During these past few months, we have seen a real change in the Arab world. We have all watched the dramatic protests, first in Tunisia and then in Tahrir Square, protests that have effected a real change in the Arab world and that have brought hope to tens of millions of people who had lived under decades of crushing, autocratic rule.
We join in the celebrations of freedom for the Arab people. We wholeheartedly support freedom and democracy all around the world, and we are cautiously encouraged by what has happened. The United States stands by everyone who wants freedom and liberty. President Roosevelt listed the Four Freedoms and they are just as necessary today as they did in the dark early days of World War II. As he stated them, they are:
- Freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.
- Freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.
- Freedom from want — securing to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants —everywhere in the world.
- And freedom from fear — everywhere in the world.
These are not just slogans, and these goals are not unrealistic. These are the primary foreign policy goals of the United States.
The Arab Spring shows that all people want, and deserve, real freedom.
My commitment is to do everything possible to bring that freedom not only to the Arab world but to every country on the planet.
Unfortunately, freedom is not free. One cannot just wave a magic wand and expect nations to embrace real freedoms on their own. Elections alone do not make a democracy. It takes time to build up the institutions of democracy, to give people a real choice in who they want to govern them. People must be exposed to the entire marketplace of ideas before making their own decisions. The process can be bumpy, and rushing it can be as counterproductive as not doing it at all.
Three times in the last century has the world been threatened by vicious, evil, totalitarian movements. The first two were communism and Nazism. Even though both of them used the terminology of freedom and civil rights, both of these movements were responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people.
They were fundamentally against freedom and they brought with them a swath of destruction and genocide.
There is a third, equally dangerous movement, and it is especially worrisome in the Arab world. That movement is Islamism.
Make no mistake–I am not talking about Islam. In a democratic, free world, everyone has the choice of which religion they want to follow, or not to follow one at all. That freedom is sacrosanct. Islam is a major world religion and it deserves as much respect as any other personal religion.
But Islamism is a political movement whose goals are no less destructive than Nazism and Communism were in the 20th century. Political Islamism seeks nothing less than domination of people, subjugation of women, cessation of freedom of speech, and little choice in how people worship.
Islamism’s principles are antithetical to each of the Four Freedoms of President Roosevelt. It is an inherently evil movement that creates an environment of fear among those who are unfortunate enough to live under its strictures.
Islam, as a personal religion, needs to be protected. Islamism, the political movement, needs to be destroyed.
Only when this occurs can there be truly an Arab Spring. Only when the hundreds of millions of Arabs feel free to express themselves without fear, to change religions without fear, to elect women as their leaders without fear–only then can we say that spring has come to the Arab world.
Any government that is based on Islamic law is, by definition, a government that rejects the basic tenets of human rights, of true equality before the law.
This must change. The sooner that Islamism is defeated, the sooner than Arabs can enjoy real freedom and security.
This is the main reason why the recent unity agreement in the Palestinian Arab territories is so problematic. Hamas is an Islamist, terrorist group. It is not interested a free, democratic Palestinian state–instead, it is dedicated to creating a pan-Islamist nation stretching across three continents. Gaza is a regime of fear, and people there have suffered greatly as a direct result of Hamas’ aggressive, violent, anti-freedom agenda. While unity may be a laudable goal, it can only work as long as all of the parties agree to the basic principles of freedom and democracy. Hamas is not an organization that is even capable of such thoughts.
While American policy has been to create a Palestinian state, statehood itself is not a right. It must be earned. The Palestinian Arab people must elect, and be led by, leaders who truly understand the necessity of these four freedoms, and the importance of real peace.
Unfortunately, this has not yet happened. The Palestinian Arab Fatah leadership has consistently chosen incitement over true peace and cooperation with Israel, the Jewish state. They have adamantly refused to continue peace negotiations. And now they have chosen to partner with a terror group instead of move toward a real, permanent solution to Arab-Israeli peace.
Let me be clear. Israel exhibits all of the freedoms we are discussing, even while under a constant state of war. It is a strong, reliable ally of the United States. America will never abandon Israel nor will we endanger it.
Israel’s freedoms should be the model that the Arab world follows as it moves toward a true spring. And when the Arab world is ready to make a real, true peace with the Jewish state, the payoff will be tremendous for everyone, as all of the artificial fear and hate that has been stoked over the decades will melt away.
I am not talking about a detente, or a paper truce with Israel. I am talking about real peace, where Jewish doctors can come to Arab countries to treat Muslim children, where poets from Syria can recite their works in a Tel Aviv concert hall, where Arab and Israeli researchers can work together to solve shared problems such as water, energy and the environment.
This is my vision for peace and my vision for the Middle East. We have spent too much time missing the forest for the trees. Real peace will not come from endless meetings haggling over borders, nor from using human rights terminology to push a hateful agenda. A true peace will only exist where Arab and Jew alike can feel free to travel, speak and laugh in the entire region, without fear from their cousins. I want to see a train line running from Jerusalem to Amman, a highway from Haifa to Beirut, commercial airliners flying from Riyadh to Tel Aviv.
This is what an Arab Spring must result in. It is not merely a dream, but it is a vision that everyone needs to work toward. As the president of the United States, I intend to lead the way toward this vision. I urge you you help me in this task.
Thank you, and God bless you.