Six years ago, on the first International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israeli Air Force planes flew over the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. When they flew over the camp, the pilots said over the radio: "In the skies over the camp of horrors, we arise from the ashes of millions of victims and carry their silent cry, salute their heroism and promise to serve as a shield for the Jewish people and our country – Israel."
The photograph of Israeli planes, planes belonging to the Israel Defense Forces, over the gates of Birkenau, says all there is to say. There is a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes a picture is worth millions of words: the millions of voices of the six million who were killed, the six million who currently live in Israel and the millions of other Jews around the world. This picture summarizes the tremendous change in the history of our people – from being helpless in the face of our enemy to becoming a nation that defends itself.
Today, from this podium in the Israeli Knesset of the Jewish state, as the entire world marks the horrible slaughter of one-third of our people 70 years ago, I would nevertheless like to ask several questions: has the world truly learned the lessons of the Holocaust and internalized them? Have the horrors of the past prevented the genocide or mass murder of other peoples?
I ask these questions while in no way detracting from the unique nature of the Holocaust our people suffered. Not only in the scope of the destruction which encompassed millions – one-third of our people – but also in the methodical nature of the slaughter, moving from country to country with the sole purpose of annihilating a people from the face of the Earth. Minister Yossi Peled recently participated in a ceremony at the Wannsee Villa, which is where the Nazis laid out the targets for the destruction – including 400 Albanian Jews. And if Rommel had won the Battle of El Alamein and had arrived here, the remaining Jews here would have disappeared. If Rommel had come here, we would not be here.
I am in no way detracting from the unique nature of the Holocaust, which was a massacre unparalleled in history, but I still ask about genocide in general. Has the world learned the lesson? The international community and the UN were established with the goal of preventing genocide, mass murder and massacres. Has this goal been achieved and has it become practice? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
Ask the Cambodians; ask the Rwandans; or the Sudanese. Several weeks ago, the President of South Sudan was in my office, along with an entourage of several ministers. I asked which of them had lost immediate family over the past few years. They all raised their hands, without exception. The President of South Sudan told me that today there are 12 million people in Sudan. One million were destroyed, murdered, and another three million died of starvation and epidemics.
There were cases in which the world intervened, like Bosnia, but it always did so too late and only after countless people lost their lives. On a completely different scale, look what is happening today in Syria. People are being slaughtered and every day 50, 100, sometimes even 200 people die there.
Despite progress, technology and the flow of information, the world does not stop in its tracks at the sight of men, women and children being indiscriminately murdered.
Against this background, I would like to ask you: can we say with certainty that the world will not sit silently by in the face of renewed efforts to destroy our people, the Jewish people – again, without detracting from the importance of the joining together today of leading countries in the international community to mark the Holocaust of the Jewish people 70 years ago. But because it is today, I must ask how the world responds to the calls for the destruction of our people that are heard today.
Seventy years after the Holocaust, many people in the world keep silent despite the statements made in Iran to erase Israel from the face of the Earth. Many people keep silent despite the calls made by the Hezbollah to destroy the State of Israel and despite their murderous acts. Many people keep silent despite the calls by the Hamas to murder Jews wherever they may be.
Right now, most governments in the world are keeping silent despite the calls by the Palestinian mufti to kill Jews wherever they may be. What is most chilling about this is the fact that there is a legacy of hate and destruction, because this mufti is following in the footsteps of that other mufti. Haj Amin el-Husseini was one of the leading architects of the Final Solution. He travelled to Berlin and lobbied Hitler and pleaded with him, as was said during the Nuremberg Trials by Eichman's deputy, and as was documented in other places as well. He convinced him more than anyone else to implement the Final Solution, not to let the Jews leave, because Heaven forbid they come here! But rather that they be destroyed and incinerated. He established a Muslim SS company in the Balkans. He broadcast and preached the destruction of the Jews and, more than anyone else, poisoned the Arab leadership against Zionism and against the Jewish people. And today his successor, rather than calling for peace and reconciliation, calls for the destruction of the Jewish people wherever they may be.
I hear condemnations if there is a house in Gilo or a balcony in Ramot. I hear condemnations from everyone. Where is the condemnation of the mufti? Not the then-mufti, the current one.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is the day during which the world should stand behind the words: "Never Again". It is not a slogan or nonsense. It has profound meaning. This is a day during which the leaders of the world should commit to not allowing another genocide to be carried out – not a genocide of the Jewish people, nor the genocide of any other people. This is a day during which the world should unite around the idea that weapons of mass destruction must not fall into the hands of dark regimes, first and foremost the Ayatollah regime in Iran.
I sent my congratulations to the European leaders for taking the important step of imposing sanctions on Iran, and it is important that other countries in the world join this action – including China, Japan, India and South Korea. As I said many times in the past, it is only the combination of paralyzing sanctions and a credible threat to Iran that all the options are really on the table that will lead Iran to reconsider its nuclear program, which it has yet to do.
However, we must also ask ourselves: have we learned the lessons of the Holocaust? Do we take threats of destruction seriously, or, like many previous generations of Jews, do we not want to see the full size of the threat we face?
We cannot bury our heads in the sand. The Iranian regime openly calls for the destruction of the State of Israel; it is planning the destruction of Israel; and it is working to destroy Israel. Its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, have already fired over 12,000 missiles at Israeli cities. They do not hide their intention to kill as many of our people as possible. However, when some people try to play down the Iranian threat or make fools out of or dismiss those who warn against the danger – then maybe it is true that there are those among us how did not fully learn the lesson.
What is the lesson? The lesson is that the countries of the world must be woken up, as much as possible, so that they can organize against such crimes. The lesson is that the broadest possible alliances must be forged in order to act against this threat before it is too late. On this day, when the nations of the world remember the Holocaust, when the countries of Europe have imposed an embargo on Iranian oil, we not only congratulate them on that, we are working on many levels in order to deepen and broaden as much as possible the international front against Iran. This is something I have been working on for at least 15 years.
However, specifically on this day of international cooperation, of this important achievement vis-à-vis Iran, I would like to remind us all the main lesson of the Holocaust of our people.
In the end, with regard to threats to our very existence, we cannot abandon our future to the hands of others. With regard to our fate, our duty is to rely on ourselves alone.
Sources: Prime Ministers Office