Israel’s Ron Dermer: We must defeat ‘militant Islam,’ but Islam is not the enemy

NEW YORK (JTA) – Taking centre stage at what organizers dubbed an all-star night of Zionist heroes, Israeli envoy Ron Dermer called on the international community to wage war against “militant Islam” and simultaneously cautioned his audience against viewing Islam itself as the enemy.

Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, issued his declaration Sunday night during his keynote address at the annual Louis Brandeis Award Dinner of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). He warned of a global network of diverse Muslim terrorist groups waging a relentless war to create a world where “women are chattel, gays are hanged and minorities are either eliminated or persecute” – and one where Israel and the United States do not exist.

At the same time, Dermer rejected the idea that the “problem is Islam itself.”

“Faiths tend to be very malleable things,” Dermer said. “They get interpreted in different ways at different times. For most of the last 1,400 years, Islam was much more tolerant to minorities than Christianity was. Jews, of all people, should know this.”

But in the 21st century, Dermer said, “It is Muslims, not Christians, who are killing Jews in the name of religion.”

Dermer added that just as Nazism quickly came and went in Germany, the Islamic world could change again. “But for that to happen,” he said, “it is not only important to define the enemy, it is important to defeat the enemy.”

The Israeli ambassador then criticized those in the media and the international community who strongly condemn ISIS attacks in Paris but make excuses for Palestinian terrorism against Israel. Dermer did not directly criticize members of the Obama administration, but he did take aim at several of their frequent talking points – rejecting as “drivel” the idea that Palestinian terrorism is in any way fueled by Israeli policy and mocking those who respond to Palestinian attacks with calls for an end to the cycle of violence and restraint on both sides.

Dermer, who received the Dr. Bob Shillman Award for Outstanding Pro-Israel Diplomacy, stopped short of including the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, on his list of Islamic terrorist groups. But ZOA’s president, Morton Klein, did – using his speech to compare Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to ISIS.

Klein in his more than two decades at the helm of ZOA has turned the group into a relentless opponent of the Oslo process, Israeli territorial concessions and a Palestinian state. In addition to accusing Abbas of anti-Jewish incitement, Klein called for a new law requiring the deportation of parents and siblings of terrorists who failed to condemn their relative’s actions in Hebrew and Arabic. He also issued an impassioned call to block the entry of Syrian refugees into the United States, saying many of the refugees hate Jews and Israel.

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