Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein spoke in Hebrew to a special session of the Bundestag’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee during the Knesset delegation’s official visit to Germany marking 50 years of diplomatic relations.
Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein on Wednesday evening, 2 December 2015, spoke in Hebrew to a special session of the Bundestag’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee – the pinnacle of the Knesset delegation’s official visit to Germany to mark 50 years since the establishment of relations between Israel and Germany.
"Some 30 hours ago, for the first time in my life, I set foot on German soil. For me, this visit is unlike any other visit, and this speech is unlike any other speech," Edelstein said. "I was convinced that I would never visit Germany in light of the heavy significance of its history to me and my people in the new era. As the son of Holocaust survivors, I decided that I would not come unless my position would require me to do so. In the meantime I was elected for a second term as Speaker of the Knesset, and I feel that this is an opportunity to change that decision.
We are marking 50 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany, but I feel as though only today I am reestablishing my relations with your people and your country. It should not be taken for granted that I, a former Prisoner of Zion in the Soviet Union and a refusenik, a Jew who has for years fought for individual freedom and freedom of expression, would find myself less than three decades later speaking in the Bundestag in Berlin."
"For me and for many Jews of my generation, Germany is a very sensitive concept. My parents, Anita and Yuri, are Holocaust survivors; they were supposed to be a part of the ‘Final Solution’, which was meant to turn the Jewish people into a museum exhibit in the history of humanity," the Knesset speaker said. "Had the Nazi plan been realized in its entirety, [my parents] would not have brought a child into this world."
Addressing the "global cultural and religious war" with radical Islam, Edelstein told the German lawmakers that "the ground is shaking beneath our feet, time is not on our side, and we no longer have the privilege of remaining indifferent." This "comprehensive, uncompromising and borderless" war, he said, "will determine, to a large extent, the fate of human society for the next generations. The series of murderous terror attacks in Europe carried out by ‘The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ have awoken, I hope, even the skeptics."
"It is easy to claim that the conflict in the Middle East is local and that perhaps we, the Israelis, are to blame for it, but the reality is completely different. The time has come to recognize the fact that we are facing a global struggle between the west and democracy, and murderous radical Islam," Edelstein stated.
"Unfortunately, Europe has become fertile ground for BDS organizations that employ improper methods such as economic and academic boycotts against Israel," Speaker Edelstein said. "These organizations disparage Israel, supposedly in the name of humanitarian principles, but they are actually working according to a double standard and out of blind hatred. The European Commission has recently decided to label goods [made in Israel], and I wish to thank you for your opposition to this outrageous measure. ‘Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people,’ Heine wrote, and I fear that where goods are labelled according to the place in which they were manufactured, people will be labelled according to their ethnicity." Edelstein argued that Israeli factories, which employ thousands of Israelis and Palestinians in industrial zones in Judea and Samaria, strengthen the connection between the two nations. "Ironically, the boycott will hurt the Palestinians and may lead them towards a path of poverty and despair," he said.
In his speech, Speaker Edelstein also addressed the incitement against Israel that comes out of the Palestinian Authority. "[Palestinian] religious and political leaders, some of whom operate inside Israel as well, have often compared Nazi Germany and the horrors of the Holocaust to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians," Edelstein noted. "I wish to express my deep disgust with any such baseless comparisons, which are part of the insolent industry of lies radical Islamic elements are conducting against Israel everywhere: in mosques, in the education system, the media and social networks… The Israeli-Arab conflict is unlike any other conflict, mainly because it is one-sided. Judaism has nothing against Islam, but unfortunately, [it cannot be said that Islam has nothing against Judaism]. We wish to create hope while others take pride in sowing fear. We have no interest in sanctifying the bloody struggle; rather, [we seek] to lead the region and human society to a better place."
Knesset Speaker Edelstein thanked Germany for its relations with the State of Israel and the friendship between the countries over the past half-century: "Today, Germany is a close ally of Israel. The fact that you are standing by us is remarkable, particularly because you remain firm in your position even when it is the position of the minority, such as on the issue of the boycott against Israel. I am certain that Israel and Germany will continue to join hands in light of the major challenges they face, for the sake of tikkun (repairing) of the world and the prosperity of all of human society."
As part of his official visit to Germany, Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein opened an exhibit at the Bundestag featuring the works of Israeli artists. The exhibit, entitled "Not a Distant Land", will be on display in the Bundestag in the coming weeks as part of the events marking 50 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany. The exhibit features photos, paintings and sculptures by Boaz Aharonovitch, Orit Hofshi, Sigalit Landau, Ilit Azoulay, Erez Israeli, Hila Ben-Ari, Susan Hiller, Micha Ullman and Christian Boltanski.
On Tuesday he spoke at a ceremony held at Track 17 in Berlin’s Grunewald railway station, from which more than 50,000 of the city’s Jews were sent to ghettos and extermination camps – and from there to their death – during World War II.