- As Delivered -
WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks on the Jewish history in Israel at an event sponsored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. This event showcased a UNESCO and Simon Wiesenthal Center exhibit: “People, Book, Land—The 3500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People with the Holy Land.”
“Well, thanks very much. Whenever I’m given such a wonderful introduction, I wish that two of the women in my life would be here to hear it: my wife and my late mother. And I want you to know my late mother would believe every wonderful thing you said about me. My wife would wonder who you were talking about.
“I am so proud to be associated with the Simon Wiesenthal Center. I am so proud because of the work that it does. I am so proud every time I get in my mailbox—just as a supporter—the pamphlet, the little booklet, showing all the good things that the Center is doing.
“And it’s really good things. Important things. Cutting-edge things. Things right in the center. Things that need to be done. Things that need to be said. They’re on top of everything. It’s just a pleasure to know that there are people out there fighting against anti-Semitism and calling it the way they see it.
“I’m also happy to say that when it comes to these things that the Simon Wiesenthal Center stands for. We have a bipartisan coalition in the Congress that stands with Israel and stands against anti-Semitism. It does all the things. My colleague Ted Lieu—who is one of the newer Members of Congress—and myself who has been here 14 terms, we work together. Because it’s so important that we work together in both parties. And new Members, older Members, people who have been here.
“You know, the scourge of anti-Semitism unfortunately has lasted through the centuries. And we need everybody to fight it. So, I want to thank the Simon Wiesenthal Center for putting this event together, and for bringing this exhibit to Capitol Hill.
“The history is so important. The Jewish connection to Israel over 3,500 years. So some of those people that say, you know, ‘there’s no connection,’ that ‘the property is taken away from people’ and all the other nonsense and lies that are being spread. 3,500 years of connection doesn’t lie. And I’m so glad that the Center—along with UNESCO—are helping to share that history.
“3,500 years. Let’s see. The destruction of the First and Second Temple to the Holocaust, the Jewish people have endured some of humanity’s darkest chapters. And anti-Semitism—that ancient hatred—has continued smoldering through the centuries.
“Week after week, we hear reports of new anti-Semitic attacks. The vandalism of the Babi Yar Holocaust site in Kyiv. I was there a couple of times. I was there—in fact the Jewish holidays last time around—and lit a candle and left it on the monument. My grandparents—all four of them—emigrated before World War I from present-day Ukraine. And so when things like that are desecrated, it’s like a dagger to my heart. Personally.
“Targeting of the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen. And of course the attack in Paris—which we just had—but the one at the Kosher Mart before as well. And in countries like Hungary and Greece, we see anti-Semitism embraced by strong political parties and elected officials.
“The Jewish people have also endured a different kind of anti-Semitism since Israel’s creation in 1948. In 1975, the members of the UN General Assembly passed a resolution. I remember this so well. Declaring Zionism a form of racism. I mean, imagine the nerve where other peoples in the world are entitled to have their liberation movements. But somehow Jews are not.
“Today, we’re seeing the spread of BDS campaign—the boycott, divestment, sanctions—seeking to undermine Israel’s legitimacy. And we’re seeing Holocaust denial and distortion in places around the world. My colleague Ed Royce, the Chairman of our Committee, and I am the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he and I work tirelessly together to introduce legislation that protects Israel and its people, from BDS to missiles from Gaza and Lebanon.
“And today in Israel and in the West Bank, violence is reaching a crisis point. We all know about it. It sickens me to wake up and hear about another stabbing or another shooting. The perpetrators sometimes are in their young teens. And I’ve often said that while I do support a two-state solution, Palestinians will never get their state on the backs of terrorism.
“This wave of violence isn’t some random flare-up. It’s the product of years and years of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda and indoctrination—some of which has been actively promoted by the Palestinian Authority officials and institutions. Books that teach children that Israelis are their enemies. Books that depict Jews as cows and pigs. Denial of Jewish histories in the Holy Land. The glorification of terrorists as martyrs and heroes in a holy war. Naming streets after murderers.
“It wasn’t even a century ago that we heard the canary in the coal mine. You can draw a straight line from early indifference and inaction to the darkest chapter in human history: the Shoah, the Holocaust. The lessons are seared in our collective consciousness. These lessons are telling us to throw water on this fire before it burns out of control once again.
“So we need to remain vigilant pushing back against all forms of hatred. Whether it’s denial of Jewish history in Israel or threats against Jewish communities around the world. We need to break the cycle of dehumanization and violence. And we need constant reminders—such as this exhibit—that tell history the way it actually happened. That lay out the historic and legitimate Jewish claims to Israel. And that refute the lies and the hatred.
“So I want to thank all of the people here who had something to do with this. I want to thank you all for your partnership and your commitment. And let’s keep telling this story and building on this rich history. And the Simon Wiesenthal Center will always have my support. Thanks so much.”