"Churchill once famously remarked, 'You have enemies. Good. That means you have stood up for something, sometime in your life," Ron Dermer said in his speech at CSP’s Freedom Flame Award Dinner, according to a text of the speech he posted to his Facebook page. "Well, if you have enemies, Frank, it's because you have stood up for something, many times in your life."
Early on in his speech, Dermer said he would differentiate between “militant Islam” and the religion as a whole.
“The enemy we face is not militancy and it’s not Islam–it’s militant Islam,” he said.
Yet much of the Israeli ambassador’s speech did seem to blur those lines.
“Admittedly, it is troubling that to find a more tolerant Christianity one only need look to the present whereas to find a more tolerant Islam one must largely look to the past,” he said after referring to the Islamic State and Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei. “But my point is that Islam, like other faiths, has evolved–and I see no reason why it cannot or will not evolve again.”
Dermer’s acceptance of an award from Gaffney’s group sounded alarms when it was announced in November, given Gaffney’s role in perpetuating conspiracy theories about the purported influence of “creeping Sharia” on American life.
Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official, also has promoted the conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama is secretly a practicing Muslim, as well as the conspiracy theory that public figures including Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist have covert ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Ambassador Dermer is not aware of any anti-Muslim views held by the Center for Security Policy and certainly would not endorse any such view,” a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. told the Southern Poverty Law Center in November when asked about Dermer’s acceptance of the award.
In his speech Tuesday, Dermer defended Gaffney against charges of Islamophobia levied by the SPLC by referencing another member on SPLC's list of "Anti-Muslim Extremists," Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a critic of Islam and women's rights activist.
“I am confident that with the help of organizations like this, with the clarity and courage of people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and with the support of millions of Americans across this great country, that the flame of this last best hope on earth will burn brighter than ever and help secure our common future,” he said in closing.