishes for a successful summit, and pledges his continued support for Israel , and for the pursuit of peace.
Thank you, Dr. Beker, for your kind introduction.
(Acknowledge distinguished guests)
Dr. Pipes, Director Marcus, and Dr. Sherman, it is a privilege to be on this panel with you.
How appropriate, of course, that this international gathering be in Jerusalem . As if I needed any further reminder, two weeks ago at our regular Sunday Mass, the scriptural readings included the 122 nd Psalm – which is one of many liturgical connections we Catholics make to our Hebrew roots. The verse includes these words:
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
Let us go up to the house of the Lord.
Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up,
The tribes of the Lord.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
And, so, these dozens of centuries after those words were written, the world still prays for the peace of Jerusalem .
And the tribes of the world still come appropriately to this city – yes, to discuss our problems – but, also to talk of hope.
I am among the many who believe that an ultimate solution to peace in the greater middle-east, and from what the world now calls the threat of terrorism, must include an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I am also one who became convinced that so long as Yasser Arafat was the central Palestinian figure, peace was not possible.
Arafat is now gone.
The extent to which his legacy of violence, of destruction, of hatred and terror, of poisoning the minds and hearts of infants so they grow up perverted, becoming human weapons-of-war – the extent to which this still exists after Arafat is gone, will determine whether a new day has indeed arrived in the peace process, or if we merely have a different chapter in the same book.
There is much to ponder in the title of this summit, “Building peace on truth.”
Truth is different than opinion. Good people can differ in opinion on very serious questions: many disagreed with President Bush’s decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power. That’s opinion.
Truth is far more foundational to mankind. The basic truths by which we are to live – in families, communities, nations – were handed down to us by the Supreme Author of truth about 3400 years ago when God gave to Moses the Ten Commandments.
From them comes the foundation of all peaceful truths: all men are created equal, you don’t take what isn’t yours, people have a right to exist and live in freedom, there is order to family life and society.
To be sure, more wars have been fought claiming God’s righteousness than for any other reason. Mankind seems to have an unlimited capacity to warp the truth to fit his own passions.
A strong case can be made that when untruth is not challenged and resolved, peace is almost certainly a casualty.
We live in a time when there are many outcries for tolerance. Appropriately, tolerance is part of the agenda of this summit.
But, I caution you to remember that it is one thing to be tolerant of a different opinion.
History however would teach us that when untruth is tolerated, good people die.
An American President John Kennedy observed that, “unchallenged aggression, sooner or later, will lead to war.”
In my own nation, one founded upon the principle that “all men are created equal, and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, our founders were unable to resolve the gross injustice of slavery. God-fearing men and women closed their eyes to the hypocrisy of slavery. They were tolerant.
To resolve this injustice, we went to war with ourselves, sacrificing over 600,000 of our own in an infant nation, and though the nation survived, the residual of racial tension very much lives on in America.
During the 1930’s most of the world, and too many Germans were tolerant of Hitler’s ascending tyranny. As he built his empire for war with the world, he systematically victimized those whom he saw as “undesirable” or threatened the supremacy of the Third Reich.
None paid a greater price than the Jewish people.
And, the world was largely silent.
More than 56 million died in World War II before the madness of Hitler and his allies was ended.
Golda Meir was correct " Israel itself is the strongest guarantee against another Holocaust." Long live Israel !
Now, for 50 or more years the seeds of today’s threat to the free world – terrorism -have been sown primarily within radical Fundamental Islam.
It is a doctrine built, not on truth, but on false opinion – not on freedom, but on tyranny – not on peace, but war.
None have suffered more from this latest incarnation of evil than Jews and the State of Israel. Today you have brothers in blood around the world, as the venom of the terrorist strikes at the innocent and vulnerable.
This enemy of freedom functions like the most vile of serpents. They hide in shadows, preying on the helpless and unsuspecting. There is no mystery in the mission of the snake, only where and when he will strike, not if.
And as the threat of terrorism grew, and Israel was attacked, most of the world was either silent, or called for tolerance – again.
And, good people died.
As Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs, Al Queda, Taliban, and too many others grew larger, more brazen, and unfortunately more successful, there was mostly silence.
As Islamic Madrassas poisoned the minds of children, preparing them only for a lifetime of hatred and death, most of the world called for tolerance.
I tell you this, to remain silent in the face of injustice, genocide, jihad, tyranny and terrorism is not tolerance, it is cowardice!
America and Israel have much in common. We embrace freedom and democracy. We believe in the common decency of people and their God given right to live in peace. And, we believe that there is no greater force in the world than the energy of free people.
Our nations often are criticized by many in the world. We are not always painted in the most favorable light by the world’s media. Our reception at the United Nations may not be the warmest. Some of our European friends seem to struggle to understand us as clearly as we would like.
But, we are nations aligned by moral principle. Firm in our convictions, and willing to defend ourselves when attacked.
On September 11, 2001 , America was bonded with Israel by blood as we lost 3000 innocent victims, in an attack clearly intended for far greater consequences. The reality of terrorism hit our homeland.
Recognizing the global threat of those that attacked us, President Bush invited the world community to join us in dismantling the Taliban and freeing the captive people of Afghanistan.
Today, a totalitarian regime is no more, Afghani schools are open - and for girls, too - and even in the face of much skepticism, Afghanistan has held their first free elections.
In the days following Sept. 11, President Bush made it clear to the world that regardless of what they call themselves or where they hide, if your mission is terror, then the United States of America is going to find you and put you out of business.
And so, George Bush went to the United Nations and made his case against Saddam Hussein, and challenged the UN to “be relevant”. He asked the UN to simply demonstrate that they meant what they said in passing a multitude of resolutions of which Saddam had violated.
And, as has become the standard, the UN backed down.
America, nonetheless, lead a coalition of some three dozen nations and today Iraq is free, the torture chambers and rape rooms are idle, commerce is returning, and yes, free elections are scheduled for January 30.
And, to all the world, the free Arab states of Afghanistan and Iraq , are now a candle of hope where a short while ago, only darkness lived.
Not all in the world joined us. For that matter not all Americans agree. Tony Blair has his share of critics, too. May God bless that very courageous man.
Some continue to be harsh critics; it wasn’t necessary, should have given diplomacy more of a chance, it was just Bush being a cowboy!
Last July, 16 Iraqi women visited Washington. I was part of a small group that spent about 90 minutes visiting with them. They told of life under Saddam, of family members lost, of brutal torture, of life without hope.
We acknowledged that in prosecuting this war in their homeland, mistakes have been made. And, we asked them to tell us from their perspective what we did wrong.
Instantly, one of the elder women spoke, “You waited too long!”
She paused briefly, and then explained further. By their estimation, the number of Iraqis “taken from our homes that never returned”, as she put it, was over a million. To emphasize the point, she invited the other women to tell how many had disappeared from their particular town or province. Thousands, tens of thousands, and more.
When they finished, the elder lady spoke again saying, “You waited too long. You should have finished the job in 1991, and when you didn’t more of us died.”
“If a million dead isn’t enough, how many more? If not now, when would it have been time for the world to come to save us? “
Jews understand that cry for help.
We cannot be silent, we cannot be tolerant of injustice, for when we are good people die.
“The United States seeks to bring peace where there is conflict, hope where there is suffering, and liberty where there is tyranny.” Those are the words of President Bush.
I join him in that pledge, and invite all people who yearn for peace to stand with us.
Freedom is not easy. It requires effort, sacrifice, and vigilance. It also requires leadership with moral clarity and the willingness and conviction to call evil by its name, and take aggressive action against it.
It is man’s nature to be free, and it is wholly part of God’s plan that he be free.
The desire and the righteous quest for freedom, trace as far back as ancient Egypt with Moses demand of Pharaoh to “Let my people go”. And, with considerable Divine intervention, he did.
Oppressed people around the world, still utter those same words, “let my people go”.
As God’s children, we have an obligation to hear their cry.
For those that believe the challenge seems impossible; that the differences are too great; the hatred too ancient. I would remind them that the last great threat to freedom was communism and the Soviet Union . Many predicted its dominance over the world, and commented on its superiorities over democracy.
Ronald Reagan believed differently.
He saw it as an evil empire, and he said so.
It the face of their military might, he matched them.
He was always willing to negotiate, but from a position of strength.
And of their great symbol , the Berlin Wall, a wall not built to defend and protect, but to imprison and deny, Reagan – against the counsel of his own closest advisors – challenged Grobechev to tear down that wall.
And the wall came down.
He spoke with great clarity and conviction about fundamental truth: that enslaving people under the tyranny of communism was wrong, and that all people deserved to be free.
Reagan was right, and the Soviet Union is no more. It can happen, and it must happen.
So, how do we make it so?
As the elections in Afghanistan and soon Iraq , hold hope for a once hopeless people, so too do the announced elections by the Palestinian Authority.
Many very serious questions remain to be answered: are the Palestinians capable of leaving the horrors of the past behind, will they reform their schools and their teaching, will they police themselves and dissolve the terrorist organizations within, are they even capable of governing themselves?
These and other serious questions remain, but with the passing of Arafat and the elections, there is hope for progress.
On an even broader scale, we must continue to reach out to the rest of the world community in whatever way possible. If the UN continues to be dysfunctional, then we seek other means. This Summit is a good example, and what finer place than Jerusalem.
We must continue dialogue and openness, because with it comes understanding and appreciation. Isolation breeds contempt and distrust.
We must push for open societies, with free press. Knowledge of the rest of the world is fundamental for understanding.
Educational opportunity and reform is needed in so much of the world, and technology makes it so very accessible.
Many of us have concern with the UN, but amid the problems there is much good. Koichiro Matsuura serves as the Director General of UNESCO in Paris . In May 2003 I spoke at the opening plenary session of the UNESCO / Simon Wiesenthal Center Conference convened by the Director General on the global resurgence of anti-Semitism.
This action demonstrates the courage of this good-hearted man, who stands up to much criticism from within the UN for truth.
Under his leadership UNESCO demonstrates the power of education and understanding to the people of the world.
I call upon the Director General to enter into this new hopeful time in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – come to Israel, and through UNESCO leadership, bring the eyes, voices, minds, and hearts of the world for peace.
Because of Director General Matsuura's commitment to truth and reform President Bush recommended to Congress that we rejoin UNESCO.
Economic opportunity and trade can transform oppressed societies in very short periods of time. The former soviet block countries are some examples. While there is a long way to go, I believe the hope for China to eventually join the free nations of the world is through trade and cultural exchange with the West. And, I believe that economic opportunity is the hope for much of the reform needed in the Arab states and so much of Northern Africa.
It is already taking hold in Iraq . People have the opportunity to get a job that can better their family, they can own property and businesses, they can see a brighter future, and a reason for living. We take this for granted, but for them hope is a new experience.
Perhaps more than any one thing, what I think we desperately need now, at what I believe to be a critical moment in history, are true principled leaders. Those who lead with character, purpose, and confidence. They are guided by a morality and ethos that is from the ancients, because truth has been true since the beginning of time.
Leaders who cause others to rise up, to do the right thing, to take on the impossible.
Winston Churchill was one of those. He certainly was called upon during the most serious of times, and he motivated a nation to bravery with these words, “dread naught when duty calls…Stand erect and look the world in the face and do our duty without fear or favor.”
I fear too many leaders today are short on bravery, and have timidity in abundance.
I’ll state again my earlier assertion, that to remain silent in the face of injustice is not tolerance, it is cowardice.
I will leave you with this final thought: The world of 2004 needs leaders with Clarity, Conviction, Courage, and Compassion.
One leads with Clarity who can tell right from wrong, good from evil.
When faced with that choice, it is not tolerant to avoid making the decision, it is cowardice.
One leads with Conviction who is morally principled, and firm in his beliefs.
This age of Relativism has given us too many who accept anything in the name of tolerance and diversity.
One leads with Courage who is willing to take necessary action.
We are surrounded by leaders who endlessly rationalize their inaction, their indecision, and their vacillation. Many are quick to criticize; few are willing to be bold.
One leads with Compassion who relieves the suffering of the oppressed.
Talking about the injustice in the world resolves little. Deliberation without action perpetuates suffering. If we truly believe that all people deserve God’s gift of freedom, then we must be willing to act to make it so.
Clarity, Conviction, Courage, and Compassion.
To talk of peace, and not be willing to dismantle the mechanisms of war is none of these.
When I think of humanitarian solutions for the challenges we face I think of these virtues. They are as old as time, founded in truth. But, too often absent in the world of 2004.
I hope that somewhere they fit within the “New Ideas from the Old City ”.
May God bless you all.