This piece was originally delivered as a speech to the Israel Allies Foundation’s European Summit in Berlin, attended my members of parliament from across Europe, on November 9 – in commemoration of the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
I’d like to ask you all to use your imagination for a moment. I want you to imagine that you’re a 64-year-old man. A gentle, nice man.
A man who has never hurt anyone.
You’re driving along at the legal speed limit, because you’re a law abiding man, and you’re listening to Mozart on the radio – Serenade No. 13 in G major, better known as “Eine kleine Nachtmusik.”
You drove like that this morning; you drove like that on the way here.
The radio is playing. All is quiet. Then suddenly, bang! A huge rock, a slab that someone threw with murderous intent, shatters your front windshield, smashes your face, and you die on the road. For no reason.
Actually there is a reason. There is one reason. You’re a Jew. Someone murdered you just because you’re a Jew.
This is not a theoretical story. The man I just described is Alexander Levlovitz. He was murdered on September 14 on his way home from dinner in Jerusalem, just because he was a Jew. And the world said, “The Jews are to blame.”
A 13-year-old boy was stabbed by two Palestinian children, one aged 17 and the other aged 13. He was seriously wounded and is still fighting for his life. The security forces had to shoot the attackers so that they wouldn’t try to kill more children. The Palestinians distributed the photographs of the injured attackers to the world, and they were aired across the Western media without mentioning even once, not once, the fact that they were running with knives and attempting to stab people. The only thing that was published was that “the Israeli security forces shot Palestinian children.”
And the world said, of course, “The Jews are to blame.”
It is true that Palestinians have also been killed in the recent violence, but there is one difference: No one harmed them because they were Palestinian, or because they were Muslim, but because they tried to kill innocent people who did them no harm. Those who draw an equivalency between their murderers and our murdered, negate the very concept of self-defense. They deny that there is a difference between the attacker and the attacked. Between the victim and the killer. Between the right of a democratic nation to ensure law and order, and the attempt by terrorists, anywhere in the world, to create chaos, to provoke a religious war, to sow death and destruction.
Jihadi terrorism never hid the fact that part of its war was over hearts and minds. Jihadi terrorism never hid the fact that it is interested in recruiting the Western media, in using Western guilt and the Western tendency to create balance. To achieve that, they lie, they invent stories, they stage photographs. It all works. Western media, Western liberalism, and Western values of free speech have become a weapon to be used against Israel.
Terrorists have no problem manipulating public opinion in order to incite against Israel.
There is countless recorded evidence of the fact they fabricate, they lie, they deceive. But the world chooses to ignore the boring facts in order to create drama. It is easier to blame the Jews, and it makes a better story.
It is impossible to stand here in Berlin and discuss the murder of Jews for being Jews without us all thinking about the Holocaust. Especially because tonight we mark the 77th commemoration of Kristallnacht, the night in which the land of Germany was covered in broken glass, stained with Jewish blood.
The State of Israel was created after the Holocaust. If not for the Holocaust, if not for the terrible scenes witnessed by the world when the Allied forces reached the concentration camps – Auschwitz, Dachau, Mauthausen – it is hard to imagine that the United Nations would have voted for the creation of the State of Israel in November 1947.
The question that pursues us since is, what have we learned from the Holocaust? What is the lesson? This questions troubles German society but it also troubles Israeli society.
It is troubling because we ended the Holocaust, the Jewish people ended the Holocaust, with a dual lesson. The Holocaust taught us two things, two separate lessons: The first lesson is that we have to survive. Survive at all cost. Survive on our own. Not to trust anyone else. Not to believe that someone will come to the rescue. We and only we, on our own merits, with the strength of the Israeli army, need to protect the Jewish people from all those who wish us harm. Survival is not just an ancient instinct that we share with all our neighbors in the jungle of human existence. In our case it is also a historic command: We must survive because the Jewish idea cannot perish.
The second lesson we learned is that we must be moral people. Not in words but in deeds. In the decisions we take and the risks we take.
On the wall of the Holocaust Museum in Washington are engraved the three commandments written by Auschwitz survivor Victor Frenckel: “Don’t be a victim. Don’t be a collaborator.
Don’t be a bystander.”
The problem with these two lessons is that in many cases in the life of our state they contradict one another. If you wish to survive at all costs and remain moral, then you need to make especially difficult decisions.
It is hard because our enemies have no moral boundaries. Terrorists from ISIS and Hamas are medieval people with 21st-century weapons. Faced with these people, if you don’t fight without hesitation – you’ll die. If you don’t maintain your morals as you fight – you are at the risk of becoming too much like them. It’s a struggle. It’s an agonizing struggle, daily, bloody, with no easy answers.
Yet in comfortable living rooms here in Berlin, in Paris, in Washington and in Stockholm sit people who have all the easy answers. They tell us that we’re not managing this conflict the way we should. We are not aesthetic enough. If only we would behave differently then terrorism will cease.
This isn’t right factually because terrorism came long before any occupation, and Islamic terrorism is running wild in places with no connection to Israel. It isn’t right historically because twice, in the year 2000 and in 2008 Israel offered the Palestinians more than 90 percent of the land, to create a state for themselves. Twice they preferred to reject the offer and continue on the path of terrorism. And it isn’t right morally because from India to Rwanda people live in far harder conditions than the Palestinians, and no one believes that justifies them turning to murder and terror.
Today, there were three terror attacks in Israel. Five Israelis were wounded, two of them badly. When Western liberals say that it is all due to Israel’s behavior, it is not an explanation – it’s a justification. The murder of innocent civilians can never be justified. There is no justification for 9/11. There is no justification for ISIS burning people alive. There is no justification for the fact that in Syria over a quarter of million people have been killed. And there is no justification for the stabbing and killing taking place in the streets of Israel in the last weeks.
And yet, since 2006, Israel was condemned in no less than 62 UN human rights council resolutions.
The entire rest of the world combined was not condemned so many times.
During these years we had massacres in Syria, in Libya, in Congo, in Iraq; millions have died, but they kept on condemning the one country that is doing everything in its power to avoid hurting the innocent.
The latest example is the European Union decision to label products coming from the West Bank and the Golan Heights. This is not a legal issue, this is politics. This is classic BDS in disguise. Playing dumb while trying to pre-rule the future borders before any negotiation starts. Adding the Golan Heights while knowing all so well that there is not a single Palestinian living there – not one – and there is no one to give the Heights to.
It’s time to stop focusing on Israel and start focusing on those who condemn us: Why do they do it? What are the real reasons that they prefer to ignore the facts? What is the dark difference, the internal one, which causes them to condemn Israeli democracy and not our murderous enemies? What makes them want to label goods from Israel but not from Rwanda, Syria, Congo or Iran? However, despite everything I have just said, Israel is not exempt from the constant requirement to strive for a diplomatic solution which will allow us to separate from the Palestinians on the basis of two states for two peoples.
Not because we accept the justness of their cause, but because our national interest is not to try and absorb 3.5 million Palestinians. In order to keep a clear Jewish majority, we must separate from the Palestinians while maintaining the security cooperation and the ability of the IDF to operate anywhere and without restrictions.
We need to embark upon a process which will be painful and complicated for both sides but will also lead us to the place God promised us during our journey in the desert, “May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26) This journey won’t be short and it won’t be easy, and we need our friends to help us on our way. We need you to ask the media and the decision-makers the tough questions about their obsessive bias toward Israel.
We need you to help us tell our story. The real story, not the twisted propaganda that took over the public arena. We need your friendship and deep commitment, and we need to know that we do not walk alone.
The writer is leader of the Yesh Atid party.