ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU DELIVERS
REMARKS AT THE U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY, NEW YORK CITY
SEPTEMBER 24, 2009
SPEAKER: ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: The United Nations
recognized the rights of the Jews, an ancient people 3,500 years old,
to a state of their own in their ancestral homeland. I stand here
today as the prime minister of Israel, the Jewish state. And I speak
to you on behalf of my country and my people.
The United Nations was founded after the carnage of World War II,
after the horrors of the holocaust. It was charged with preventing
the reoccurrence of such horrendous events. Nothing has undermined
that mission, nothing has impeded it more, than the systematic assault
on the truth.
Yesterday, the president of Iran stood at this very podium,
spewing his latest anti-Semitic rants. Just a few days earlier, he,
again, claimed that the Holocaust is a lie.
Last month, I went to a villa in a suburb of Berlin called
Wannsee. There, on January 20th, 1942, after a hearty meal, senior
Nazi officials met and decided to exterminate my people. They left
detailed meetings — or minutes of that meeting, and these minutes
have been preserved for posterity by successive German governments.
Here is a copy of the minutes of the meeting of senior Nazi
officials instructing the Nazi government exactly how to carry out the
extermination of the Jewish people. Is this protocol a lie? Is the
German government, all German governments, lying?
The day before I was Wannsee, I was given in Berlin the original
construction plans for the Auschwitz Buchenwald concentration camp.
These plans — these plans of the Auschwitz Buchenwald concentration
plans, I now hold in my hand. They contain a signature by Heinrich
Himmler, Hitler’s deputy himself. Are these plans of the Auschwitz
Buchenwald concentration camp, where one million Jews were murdered,
are they a lie, too?
This June, President Obama visited another concentration camp,
one of many. The Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Did President Obama
pay tribute to a lie? And what of the Auschwitz survivors whose arms
still bear the tattooed numbers branded on them by the Nazis? Are
those tattoos a lie, too?
One-third of all Jews perished in the great conflagration of the
Holocaust. Nearly every Jewish family was affected, including my own.
My wife’s grandparents, her father’s two sisters and his three
brothers and all the aunts and uncles and cousins, all murdered by the
Is this a lie?
Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this
podium. To those who refused to come and to those who left 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, and
decent people everywhere, have you no shame? Have you no decency?
A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a
man who denies the murder of 6 million Jews? While promising to wipe
out the state of Israel, the state of the Jews? What a disgrace.
What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations.
Now, perhaps - perhaps some of you think that this man and his
odious regime, perhaps they threaten only the Jews. Well, if you
think that, you’re 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, for this Iranian regime is fueled by
an extreme fundamentalism that burst on to the world scene three
decades ago after lying dormant for centuries.
In the past 30 years, this fanaticism has swept across the globe
with a murderous violence that knows no bounds and with a cold-blooded
impartiality in the choice of its victims. It has callously
slaughtered Muslims and Christians, Jews and Hindus, and many others.
Though it is comprised of different offshoots, the adherence of this
unforgiving creed seek to return humanity to medieval times. Wherever
they can, they impose a backward, regimented society where women,
minorities, gays, or anyone else deemed not to be a true believer, is
The struggle against this fanaticism does not pit faith against
faith nor civilization against civilization. It pits civilization
against barbarism, the 21st Century against the 9th Century, those who
sanctify life against those who glorify death.
Now, the primitivism of the 9th Century are to be no match for
the progress of the 21st Century. The allure of freedom, the power of
technology, the reach of communications should surely win the day.
Ultimately, the past cannot triumph over the future, and our future
offers all nations magnificent bounties of hope, because the pace of
progress is growing, and it is growing exponentially.
It took us centuries to get from the printing press to the
telephone, decades to get from the telephone to the personal computer,
and only a few years to get from the personal computer to the
Internet. What seemed impossible a few years ago is already outdated,
and we can scarcely fathom the changes that are yet to come. We will
crack the genetic code, we will cure the incurable, we will lengthen
our lives, we will find a cheap alternative to fossil fuel and, yes,
we will clean up the planet.
I’m proud that my country, Israel, is at the forefront of many of
these advances, in science and technology, in medicine and biology, in
agriculture and water, in energy and the environment. These
innovations, in my country and many of your countries, offer humanity
a sunlit future of unimagined promise. But if the most primitive
fanaticism can acquire the most deadly weapons, the march of history
could be reversed for a time. And like the belated victory over the
Nazis, the forces of progress and freedom, they will prevail only
after a horrific toll of blood and fortune has been exacted from
This is why the greatest threat facing the world today is the
marriage between religious fundamentalism and the weapons of mass
destruction. The most urgent challenge facing this body today is to
prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Are the members of the United Nations up to that challenge? Will
the international community confront a despotism that terrorizes its
own people as they bravely stand up for freedom? Will it take action
against the dictators who stole an election in broad daylight and then
gunned down Iranian protesters who died in the sidewalks, on the
street, choking on their own blood? Will the international community
thwart the world’s most pernicious sponsor and practitioner of
terrorism? Above all, will the international community stop the
terrorist regime of Iran from developing atomic weapons, thereby
endangering the peace of the entire world?
The people of Iran are courageously standing up to this regime.
People of goodwill around the world stand with them, as do thousands
of people who have been protesting and demonstrating outside this hall
all of this week. Will the United Nations stand by their side?
Well, ladies and gentlemen, the jury’s still out on the United
Nations. And recent signs - recent signs are not encouraging. Rather
than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons, some here in
the United Nations have condemned their victims.
This is exactly what a recent UN report on Gaza did, falsely
equating terrorists with those they targeted. For eight long years
Hamas fired rockets - fired those rockets from Gaza on nearby Israeli
citizens - and citizens, thousands of missiles, mortars, hurling down
from the sky on schools, on homes, shopping centers, bus stops - Years
after - year after year as these missiles were deliberately fired on
our civilians, not a single - not one UN resolution was passed
condemning those criminal attacks. We heard nothing, absolutely
nothing, from the UN Human Rights Council - a misnamed institution if
there ever was one.
In 2005, hoping to advance peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew
from every inch of Gaza. It was very painful. We dismantled 21
settlements, really, bedroom communities, and farms. We uprooted over
8,000 Israelis. We just yanked them out from their homes. We did
this because many in Israel believed that this would get peace.
Well, we didn’t get peace. Instead, we got an Iranian-backed
terror base 50 miles from Tel Aviv. But life in the Israeli towns and
cities immediately next to Gaza became nothing less than a nightmare.
You see, the Hamas rocket launchers and the rocket attacks not only
continued after we left, they actually increased dramatically. They
increased tenfold. And, again, the UN was silent - absolutely silent.
Well, finally, after eight years of this unremitting assault,
Israel was forced to respond - but how should we have responded?
Well, there’s only one example in history of thousands of rockets
being fired on a country’s civilian population. This happened when
the Nazis rocketed British cities during World War II. During that
war, the Allies leveled German cities, causing hundreds of thousands
of casualties. I’m not passing judgment. I’m stating a fact, a fact
that is the product of the decision of great and honorable men - the
leaders of Britain and the United States, fighting an evil force in
World War II.
It is also a fact that Israel chose to respond differently.
Faced with an enemy committing a double war crime, of firing on
civilians while hiding behind civilians, Israel sought to conduct
surgical strikes directed against the rocket launchers themselves.
Now, mind you, that was no easy task because the terrorists were
fighting missiles - firing their missiles from homes and from schools.
They were using mosques as weapons depots, as missile caches, and they
were ferreting explosives in ambulances.
Israel, by contrast, tried to minimize casualties by urging
Palestinian civilians to vacate the targeted areas. We dropped
countless flyers - they cannot be counted, there were so many,
obviously - countless flyers over their homes. We sent thousands and
thousands of text messages to the Palestinian residents. We made
thousands and thousands of cellular phone calls, urging them to
vacate, to leave. Never has a country gone to such extraordinary
lengths to remove the enemy’s civilian population from harm’s way, yet
faced with an absolutely clear-cut case of aggressor and victim, who
do you think the United Nations Human Rights Council decided to
A democracy legitimately defending itself against terror is
morally hanged, drawn, and quartered and given an unfair trial to
boot. By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would
have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals.
What a perversion of truth. What a perversion of justice.
Now, delegates of the United Nations, and the governments whom
you represent, you have a decision to make. Will 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 judgment
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.
If you had to choose a date when the United Nations began its
descent, almost a freefall, and lost the respect of many thoughtful
people in the international community, it was that decision in 1975 to
equate Zionism with racism.
Now this body has a choice to make. If it does not reject this
biased report, it would vitiate itself, it would begin - or re-begin
the process of vitiating itself from its own relevance and importance.
But it would do something else. It would send a message to the
terrorists everywhere saying terrorism pays. All you have to do is
launch your attacks from densely populated areas, and you will win
And then a third thing, in condemning Israel this body would also
deal a mortal blow to peace. Let me explain why. When Israel left
Gaza, many hoped that the missile attacks would stop. Others believed
that even if they don’t stop, at the very least Israel would have made
this gesture - extraordinary gesture - for peace. But it would have
international legitimacy to exercise its right of self defense if
What legitimacy? What self-defense? The same U.N. that cheered
Israel as we left Gaza, the same U.N. that promised to back our right
of self-defense now accuses us, my people, my country, of being war
criminals. And for what? For acting responsibly in self-defense?
For acting in a way that any country would act with a restraint
unmatched by many.
What a travesty. Ladies and gentlemen, Israel justly defended
itself against terror. This biased and unjust report provides a
clear-cut test for all governments. Will you stand with Israel? Or
will you stand with the terrorists? We must know the answer to that
question now. Now, not later.
Because if Israel is again asked to take more risk for peace, we
must know today that you will stand with us tomorrow. Only if we have
the confidence that we can defend ourselves can we take further risks
for peace. And make no mistake about it, all of Israel wants peace.
Anytime an Arab leader genuinely wanted peace with us, we made peace.
We made peace with Egypt led by Anwar Sadat. We made peace with
Jordan led by King Hussein.
And if the Palestinians truly want peace, I and my government and
my people will make peace. But we want a genuine peace, a defensible
peace, a permanent peace.
In 1947 this body voted to establish two states for two peoples,
a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews accepted this resolution.
The Arabs rejected it and invaded the embryonic Jewish state with the
hopes of annihilating it. We asked the Palestinians to finally do
what they refused to do for 62 years, say yes to a Jewish state. As
simple, as clear, as elementary as that. Just as we are asked to
recognize a nation-state for the Palestinian people, the Palestinians
must be asked to recognize the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The Jewish people are not foreign conquerers in the land of
Israel. It is the land of our forefathers. Inscribed on the walls
outside this building is the great biblical vision of peace: Nation
shall not lift up sword against nation. They shall learn war no
more. These words were spoken by the great Jewish prophet Isaiah
2,800 years ago as he walked in my country, in my city, in the hills
of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem.
We are not strangers to this land. This is our homeland. But as
deeply connected as we are to our homeland, we also recognize that the
Palestinians also live there. And they want a home of their own. We
want to live side by side with them, two free peoples living in peace,
living in prosperity, living in dignity.
NETANYAHU: Peace, prosperity and dignity require one other
element. We must have security. The Palestinians should have all the
powers to govern themselves, except a handful of powers that could
endanger Israel, and this is why the Palestinian state must be
effectively demilitarized. I say effectively because we don’t want
another Gaza or another south Lebanon, another Iranian-backed terror
base abutting Jerusalem and perched on the hills a few kilometers from
We want peace. And I believe that with good will and with hard
work, such a peace can be achieved. But it requires, from all of us,
to roll back the forces of terror led by Iran that seek to destroy
peace, that seek to eliminate Israel and to overthrow the world order.
The question facing the international community is whether it is
prepared to confront those forces or to accommodate them.
Over 70 years ago, Winston Churchill amended what he called — he
called it the confirmed unteachability of mankind. And by that, he
meant the unfortunate habit of civilized societies to sleep and to
slumber until danger nearly overtakes them. Churchill bemoaned what
he called — I’m reading — the want of foresight, the unwillingness
to act when action will be simple and effective, the lack of clear
thinking, the confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until
self-preservation strikes its jarring gong.
Ladies and gentlemen, I speak here today in the hope that
Churchill’s assessment of the unteachability of mankind is for once
proven wrong. I speak here today in the hope that we can learn from
history, that we can prevent danger in time. In the spirit of the
timeless words spoken to Joshua over 3,000 years ago, 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.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
Thank you very much.