A wonderful speech
President Bush Addresses Members of the Knesset
President Peres and Mr. Prime Minister, Madam Speaker, thank very much for hosting this special session. President Beinish, Leader of the Opposition Netanyahu, Ministers, members of the Knesset, distinguished guests: Shalom. Laura and I are thrilled to be back in Israel. We have been deeply moved by the celebrations of the past two days. And this afternoon, I am honored to stand before one of the world's great democratic assemblies and convey the wishes of the American people with these words: Yom Ha'atzmaut Sameach. (Applause.)
It is a rare privilege for the American President to speak to the Knesset. (Laughter.) Although the Prime Minister told me there is something even rarer -- to have just one person in this chamber speaking at a time. (Laughter.) My only regret is that one of Israel's greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He is a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon. (Applause.)
We gather to mark a momentous occasion. Sixty years ago in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel's independence, founded on the "natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate." What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David -- a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.
Eleven minutes later, on the orders of President Harry Truman, the United States was proud to be the first nation to recognize Israel's independence. And on this landmark anniversary, America is proud to be Israel's closest ally and best friend in the world.
The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: "Come let us declare in Zion the word of God." The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.
Centuries of suffering and sacrifice would pass before the dream was fulfilled. The Jewish people endured the agony of the pogroms, the tragedy of the Great War, and the horror of the Holocaust -- what Elie Wiesel called "the kingdom of the night." Soulless men took away lives and broke apart families. Yet they could not take away the spirit of the Jewish people, and they could not break the promise of God. (Applause.) When news of Israel's freedom finally arrived, Golda Meir, a fearless woman raised in Wisconsin, could summon only tears. She later said: "For two thousand years we have waited for our deliverance. Now that it is here it is so great and wonderful that it surpasses human words."
The joy of independence was tempered by the outbreak of battle, a struggle that has continued for six decades. Yet in spite of the violence, in defiance of the threats, Israel has built a thriving democracy in the heart of the Holy Land. You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth. You have forged a free and modern society based on the love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity. You have worked tirelessly for peace. You have fought valiantly for freedom.
My country's admiration for Israel does not end there. When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny.
I have been fortunate to see the character of Israel up close. I have touched the Western Wall, seen the sun reflected in the Sea of Galilee, I have prayed at Yad Vashem. And earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: "Masada shall never fall again." Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.
This anniversary is a time to reflect on the past. It's also an opportunity to look to the future. As we go forward, our alliance will be guided by clear principles -- shared convictions rooted in moral clarity and unswayed by popularity polls or the shifting opinions of international elites. We believe in the matchless value of every man, woman, and child. So we insist that the people of Israel have the right to a decent, normal, and peaceful life, just like the citizens of every other nation. (Applause.)
We believe that democracy is the only way to ensure human rights. So we consider it a source of shame that the United Nations routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world. (Applause.)
We believe that religious liberty is fundamental to a civilized society. So we condemn anti-Semitism in all forms -- whether by those who openly question Israel's right to exist, or by others who quietly excuse them.
We believe that free people should strive and sacrifice for peace. So we applaud the courageous choices Israeli's leaders have made. We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to its destruction. (Applause.) We believe that targeting innocent lives to achieve political objectives is always and everywhere wrong. So we stand together against terror and extremism, and we will never let down our guard or lose our resolve. (Applause.)
The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time. It is more than a clash of arms. It is a clash of visions, a great ideological struggle. On the one side are those who defend the ideals of justice and dignity with the power of reason and truth. On the other side are those who pursue a narrow vision of cruelty and control by committing murder, inciting fear, and spreading lies.
This struggle is waged with the technology of the 21st century, but at its core it is an ancient battle between good and evil. The killers claim the mantle of Islam, but they are not religious men. No one who prays to the God of Abraham could strap a suicide vest to an innocent child, or blow up guiltless guests at a Passover Seder, or fly planes into office buildings filled with unsuspecting workers. In truth, the men who carry out these savage acts serve no higher goal than their own desire for power. They accept no God before themselves. And they reserve a special hatred for the most ardent defenders of liberty, including Americans and Israelis.
And that is why the founding charter of Hamas calls for the "elimination" of Israel. And that is why the followers of Hezbollah chant "Death to Israel, Death to America!" That is why Osama bin Laden teaches that "the killing of Jews and Americans is one of the biggest duties." And that is why the President of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map.
There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It's natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.
Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history. (Applause.)
Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it. Israel's population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because the United States of America stands with you. (Applause.)
America stands with you in breaking up terrorist networks and denying the extremists sanctuary. America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions. Permitting the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapons would be an unforgivable betrayal for future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)
Ultimately, to prevail in this struggle, we must offer an alternative to the ideology of the extremists by extending our vision of justice and tolerance and freedom and hope. These values are the self-evident right of all people, of all religions, in all the world because they are a gift from the Almighty God. Securing these rights is also the surest way to secure peace. Leaders who are accountable to their people will not pursue endless confrontation and bloodshed. Young people with a place in their society and a voice in their future are less likely to search for meaning in radicalism. Societies where citizens can express their conscience and worship their God will not export violence, they will be partners in peace.
The fundamental insight, that freedom yields peace, is the great lesson of the 20th century. Now our task is to apply it to the 21st. Nowhere is this work more urgent than here in the Middle East. We must stand with the reformers working to break the old patterns of tyranny and despair. We must give voice to millions of ordinary people who dream of a better life in a free society. We must confront the moral relativism that views all forms of government as equally acceptable and thereby consigns whole societies to slavery. Above all, we must have faith in our values and ourselves and confidently pursue the expansion of liberty as the path to a peaceful future.
That future will be a dramatic departure from the Middle East of today. So as we mark 60 years from Israel's founding, let us try to envision the region 60 years from now. This vision is not going to arrive easily or overnight; it will encounter violent resistance. But if we and future Presidents and future Knessets maintain our resolve and have faith in our ideals, here is the Middle East that we can see:
Israel will be celebrating the 120th anniversary as one of the world's great democracies, a secure and flourishing homeland for the Jewish people. The Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved -- a democratic state that is governed by law, and respects human rights, and rejects terror. From Cairo to Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy and tourism and trade. Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, with today's oppression a distant memory and where people are free to speak their minds and develop their God-given talents. Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists' vision and the injustice of their cause.
Overall, the Middle East will be characterized by a new period of tolerance and integration. And this doesn't mean that Israel and its neighbors will be best of friends. But when leaders across the region answer to their people, they will focus their energies on schools and jobs, not on rocket attacks and suicide bombings. With this change, Israel will open a new hopeful chapter in which its people can live a normal life, and the dream of Herzl and the founders of 1948 can be fully and finally realized.
This is a bold vision, and some will say it can never be achieved. But think about what we have witnessed in our own time. When Europe was destroying itself through total war and genocide, it was difficult to envision a continent that six decades later would be free and at peace. When Japanese pilots were flying suicide missions into American battleships, it seemed impossible that six decades later Japan would be a democracy, a lynchpin of security in Asia, and one of America's closest friends. And when waves of refugees arrived here in the desert with nothing, surrounded by hostile armies, it was almost unimaginable that Israel would grow into one of the freest and most successful nations on the earth.
Yet each one of these transformations took place. And a future of transformation is possible in the Middle East, so long as a new generation of leaders has the courage to defeat the enemies of freedom, to make the hard choices necessary for peace, and stand firm on the solid rock of universal values.
Sixty years ago, on the eve of Israel's independence, the last British soldiers departing Jerusalem stopped at a building in the Jewish quarter of the Old City. An officer knocked on the door and met a senior rabbi. The officer presented him with a short iron bar -- the key to the Zion Gate -- and said it was the first time in 18 centuries that a key to the gates of Jerusalem had belonged to a Jew. His hands trembling, the rabbi offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God, "Who had granted us life and permitted us to reach this day." Then he turned to the officer, and uttered the words Jews had awaited for so long: "I accept this key in the name of my people."
Over the past six decades, the Jewish people have established a state that would make that humble rabbi proud. You have raised a modern society in the Promised Land, a light unto the nations that preserves the legacy of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And you have built a mighty democracy that will endure forever and can always count on the United States of America to be at your side. God bless. (Applause.)
A comment from Newsbusters:
Thursday May 15, 2008, American media hit a new low. To paraphrase Michelle Obama, I have never been less proud of my country.
On the occasion of Israel's 60th anniversary, President George W. Bush gave one of the greatest speeches of his career. Yet, America's media could only see this event through the tiny prism of the upcoming presidential election, and thereby totally ignored virtually everything that was said by the most powerful man in the world to one of our nation's greatest allies.
From a speech that lasted over 20 minutes -- interrupted eight times by applause from Israeli Knesset members -- America's media exclusively reported 83 words they felt insulted the candidate for president they have been unashamedly supporting for over a year.
Everything else in the President's stirring and emotional address went completely ignored, so much so that the other 2,400 words were totally irrelevant, as was the signficance of the day and the moment.
Ontario Forces Taxpayers to Pay for "Sex-Change" Operations
Ontario's health insurance plan will pay for "sex-change" operations for the first time in a decade, Health Minister George Smitherman confirmed yesterday. "(It would) probably affect between eight and 10 people in Ontario, who after having very, very sustained psychological evaluations would be deemed by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health as appropriate candidates to receive a surgical intervention," Smitherman speculated.
Ontario began covering the bill for "sex-change" operations in 1971, but ceased doing so in 1998 under the Progressive Conservative government. In 2006, the Ontario Human Rights Commission required compensation for three patients midway through preparation for sex-change surgery during the 1998 insurance plan change. The Centre Metropolitain de Chirurgie Plastique, a private hospital in Montreal, has already been offering "sex-change" procedures to patients for $17 thousand.
The Health Minister added yesterday that he would give more details about funding for "sex-change" operations in a few weeks when discussing funding plans for the province's health-care services. Smitherman, appointed Health Minister in 2003 by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, is an openly active homosexual, infamous for advancing sexually permissive social policies.
While many psychiatrists have promoted "sex-change" operations based upon the notion that "gender" is a cultural construct distinct from one's genetically determined sex, other prominent psychiatrists have rejected the prudence of so-called "sex-change" operations. After he became Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Johns Hopkins University, Paul McHugh found that "sex-change" operations failed to solve patients' difficulties with relationships, work, or emotions. In his First Things article, "Surgical Sex," McHugh recounts finding the "transgendered" participants in "sex-change" operations unpersuasive evidence for the surgery's effectiveness.
"The post-surgical subjects struck me as caricatures of women. They wore high heels, copious makeup, and flamboyant clothing; they spoke about how they found themselves able to give vent to their natural inclinations for peace, domesticity, and gentleness--but their large hands, prominent Adam's apples, and thick facial features were incongruous (and would become more so as they aged)." "Women psychiatrists whom I sent to talk with them would intuitively see through the disguise and the exaggerated postures. `Gals know gals,' one said to me, `and that's a guy.'"
Following his extensive research into the "sex-change" phenomena, McHugh ended "sex-change" operations at John Hopkins and has encouraged other facilities to do the same. "I concluded that Hopkins was fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness. We psychiatrists, I thought, would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia."
Quebec Mayor Vows to Continue Prayer Despite Human Rights Commission Order
Yesterday it was reported that the city of Saguenay, Quebec, has been ordered by the Quebec Human Rights Commission to cease offering prayers at city hall. Today, however, the city's mayor has responded defiantly saying that the prayers would remain a part of the town meetings. He said the decision of the Commission was non-binding and added that the decision was itself discriminatory against people who want to pray. "They think this contravenes human rights, I agree ... some 20 people around the table want to pray and to prevent them from doing so would infringe on their rights," Mr. Tremblay said.
The Mayor told the media that the two people who lodged the complaints rarely attended the meetings and were opponents on a number of issues besides prayer. "I don't know why we would stop. Prayers are what we have that's most precious. To subject ourselves to the whim of some people, very few of them, just two ... is to kneel down rapidly, and we don't have the intention to stop," he said.
Sylvestre admitted that the decision cannot force a ban on prayers, but said that it does leave the complainants with the option of bringing the matter before the tribunal. In the current system of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunals, the costs of the complainant are entirely paid for by the state, while the plaintiff must pay his own costs.
Critics have charged that this has led to the HRC being used as a weapon with which lobbyists and individuals can bring frivolous nuisance suits against ideological opponents that would otherwise not be heard in the legitimate courts - all free of charge. Many have pointed out that because the plaintiff, often an individual without large financial resources, must pay his own costs, that the system is set up to make the commission's process itself the punishment, long before any decision is rendered. Costs can run into the tens of thousands.
This week, a Toronto restaurant owner conceded defeat in a case brought against him because he was unable to foot what would likely have been a $60,000 legal bill. The complainant said that the restaurant owner had asked him to stop smoking his "medical" marijuana in the restaurant's doorway and that this had offended him.
Tremblay told the National Post that he hoped the complainants would not carry on to the Tribunal. "But if they do, I'll show up," he said. One of the complainants, Christian Joncas, threatened that if the next town council meeting opened with a prayer, he would take the matter to court.
Mayor Tremblay is an outspoken defender of Quebec's traditional Catholic Christian heritage. In 2007, he denounced Quebec's landslide of secularism since the 1960s and told a government commission that Quebec must revive moral values and needs to retain its Catholic heritage. "The Catholic religion is one of the most beautiful values we have in Quebec," he said. He spoke out then against the eagerness of officials to abandon Christian tradition on the complaints of a few. "We're a bit soft. When someone, who represents three per cent of the population, wishes to do something, everyone bends over backwards," Tremblay told the commission. "But when the Mayor wishes to have prayer, we tell him to stop in order to respect the principle of secularism!"
Seasonal food only? Sod off, Gordon
Toilet-mouthed British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has suggested we should only eat food `in season'. That would mean letting Nature tell us what to do
`Chefs should be fined if they haven't got ingredients in season on their menu. I don't want to see asparagus in the middle of December, I don't want to see strawberries from Kenya in the middle of March.' Gordon Ramsay, the world's sweariest chef, believes we should be eating local, seasonal food. What the f*ck?
`I want to see it homegrown. There should be stringent laws, fines and licensing laws to make sure produce is only used in season. If we get this legislation pushed through parliament then the more unique this country will become', added Ramsay, suggesting that we should be concerned with creating a distinctive national food culture and cutting down on food miles (1).
There have been plenty of people lining up to point out the hypocrisy of Ramsay's position. Food critic Jay Rayner, writing in the Observer, was reduced to nausea: `His declaration. that chefs who use ingredients that are neither local nor seasonal ought to be fined did make the bile rise. This is a man who operates a restaurant in Dubai, for God's sake, where absolutely nothing is local or seasonal. Everything arrives there from somewhere else, according to whatever season happens to be in progress in whichever hemisphere happens to be the most convenient at the time.' (2)
Even in his London restaurants, there are plenty of ingredients on Ramsay's menus that are far from seasonal and local. TV chef Anthony Worrall Thompson told the Telegraph: `I trawled through his menus from Claridges and Maze and there were at least 15 items that would have warranted a fine.' (3)
Strangely, while there were plenty of people willing to point out Ramsay's hypocrisy or question the practicality of criminalising the importation of food when the UK cannot grow enough food to meet its needs, most commentators seemed to think Ramsay had a point. His co-presenter on Channel 4's The F-Word, and fellow member of the rent-a-gob union, Janet Street-Porter, was quick to defend Ramsay from his critics: `He has a point, only slightly undermined by his driving a gas-guzzling vehicle and spending most of his time jetting around the globe to oversee his rapidly expanding restaurant empire. Eating out should mean we have a chance to enjoy great food created with local produce, rather than fish, meat and exotic veg flown in from the other side of the planet.' (4)
The fact that such an approach to `strawberries from Kenya' might have a negative impact on producers in the developing world has been widely ignored. It took Duncan Green from the charity Oxfam - an organisation with a dubious attachment to `sustainable development' - to point this out: `I'm sure the million farmers in East Africa who rely on exporting their goods to scrape a living would see Gordon Ramsay's assertions as a recipe for disaster.' (5)
This latest furore is typical of the confused discussion of food today. This was made clear to me recently during a debate I took part in at London's Real Food Festival. Ecologist publisher and Conservative Party environment adviser, Zac Goldsmith, told the gathered audience that local food was crucial - perhaps even more important for green foodies than organic food. But when a member of the audience who lived in inner-city London asked the panel how she could eat `local' food, Goldsmith was a bit stuck. It depends, said the billionaire's son, offering that `local' might mean the Caribbean if you were talking about bananas. So, `local' means anywhere within 4,500 miles?
In truth, the Real Food Festival illustrated the importance of going beyond local food for the sake of the kind of small, quirky producers so beloved of foodies and greens. While pottering around the stalls before the debate, I tried three-year-matured parmesan cheese from Italy, fruit-flavoured wine from Scotland and ready-made stews and soups from Yorkshire. One Shropshire pig farmer - sick of selling to the supermarkets for little or no profit - was selling direct to customers in London, roughly 200 miles away. Good for him - but it's hardly local, is it?
As for seasonal food, why shouldn't we aim to have all foods available to us all-year-round? In this respect, we should follow what Ramsay practises, not what we preaches. Why should we only be able to enjoy strawberries in the summer and autumn, or asparagus during the narrow northern season? Ramsay does have one slight point: sometimes this out-of-season produce isn't quite as tasty as the domestic, in-season equivalent. But that is a minor point. Far better to make these things available and allow us to choose than bow down before Mother Nature and put up with what she deigns to give us.
If eating such food has negative consequences for the planet - and it is far from clear that it does - then surely the right approach is to figure out how to get the benefits of a global food market without the negative side effects. But this problem-solving approach doesn't fit into the moralising and often authoritarian approach to consumption so typical today, exemplified by Ramsay's demand to criminalise chefs.
Even worse was Ramsay's less-reported comment about TV food goddess Delia Smith's new book, How to Cheat at Cooking. Smith has endeavoured to get as much of the benefit of made-from-scratch cooking while finding ways to cut a few corners. Trying to find a halfway house between the slog of `proper' cooking and the takeaway should have received the approval of Ramsay, who has campaigned in the past to get people cooking more. No chance. `I would expect students struggling on 15 pounds a week to survive eating from a can but the nation's favourite, all-time icon reducing us down to using frozen, canned food - it's an insult', he said (6). As I can testify from personal experience, Smith's new recipes are, by and large, excellent. Of course, Ramsay isn't going to use tinned meat in his cooking (though it is surprising how many top restaurants buy their chips from McCain's). But to seek to impose his snobbery on the rest of us really is an insult.
In the past, Ramsay was the TV chef who stood for excellence and took little interest in politically-correct concerns about food miles and sustainability. But in recent times, perhaps because he's been spending too much time in the company of campaigning cooks like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver, he's started to come out with just the same junk ideas that they promote. As the vulgar-tongued Ramsay might put it, this more-ethical-than-thou approach to food is just f*cking sh*t.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.