By HERB KEINON, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday took to task the countries of the world that had sat silently and listened the day before to Holocaust-denier Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, asking them, "Have you no shame, no decency?"
To those who boycotted Ahmadinejad's speech, or left in protest, Netanyahu said, "I commend you, you stood up for moral clarity.
"But for those who stayed - I say on behalf of the Jewish people, my people and decent people everywhere - have you no shame? No decency? What a disgrace, what a mockery of the charter of the UN," he declared.
Netanyahu opened his General Assembly address - which dealt more with Ahmadinejad and the UN Human Rights Council's Goldstone Report accusing Israel of war crimes than with the diplomatic process with the Palestinians - by saying that the UN had been "founded after the carnage of World War II precisely to prevent a recurrence of such events."
"Nothing has undermined that mission, impeded it more, than the systematic assault on the truth," he said.
"Yesterday the president of Iran stood at this podium spewing his latest anti-Semitic rants. Just a few days earlier, he claimed that the Holocaust is a lie.
"Last month I went to a villa in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee," Netanyahu went on. "There, on January 20, 1942, after a hearty meal, senior Nazi officials met and decided to exterminate my people. They left detailed minutes of that meeting, and these meetings have been preserved for posterity by successive German governments."
Dramatically brandishing the document, Netanyahu said it instructed the Nazi government exactly how to carry out the extermination of the Jews.
"Is this protocol a lie?" he asked. "Is the German government, all German governments, lying?"
"The day before I was in Wannsee," Netanyahu continued, "I was given in Berlin the original construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
"These plans I now hold in my hand," he said, showing the worn-out blueprints to the assembly. "They contain a signature by Heinrich Himmler, Hitler's deputy. Are these plans of the camp where one million Jews were murdered a lie, too?" he asked.
"Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews," he said. "But if you think that, you are wrong, dead wrong. History has shown us time and time again that what starts with attacks on the Jews, eventually ends up engulfing many, many others."
Netanyahu said that the Iranian regime was fueled by a fundamentalism that had burst onto the world 30 years ago and "has swept across the globe with a murderous violence that knows no bounds, and the cold-blooded impartiality in the choice of its victims. It has callously slaughtered Muslims and Christians, Jews and Hindus and many others."
Netanyahu said that the struggle against this fanaticism pitted "civilization against barbarism, the 21st century against the ninth century, those who sanctify life, against those who glorify death."
"Ultimately," he said, "the past cannot triumph over the future. And our future promises magnificent bounties of hope." Ticking off some of the technological achievements of the last hundred years, Netanyahu said, "We will find an alternative to fossil fuel, and yes, we will clean up the planet. But if the most primitive fanaticism can acquire the most deadly weapons, the march of history can be reversed" for a lengthy period, he warned. "This is why the greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between religious fanaticism and weapons of mass destruction.
"Is the UN up to that?" Netanyahu asked. "Will the international community stand up to the despotism of a government against its own people?" - a reference to the recent elections in Iran. "The jury is still out on the UN. Recent signs are not encouraging."
The prime minister then went on to slam the recently published Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in January.
"Not one UN resolution was passed condemning Hamas rocket attacks on Israel," Netanyahu said, "We heard nothing, absolutely nothing from the UN Human Rights Council."
Netanyahu went on to describe the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, telling the UN General Assembly that "Israel unilaterally withdrew from every inch of Gaza, uprooting over 8,000 Israelis from their homesâ€¦ because many in Israel believed that this would get peace."
But Israel didn't get peace, Netanyahu said. "Instead we got an Iranian-backed terror base 50 miles from Tel Aviv, and life in the Israeli towns and cities near Gaza became nothing less than a nightmare. Hamas attacks increased tenfold after we withdrew, and again, the UN was silent, absolutely silent."
The prime minister told the assembly that "after eight years of unremitting assault, Israel was forced to respond."
He said that the only similar example in history was the German bombing of British cities in World War II, to which the allies responded by leveling German cities, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties.
"I'm not passing judgment," Netanyahu stressed, "I'm stating a fact that is the product of decisions of just and great leaders fighting an evil enemy," he said.
"Faced with an enemy committing double war crimes - firing at civilians while hiding behind civilians - Israel sought to carry out surgical attacks on terrorists, not an easy task when fighting squads in a densely populated area," he said.
"Israel tried to minimize civilian casualties," he asserted. "We dropped countless flyers over Gazans' homes, sent text messages to Palestinian residents, made cellular phone calls urging them to vacate, to leave," he added, stating that "never has a country gone to such length to remove the enemy's civilian population away from harm's way."
Netanyahu attacked the Goldstone Report, saying that "the UN Human Rights Council decided to condemn Israel. We were morally hanged, given an unfair trial to bootâ€¦ What a perversion of truth and justice."
The prime minister said that the governments of the UN had a decision to make.
"Would you accept this farce? Because if you do, the United Nations would revert to its darkest days, when the worst violators of human rights sat in judgement against the law-abiding democracies, when Zionism was equated with racism, and when an automatic majority could be mustered to declare that the earth is flat."
The prime minister said that "if the report is not rejected, the UN will go into a process of vitiating itself from relevance," adding that by accepting the report, "the world will be sending a message to terrorists that terrorism pays - you will win immunity if you launch your attacks from densely populated areas."
As Netanyahu continued to speak about Operation Cast Lead, the Palestinian delegate to the UN left the hall.
"What a travesty!" Netanyahu said of the Goldstone Report. "The biased and unjust report provided a clear-cut test to all governments - will you stand with Israel or with the terrorists? We must know the answer to that question now - not later. If Israel is asked to take more risks for peace, we must know today that you will stand with us tomorrow. We can take further risks for peace only if we have confidence that we can defend ourselves."
The prime minister stressed that "all of Israel wants peace," noting that Israel made peace with Egypt and Jordan, and vowing that "if the Palestinians truly want peace, we will make peace. But we want a defensible peace, permanent peace."
"We ask the Palestinians to say yes to a Jewish state, as simple, as clear, as elementary as that. We are not foreign conquerors in the Land of Israel. We are not strangers to this land - this is our homeland, but as deeply connected as we are to this place, we recognize that the Palestinians also live here and they want a home. We want to live side by side in peace, prosperity and dignity."
Netanyahu explained that Israel must also have security, and therefore - repeating what he said earlier this year at Bar-Ilan University - insisted that the Palestinian state be demilitarized.
"The Palestinian state must be effectively demilitarized because we don't want another Gaza, or south Lebanon, another Iranian-backed terror base near Jerusalem. We want peace, and I believe that with goodwill and hard work, such a peace can be achieved, but it requires from all of us to roll back the forces of terror backed by Iran that seek to eliminate Israel and overthrow world order," he said.
Concluding his speech with a quote from the book of Joshua, Netanyahu said, "Let us be strong and of good courage, let us confront this peril, secure our future, and God willing, forge an enduring peace for generations to come."
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