“We Stand With Israel Now and Forever”

Remarks of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton at the “We Stand With Israel Now and Forever” Rally at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, March 2002.

As Delivered…

Thank you very much, Mort. I would like to thank all of you here today for convening this important show of solidarity and support on behalf of Israel, the people of Israel, and freedom-loving people and democracies everywhere.

I would like to thank the Conference of Presidents, UJC—Israel Now and Forever, UJA, JCRC, the 92nd Street Y and those of you who are here with us at the Y and others who are with us throughout our country and, indeed, throughout the world.

You know, just one month ago I traveled to Israel in order to convey the support and solidarity that New Yorkers and Americans feel toward Israel—not just at this moment, but support we felt long before, and support that we will continue to feel in the future. I traveled to Israel to demonstrate that we stand with Israel now and forever.

When I met with people on the streets, outside Sbarro’s pizzeria, at Hadassah Hospital, and in a variety of settings throughout Jerusalem, I conveyed the same support and solidarity that we are demonstrating here today. Similarly, when I met with the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister, the Foreign Minister, and with other military and government officials, I made clear that we in the United States count on our government– the American government—to stand with Israel now and forever, just as the people of America stand with the people of Israel.

Today I am here not only as a United States Senator, not only as someone who has been to Israel seven times, who has supported the government and people of Israel for over twenty-plus years, but as an American citizen with one singular message – the United States and Israel face a common threat. Make no mistake about it, the attack on the United States here in New York and at the Pentagon on September 11th comes from the same well of hatred and evil that stalks Israel. It is not possible for us to imagine confronting and winning the war against terrorism here and abroad, without our helping Israel win it at home.

Many of you know that during my husband’s administration I did everything I could to support four successive governments of Israel. I believed then as I believe now that it is not for the United States to dictate to Israel the best way for Israel to defend herself and her people. Just as we expect our friends and allies to support the decisions of our elected governments, we stand with the government of Israel.

Make no mistake about it, as Israel defends herself, it does so because it is clear she has no alternative. The collapse of any effort to try to achieve a safe and secure resolution of the disputes the Palestinians have with Israel and the ensuing violence rests solely on the shoulders of Yasir Arafat. I want to be very clear about this, the responsibility for the violence and the collapse of the Camp David and the Taba discussions rests only with Yasir Arafat. He has failed as a leader. He has been unable and unwilling to reign in the forces of violence and terrorism, and he leaves a trail of violated vows and deaths along a path that should have and could have led to peace and life.

We know that he continues to exploit children in pursuit of his own aims. Whether it is through textbooks that he permits to be used in the classrooms of the Palestinian Authority or the encouragement of young suicide bombers. The use of children to further violence and political aims is absolutely unforgivable and needs to be condemned as such.

And we know something else don’t we? We know the violence encouraged and permitted by Arafat, can still be ended by Arafat. If he were to choose today to renounce terrorism and other acts of violence, he could demonstrate in both English and Arabic that it is not just rhetorical support, but it is actions that count. Arafat can and must apprehend, prosecute and imprison—and keep in prison—known terrorists.

Most important, because of what has happened during the last several weeks, he must be held responsible for those groups who act in his name—that means, Force-17, his own special security force. It also means Tanzim, the armed wing of Fatah. He failed to dissolve the Al-Asqa Brigades but this week we learned what the consequences for that failure was. I believe Arafat must be made to understand that the United States and all civilized nations stand with Israel in having zero tolerance for terrorism. And if he fails to do it himself, it will be done for him—with or without his agreement.

Let me add a word about the latest development concerning Iran and Arafat. When I was in Jerusalem I spoke about my deep concern that the relationship between the Palestinians and the Iranian government was deepening. At that time the evidence that I had came, of course, as we all know from the interception of the Karine A—the discovery of the boatload of weapons on its way to the Palestinian Authority—and from intelligence reports concerning Iranian involvement with the Palestinians. Well we know today, from the front page of the New York Times, that Iran and Arafat have forged a secret connection. The arms shipment aboard the Karine A loaded with 50 tons of illegal weapons mostly manufactured in Iran, is unfortunately, is just one part of the problem that we now face with respect to Iranian sponsorship of terrorism and its even greater involvement on behalf of the Palestinians.

The Palestinians’ effort to forge an alliance with a patron-state of terror is something that deeply concerns us. Arafat’s alliance with Iran represents a dangerous collaboration, not only for Israel, but for all of us. It is true that the axis of evil that includes Iran, is something that directly impacts our security. Now we know more clearly than ever that it is directly aimed at the heart of Israel as well. Despite the efforts of some in Iran to make reform in the government and despite everything we know about the desire of young people in Iran to rid themselves of the yolk of religious tyranny, the fact remains that Iran is the most active state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Therefore this latest news must be taken seriously, not only in the American capital, not only in Israel, but also in Europe. The Europeans must recognize that Iran poses a threat to all of us.

The hard-truth is that we are now engaged in a global effort against terrorism that is aimed at any democracy and aimed at any freedom-loving people. It is a dangerous time for Israel, but I would add, my friends, it is also a dangerous time for the United States. We need to recognize that our support for Israel—our friendships and the relationships that many of us have with family and others in Israel—is an important commitment because of what Israel represents and because of what we have in common with Israel. Our support for Israel is instrumental to our global effort to try to combat terrorism.

The other day, I signed a letter to the President and Vice President Cheney, along with Senator Schumer, saying that we do not believe that Vice President Cheney should meet with Yasir Arafat at this time. The reason I signed that letter is we have seen no movement whatsoever from Arafat. We have not seen the kind of action from Arafat that sends any message or signal that we can expect a resumption of efforts, on his part, to try to implement Tenet or Mitchell. Just as we never do anything to encourage terrorism, we cannot reward the status quo. We cannot agree to meet with Arafat and then get nothing in return for that meeting. Therefore, I hope that the President and the Vice President will think long and hard before they have such a meeting, unless or until there is a definite movement that everyone can agree represents a change of direction on behalf of Arafat.

I hope all of us, as we stand together with Israel and as we defend our democracies, will do so with the spirit of, not only the resolve I saw in Israel, but also with hope. Speaking of hope at a time like this may seem naive, it may seem out of place, but I know later in the program you’ll hear from my wonderful friend Elie Wiesel who has said on numerous occasions, “There is no alternative for a free people, other than hope.” We cannot give in to fatalism and pessimism. If we do, we would simply be handing a victory over to our adversaries. We have to be smart, hard-headed, tough-minded and focused. We must also believe we will see our way clear to a better future.

When I was in Jerusalem I had many experiences that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I would like to share with you two of those experiences, in particular. I think we in America can do an even better job of telling Israel’s story to the world. If you go to Hadassah Hospital, what do you see? You see people being taken care of no matter who they are or where they come from. I visited two young soldiers, both victims of the most horrific suicide bombings, bombs filled with nails and nuts and bolts designed to inflict the maximum injury upon these young people. One of the soldiers was still in very serious condition. His mother had invited me to come visit with her son. His mother was on one side of the bed and his father on the other, holding up a picture of his son prior to the bombing. He was a handsome, bright-eyed, young man doing his service, not only for his country, but for freedom. Before I said goodbye, one of the patient’s surgeons said, “I’m sorry you did not get to meet the doctor who’s taking care of this young soldier. His doctor is a Palestinian.”

Then I visited with some other victims, one of whom was also a young soldier. He was Ethiopian and had been brought to Israel years ago for safety. He grew up loving Israel and loving to be reunited with his Jewish traditions and beliefs. He was on duty when he saw a suicide bomber. Just as our brave fire fighters did here in New York, he ran toward that bomber—toward danger not away from it—and he threw himself on him and absorbed the shock of the bomb.

Now what does that tell us about this country we stand with and defend? There is no place else in that region where you would have refugees from Ethiopia taken in and assimilated and made part of the society. There is no place else where you would have a hospital, largely supported by Americans, where Israeli and Arab doctors work side-by-side caring for victims both Arab and Israeli. Whenever someone asks me about Israel, I ask him or her, “Where else can you find a democracy in that part of the world that believes in freedom, human dignity and human rights, as Israel does? Where else can you find those ideals exemplified in the way I saw it at Hadassah Hospital?” That typifies what we are fighting for.

The perpetrators of the evil that stalks Israel and stalks the world, believe they own the truth and simply dismiss the rights and dignity of fellow human beings. They must be stopped.

I hope all of us will do everything we can to make sure that, not just the people who are in this auditorium, but people throughout America – Jew and non-Jew alike—understand that when we stand up for Israel we are standing up for the fundamental human beliefs of democracy and freedom and we are standing up for America.

Thank you all very much.