Thursday, April 19, 2012
'I speak the uncomfortable truth to the world,' Netanyahu says
Prime minister compares destruction of European Jewry to Iran's existential threat to Israel • "To cower from speaking the uncomfortable truth that today, like then, there are those wanting to destroy millions of Jews is to belittle the Holocaust."
Nitzi Yakov Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to an audience who came on Wednesday evening to Warsaw Ghetto Square at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum to honor the memories of those who perished in the Holocaust and said that Iran represents an existential threat to Israel. Netanyahu defended his policy of linking the Holocaust to the Iranian threat, saying, "To cower from speaking the uncomfortable truth – that today like then, there are those who want to destroy millions of Jewish people – that is to belittle the Holocaust, that is to offend its victims and that is to ignore the lessons."
The full transcript of Netanyahu's speech can be viewed here.
"On this day, when our entire nation gathers together to remember the horrors of the Holocaust and the 6 million Jews who were murdered, we must fulfill our most sacred obligation. This obligation is not merely an obligation to remember the past. It is an obligation to learn its lessons, and, most importantly, to apply them to the present in order to secure the future of our people. We must remember the past and secure the future by applying the lessons of the past. This is especially true for this generation – a generation that once again is faced with calls to annihilate the Jewish state," Netanyahu said.
The official ceremony began at 8 p.m. and as in years past, six Holocaust survivors lit torches in memory of the 6 million who were murdered by the Nazis during World War II.
President Shimon Peres, Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Supreme Court President Asher Grunis attended the ceremony, in addition to 2,500 Holocaust survivors, public figures and Israeli youth. The ceremony was broadcast live on Israeli television and radio.
Peres, first to address the audience, said, "Today humanity has no choice, we must learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and stand strong against existential threats before it is too late. Iran is at the heart of this threat. She is the center of terror, she represents a threat to world peace. We came today to say Kaddish in memory of our beloved ones who were killed in the Holocaust. We came to say and to swear 'Never again.'"
After Peres concluded his speech, Netanyahu compared the lessons of the past to the dangers Israel faces today. He also criticized those who claim that raising the Iranian issue in public serves only to sow fear and panic in society, and asked "have these people lost all faith in the people of Israel? Do they think that this nation, which has overcome every danger, lacks the strength to confront this new threat? Did the State of Israel not triumph over existential threats when it was far less powerful than it is today? Did its leaders have any qualms about saying the truth?"
"Today, the regime in Iran openly calls and determinedly works for our destruction. And it is feverishly working to develop atomic weapons to achieve that goal," the prime minister said.
Netanyahu said that those who dismiss the Iranian threat altogether or claim that it is exaggerated have not learned the lessons of the Holocaust. "As prime minister of Israel, I will never shy from speaking the truth before the world, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem to some. I speak the truth at the United Nations; I speak the truth in Washington, D.C., the capital of our great friend, the United States, and in other important capitals; and I speak the truth here in Jerusalem, on the grounds of Yad Vashem, which are saturated with remembrance. I will continue to speak the truth to the world, but first and foremost I must speak it to my own people. I know that my people is strong enough to hear the truth."
Netanyahu went on to speak about the Iranian issue, saying "The truth is that a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat to the State of Israel. The truth is that a nuclear-armed Iran is a political threat to other countries throughout the region and a grave threat to the world peace. The truth is that Iran must be stopped from obtaining nuclear weapons. It is the duty of the whole world, but above and beyond, it is our duty."
"The memory of the Holocaust goes beyond holding memorial services; it is not merely a historical recollection. The memory of the Holocaust obligates us to apply the lessons of the past to ensure the basis of our future. We will never bury our heads in the sand," Netanyahu said.
The prime minister pointed out that "a people that remembers its past, promises its future" and said that he has faith in Israeli society in light of past experience. "David Ben-Gurion told the people of Israel the truth about the existential dangers they faced in 1948, when five Arab armies tried to snuff Israel out in its cradle. Levi Eshkol told the people of Israel the truth in 1967, when a noose was being placed around Israel’s neck and we stood alone to face our fate. And when they heard these truths, did the people of Israel panic or did they unite to thwart the dangers? Were we paralyzed with fear or did we do what was necessary to protect ourselves. I believe in the people of Israel -- and this belief is based on our experiences. I believe that the people of Israel can handle the truth. And I believe that we have the capability to defeat those who seek to harm us," Netanyahu said.
In addition to the official ceremony at Yad Vashem, the Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak near Netanya also held its annual ceremony marking the day.
Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz spoke at the ceremony in Tel Yitzhak and said, "In the tragic winter of 1942, on one of the darkest mornings in human history, senior Nazi government leaders and security officials gathered together to discuss the 'Final Solution' for what they called 'the Jewish problem.' There, on the outskirts of Berlin, those who attended the Wannsee Conference outlined the main points of their murderous undertaking."
Gantz continued and said, "This evening, on Israeli soil, I glance before me and see the essence of Jewish power, the silk thread of thousands of years of Jewish tradition that no tyrant has ever succeeded in cutting."
Gantz mentioned the upcoming Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism), which will take place on April 25, and said, "As long as Israel and the Jewish people are being threatened, we must still be ready to defeat any enemy. In the name, honor and memory of the victims of the Holocaust, and on behalf of all the soldiers who are guarding our country, I call on those who wish destruction upon us to understand that we are the iron fist that will deliver a devastating blow to anyone who attempts to harm the Jewish people. We are the protective shield of the nation and will no longer stand by helplessly without being able to protect ourselves. Never again."
In a Holocaust Remembrance Day poll conducted by the Dahaf Institute for the Knesset television channel, 60 percent of those questioned said they do not believe there will be another Holocaust and 36% said they think a threat on that scale still exists.
The poll, conducted by Dr. Mina Tzemach, found that 64% believe that nuclear weapons in Israel's hands can prevent a future Holocaust, with 29% saying nuclear weapons will not be able to prevent such a tragedy.
An overwhelming majority (74%) believes that nuclear weapons in the hands of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can be an existential threat to Israel, with only 20% believing otherwise.