BY CONDOLEEZZA RICE ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
AFFAIRS AT THE 96TH ANNUAL DINNER OF THE AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE
National Building Museum Washington, D.C.
It is a great
honor to speak to the American Jewish Committee — a group that
has been such a clear and consistent voice for human dignity and
such a powerful force for freedom and justice around the globe.
Jewish Committee has been speaking up for the rights of the oppressed
for nearly a century in the corridors of power and in the public
arena, in a Cold War contested abroad, and in a great struggle for
civil rights here at home. This mission continues today as you reach
out to help rebuild Jewish communities in new democracies in Central
and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
We meet at a
moment when freedom and tolerance are under attack in many places
throughout the world. From the Middle East we see almost daily images
of carnage. Indeed, on Tuesday, intolerance reared its ugly head
once again, outside of Tel Aviv, and 15 innocent people paid with
their lives. From Europe, we hear of incidents of Jews being harassed
in the streets, synagogues burned, and a presidential candidate
who belittled gas chambers as a "detail in history." Our
own land has been the scene of mass murder perpetuated by people
trained in schools of hatred and terror. And the world was sent
an obscene videotape where a man was killed after being made to
say the words, "I am a Jew."
intolerance must be condemned through words and through deeds. Tonight,
I can assure you that America has a President who knows that we
cannot accept either these criminal acts or the trends they may
represent. President Bush will always stand for freedom and tolerance
and against those who would take us back into history’s nightmares.
also stand forever beside the people of Israel in their search for
both security and peace. We will stand beside Israel because our
countries share a common history, common interests, and common democratic
values. We will stand beside the people of Israel because our partnership
is the foundation for lasting peace in the region.
On April 4,
President Bush articulated a vision of two states, Israel and Palestine,
living side by side in peace and security. And he made clear that
it will be impossible to realize this vision unless all leaders
and all parties meet their responsibilities and are held accountable.
In the month
since, we have seen signs of progress. In Ramallah, a tense standoff
was resolved without violence. In Bethlehem, we are continuing to
work with all parties to resolve the standoff at the Church of the
Nativity in anon-violent way. And here in the United States, the
President has had very productive meetings with Crown Prince Abdallah
of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Sharon, and King Abdullah of Jordan.
No one here needs to be reminded that the path to lasting peace
is difficult. Indeed, it requires us to see through our pain again
and again. This journey can only be navigated with determination.
States’ vision for the Middle East is ambitious. It is a vision
not just for peace but for prosperity and greater freedom. That
is why, for example, the President has urged that as the international
community moves to help rebuild Palestinian institutions, we do
so in ways that will best serve the Palestinian people, a Palestinian
state, and its neighbors. As the President pointed out last week,
a Palestinian state "cannot be based on a foundation of terror
or corruption. [It] must be based on the principles that are critical
to freedom and prosperity: democracy and open markets, the rule
of law, transparent and accountable administration and respect for
individual liberties and civil society."
You in the
American Jewish Committee understand the importance of striving
for this broad vision. You share a conviction that freedom and justice
are the true foundations of peace and stability. That freedom —
and freedom from violence — is the equal birthright of every American,
every Israeli, every Arab, and every person who seeks it.
We cannot —
and must not — allow the world to drift into what some have called
a clash of civilizations. Rather, we are engaged in the broadest
sense in a clash of ideas about modernity — about tolerance, respect,
and tradition. Extremism and progress are most assuredly enemies
of one another. And we cannot build a stable, more peaceful world
if difference is seen as a license to kill. But we must find ways
to reconcile old traditions with new opportunities – to say to people,
"you do not have to reject tradition and belief to reap the
benefits of modern life."
This will be
a long process. But I am an optimist. There are hopeful signs in
many places, including this room. President Wahid’s presence reminds
us that Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country and a multi-ethnic
society… In fact, Indonesia’s national motto is "Bhinekka
Tunggal Ika" — "unity in diversity."
presence reminds us of his valuable work to strengthen democracy
in Peru and of his compelling personal story. He leads a country
where he once worked as a shoeshine boy and where generations of
people who shared his Indian ancestry have historically been pushed
to the margins of society.
As a Nation
founded on the ideals of openness, tolerance, and freedom, America
carries a special responsibility to stand beside people on every
continent who seek a safer and better future for themselves and
And so, in
its unique way, does Israel. I will never forget my visit to Israel
two years ago. I am the daughter and granddaughter of Presbyterian
ministers. The Bible and its rich stories were part of my daily
existence. When I saw the treasures and landmarks of ancient Israel,
it was like coming home to a place I had never been.
The Sea of
Galilee is a quiet, contemplative place where a small-town preacher,
named Jesus, took his message of hope from village to village, and
house to house.
I felt the intensity of being in such a small place filled with
so many sacred sites for Jews, Christians, and Muslims — a common
history as children of Abraham. All three religions are religions
of peace and that peaceful heritage must be affirmed. It must not
be subverted to preach hatred.
I was also
taken by the hope and vitality and values of modern Israel. On the
streets of Tel Aviv, you see and hear more cell phones than you
do on the streets of Washington, DC. You also feel a burning desire
among the people of Israel to live a normal life, free of terror
and fear. They want to get on with the business of building a better,
more prosperous future — a desire shared by the vast majority of
Palestinians and people throughout the Arab world.
Like the United
States, Israel was founded on certain fundamental ideas: liberty,
democracy, human rights, religious freedom, and the rule of law.
And like the United States, Israel is a democratic, multi-ethnic
nation that is being continually revitalized and strengthened by
people from other nations.
a journey, not a destination. And we know from our own experience
the difficulty of building a successful multi-ethnic democracy.
When the Founding Fathers said, "We the people . . ."
they did not mean people like me. My ancestors were treated as property;
just three-fifths of a person. And women had no rights to guide
the "course of [their] human events."
I know what
it means to be the target of intolerance and hatred. Growing up
in Birmingham, Alabama, I lived with the daily sting of segregation.
I also lived with the home-grown terrorism of that era.
This week a
trial is getting underway for one of the suspects in the 1963bombing
of the Sunday school at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. I did not
seethe incident, but I heard it and felt it at my Father’s church
just blocks away. It is a sound that will be forever reverberating
in my ears. That bomb took the lives of four young girls, including
my friend and schoolmate, Denise McNair. The crime was calculated,
not random. It was meant to suck the hope out of young lives, bury
their aspirations, and ensure that old fears are propelled forward
into the next generation.
like slavery and segregation, depends on dehumanizing people. The
counter is to educate. Education humanizes us and helps us to reach
into our better selves — promoting understanding and tolerance
among people of different races, religions, and ethnicities. It
is no accident that Israel and America — both with large immigrant
populations — have a strong commitment to education.
I was always heartened to stand before a class in which a fourth-generation
Stanford legatee sat next to the son or daughter of a migrant farm
worker. It reinforced that education is the great equalizer; that
it doesn’t matter where you have come from, but rather where you
Yet in too
many places in the world, educational systems fuel old hatreds instead
of opening new opportunities. People are not born to hate. They
are taught to hate. We must demand that texts demonizing Israelis
and Jews disappear from the schools of the Middle East. And we must
help nations and leaders who want their schools to teach less about
why to hate the world and more about the tools needed to succeed
in the world. We must help those who understand that a real education
is the right of every little boy — and every little girl, whether
she grows up in Kansas or Kandahar.
and peoples seeking their way along this path is the work not just
of government but the work of all of us, including groups like the
We must draw
strength from many quarters, and none more deep than the tremendous
resolve and resilience of the American and Israeli people.
to this task in his address to the children of Israel as they crossed
the River Jordan: "I have set before you life and death, the
blessing and the curse; therefore choose life that you and your
descendants may live."
States and Israel share this commitment to life. This commitment
is what led Jews to survive and thrive through nearly two thousand
years in the diaspora, after the burning of the Second Temple by
And this commitment
is what led African Americans to persist in pressing for freedom
during the nearly 250 years they lived in servitude.
It is what
has led Jews to contribute so much to the march of freedom in so
many countries throughout the world — including our own.
to life is what led Theodor Herzl and others to advance the idea
of establishing a Jewish state, and it is what led Jews to rise
from the ashes of the Holocaust to create a modern Israel.
to life is why the American and Israeli people are joined together
in a belief shared by everyone in this room: "Am Yisrael Chai!"
And, I believe,
it is our shared commitment to life that will lead to peace for
all the children of Abraham.
Thank you very