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Speech by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
at the Anti-Defamation League Tribute to Italy Dinner
September 23, 2003

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is an honor for me to receive this award - as a private citizen, as an entrepreneur and as a political leader I have always been fighting for tolerance and freedom. Tonight we celebrate values and it is no coincidence that such a celebration should take place here, in the United States.

I have always been grateful to the United States for saving my country and Europe from the worst scourges of the 20th Century: Anti-Semitism, Nazism, Fascism and Communism. And I always remember that it was possible to defeat Totalitarianism with the immense sacrifice of so many young American lives.

I have always been grateful to the United States for helping us out of poverty and into growth and prosperity, after World War II, thanks to the generosity of the Marshall Plan.

I have always been grateful to the United States, which at the expense of their citizens and their taxpayers protected us from the threat of the Soviet Empire during half a century.

And still today I am grateful to the United States, which continues to pay a high price, also in terms of human lives, for our common security and the defense of human rights around the world.

When I see the "Stars and Stripes," I don't see just the flag of a great country but I see a universal message, a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.

You now understand why I said that out of gratitude my instinct is always on the side of the United States before diplomatic caution and political judgment set in.

After the tragedy of September 11, when the horror of terrorism struck this city, the United States and the world, as Italian Prime Minister I immediately decided to participate in the Coalition against Terror, deploying Italian special forces in Afghanistan.

In the case of Iraq, I gave my political support to America and Italy engaged in assisting the Iraqi people in the efforts of nation-building and transition to democracy.

Italy is proud to rank third after the United States and Great Britain for the number of troops deployed on the ground.

And we are proud to be among the most loyal allies of the United States.

As to the Middle East we work shoulder to shoulder with America in order to reach a lasting peace which can guarantee the security and integrity of the State of Israel and the peaceful coexistence between two independent states within safe and secure borders.

The Italian Presidency of the European Union is committed to this goal within the Quartet.

Terrorism runs against the spirit of dialogue and confidence-building, which are needed for the reconciliation between the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples.

Terrorism is a crime against humanity and there can be no cause that can justify the murdering of innocents.

For this reason I have worked to include Hamas in the European list of terrorist organizations.

In order to offer the prospect of a lasting peace in the agreement with the two parties, Italy has proposed to the European Union and to the countries of the G8 a plan for the reconstruction of the economy of the region, giving to the Palestinian youth a realistic hope for jobs and development.

I've been to Israel twice in the last three years, and as a friend I can tell you that I saw for myself what has been achieved in the face of terror and war, and now I much hope for a peaceful and lasting settlement for the region.

In addition to this we have also proposed to host the peace talks in Sicily in the town of Erice.

Finally, I believe and I have already proposed that Israel should become a member of the European Union.

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,

The many tragedies of the 20th Century - among them the most horrible, the Holocaust - have taught us to cherish the values of freedom, democracy, and memory as a shield against anti-Semitism, discrimination and intolerance.

As Prime Minister of Italy and President of the European Union I pledge total commitment to the fight against anti-Semitism.

Hatred and prejudice must not be allowed to destroy the very foundations of humanity and civilization in the 21st Century as it happened in the last century.

That is why we praise the mission of the Anti-Defamation League, which has been championing our common values of tolerance and freedom for almost a century.

And I would like to say all my deepest gratitude and admiration to its leaders: to National Chairman Glen Tobias and to National Director Abraham Foxman, to the Chairman of this event, Leonard Riggio, and to all the friends who give their support to the work of this organization, many of whom are gathered here tonight.

These prominent personalities are steering your organization with firmness, vision and leadership, in line with the noblest tradition of the ADL.

That is why I am deeply touched for the award you are giving me here tonight.

Ladies and Gentleman,

The events of recent decades have profoundly changed the world order. Today the conditions exist for the democracies of the world to act together in order to spread those goods that are the unavoidable premise for all others: freedom and democracy.

Democratic countries must commit themselves to providing the intangible goods from which the other more tangible goods spring because without freedom and democracy there can be no hope for lasting peace and development.

Thank you so much and Shana Tovah to you all.
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