Jonathan Sacks: Israel, this is why I am proud of you

From a speech by the Chief Rabbi to the Israel Solidarity Rally in Trafalgar Square, London

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This is an extraordinary gathering. We've come from all shades of the political spectrum, from all shades of the religious spectrum to say to our brothers and sisters in the country we love: "Israel, you are not alone."

This is an extraordinary gathering. We've come from all shades of the political spectrum, from all shades of the religious spectrum to say to our brothers and sisters in the country we love: "Israel, you are not alone."

Friends, let me tell you what Israel means to me. It was brought into being after the worst crime of man against man after 2,000 years of exile and suffering. Israel did not rage in anger against the world. Instead it got on with the simple business of building a future for its children. A place, one tiny place on this vast earth, where after more afflication than any people has ever known Jewish children could live in peace. Israel, I am proud of what you did.

All you ever sought was peace. Menachem Begin gave up the whole of Sinai for peace. Shimon Peres undertook the Oslo process to negotiate peace. Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians a state, the whole of Gaza, 97 per cent of the West Bank, and a capital in East Jerusalem in return for peace.

No country could live with what you have lived with these past 20 months. I weep at what you have had to suffer. And yet I know that even now, after everything, all you want is peace.

I want to ask those who criticise Israel: who offered Palestinian children a future? Its neighbours who, from 1948 to 1967, controlled Gaza and the West Bank and kept the Palestinians in refugee camps so they could be used as pawns in the war against Israel? The Iranians when they sent guns instead of food? The only country to offer Palestinian children a future is Israel.

I want to say to the Palestinians, your children deserve a future. They deserve better than to be taught to hate those with whom they must one day learn to live.

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