Good morning, Guten Morgen, Boker Tov.
State Secretary Adler, State Secretary Lambrecht, Graf Lambsdorff, Minister Lorz, Mayor Becker, my friend, it’s good to see you again, Ambassador Issacharoff, Sacha and Maya- thank you for all that you do for Israel.
Friends, it’s an honor to be here and represent the State of Israel at this incredible gathering.
When I became Minister of Strategic Affairs, in charge of countering BDS and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy, everybody told me: “Europe is lost”. I refused to accept that attitude and told my staff to prioritize Europe. When I see all of you here, your passion, your enthusiasm- I know that all those who told me that “Europe is lost” were wrong.
I know that we can make Israel’s voice heard and counter the misconceptions. Because friends, the light of truth is always stronger than the fog of lies.
So I want to start by saying thank you, in the name of the State of Israel, for all of your hard work to spread the truth, counter the lies and bring our countries even closer together.
Thank you, toda raba.
Give yourselves a hand I stand before you this morning as the grandson of two strong women, Clari and Rachel, who both survived Auschwitz, and came to Israel to rebuild their lives and build the Jewish state. Now I’m sure that when they walked out of Auschwitz, where the Jewish people lost all security, they could never have imagined that their grandson would be responsible for the public security of the Jewish state. And they could probably never have imagined that their grandson would be standing here in Frankfurt, to celebrate Israel and Germany’s friendship.
Both my grandmothers came to Israel and settled in the southern city of Ashkelon. That’s where I grew up, helping out in Savta Clari’s hardware store and playing on Savta Rachel’s farm.
I was in Ashkelon again just last week. But not to visit my family. I was in Ashkelon to hear from my police officers and firefighters how they dealt with the hundreds of rockets that fell on Ashkelon and all of Israel’s south.
To hear how they pulled wounded civilians out of apartments destroyed by Hamas missiles. Sadly, once again, Clari and Rachel’s children and grandchildren, are facing an enemy enflamed by antisemitism and hate. An enemy whose goal is simple- to wipe out the Jewish state.
To quote the introduction of Hamas’ charter: “Our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave.” Of course Hamas and the Gaza terrorist groups aren’t the only ones working towards this goal. This goal is shared by Iran which is trying to turn Syria into a forward terrorist base. And by Hezbollah which has already turned Lebanon into a terrorist base, and which is aiming over a hundred and fifty thousand missiles at Israel right now.
Let me be clear, Israel has no problem with the Iranian or Lebanese people. However, as long as Iran writes “death to Israel” on its ballistic missiles. And as long as Hezbollah makes a laughingstock of the international community by setting up its terror bases right under the nose of the UN-Israel will do whatever is necessary to defend itself. Because unlike that dark night 80 years ago, when the synagogues in this city were burned to the ground, today the Jewish people are not defenseless. And as the person in charge of Israel’s public security, I can promise you-the Jewish people will never be defenseless again.
One of the most important reasons that Israel is strong today is because of our special relationship with Germany. Our friendship and partnership is constantly growing. On Friday, I met with the leadership of the BKA. We discussed expanding our cooperation in the fight against terror and crime.
We’re working together to combat lone wolf terrorists, online terror incitement, and organized crime. This cooperation is making our people safer, and our countries more secure. However, our cooperation goes beyond security and fighting terror. We’re taking advantage of the unique capabilities of each of our countries to lead the way into the future.
We’re here in Frankfurt, home of the International Motor Show. Israeli start-ups and German auto companies are leading the way in developing autonomous vehicles that will change the way we all live in just a few years. And we’re also working together to improve the lives of millions in Africa, by developing new methods of providing clean water, renewable energy, and affordable medical care.
Friends, Israel and Germany are united by the horrors of the past, and by the promise of the future. By our shared goal of building a better world. And by our shared commitment to combatting all forms of antisemitism and hate. That’s why it’s particularly appropriate that this conference is taking place in Frankfurt.
Because the City of Frankfurt has been a leader in fighting the new form of antisemitism- The so-called BDS campaign. While the old antisemitism demonized the Jew and blamed him for all of Germany’s problems. The new antisemitism demonizes the Jewish state, and blames it for all of the Middle East’s problems.
The old antisemitism called for boycotts of Jewish businesses, and threatened those who refused. The new antisemitism calls for a boycott of products from the Jewish state, and threatens those who refuse. These two forms of antisemitism have the same poisonous roots. And they must be condemned with the same clarity, opposed with the same intensity and countered with the same determination.
Now the BDS extremists know that it’s no longer politically-correct to be blatantly anti-Semitic. So they try to hide their true goals by hijacking the language of human rights and putting a mask of progressive slogans over the ugly face of hate.
When I became Minister of Strategic Affairs, I decided that we needed to do three things to counter BDS. We needed to tear off its mask and expose its true nature and goals. We needed to move from defense to offense in the fight against BDS. And we needed to share the truth about Israel. I’m pleased to say that three years later, we’re seeing a shift in the momentum. For the first time, BDS is on the defensive. We’re exposing the links between BDS activists and designated terrorist groups such as Hamas and the PFLP.
We’re exposing how the BDS campaign’s call to drive Israelis and Palestinians apart is not only counter productive, but in fact harms first and foremost Palestinian families.
And as I said, we’re exposing the antisemitism and hate at the heart of the BDS campaign. Germany has been a leader in recognizing the anti-Semitic nature of BDS. Chancellor Merkel has been clear in rejecting attempts to delegitimize Israel and the CDU has labelled BDS: “coarse antisemitism.”
German states and cities are taking steps to ensure that no public assets go to BDS. German banks are closing BDS-linked accounts, and German broadcasters refused to air the concert of the anti-Semitic singer Roger Waters.
I used to like listening to Roger Waters’ music. Now I turn the radio off every time his songs come on. Antisemitism should never be part of our playlist.
However, there’s still much to do. This is especially true since Germany is a leader of Europe, the European Union, and the West. German government funds are still going, indirectly, to NGOs that advance BDS and delegitimization.
Even more importantly, we recently revealed that the EU, despite its declarations that it doesn’t support BDS, has funneled millions of Euros to organizations that promote boycotts of Israel.
When I sent our report on EU funding to High Representative Mogherini, she answered me by explaining that EU funding doesn’t go directly to the BDS activity, but to “other” activities carried out by the same BDS organizations. That simply makes no sense.
Money is fungible and any funds going to an NGO help it carry out all of its activities.
This funding must stop.
Just as the EU would never fund an organization promoting racism, even if the funding was going to “other” activities, the EU must not fund any organization actively promoting boycotts of the Jewish state. Germany can and should lead such a reform in the EU. German taxpayers should not be footing the bill for BDS.
German government funds are also still going, unfortunately, to UN bodies that openly promote the demonization and delegitimization of Israel. Bodies like the so-called Human Rights Council, which obsessively singles out Israel for condemnation while shielding the world’s worst human rights violators from criticism. Until this body undergoes a deep deep reform, it should receive no funding from any country that truly cares about human rights.
And like UNRWA, which not only perpetuates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but allows its schools to teach Palestinian children antisemitism and hate. We’re certainly not opposed to aid going to people in need. But there’s no reason that government funds should go through UNRWA, rather than through civilian NGOs, host governments or the UN Refugee Agency.
And friends, I believe, that Germany must take an even stronger stance against the most anti-Semitic regime in the world- Iran. Just yesterday, the “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani labeled Israel a “cancerous tumor”. History teaches us that anti-Semitic threats from fanatical leaders with hegemonic ambitions must be taken seriously. Very seriously.
And they must be taken even more seriously when they are combined with a world wide web of terror, a ballistic missile program, and complicity in the mass murder of civilians in Syria.
Our goal must be simple- to change the behavior of the Iranian regime. The idea that as long as Iran, at the present moment, is not openly advancing its military nuclear program, we can treat it like a normal country is wrong and dangerous. That’s like giving legitimacy to a murderer, as long as he promises not to steal, or promises to put down his gun and murder only with his knife.
Even the Iranian people are demanding that the regime change its behavior. The millions suffering in Syria are dreaming of the day when Iran will change its behavior. The Gulf States are deeply worried by Iran’s behavior. It simply cannot be that from the point of view of Germany, it is business as usual with Iran.
Germany should join the American sanctions on Iran, rather than trying to get around them. Because as I said, Germany is a leader in Europe. And Germany must show moral leadership on this issue.
Forcing a change in Iran’s behavior would be good for the safety of the people of Israel, of the people of Iran, and of the people of Europe, as the recent arrests of Iranian terror agents in Europe has shown. I can tell you that despite these arrests, Iran hasn’t given up, and is continuing to look for ways to carry out terror attacks on European soil.
Friends, the Middle East is rapidly changing before our eyes, and Germany can and should play a major role in shaping a more positive future.
Take the example of Gaza. While Abu Mazen is doing everything he can to harm the people of Gaza and increase tensions, Israel is working with a number of Arab states to maintain the calm and provide Gaza’s humanitarian needs. These are the same humanitarian needs, such as electricity, which Abu Mazen is working so hard to undermine.
The old beliefs that giving in to Abu Mazen’s demands would advance peace, or that relations between Israel and the Arab world could never improve without a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are falling apart. Israel’s relationships with many countries in the Arab and Islamic world are growing stronger. Germany can play a major role in helping bring Israel and Arab countries together, for example by promoting joint economic and technological projects. This would improve the lives of millions in the region, and would lead to a more stable and safer Middle East.
Palestinian leaders, in the post-Abbas era, would be forced to realize that their old dream of wiping Israel off the map was nothing more than an illusion, and that Israel has become an integral part of the region. Once the Palestinian leadership internalizes this fact, and works to promote a culture of peace rather than of hate, a viable peace will become possible. And this is of course a goal that we all share.
Friends, thank you again for your support for Israel. Your dedication and hard work will ensure that Israel and Germany’s relationship will continue to grow as we face new challenges in the years ahead. This will have tremendous benefits for the people of Israel, for the people of Germany, and for the entire world.
Thank you again, have a successful and fruitful conference, toda raba.