Gala Event in Vienna

January 10, 2010

Her Royal Highness Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands; Their Royal Highnesses Prince El Hassan bin Talal and Princess Sarvath El Hassan of Jordan; Mrs. Fischer, representing her husband, his Excellency Dr. Heinz Fischer, President of Austria, to whom we wish quick recovery; Our generous host, the Governor and Mayor of Vienna, Dr. Michael Häupl; the most distinguished former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria, Dr. Alfred Gusenbauer; Dr. Wolfgang Clement, former Federal Minister of Economics and Labor and former Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia; Mr. Peer Steinbrueck, former Federal Minister of Finance of Germany and former Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia; Dr. Günter Backstein, former Prime Minister of Bavaria; our partners Her Royal Highness Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan, President of the Royal Scientific Society in Amman; Prof. Munther S. Dajani, Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem; Prof. Hans-Michael Piper, Rector of Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf; our dear IDC Co-founder Dr. Harry Radzyner, who supports our enterprise by deeds and spirit; our close friend Prof. Gert Kaiser, President of the German Friends of IDC and former Rector of Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf; The Ambassadors of the Netherlands, Germany, Jordan and Israel to Austria; the person who envisioned the project we are celebrating today, IDC’s Director of the Center for European Studies, Ambassador Avi Primor, who was assisted by Mrs. Finni Steindling; Dear guests from all over Europe, the Middle East, America and other parts of the world, thank you for joining this unique evening.

In the display window of a small bookshop that belonged to a publisher named Breitenstein, in this city of Vienna, in the year 1896, a thin paperback book was displayed, which was written by a 36 years old Austrian journalist named Theodor Herzl. This book, which has never become a bestseller and whose title was “The Jewish State: an Attempt at a Modern Solution of the Jewish Question”, generated one of the most dramatic phenomena in modern history. Merely 52 years later, out of a global Inferno and the Holocaust, the State of Israel was established. Indeed, the return of a scattered, beaten and disintegrated people, speaking 70 different languages, to its mostly desolate fatherland, after 2,000 years, and the reconstruction of it – is unprecedented in human history.

The Zionist movement embodies first and foremost a victory of consciousness. The Jews believed that salvation and the return to Zion must not be hastened by deeds, but one must await the coming of the Messiah and heavenly grace. Herzl formulated a vision, started realizing it, and told everyone: “If you will it, it is no dream”.

114 years later, we are in Vienna, in the same great city in which the crucial revolution in Jewish history began. From here, from this distinguished gathering, a public appeal is made for another revolution of consciousness. The Promised Land is bleeding. The descendents of Abraham are killing each other. Hatred and vindictiveness are rising, and radical religious authorities ban any compromise and they call for holy wars. It is no wonder that the call to end this harsh confrontation and bloodshed comes from Europe. Europe, whose nations fought each other for centuries and brought about indescribable sufferings for many generations, this Europe has discovered unity out of the ruins and has earned the fruits of cooperation. From Europe a message is conveyed to the Middle East: build a different future, lest destruction severer than all past wars in the region will befall you, and might affect us as well. From here, then, comes the call for deeds that will change the course of things.

Erich Fried’s words receive here a new meaning:
“Wer will, dass die welt bleibt, wie sie ist – der will nicht, dass sie bleibt”
(“Those who want the world to stay the way it is, do not want the world to continue to exist”).

Herzl ended his novel “Altneuland”, a description of the image of the future Jewish state, with the following words:
“Traum ist von Tat nicht so verschieden wie mancher glaubt. Alles Tun der Menschen war vorher Traum und wird später zum Traume”
(“Dreams are not so different from Deeds as some may think. All the Deeds of men are only Dreams at first. And in the end, their Deeds dissolve into Dreams”).

Our dream is not utopian. It is even banal. Our dream is to put an end to the killing and to achieve the peaceful co-existence of Israel, Jordan and Palestine, as nations that ensure human dignity, freedom and progress to their citizens. These 3 small countries, which are located near great past regional empires, could enjoy cooperation that will ensure the prosperity of all.

The Zionist movement was not a colonialist movement. Those who came were refugees of persecutions. They were not connected to nor sent by a colonialist motherland and had no affiliation with such an entity. They relied on their own labor alone and did not rob natural resources or exploit the local population. On the contrary, the Jewish settlers used their limited resources to lawfully purchase land and other means of existence. The Zionist movement carried a humane message. Its purpose was to provide a home for the persecuted, a place where they will no longer be oppressed due to their religion or nationality.

The fathers of Zionism believed that their enterprise will enable the Jews, Muslims and Christians to live together in harmony and mutual respect. In the novel “Altneuland” the following description of Jerusalem appears:
“Die Altstadt war überhaupt ein internationaler Ort, welcher allen Völkern als eine Heimat erscheinen mußte. Denn hier war das Menschlichste zu Hause: das Leiden”.
(The old city was an international district, which for all nations must have appeared as their homeland. Because here human sorrow seems to be at home)

One may accuse the first Zionists of insensitivity and misunderstanding – but their intentions were sincere. We are at pain upon the death of any innocent victim, be it a Palestinian or Israeli child, and such a tragedy is a source of deep sorrow among us. We all recognize the right of the Palestinians to have a country of their own alongside with ensuring Israel’s security.

But both sides to the conflict should no longer nurture dreams of overpowering the other. Let us not argue about who has superior rights; let us not compare sufferings, we all suffered enough. No justification for killing in the name of God should be heard. Instead, let us be concerned with the well-being of people living today and strive for a better future for all. The students, the leaders of tomorrow, carry the promise of change. At first probably only small groups will be engaged in dialogues of peace and compromise. But small in numbers as they may be, such groups could defeat the cruel stereotypes by which each side portrays the other and pave the way for others to follow. Our launched program is a beginning. If successful, many other students will follow. The Royal Scientific Society of Amman, Al-Quds University of East Jerusalem and the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya are three institutions that are committed to pursue new roads to peace. Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf and Dr. Harry Radzyner enable us to fulfill this goal. I wish to thank all the good people who help us in our efforts.

2750 years ago an amazing prophecy was delivered in Jerusalem. It was directed to all mankind and it morally denounced wars. It claimed that once nations will faithfully adopt a Universal Code of laws and fully accept the adjudication of one final authority, no one will turn to arms. This is exactly what modern civilization is hoping for and trying to accomplish. In the eternal words of Issiah himself:
“And it shall come to pass in the end of days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established at the top of the mountains, And many peoples shall go and say: ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord… and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths. And He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”.
Out of the present distress we raise our eyes to the prophecy of Isaiah. The students of our joint program carry the generations’ torch of hope for peace in the cradle of civilization.