Today is Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. At a ceremony to remember the millions murdered and to honor those who survived, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an address that remembered the past, warned of present threats, and looked to the future of the Jewish state and her people:
Seventy years ago, the bells of freedom rang in the free world. The horrific nightmare that had engulfed all humanity in the depths of blood had come to an end in Europe. But the day the Nazis were vanquished was not only a day of relief and jubilation. It was a day of great sorrow for our nation, but also a day of reflection for world leaders. Leaders of modern countries realized that it was a propitious time to establish a new world order based on defending liberty, eradicating evil and opposing oppression. They articulated the most important lesson of World War II: democracies must not turn a blind eye to the aspirations of tyrannous regimes to expand. A conciliatory attitude toward these regimes only increases their tendency for aggression. And if this aggression is not stopped in time, humanity might find itself in a much bloodier battle.
In the years before World War II, the free world tried to appease the Nazi regime, to gain its trust, to curry its favor through gestures. There were those who warned that this compromising policy would only whet Hitler’s appetite, but these warnings were ignored due to the natural human desire for calm at all costs. And indeed, the price was exacted not long later, and it was too heavy to bear – six million of our people were slaughtered in the Holocaust, and dozens of millions of others were killed in this terrible inferno.
When the war ended, the conclusion was clear: there is no room for weakness when facing tyrannous regimes who send their murderous tentacles in every direction. Only by standing firm and adhering to the values of liberty and tolerance can we ensure the future of mankind.
There are many around the world who claim that the lessons learned then are still valid today. They affirm: “Never again!” They declare: “We will not turn a blind eye to the expansion intentions of a violent tyranny.” They promise: “We will oppose evil things as soon as they begin.” But as long as these announcements are not backed with practical actions – they are meaningless. Did the world really learn a lesson from the inconceivable universal and Jewish tragedy of last century? I wish I could stand here and tell you that the answer to this was yes.
Today, evermore threats challenge the human civilization. Radical Islamic forces are flooding the Middle East, destroying remnants of the past, torturing the helpless, murdering innocents. They hope to establish caliphates, more than one, like in the Middle Ages. At the same time, the extremist regime in Iran is oppressing its people; it is rushing forward and submerging the Middle East in blood and suffering – in Yemen, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Iraq, in Gaza and across the border of the Golan.
Just as the Nazis aspired to crush civilization and to establish a “master race” to replace it in controlling the world while annihilating the Jewish people, so too does Iran strive to gain control over the region, from which it would spread further, with the explicit intent of obliterating the Jewish state. Iran is advancing in two directions: the first is developing the ability to arm itself with nuclear weapons and accumulate a stockpile of ballistic missiles; and the second – exporting the Khomeinist revolution to many countries by heavily using terrorism and taking over large parts of the Middle East. Everything is out in the open – it is all taking place in broad daylight, in front of cameras. And yet, the blindness is immense.
“For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples,” said the Prophet Isaiah. The determination and lessons that were acquired in blood seventy years ago are now dissipating, and the darkness and fog of denying reality are taking their place…
Israel breaks ground on every front of modernization – in science, medicine, technology, agriculture, education and culture. And we do this not only for our people. We do this for the benefit of all humanity. This is what our existence is based upon – on our commitment to the safety and future of Israel, on the deference to our heritage, and on the unity of a nation in which beats a vast life force. The nation of Israel, that has arisen from the hellfire, is ready for any challenge.
“Shake thyself from the dust; put on thy beautiful garments, my people.” The nation of eternity has shaken itself from the dust, returned home, stood tall, established an outstanding country and an outstanding army, the Israel Defense Force, in which our brave and courageous sons and daughters serve.
We will remember those who were murdered, we will guarantee life.