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Hoyer Delivers Remarks at AIPAC Annual Policy Conference

WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered a speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual policy conference today. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

"I am not Jewish, nor do I do represent a large Jewish constituency.  But I have visited Israel some fifteen times, and I have seen the courage of its people and their enduring spirit to make their country flourish. 

"I am an American who believes passionately in the idea of Israel, in the State of Israel, and in the essential right of Jews to have a place of sanctuary in their homeland after millennia of hatred, prejudice, exclusion, dehumanization, and attempted annihilation.  The State of Israel, founded upon that profound and transcendent premise, must never be allowed to fail.  

"I stand with Israel, proudly and unapologetically.

"So, when someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: accuse me. 

"I am part of a large, bipartisan coalition in Congress supporting Israel.  I tell Israel’s detractors: accuse us.

"And millions of Americans, regardless of race or faith or partisan label, stand with Israel because they understand why our relationship with Israel is so important.  Accuse us all! 

"We stand with Israel because it is important for fidelity to our shared values and for our national security. Our nations are bound by common ideals, common challenges, and a common vision.  And, yes, as democracies, we share imperfections and, at times, a failure to follow our own ideals.  Together, we cherish dissent and value criticism of leaders and policies.  That’s a good thing.  It’s what makes our democracies stronger. 

“What weakens us, though, is when, instead of engaging in legitimate debate about policies, someone questions the motives of his or her fellow citizens or tries to silence others through exclusion, disenfranchisement, or fear. 

"In a region of dictatorships and dynasties, Israel remains a beachhead of freedom and representative government.  In Israel’s democracy, where rule of law is upheld and freedom of expression is assured, Americans see a mirror image of our own.  We admire Israel’s vibrant, free market of economics and ideas.  Americans and Israelis believe that when everyone has the right to speak up, democracy does its job and lifts the best ideas to the top – not always perfectly, but better than any other system. 

"This is where AIPAC plays such a critical role.  You are the educators and informers about Israel’s complexity and commitment to democracy.  So, let’s have debates on policy instead of impugning the loyalty of Israel’s supporters.  In doing so, we will approach these debates with confidence in our ideals and convictions. 

"That is why I oppose those who push for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel.  Because when the curtain is pulled back, everyone can see what that movement truly is: a front for delegitimizing the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. 

"Omar Barghouti, the founder and leader of the BDS movement, made that clear when he said: 'we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.' And Barghouti confirmed his objective when he hatefully declared that – and I quote – 'Jews are not a people.'

"Democracy only works when citizens are educated and informed.  As advocates for truth, we here in this room must educate and inform our fellow Americans about what BDS really aims to do: destroy a partner democracy and one of America’s most faithful allies. 

"I’ve been proud to help lead efforts in Congress to push back against the BDS movement.  And I will push for a bipartisan resolution led by Congressman Brad Schneider and Chairman Jerry Nadler that puts Congress on record that BDS must be opposed and, at its root, is an effort to eliminate the Middle East’s only pluralistic democracy. 

"Together, we will defeat BDS.

"With that same resolve, together we will meet the challenges we face from terror and tyranny, instability and ignorance.

"In 2019, the most dangerous source of terror aimed at Israel – and the United States – continues to be Iran.  The tyrannical regime of Iran’s theocratic rulers, who have called the Jewish state 'a cancerous tumor that must be removed' and who have promised to 'annihilate' Israel, must never be permitted to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.   

"The United States and the world cannot allow that to happen.  The Democratic House in a bipartisan way will not allow that to happen.  We must continue to assert, clearly and emphatically, that Israel’s existence as a Jewish state cannot be threatened. 

"The prospect of an Iranian foothold in Syria is a danger to us both.  We must never allow Iran a permanent base on Israel’s doorstep.  Never. 

"Earlier this year, the Democratic House passed bipartisan sanctions on the Assad regime to promote a settlement to the conflict that does not leave Iran with a foothold.  And, while Hezbollah and Iran send drones to threaten the skies over northern Israel, our nations are engaging in a new, enhanced anti-UAV technology partnership.  We are also committed to partnering in the development and deployment of anti-tunneling technology to counter Hamas and the terrorists they would send to threaten Israel’s southern communities.

"Like many of you, I’ve traveled to the communities in the south of Israel that have endured rockets and tunnels.  I’ve traveled with over a 150 of my fellow Democratic Members of Congress to meet with those who live under the constant threat of terror. 

"This August, I will travel with what I expect will be our largest delegation ever – probably more than thirty Democratic Members of Congress, including many freshmen.  They will see first-hand the threats and challenges faced by Israel and its people as well as their extraordinary courage and achievements.

"It has been – and continues to be – the platform of our party and the priority of our Democratic Caucus that ‘a strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism.’

"I’ve worked all my career to build and maintain bipartisan consensus on the U.S.-Israel relationship.  We must stand firm in this fight together.  Support for Israel must never be a partisan issue or perceived to be a partisan issue.  Because it isn’t.

"Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly support Israel, as do independents.  That is why maintaining the perception and the reality of near-unanimous support for Israel’s security, sovereignty, and existence is so critically important.   

"America has been, is now, and must always be Israel’s strongest supporter and defender. 

"Bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship is, in many ways, one of the greatest strengths in Israel’s defensive arsenal.  And it’s also a great strength in America’s arsenal too. 

"Yes, we stand with Israel – because we stand for America’s security.

"Yes, we stand with Israel – because we stand for freedom.

"Yes, we stand with Israel – because we reject bigotry and prejudice.

"Yes, we stand with Israel – because we abhor the violence directed throughout the millennia at our Jewish brothers and sisters. 

"Yes, we stand with Israel – because we respect their courage, resilience, and refusal to be forced out of the land of their ancestors. 

"And yes, we stand with Israel – because we are loyal Americans, patriots who believe it is in America’s interest that Israel remains strong and free and supported as a place of refuge from the haters of the world. 

"We proudly stand with Israel.  Accuse us."