In the 1980s, there was a play in Israel called “Ghetto”,
The story of a group of actors in the ghetto, who are given permission, by an SS officer, a cultured mass murderer, to set up a theatre in a basement in the ghetto and put on a play.
My father, who himself was a thirteen-year-old boy in the Budapest Ghetto, was friends with the playwright, Joshua Sobol, and was invited to the premiere.
After the show, as is customary, he went backstage to congratulate the actors.
There he met a young actor, who asked him what he thought of their depiction of the ghetto.
“You did an amazing job,” he said, “there were moments when I felt like I was back there again, but I have one comment.”
“There’s a moment in the play where you all crowd around the radio, and listen to the BBC from London.
At the end of the scene, the Germans come, so you turn off the radio in a panic, and everyone goes back to their business.”
“After you turn off the radio,” My father told the young actor… “you have to turn the dial, to change the station. Because in the real ghetto, when the Germans came in, the first thing they would check was the radio… to see that it wasn’t tuned to the BBC.”
The play “Ghetto” was a great success.
It has been translated into 20 languages, and performed in 24 countries,
From Berlin and Vienna, to Prague and Stockholm, and here, at the Royal National Theater.
And in each of these performances, after the Jews in the ghetto stop listening to the BBC, a young actor reaches out, and changes the dial on the radio…
The Jews in the Ghetto risked their lives to hear ~Britain.
To hear the voice of freedom, the voice of reason, the voice that refused to surrender.
Britain taught the world an unforgettable lesson: whoever is unwilling to fight for freedom, won’t get it.
It is still true today, when terrorism threatens us all. When religious fanatics push to get their hands on nuclear weapons.
We live in a world where many people and countries in the enlightened West have decided that the use of force is always wrong.
That there is no such thing as a just war.
That no one has the right to take up arms in defense of a principle.
This is not only a defeatist approach, it also represents ideological laziness.
There is such thing as good and evil.
Not everything is someone’s narrative, inherently worthy of our respect.
The struggle between law-abiding democracies and murderous terrorist organizations is not a struggle between narratives.
It is a struggle between good and evil.
Too many people have concluded that the strong are always wrong, and the weak are always right.
Even when the strong are law-abiding democracies like Britain or Israel.
The attacks on 9/11, on the London Underground, on buses in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, were not theoretical.
We have the right to defend ourselves.
Our children will not grow up in shelters under rocket fire – something the British understand.
This industry of lies, uses democracy against democracy, international law against those who uphold it, our fairness and decency against us.
The new President of Iran, “The Butcher of Tehran,” who sentenced thousands to death, said in his first speech: “I have always defended human rights.”
The terrorists of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who slaughter children sleeping in their beds in Israel, claim to be “freedom fighters.”
Hezbollah members, active in the slaughter of half a million Syrian citizens, speak of “tolerance.”
They assume that in democratic societies, everyone will simply freeze in the face of those lofty words.
We must prove them wrong.
Not all ideas are equally worthy of respect.
If someone tells us that their religious beliefs require them to hang gay people from cranes, they must know that we will never accept such horrors.
That we will not remain silent simply because they claim this is their “religious belief.”
And if someone tells us – as the Iranians, Hamas and Hezbollah do – that it is ok to kill my children because their distorted interpretation of Islam claims that it is ok to kill Jewish children, they must know – It is not going to happen.
We are not going to get into a theological, or ideological, argument with them.
We are going to defend ourselves from their evil and stand strong against their violence.
The lesson we learned from listening to the radio in the ghetto hasn’t been forgotten.
13-year-old Jewish children will no longer be victims.
My children have an army, my children have the Mossad, my children are the sons and daughters of a free nation.
And when I look around this room, I see another thing – My children have friends.
Friends who will stand with them.
Three weeks ago, we passed a budget in Israel.
It was a long night full of procedure and hundreds of votes.
So as I sat in the Knesset, I read the Prime Minister’s brilliant biography of Winston Churchill.
Next to me, sat Prime Minister Bennett.
At three in the morning, I told him, “You have to read this sentence,” and I showed him a quote from Martin Gilbert that appears in the biography:
“Churchill admired Jews, employed Jews, enjoyed the company of Jews, and believed in a Jewish homeland. He was not a Zionist, he once said, but he was “wedded to Zionism.”
That connection between us exists to this day.
It is not a symbolic connection, but a deep, practical friendship between political and security partners, who see eye-to-eye on most of the geopolitical issues that preoccupy our world.
This friendship between us was most recently reflected in the government’s decision to proscribe all of Hamas as a terrorist organization.
And this is an opportunity to thank the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss for their leadership on this issue.
Our friendship will be reflected in the coming months in our shared determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, at all costs.
Israel will always protect itself, but we know we are not alone.
And our hand is outstretched for peace.
Our agreements with our friends from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco are proof of this.
And it is wonderful to see their Ambassadors here with us today.
We are always ready to make peace, to build new relations which benefit people across our region.
Today, the Foreign Secretary and I launched the Strategic Partnership between the UK and Israel.
A partnership based on our shared values, and our shared interests.
We share a friendship between two ancient peoples, a collective memory, and the knowledge that the important things in life… are not easily achieved.
My grandfather died in a concentration camp, my father was a child in the ghetto.
And I stand here before you as a leader of a strong and confident state.
I still listen to the BBC sometimes, but when I leave the room, I leave the dial in place.
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By Joe Millis