Defending Israel: Jay Sekulow’s 2017 Address at the United Nations
Today I went to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City for the “Ambassadors Against BDS – International Summit at the UN” hosted by the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN. My keynote address was titled, “We Stand Against the BDS Movement.” I discussed our multi-pronged advocacy in defense of Israel on the world’s stage and how we’ve successfully defeated numerous anti-Israel initiatives and movements. Watch the complete address above.
Thank you so much. It is great to be with you again. I am Schmulik Sekulow’s grandson. I am a lawyer. I stood before you here last year and, Ambassador Danon, let me say thank you for allowing me to be back. A lot has changed in a year, and I want to tell you that the changes have been for the better. Those that seek to destroy the legitimacy of the Jewish State, those that seek to make a hostile environment for those that simply want to carry a message protected by the First Amendment in favor of the State of Israel have met resistance. But those that were opposing them have met a greater resistance.
For the past year, we have stood firm on many fronts; and I am really pleased to tell you today that we’ve achieved, in just this last year, many great victories on behalf of free speech on campuses for students, for faculty, and for others. Last year, we defended the right of a University of Texas Professor, the Director of the Institute of Israel Studies on the college campus in favor of Israel. During his event, a hostile student disrupted his talk and afterwards even had the audacity to file a complaint with the university, alleging that the speech he sought to give was somehow inappropriate, discriminatory, or hateful. Despite the rather poor status of free speech on campuses, I’m happy to tell you that we write a pretty tough letter, a pretty tough legal brief at the American Center for Law and Justice; and that attack on that professor was not only not successful, but the university completely backed off. A 100 percent victory. No question about it.
You know, I like to fight. I don’t hesitate in fighting. As I said, I’m the grandson of a fruit peddler from Brooklyn, New York, who came to the United States from Russia. I’m second generation in my family born here. Just a few days ago, I had the awesome experience of spending some time with the President of the United States.
Let me say something, let me tell you what we don’t have to worry about because of Ambassador Haley, because of the position of the United States, and because of the President, we are not going to have to worry about where the United States stands in defense of the Jewish State of Israel.
Now in August, we took on one of the most significant cases we’ve ever taken on at the ACLJ. The case is called Al-Tamimi v. Adelson. Our friend David Brog is here right now; he heads up the Adelson’s organization and has done so many good things for students of the Maccabee Project. David and I have been friends for more years that we probably both care to remember—a long time—decades.
In this complaint, the Palestinian activists assert that billions of dollars of damages have been brought against individuals because of the Israeli and the United States’ citizens, business, and non-profit organizations. Let me tell you a little bit about the plaintiffs in this case. The lead plaintiff, Bassem Al-Tamimi, is a well-known member of a terrorist family, which means he gets awards from the Palestinian Authority when his family members commit terrorist acts. He is on the record in The New York Times as saying that he would like to be the one to start the Third Intifada. He is a professional provocateur. He is perhaps most famous for sending his own children to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers in hopes that the Israeli soldiers will respond and that he can capture that response on video. He literally puts his children in harm’s way to see if he can get a reaction from the soldiers. It brings to mind the famous quote of Prime Minister Golda Meir—I’ve got a granddaughter named Golda, so this means a lot to me. [Applause]
To be honest and fair, I’ve got a granddaughter named Georgia as well, and a granddaughter named Sophie—I want to give equal opportunity—and a grandson named Ryker. But Golda Meir, the namesake for my granddaughter, she said this: “Peace will come when they love their own children as much as they hate ours.” Strong words from Golda Meir.
Now on the other side of the lawsuit is the Gush Etzion Foundation, a charity dedicated to defending the history and the people of Gush Etzion, or what was called at the very beginning of the modern State of Israel, the Gush Etzion bloc—a group of villages in the Judean Mountains near Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Great land. Great people. Famous battle. Ambassador Danon called me about a year ago when this case came to be and said he’d received a call from the folks in Gush Etzion and they needed a tough lawyer. I like being a tough lawyer; and when you know the story of Gush Etzion, it brings out the toughest part of who you are. David Ben-Gurion famously said regarding the 1948 battle where the Arab League massacred the Jews of Gush Etzion, "I can think of no battle in the annals of the Israel Defense Forces which was more magnificent, more tragic, or more heroic than the struggle for Gush Etzion.” Ben-Gurion said, “If there exists a Jewish Jerusalem today, our foremost thanks go to the defenders of Gush Etzion.” And I am here to announce that there is, in fact, a Jewish Jerusalem today, and we do want to thank the valiant fighters and defenders of Gush Etzion; but I want to thank all of you, and everyone here who’s continuing to make this issue the preeminent issue: the maintaining of a Jewish State in the land of Promise, Israel.
Litigation is easy. Politics, not so much. The Ambassador knows how it is to battle in this very chamber. It’s humbling to be here again. But Ambassador, let me say this, the battle that you are engaging in every day for the State of Israel, for all of us who love freedom, I want to personally thank you, Ambassador Danon, for everything you are doing, standing for freedom, standing for liberty, standing for true democracy, and standing for the Jewish people. Thank you for your efforts.
Last December, in an effort of absolute betrayal, the Obama Administration failed in its duty to defend its ally—not the first time it’s done that—and allowed the UN Security Council to adopt Resolution 2334. The UN had threatened these regulations many times; but this time, they acted on it. They called Israel the “occupier.” The regulation, by the way, the Resolution denies history, distorts the law, and does not tell the truth. But should we be surprised that those that oppose the views of the Jewish State would go to any extreme to express their view, and that this particular resolution came during the time of Hanukkah—the time of year when we around the world celebrate the return of the Jewish sovereignty to the Jewish homeland. As we read the Passover Seder in just a few weeks, we will recite, “b’chol dor v’dor,” in every generation, they stand up and try to destroy us, but we have faith that God has saved us from their hands and He will continue to do so.
The ACLJ, we have fought hard to expose the false legal arguments, the lies, the distortions, and we’ve seen, as I said, great success this year. I’m happy to tell you: the college campuses, there are still problems, but there are a lot less problems this year than the year before. It’s amazing what will happen when you win a series of cases, and the schools and universities are no longer so ready to attack those Jewish student groups or professors that are simply speaking free speech. You win a few, guess what happens? A lot of it stops.
But I’ve got a particular thank you, and I shared this earlier with Ambassador Haley. South Carolina was indeed the first state to pass anti-BDS legislation, and again, this was a great step forward, and I want to thank Ambassador Haley and we do thank Ambassador Haley, absolutely.
I would also like to take a moment and recognize South Carolina State Representative Alan Clemmons. Representative Clemmons’ tireless work on behalf of Israel resulted in that bill becoming law. Representative Clemmons is here with us today. He has authored this law. He was the first one to put this law forward, and South Carolina—his state—became the first to pass it. He has been innovative and tireless in his defense of the Jewish State. I would appreciate, Representative Clemmons, right now, to stand up and let us thank you, Representative, for everything you’ve done.
There is much work to do. There is much work to do because it’s changed now. BDS has moved from delegitimization to the elimination of Israel. Ambassador Haley talked about the ESCWA, the United Nation’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia’s report that declared that Israel was an “apartheid state.” That’s what they declared. They said it was an apartheid state, and what do you do with apartheid states? You don’t just delegitimize them, you end them. The executive summary of this now revoked, removed, tarnished, false report said this in its beginning: “Member States have a collective duty (a) not to recognize an apartheid regime as lawful; (b) not to aid or assist a State in maintaining an apartheid regime; and (c) to cooperate with the United Nations and other States in bringing apartheid regimes to an end.”
Let me change how that really is worded. This is what they mean. The executive summary should be read this way if you understand what they are saying about the State of Israel: Member States have a collective duty not to recognize Israel as a regime that is lawful; not to aid or assist Israel in maintaining its regime; and not to cooperate and not allow the UN to cooperate with other States, but they should cooperate in one thing: in bringing Israel to an end.
That was a report out of this body. That report is no longer in existence because of the valiant efforts of Ambassador Danon and Ambassador Haley.
I like research and I like evidence, so I wanted to find out who wrote this report. You heard about Rima Khalaf; you didn’t hear a lot about Richard Falk. Richard Falk called the Boston Marathon Bombing, a conspiracy perpetrated by “Tel Aviv.” This who was the co-author of the report. His other co-author, Rima Khalaf, has had a long history of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel statements. We utilized our NGO status at this very body, at the UN, to do away with this report; and because of the great work, as I said, of Ambassador Danon and Ambassador Haley, that report is gone. It’s incorrect, by the way, as a matter of law. I’m not going to get you into the legalese, but let me just tell you this: they conveniently ignore who attacked whom during the conflicts. Who was it that initiated the military action against Israel? It was not the Israeli State that was the aggressor. That, they ignored. That report is gone.
I would like to close with this. I’m a student of history. I am a lawyer. I’m a litigator. I spend a lot of time at our Supreme Court of the United States—one of the highest honors of my life, as is appearing before you all. Every time I touch this podium and I realize who’s been here, I think about my father. I just lost my father a few weeks ago. I think about my father, the son of Schmulik, my grandfather; my father; my kids; my grandkids. You know my grandfather came here as a fruit peddler in Brooklyn, New York; I get to argue cases at the Supreme Court of the United States and appear before you. But I am also a student of history. I had the privilege for a number of years of studying at the University of Oxford, where I also had the opportunity to lecture. I was given access to the papers of the famed British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, who quipped that when he won Prime Minister, "I have reached the top of the greasy pole." But he was also a prolific author and novelist. In his novel, Alroy, Disraeli has a poignant quote that is seared in my mind and I want you to take it with you. Alroy wanted to see a return of a Jewish Homeland. He was the figure that this novel of Disraeli was about, and there was a poignant moment where he’s asked a series of questions by the protagonist. Alroy says: “If I speak in heat, I speak in zeal. You ask me what I wish: [my answer is,] a national existence, which we have not. You ask me what I wish: my answer is, the Land of Promise. You ask me what I wish: my answer is, Jerusalem. You ask me what I wish: my answer is, the Temple, all we have fortified, all we have yearned after, all for which we have fought, our beautiful country, our holy creed, and our ancient customs.”
Let me answer Alroy today. You ask me what I wish for: my answer is a land of national existence, which we have. You ask me what I wish for: Jerusalem, which we have. You ask me what I wish for and want: the Temple, we have fortified and fought for it. We fight for our creed. We fight for our ancient customs. Those longing wishes of Alroy should be the wishes of all of us: that we maintain that ability to have our national existence, our Land of Promise, Jerusalem, the Temple, our creed, our customs. And at the end of the day, let me be crystal clear: We win! Thank you.