I was in Washington D.C. a few weeks ago and invited to attend the Israeli Embassy’s Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) party celebrating 66 years for the modern State of Israel.
The wine was Israeli and of course excellent; the canapés were kosher and delicious; the assembled crowd was smartly attired and dotted with more than a few senior politicians and their retinues.
But if I’m being totally honest I can’t recall the speeches. Perhaps my mind was distracted by the nicely projected backdrop of a huge Israeli flag behind the speakers or wondering who else I’d bump into after the speaking ended.
I know National Security Advisor Dr. Susan Rice is a pretty high profile guest to have speak at such a party but for the life of me I can’t recall what she said. It was an amalgam of platitudes and professions of solidarity which have issued forth from both dedicated supporters of Jewish Israel and those who toe the line because it is the line that must be toed.
Seems I was at the wrong party. I should have been in the Czech Republic, a nation most cruelly betrayed by over reliance on the support of others. At their Yom Ha’atzmaut party the Czech president gave a speech I would have remembered verbatim. It’s posted, in Czech, on the government’s web site and, thankfully, the Gates of Vienna blog has translated it into English.
Speech by the president of the Czech Republic at the reception held to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day
May 26, 2014
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me thank you for the invitation to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day. There are dozens of days of independence being celebrated every year in the Czech Republic. Some I may attend, others I cannot. There is one I can never miss, however: it’s the Israeli Independence Day.
There are states with whom we share the same values, such as the political horizon of free elections or a free market economy. However, no one threatens these states with wiping them off the map. No one fires at their border towns; no one wishes that their citizens would leave their country. There is a term, political correctness. This term I consider to be a euphemism for political cowardice. Therefore, let me not be cowardly.
It is necessary to clearly name the enemy of human civilisation. It is international terrorism linked to religious fundamentalism and religious hatred. As we may have noticed after 11th of September, this fanaticism has not been focused on one state exclusively. Muslim fanatics recently kidnapped 200 young Christian girls in Nigeria. There was a hideous assassination in the flower of Europe in the heart of European Union in a Jewish museum in Brussels. I will not let myself being calmed down by the declaration that there are only tiny fringe groups behind it. On the contrary, I am convinced that this xenophobia, and let’s call it racism or anti-Semitism, emerges from the very essence of the ideology these groups subscribe to.
So let me quote one of their sacred texts to support this statement: “A tree says, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. A stone says, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” I would criticize those calling for the killing of Arabs, but I do not know of any movement calling for mass murdering of Arabs. However, I know of one anti-civilisation movement calling for the mass murder of Jews.
After all, one of the paragraphs of the statutes of Hamas says: “Kill every Jew you see.” Do we really want to pretend that this is an extreme viewpoint? Do we really want to be politically correct and say that everyone is nice and only a small group of extremists and fundamentalists is committing such crimes?
Michel de Montaigne, one of my favourite essayists, once wrote: “It is gruesome to assume that it must be good that comes after evil. A different evil may come.” It started with the Arab Spring which turned into an Arab winter, and a fight against secular dictatorships turned into fights led by Al-Qaeda. Let us throw away political correctness and call things by their true names. Yes, we have friends in the world, friends with whom we show solidarity. This solidarity costs us nothing, because these friends are not put into danger by anyone.
The real meaning of solidarity is a solidarity with a friend who is in a trouble and in danger, and this is why I am here.
— Miloš Zeman, president of Czech republic, Hilton Hotel, 26th of May 2014
Also a huge h/t to Tundra Tabloids who tipped me off to this wonderful speech.