NEW YORK, May 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Mr. Ronald S. Lauder, President of The Jerusalem Post NY Annual Conference and President of the World Jewish Congress, delivered remarks at the Jerusalem Post NY Annual Conference in New York City on May 7. Below is the text as prepared for delivery:
Boker tov and good morning.
Thank you, Yaakov, for that generous introduction. I am delighted to be here today with so many loyal friends of Israel. I'd like to begin by thanking the many distinguished Israeli Ministers, members of the Knesset, my good friend Alan Dershowitz, and the legendary Larry King for being here today.
I'd also like to thank the American elected officials here today.
I first heard Tom Cotton speak when he was a candidate for the Senate in 2012. And I said to myself: Who is this? He's saying everything I believe. He makes complete sense. And even though the Jewish population of Arkansas is zero-point-one-percent, you will not find a stronger supporter of Israel and the Jewish people.
We are also joined by Senator Menendez, another stalwart defender of the State of Israel. Senator Menendez demonstrated great leadership and judgment when he stood up to President Obama and said: No. The Iran deal will not make us safer. It will not make Israel safer. And I will not vote for it. That wasn't an easy thing for a Democrat to do. But it was the right thing to do, and I'm grateful for it.
Throughout his long career in public service, Congressman Eliot Engel has been a strong and consistent supporter of Israel, and I thank him for joining us today. Finally, I want to thank Congresswoman Grace Meng of Queens for her support of Israel.
I want to use this time to talk about one of the great threats facing the Jewish people, and that threat is anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
Yes, there is still the anti-Semitism of the past: the painted swastikas that we have seen on buildings and gravestones for decades. But there is also something new: anti-Semitism that tries to hide itself as anti-Zionism.
Anti-Semites want to destroy the world's only Jewish state. Having failed to destroy Israel militarily, having failed to destroy Israel economically, our enemies are now trying to destroy Israel politically and morally. They want to turn Israel into the pariah state, the apartheid state, the evil state with lie, after lie, after lie.
I often hear people say: "I'm not an anti-Semite, I'm only anti-Israel."
I will never forget meeting with the late Hugo Chavez, then the President of Venezuela. May he rest in pieces. I decided to break the ice by saying, "President Chavez, I understand you're an anti-Semite." I wanted to get the meeting off to a good start.
He responded that he wasn't an anti-Semite, only anti-Israel.
To which I said, "Who do you think lives in Israel? Martians?"
Being anti-Israel is being anti-Semitic, plain and simple.
Even Pope Francis said to me, when I met with him: There is no difference between being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. And he went on to say you can disagree with Israel's policies, but you can't disagree with Israel's right to exist.
And yet, anti-Israel sentiment is all around us. We see it at the United Nations, where UNESCO absurdly claimed that the Temple Mount has no connection to the Jewish people. We see it at college campuses, where our young people face a barrage of anti-Israel lies under the guise of BDS.
The World Jewish Congress, the organization I've had the honor of leading for the past 10 years, has a plan to meet this challenge. We at the World Jewish Congress have three new divisions that are hard at work defeating this new form of anti-Semitism.
Taken together, these efforts will form an iron dome that will protect Israel from the threat of anti-Semitism.
First, the World Jewish Congress is creating a new communications department, or what you might call Hasborah. For too long, we have let our enemies define us. Propaganda, lies, and misinformation about Israel are all over the Internet. Reacting is not enough. We must be proactive and we must be aggressive.
There is no reason that Israel should be losing the public relations battle. Jews invented public relations! Not only that, Israeli technology made the social media revolution possible and continues to push the digital frontier forward. And yet, the world only hears one side of the story—and that side is not Israel's. We will deliver a strong message on social media and the Internet about Israel and all the great things it does.
Second, significant legal efforts are underway to combat BDS. The World Jewish Congress is deploying the most brilliant Jewish lawyers to defeat the BDS movement, including the great Alan Dershowitz who is with us today.
Senators and congressmen, along with state legislators, are advancing bipartisan legislation to outlaw BDS. 19 states have already succeeded in passing anti-BDS laws. We are making great progress.
The World Jewish Congress has a third new division, focused on education. We will teach young people to be proud of their heritage—to be proud of Israel, and to stand up and expose the lies being told about Israel.
I have long believed that our greatest asset is our children and their education. And yet, from the moment they arrive at college, they face an onslaught of anti-Israel lies. This is dangerous because, for many young people, college is their first exposure to the politics of the Middle East. These young people are vulnerable to being influenced by the harsh propaganda of highly trained anti-Israel activists. We need to reach young people where they are—the Internet and social media. We must tell them who we are, the values we hold, and what the Jewish people are doing for the world.
We must ensure that our enemies do not define us. We must teach the next generation to embrace their heritage rather than abandon it.
I myself have opened 25 Jewish schools throughout Eastern and Central Europe. We have succeeded in places where Jewish education was denied for over 60 years. In these places, Jewish life has flourished because we invested in Jewish education.
However, when I was born, Jews were 4 percent of the American population. Now we're only 1.8 percent. Except for Israelis and the Orthodox, our birthrates aren't even at replacement levels. We must encourage Jews, whether they're born in Buenos Aires, Buffalo, or Beersheba, to be proud of their Jewish identity, to marry Jewish partners, and to raise Jewish children! Every Jew rescued from indifference makes our people stronger. As we renew efforts to lay the groundwork for peace, we, the Jewish people, must present a strong and united front.
We have tremendous friends that will support Israel in times of trouble. They are in Congress, the Senate, and in State Houses across the country. We also see them in churches from Maine to California. Israel has no greater friends than the Christians around the world who come to Israel, who stand up for Israel, and who keep Israel in their hearts.
We have a new, pro-Israel American president, Donald Trump. We have a new Secretary-General of the United Nations, who spoke at the World Jewish Congress Conference last week. Secretary-General Guterres assured us that he will do everything in his power to change the U.N.'s anti-Israel bias. If the U.N. doesn't change, I think the U.S. should rethink how much we fund the U.N.
Last fall, I commissioned a poll of Jews across the world. One of the many fascinating things we learned is that the vast majority of Jews are optimistic about our future and the future of Israel. I share in that optimism. I believe Israel is poised to shine brighter than ever before.
Israel will thrive because we are educating the next generation. Israel will thrive because we are united. And Israel will thrive because we are striving toward peace with security.
Last week, the World Jewish Congress met in New York—more than 800 Jews, representing 90 countries, with 98 percent of the world's Jewish population. It was a remarkable group of people.
Here's what struck me: from the most Orthodox to the most secular, from the most politically liberal to the most conservative, we are one people.
We are one people—and we stand united with Israel. That is true today. That is true forever.
Thank you. God bless you, and may God continue to bless the Jewish state of Israel.
Contact: Kelly Magee, 646-618-6033, firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE Ronald S. Lauder