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Ron Dermer on Israeli Independence Day: ‘From powerlessness to power’

“What does it mean to move from statelessness to sovereignty?” asks the former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ep. 4.

Ron Dermer & Michael Makovsky

Israel was not established because of the Holocaust. In contrast, it is because of the modern State of Israel that there has not been another mass Jewish genocide, according to former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer.

Speaking on this week’s “Diplomatically Incorrect” podcast with JINSA’s Michael Makovsky, Dermer explained that Jews were “trapped in Europe” with “no voice, no refuge, no shield” during the Holocaust because Britain closed the gates to Israel and most other countries had quotas and refused too many refugees. 

“We did not have a [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky who could go around saying, ‘protect us, help us,’ ” said Dermer. “We had to beg other diplomats to make our case. That’s the big change that happened with the birth of Israel.”

The podcast was published on Wednesday evening as Israel remembered its fallen soldiers and then transitioned to Independence Day. Since the founding of the State of Israel, more than 24,000 soldiers have died fighting for the country, and there have been thousands of victims of terror. But there have been no pogroms, no massacres, no expulsions. 

“Because of the sacrifice that their son or daughter or brother or father made, Israel can live,” said Dermer. “And Israel continues to live. And it is a very powerful day—to mark it and then, of course, to celebrate Israel’s 74th year of independence.”

Dermer tells a story about being on a call with Israel’s head of its National Security Council and his U.S. counterpart while on the March of the Living. He was in the Majdanek death camp and stepped away from the crowd to take the call. 

“When you go to Majdanek, it looks like a Hollywood movie set. And you see the guard towers exactly as they were, you see the barracks, you know, exactly as they were—the gas chambers, the crematoria,” said Dermer. “A mound of human ash that they found [was] about two stories [in] height. … They would murder the Jews, put them into these ovens and then take the ash and put it on this mound. 

When Dermer visited the site in late April 2018, “Iran was planning to attack us from Syria. So the United States was preparing a strike … and I’m having this conversation, and it was the most surreal moment, the most powerful moment. I was staring at the ultimate symbol of Jewish powerlessness. And here I was having a conversation, as the ambassador of a sovereign Jewish state.”

He said that more than any other moment he has experienced, this one brought home the meaning of Israel.

“What does it mean to move from powerlessness to power?” said Dermer. “What does it mean to move from statelessness to sovereignty? Every year, you get a little sense of that power. It’s a precious moment for everybody who lives in Israel and everybody who cares about Israel.”

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