By Sam Sokol
Middle East Correspondent
Israeli leaders took a hard line on Iran during the opening ceremony for Israel’s Holocaust Memorial day on Sunday. “There will never again be another Holocaust,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pledged during his speech at Yad Vashem’s Warsaw Ghetto Square.
Calling the Jews a people that “seeks peace,” Netanyahu noted that there are those who “seek to extinguish this light of ours.”
Iran “openly declares its intention to destroy Israel and does all it can to achieve that goal,” the prime minister said. Zionists are “microbes and bacteria,” and Jews are “dirty people who spread disease” according to a regime that Netanyahu said considers Israel “a cancerous growth that must be excised from the Middle East.”
“The murderous hatred against the Jews that has accompanied the history of our people has not gone away; it has simply been replaced by murderous hatred against the Jewish state. What has changed since the Holocaust is our determination and our ability to defend ourselves, by ourselves,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister made statements that seemed to indicate that he was willing to take unilateral military action against the Iranian regime. Netanyahu said Jerusalem appreciates the efforts of the international community to stop Iran’s nuclear program but that “at no stage will we surrender our fate in the hands of others, even the best of our friends.”
Netanyahu also threw out what some saw as something of a subtle jab at former British prime minister and current Quartet envoy Tony Blair, who was in the audience, stating that the gates of most countries, if not all, were closed to the Jews during the Holocaust, “including the ‘enlightened ones.’”
“The deepest meaning of the State of Israel,” the prime minister announced, is that Israel prevents the Jewish people from “returning to a situation where it is too late.”
“We will not stand helpless against our enemies again,” he declared. “The Declaration of Independence 65 years ago gave us a country and the ability to make independent decisions that are necessary to ensure our future here. We will act to protect ourselves. “In this place and on this day I promise: There will never be another Holocaust.”
Despite numbering fewer than before World War II, the Jewish people have only “decreased in number, but not in spirit,” President Shimon Peres told the crowd at Yad Vashem. The Jewish people is “growing out of the ashes” to “build a new independence and not tire from building a better world,” he said.
The president said, however, that the crimes of the last century have damaged Europe, which he accused of still containing “local strains of anti-Semitism.”
“To our shame, there remain some who learned nothing. There remain those who forget the Holocaust, those who deny it,” Peres said, referring to far right nationalist parties in Europe that have begun growing in popularity, worrying European Jewish leaders. “Crises are once again exploited to form Nazi parties, ridiculous but dangerous. Sickening anti-Semitic cartoons are published allegedly in the name of press freedom,” he said.
“The civilized world must ask itself how, in such a short space of time after the crematoria were extinguished, after the terrible death toll that the Allied Powers endured to put an end to the Nazi devil, it is still possible for the leadership, like that of Iran, to openly deny the Holocaust and threaten another Holocaust,” said Peres.
Speaking during a commemoration at Yad Vashem dedicated to youth movements involved in resistance during the Holocaust, newly appointed education minister Rabbi Shai Piron told Israeli youths on Monday afternoon that those who fought in the ghetto uprisings and partisan underground “sought to refine national honor, to give meaning to their deaths, and that, paradoxically, taught us the meaning and value of life.”
The Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the minister believes, taught the Jewish people a lesson that “sometimes you young people understand reality better than prudent leaders with wide and extensive experience.”
This echoed Netanyahu’s statement that the spirit of the IDF is directly connected to that of the Jews who fought against the Nazis in Europe. v