Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech during the official ceremony for Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem on May 1, 2011 as Israelis commemorated the six million Jews who perished under the Nazi regime. (Getty Images).
“I call out to our enemies and say that they should know one thing about the Jewish people: they are up against the formidable spirit of a people that has overcome the worst evil known to man. And let the world know, that when the People of Israel, and the IDF say "never again" – we mean it.”
Here are the final paragraphs from Prime Minister Netanyahu's Address this evening at Yad Vashem:
As a son of the Jewish people, as Prime Minister of Israel, I wish to add further lessons that we must take from the Holocaust to serve as a compass and map to guide us forward.
The first and most important lesson is that if someone threatens to annihilate us, we cannot ignore those threats. We must not bury our heads in the sand; we must not shake off the threat in scorn and disregard. Has the world learned this lesson? I doubt it. Have we learned this lesson? I believe we have. But we must admit that throughout our history, Israel did not excel in predicting the future. We often repressed the gloomy reality facing us.
On the eve of the expulsion of the Spanish Jews, their great leader, Don Isaac Abarbanel, said that the Jews in Spain were doing fine. Four-hundred years later, when our people had leaders who predicted the future, who sensed and expected the anti-Semitic tempest approaching, they were ridiculed and ignored. Theodore Herzl predicted the anti-Semitic conflagration. He said it threatened all European Jewry. That was why he established Zionism. He forewarned the Jews about the blazing anti-Semitism breaking out time and time again. But he was perceived as a madman, or a pessimist, and many of our people called him that. Similarly, in 1938 Ze'ev Jabotinsky warned the Warsaw Jews about the imminent catastrophe, but to no avail.
My many friends around the world, at least in the enlightened parts of it, regard the memory of the Holocaust with reverence. But their attitude is reminiscent of generals preparing themselves for the previous war. It appears that it is so much easier to talk about the lessons learned from the past, than to implement them into the present and the future. But we, the Jewish people, cannot ignore the lessons learned from the Holocaust as they apply to the present day. New oppressors deny the Holocaust as they call for our destruction. Iran and its pawns, Hezbollah and Hamas, call for the annihilation of the Jewish State and openly act to that end.
All civilized people in the world, all those who claim to have learned the lesson from the Holocaust, must unequivocally condemn those who call for the obliteration of the Jewish State. Iran is even arming itself with nuclear weapons to realize that goal, and until now the world has not stopped it. The threat to our existence, to our future, is not theoretical. It cannot be swept under the carpet; it cannot be reduced. It faces us and all humanity and it must be thwarted.
So the first lesson is to take those who threaten our existence seriously. The next lesson comes from the understanding that attacks on our people were always preceded by waves of hatred that prepared the ground for the onslaught. Therefore, the second lesson we must take from the Holocaust is that we need to expose the true face of the hatred against our people. What was not said about the Jews of Europe? In the Middle Ages and in modern times, Jews were repeatedly blamed for the ills of the world – from plague and pestilence, war and revolution to economic crises. The hatred was engrained not only among the ignorant multitude, but it spread and became deeply rooted in the minds and hearts of Europe's leading scholars and philosophers.
That age-old hatred of Jews is awakening today, and is taking on the form of hatred of the Jewish State. Today too, there are those who blame the Jewish state for all the ills of the world – from increased oil prices to the instability in our region. There are those who say that if most of the world believes these claims, there must be a kernel of truth to them. Ahad Ha'am already said that the wide-spread acceptance of the blood libels in the Middle Ages proves that even when the majority of the world believes in something – that does not make it true.
And the third lesson is that we must control our own fate. Our relationships with the leading countries of the world, and with other countries in general are extremely important to us and we invest in them, nurture and develop them. But if we do not have the ability to protect ourselves, the world will not stand by our side.
Israel is a peace loving country; a democratic, cultured, thriving, developed country; a country that respects the human rights of every individual. It is an island of progress in a region where there is no progress. We hold out our hands in peace to any of our neighbors who want to live peacefully with us. But we will stand firm against those who wish to harm us. And today, on the Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, I call out to our enemies and say that they should know one thing about the Jewish people: they are up against the formidable spirit of a people that has overcome the worst evil known to man. And let the world know, that when the People of Israel, and the IDF say "never again" – we mean it.