Celebrating, Not Condemning, Israel and 50 Years of a United Jerusalem at the United Nations

Below are my prepared remarks in defense of Israel:

It is an honor to stand here, at the United Nations of all places, celebrating – not condemning, but celebrating – the fiftieth anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

Fifty years is a very special number in the Jewish tradition. The rabbis noted that in the ancient biblical text a period of fifty years is sometimes referred to by the word l’olam, which also means forever. In the Talmud, Rabbi Akiva says that the word netzach, which means eternity, or victory, refers to the city of Jerusalem.

In this case, I think it is clear that while we are celebrating the netzach, the victory of first fifty years of having Jerusalem reunited, we are also celebrating the netzach, the eternity, of having Jerusalem reunited forever.

Fifty years is a long time. For some people around the globe, it has been long enough for them to forget the miracles that the whole world witnessed, the biblical re-enactment on an international stage of David and Goliath.

We, however, do not forget, and we remain thankful for having seen the fulfillment of biblical prophesies, the return of the Jewish people home, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

For others, it has been long enough for them to forget the legality of Israel’s gains.

Well, as an attorney, let me remind you that it is actually quite simple. You cannot start a fight with someone, then cry foul when they hit back. In June of 1967, Israel was literally surrounded by enemy troops, openly chomping at the bit to destroy her, kill her citizens, and wipe her off the map and off the face of history.

There were almost daily proclamations; Egypt closed the straits of Tiran in an open act of war.

And so Israel did what she had no choice but to do. She engaged in a defensive battle, during which she regained territory that was already rightfully hers under the Mandate. And then, in an incredible act of unprecedented grace, Israel gave back most of that land in an attempt to make peace with her enemies. Why? Because that is what Israel stands for, that is who they are.

The problem is that as soon as the battles ended on the field, when Israel’s enemies saw that they could not physically overpower her, a new kind of battle started, the attempt to delegitimize Israel in the international arena. Well, that is why I’m here, to reassure you about one thing, and let me be clear: it has not worked and it will not work, because we, all of us here, will never stop protecting Israel.

You may not know this, but around the world there are people like myself, and my firm, that dedicate their time to making sure that Israel is always represented.

I, along with a team of lawyers from the ACLJ lead by my father and our Chief Counsel, Dr. Jay Sekulow, actually defended Israel’s interests at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, and we won. Literally tonight, the ACLJ is sending a team of senior attorneys back to the Hague to engage in a high level conference on Israel and international law. Every day we defend students, professors, and others who have been vilified for standing up for Israel. Right now, we are in federal court defending Israeli institutions against terrorists, and we are working with legislators around the country to draft bills that will uphold and enshrine greater protections against anti-Semitism in the law.

We have handled a lot of cases. And we win, because we have to. In 1948 we got the homeland, the hope of 2000 years. In 1967 we got the heart, Jerusalem, and every one of us has to do their part to protect it. For us, that means engaging at the national and international levels, protecting Israel’s rights.  But we also need your help.

As lawyers, we are meant to be the backstop for all of these issues. We are there to make sure that no one gets away with lies. But there are other fronts that we need you to engage in, we need you to make sure that these cases do not happen. You see, all too often, on campuses around the country, or in op-eds in the news, we hear how people speak about Israel in the most, to put it politely, uneducated ways. And that is where you come in.

I hold in my hand a copy of our recent petition “Defend Israel from Anti-Israel Attacks Across the Globe.” Earlier this evening I presented a copy of it to Israel’s Permanent Representative to the U.N., Ambassador Danny Danon, on behalf of the more than 250,000 people who have already signed it. That’s a great start, but we need more.

We believe that the time has come to shift the narrative about Israel, away from a defensive one that argues for Israel to simply be treated as an equal to an empowered one, which teaches about the valuable principles Israel stands for, including respect for civil liberties, religious freedom and tolerance, and a healthy self-respect which marries an undeterred optimism for peace with an unapologetic need for guaranteed national security. And we need you to help make that shift.

The best way to combat lies is with truth, and so make sure that when you hear people talking they know that, as the only democracy in the Middle East that protects the rights of all peoples and all religions, Israel stands as a model for the kind of interfaith tolerance and optimistic hope for peace that the world should be striving towards.

Make sure they know that before Israel had Jerusalem, Jews and Christians could not go there, but now that Israel has Jerusalem, the holy sites of every religion are not only open for worship, they are protected and guarded and safe.

And make sure they know that we are proud to support Israel, proud to celebrate Jerusalem, now, and l’olam, forever.