Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
July 8, 2019
Remarks by Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA, USA, USA, USA, USA. (Cheers.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon. Good afternoon, everyone. They told me there would be a lot of you here. This is what is must have looked like to be part of the crowd for the fishes and the loaves. (Laughter.) What a miracle that was.
And today, I want to talk to you about serious matters and tell some important stories about our path forward. First of all, I want thank Pastor John Hagee for inviting me to be with you. (Applause.) It is truly heartening as Secretary of State to know that there are so many Americans cheering President Trump’s mission to make our relationship with Israel the strongest that it has ever been. (Applause.)
You all know Israel is an important partner. It’s an ally. Israel is a friend. Can I get an amen?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I want to kick off my remarks by telling you something that you already know, but a lot of folks truly don’t: Christians in America are among Israel’s greatest friends. (Applause.)
This isn’t a new development. Christian support in America for Zion – for a Jewish homeland ‒ runs back to the early Puritan settlers, and it has endured for centuries. Indeed, our second president, a couple years back, said, quote, “I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation,” end of quote.
And then a little more recently, now just over a hundred years ago, 1916, a prominent American evangelist named William Blackstone helped to convince President Woodrow Wilson to support the Balfour Declaration. That was the United Kingdom’s own statement of support for, quote, “a national home for the Jewish people.”
That document, that document helped lay the groundwork for what happened in 1948, when a Missouri Baptist displayed an incredible act of political courage. We have to remember these times. It was a world that was recovering from the fury of World War II, people of all nations returning to their homelands. And President Truman wondered aloud to one of his aides. He said, “Everyone else who’s been dragged away from his country has someplace to get back to. But the Jews have no place to go.”
So President Truman, incredibly, courageously, decided to recognize this new state. He did so on the very same day its first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, read aloud its declaration of independence in Tel Aviv. We take this for granted sometimes, but this wasn’t an easy decision for the president. Nearly every one of his advisors, military and diplomatic, had counseled against that decision.
But he knew – that president knew – it was the right thing to do. He later said, “I wonder how far Moses would have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt?” (Laughter.) He continued. He continued. He said, “What would Jesus Christ have preached if he had taken a poll in Israel?” (Laughter.) And, “Where would the Reformation had gone if Martin Luther had taken a poll? It isn’t the polls or public opinion of the moment that counts. It’s [doing what’s] right and wrong, and leadership.” (Applause.)
You have a president like that today, too. (Applause.) No one – no one was more grateful for Truman’s brave decision than the Jewish people themselves. In 1949, Israel’s Chief Rabbi came to see President Truman. He told him, he said, “God put you in your mother’s womb so that you could be the instrument to bring about the rebirth of Israel after two thousand years.” And as the story goes, tears filled the president’s eyes.
The Rabbi then opened the Bible and read the words of King Cyrus – a real friend to Israel. It was from the Book of Ezra. He read that “The Lord God of Heaven hath given me all the kindness of the earth; and he hath charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”
It fills me with unending pride to know that American hands helped build the modern house of Israel. (Applause.)
Our welcoming, the American welcoming, of the new Jewish state into the family of nations was one of the most consequential diplomatic decisions of the 20th century – not just in terms of the world map, but as a statement to the world of who we are as Americans. (Applause.) It proved, as we continue to prove, that we stand for human dignity, that we stand for justice, that we stand for independence.
We are now some 70 years on from that moment. America has an incredibly unique and important relationship with Israel, and it’s one that I personally treasure and am proud to work every day to maintain. (Applause.)
In May, I had a chance to speak at Israel’s Independence Day celebration. It was right here in Washington. Ambassador Dermer was kind to invite me and give me a chance to say just a few words. I talked about the unbreakable bonds that stem from our shared love of freedom.
Modern Israel is the only truly free nation throughout the entire Middle East. It has an enormous respect for religious freedom, a subject of many of our hearts these days. Here too – here too Israel’s commitment lights the way for the rest of the Middle East and indeed for the entire world. No country is perfect, but Israel, like America, holds itself to an incredibly high standard.
Israel is a majority Jewish nation, but the government doesn’t force Jewish beliefs on others.
Indeed to the contrary, its Declaration of Independence guarantees the “full freedom of conscience, worship, education, and culture.”
Israel permits the conversion of its citizens away from Judaism, the majority religion.
Indeed last year, the Knesset – their parliament there in Israel ‒ passed a law prohibiting hiring discrimination against workers who refuse to work on their day of rest.
Compare this to many places in the world. Compare Israel’s reverence for liberty with the restrictions on religious freedom facing Christians and people of all faiths throughout the rest of the Middle East:
In many countries, if a Muslim leaves Islam it is considered an apostasy, and it is punishable indeed by death.
In Iraq, Syria, and other countries in the region, the last remnants of ancient Christian communities are at near-extinction because of persecution from ISIS and other malign actors. And just one example: before 2003, there were an estimated 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq. Today, sadly, almost a quarter of a million.
This administration has made a real effort to protect Christians and other threatened religious minorities in Iraq and elsewhere, and we’re making real progress. (Applause.) The flame of existence of Christians must not be snuffed out. Their unalienable rights – Christians’ unalienable rights in the Middle East – their right to worship must not be taken away. (Applause.)
Persecution of the faithful is especially intense inside the Islamic Republic of Iran. The regime’s militant adherence to the noxious tenets of the Islamic Revolution dictates all elements of life – and especially the suppression of other faiths.
In Iran, if Muslims try to convert non-Muslims, the penal code calls for a death sentence.
The government does not recognize converts to Christianity. It levies beatings and solitary confinement on Christians caught worshiping in violation of government dictates.
Last year, an Iranian court upheld a 10-year prison sentences on four Iranian Christians who were “acting against national security” by, quote, “promoting Zionist Christianity,” end of quote, and running house churches. This is something we know in America.
Instead, instead of following the normal summons procedure, authorities raided their homes, beat them, and used electroshock weapons on them. They then threw them into Evin Prison – a regime dungeon inside of Tehran.
Every day I pray, and I’d ask you too, to pray for our brothers and sisters in Iran – and not just for them, but people of all faiths who are persecuted there in Iran. (Applause.)
I’m from Kansas, and there are – yeah, I love it, we’ve got Kansans out there. I’m sure there’s more and you’re just quiet people. (Laughter.) A lot of people get spun up with the wrong ideas that American evangelicals want to impose a theocracy on America. I wish they would be concerned about the real theocratic takeover that has been happening in Iran for the last four decades. (Applause.) The ayatollahs have grievously deprived the Iranian people of that most basic, simple, fundamental right, their right to worship.
That same twisted, intolerant doctrine that fuels persecution inside Iran has also led the ayatollah and his cronies to cry out, quote, “death to Israel” for four decades now. This is similar to a cry that came out of Iran – then called Persia ‒ many, many years ago. The Book of Esther teaches us about this. It was in the 5th century B.C. There was a wicked advisor named King Xerxes. A fellow named Haman hatched a plot to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire. He secretly wrote letters with the king’s seal to all the provincial governors, ordering the people to rise up and attack the Jews. This edict, once issued, could not be revoked. But thanks to the courageous intervention of Queen Esther, who begged the king to show mercy to her people, Haman’s plot was exposed and the Jews were ultimately spared. Today this marks the Jewish holiday of Purim and it commemorates this amazing miracle. (Applause.)
I wanted to tell this story today for a couple of reasons, because similar threats to the Jewish people have marked other eras as well – think of the Roman devastation of Jerusalem, the vicious pogroms throughout European history, and the Holocaust. The Jews have had a target on their back in every era of history. And as the Book of Ecclesiastes says, “There is [indeed] nothing new under the sun.”
But thank God. Thank God we have a leader in President Trump – an immovable friend of Israel. (Applause.) His commitment, his commitment – President Trump’s commitment is the strongest in history, and it’s been one of the best parts of my job to turn that commitment into real action. (Applause.)
You know the stories, but we’ve implemented the strongest pressure campaign in history against the Iranian regime, and we are not done. (Applause.)
We’ve cut off billions in funds that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s leadership would have used for various nefarious purposes, not the least of which would have been their efforts to destroy the state of Israel.
It is also the case that under President Trump, the Israel haters such as Hamas and Hizballah and Islamic Jihad receive far less blood money from Iran to pursue their terrorism than ever in recent history. (Applause.)
President Trump has, too, maintained the $4 billion annual security assistance to Israel.
And we’ve honored Israel’s decision to claim the Golan Heights as its own. (Applause.) The Lord did smile on me. It was in Israel the very day that that announcement was made. I was with Prime Minister Netanyahu – my wife Susan and I were able to have dinner with he and his wife – the very day of that announcement. It was truly remarkable to be there with this prime minister on that day when our president made that historic proclamation. (Applause.)
Within the State Department, too, we’ve elevated the fight against anti-Semitism. It’s a conversation I have all the time. Indeed, I had one with the Archbishop of Canterbury last May. I was indeed the first American Secretary of State to ever meet a holder of that office that’s existed since the 6th century. I kept thinking during our meeting that the Secretary of State is an old, historic office – and then I realized he had about 1200 years on me. (Laughter.)
We’ve – we, too, at the State Department have advanced religious freedom in our foreign policy. This is something that had been missing for too long. Last year, I hosted the first-ever gathering of foreign ministers from all across the world devoted solely to advancing religious freedom. And we’ll do it again in the middle of July. (Applause.)
And I think we’ve put the UN on notice, too, that its anti-Israel bias will no longer be tolerated. (Applause.)
And while I wasn’t there on the day that it happened, I was able to travel now twice to see our embassy, the State Department’s embassy, that was moved to Jerusalem to recognize the simple reality of Jerusalem, Israel’s capital – now and forever. (Applause.)
The other great thing about this administration is we live in a very real world, and for that reason I was able last March to declare a simple truth, that anti-Zionism is indeed anti-Semitism. Period. Full stop. (Applause.)
It is also a blessing to stand with other countries like Israel that themselves stand for freedom – because indeed that’s what it’s all about here in America.
I’ll close here today. I want to go back to that president, President Truman, one more time. He said this about America in his memoirs. He wrote the following:
“Our country is intended to do all it can, in cooperating with other nations, to help create peace and preserve peace [throughout] the world. It is given to defend the spiritual values – the moral code – against the vast forces of evil that seek to destroy them.”
That’s what America does when it stands with Israel each and every day. That’s what (inaudible) of State each and every single day.
Please know as this administration works, that I covet your prayers as I do this work.
May God bless you.
May God bless Israel.
And may God bless the United States of America.
Thank you all so much. (Applause.)