“Have you no shame? Have you no decency?” That was the question that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked during his important speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 24.
He was referring to the decision of those members of the General Assembly who remained in their seats when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke the day before.
“Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “To those who refused to come here and to those who left the room in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity, and you brought honor to your countries.
“But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people: Have you no shame? Have you no decency?”
The question was reminiscent of the famous question asked by lawyer Joseph Welch of Sen. Joseph McCarthy on June 4, 1954, during the nationally televised Army-McCarthy hearings.
It came at a moment after Mr. McCarthy had accused a young lawyer working for Mr. Welch of being associated with a communist-front organization. Mr. Welch, incredulous and outraged, confronted Mr. McCarthy in the drama of live television in its early days, with a national audience glued to their sets:
“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
By those two questions, most historians agree, Mr. McCarthy’s reckless demagogic career was effectively over. (He was subsequently censured by the U.S. Senate and died a year or so later.)
Mr. Netanyahu’s two questions, one would hope, should also have the same effect on the credibility of those nations that chose to stay during Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech, giving, the Israeli leader said, “legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of 6 million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state. What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations!”
“Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews. You’re wrong. History has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others.”
On Friday, the U.N. “Human Rights Council” - as Mr. Netanyahu described it, “a misnamed institution if there ever was one” - voted on a resolution supporting dozens of recommendations of a one-sided report accusing Israel of war crimes during its Gaza intervention last January.
But the resolution utterly ignored the fact that the intervention was an act of self-defense and, moreover, failed to mention Hamas rockets that had been fired and intentionally targeted Israeli civilians - by definition, a war crime and a terrorist act.
Also ignored by the so-called Human Rights Council that accused Israel of war crimes was what Mr. Netanyahu described as the “double war crime of [Hamas] firing on civilians while hiding behind civilians” - referring to the established fact that Hamas hid its rocket launchers in mosques, schools, hospitals and apartment houses.
The resolution also failed to acknowledge that, as the prime minister pointed out, Israel “tried to minimize casualties by urging Palestinian civilians to vacate the targeted areas.”