Israel is our indispensable ally in democracy, religious freedom and human rights.Today in Washington, several hundred Christian pastors and activists will gather in support of Israel. They will not be marching in the streets, blocking traffic and assaulting law-enforcement officers at taxpayer expense. Instead, they are gathering to hear from national leaders who understand that faith binds their hearts with the nation of Israel.

These people of faith have traveled long distances to be here in our nation’s capital for today’s Stand for Israel Washington Briefing and Banquet. They share the conviction that, at this crucial moment in history, Israel is our indispensable ally and brother in democracy, religious freedom and human rights. And they have come to Washington to learn how to demonstrate their support for America and for Israel in a peaceful and meaningful way. These are America’s true advocates for peace.

Many question the sincerity of Christian conviction toward Israel. Those who blame political strife on religious differences are echoing the rhetoric of our enemy. Saddam Hussein would like the world to believe that the “American-Zionist criminal alliance” is the source of strife in the Middle East. He would like to redirect American attention away from the evil he condones and practices in the Arab states, and instead have us focus on his rhetoric of intolerance. He teaches hate and religious prejudice to his citizens, which in turn separates us from the Iraqi people. But, what he fails to realize is that Americans believe strongly in the right to religious freedom, exhibiting that belief by bridging religious divides to come together with people of different faiths to support the promotion of democracy in Israel, and one day soon in Iraq.

This Christian support for Israel is not a recent phenomenon, yet it is surprising to many in our country who hold the belief that Israel is a Jewish cause. A recent Tarrance Group poll commissioned by Stand for Israel found that most American Christians support Israel because the two countries share common values and enjoy friendly relations. This basis of support transcends religious doctrine and points to why supporting Israel is inherent in supporting America.

The defense of Israel is a cause that cries for support from freedom-loving people everywhere. All free nations must understand that Israel’s fight is their fight. It is our responsibility to uphold and defend the principles of social equality in the sole democracy in the Middle East. Now, more than ever, as the United States fights for the liberation of the Iraqi people from the crushing hand of a harsh dictator, we must stand with the nations that uphold our same principles and values.

It is for this reason that Christian leaders are converging on Washington, just days after the annual AIPAC conference, in a show of solidarity with their Israeli brothers and sisters. Stand for Israel wants to show the world, but more importantly, the people of Israel, that American Christians and other people of faith recognize the importance of the bonds that unite them and that they will defend Israel and the spread of democracy.

It will be a great honor to accept the inaugural “Friend of Israel” award from Stand for Israel, a group that represents the growing number of Christians who support this cause, at their annual banquet this evening. It will be an honor to share the company of such dedicated leaders in the righteous struggle for Israel.

On this historic day, I commend the American Christians who will gather in our nation’s capital to support the sole nation upholding the principles of democracy a world away. I am proud to be counted among those who stand for Israel.