The world turned its back on us: Full text of Naziyahu’s Holocaust Forum speech

Howard Cohen

Powerful and emotive words quoted from Richard Snell : The speech that Binyamin Netanyahu made at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem provides an insight into his mind which is not only disturbing, but frightening.
It all seems so reasonable: the desire of Jews to live in peace according to their own religion and customs in a land where they can defend themselves against the threat of annihilation at the hands of their enemies.
But is such a sentiment coming from the mouth of Netanyahu as reasonable as it seems?
No! It is not!
This man, listened to with such respect by a gathering of such powerful people, each and all showing him the deference due to a man speaking in such striking terms of the great human tragedy whic h has brought them all together on that day! And yet, what is he himself?
What is his own greatest achievement?
It is this: presiding over a nation whose over-riding aim is to deny the right of a people to live in peace according to their own religions and customs and to defend themselves against the threat of annihilation!
Netanyahu’s righteous concern for the preservation of the Jews and for the recognition of their humanity is a concern all people of goodwill should share.
But where are the Palestinians in all this? Those neighbours of the Israeli people currently being deprived of their freedoms and their lives by the Israeli state which Netanyahu leads, those men, women, children, families, communities being set upon in all kinds of spiteful ways by Israeli forces, what of them?
They are of no concern at all to Netanyahu, nor those he represents, nor the great powers who support him in his great endeavour to create a state fit only for Jews to live in.
Yes, the Holocaust, the Shoah, deserves to be commemorated. It must never be forgotten, nor must its horror be diminished by those who would have us forget what certain kinds of political philosophy can lead to.
But the right lessons must be learned, and its historical and moral significance goes far beyond its particular and obvious significance to Jews.
It is an indescribably brutal and shameful example of the kind of depraved cruelty of which human beings are all too often capable; and the echo of that cruelty rings out loudly from just a few short miles from the site of Yad Vashem.
Despite the passion with which he speaks, despite his common cause with all Jews that they must never have to face such atrocious persecution again, Netanyahu still fails to speak for all Jews. Too many of them, seeing what is happening in Gaza, in the West Bank, in East Jerusalem, can hear the emptiness in his words, the hollowing-out of the truth so that a great and heartless lie can be told.
And what is that lie? That one people is superior to its neighbours; that one people should be allowed to subjugate, even destroy, its neighbours if that serves its purpose.
It was an idea which carried to its logical end resulted in the Holocaust.
It is the great tragedy of Israel and Palestine that Netanyahu and his like have made that same idea the basis of their philosophy and their actions.
But I not only feel on behalf of the Palestinians. I feel strongly too for those survivors of the Holocaust who have believed Israel to be a betrayal of their great suffering, commandeering that suffering to further an aim which is profoundly unworthy of themselves and of all Jews. It surely cannot ease their torment to see what Israel and Netanyahu are doing in their name.
My hope is that one day Israel will learn the lessons the Holocaust has to teach about the profound and desperate need for peaceful co-operation in creating a nation fit for all peoples, whatever their ethnicity or faith, to live in as neighbours and friends, a genuine Zion.
But so long as Israel is led by single-minded and dedicated hoodlums such as Netanyahu and encouraged by those such as Johnson and Trump who refuse to use their powers to make Israel change its ways, that can never happen.

‘We have learned that Israel must always remain the master of its fate,’ PM says in Jerusalem. ‘The Jewish state has learned the lessons of the Holocaust. Has the world learned?’


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020 (Abir SULTAN / POOL / AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020 (Abir SULTAN / POOL / AFP)

The following is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the “World Holocaust Forum 2020 – Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism” at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem:

“Honored dignitaries, President Reuven Rivlin, compliments on initiating this important conference.

My brothers and sisters Holocaust survivors,

Righteous among the Nations.


The Righteous Among the Nations who risked not only their own lives, but the lives of their families to save Jews during the Holocaust.

The trees on this hallowed ground of Yad Vashem are a testament to their remarkable, extraordinary courage.

Your majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Presidents, Mr. Vice-President, Prime ministers, and the many distinguished guests and dignitaries assembled here.

Your presence in Jerusalem honors the memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust. Israel and the Jewish people thank you.

[Translated from the Hebrew]

Auschwitz and Jerusalem: An abyss – and a peak. Auschwitz – extermination. Jerusalem – revival. Auschwitz – enslavement. Jerusalem – freedom. Auschwitz – death. Jerusalem – life.

Seventy-five years ago, our people – the Jewish People – emerged from the largest killing field in the history of humanity. The survivors do not forget anything: The helplessness, the endless suffering, the flames and the smoke, the bereavement and the loss. But they also remember, with deep gratitude, the day of liberation, the entry of the Red Army into Auschwitz, the immense sacrifice of the allies, soldiers and peoples alike.

I come here, with President Rivlin and President Putin, from a moving ceremony, the dedication of the monument in memory of the victims of the siege of Leningrad. This is one example of the inconceivable price of the victory over the Nazis.

But especially today, it must be said: For the six million of our people, including 1.5 million children, the gates of hell were broken into too late. Too late.

And therefore, at the foundation of the revival of the State of Israel is one main imperative: There will never be a second Holocaust. As the Prime Minister of Israel, this is my supreme obligation.Volume 90% 


Ladies and gentlemen,

Israel is eternally grateful to the immense sacrifice that was made by the allies, by the peoples and the soldiers, to defeat the Nazis and save our common civilization. Without that sacrifice, there would be no survivors today.

Yet we also remember that some 80 years ago, when the Jewish people faced annihilation, the world largely turned its back on us, leaving us to the most bitter of fates.

For many, Auschwitz is the ultimate symbol of evil. It is certainly that. The tattooed arms of those who passed under its infamous gates, the piles of shoes and eyeglasses seized from the dispossessed in their final moments, the gas chambers and crematoria that turned millions of people into ash, all these bear witness to the horrific depths to which humanity can sink.

But for the Jewish people, Auschwitz is more than the ultimate symbol of evil.

It is also the ultimate symbol of Jewish powerlessness. It is the culmination of what can happen when our people have no voice, no land, no shield.

Today, we have a voice, we have a land and we have a shield. Today, our voice is heard in the White House and in the Kremlin, in the halls of the United Nations and the American Congress, in London, Paris and Berlin, and in countless capitals around the world, many of them represented here by you.

Today, we have a land – our ancient homeland which we brought back to life,to which we ingathered the exiles of our people, and in which we built an advanced and powerful state.

And today, we have a shield. And what a shield it is. Time after time, the strength of our arms, the courage of our soldiers and the spirit of our people have prevailed against those who sought to destroy us. Our hand is extended in peace to all our neighbors, and a growing number of them are seizing it to build with Israel bridges of hope and reconciliation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Jewish people have learned the lessons of the Holocaust: to take, always to take seriously the threats of those who seek our destruction; to confront threats when they are small; and above all, even though we deeply, deeply appreciate the great support of our friends, to always have the power to defend ourselves by ourselves. We have learned that Israel must always remain the master of its fate.

The Jewish state has learned the lessons of the Holocaust. Has the world learned the lessons of the Holocaust?

There are some signs of hope – and this extraordinary gathering is one of them. Today, the dangers of racism, hateful ideologies, and antisemitism are better understood. Many recognize a simple truth: that what starts with the hatred of the Jews doesn’t end with the Jews. Represented here today are governments that understand that confronting antisemitism in all its forms protects their societies as well.

And Israel deeply appreciates this. We also appreciate, as many understand, as President Macron said yesterday, that anti-Zionism is merely the latest form of antisemitism. These are all real signs of hope and understanding and cognizance of how to protect our civilization and our world.

And yet, I am concerned. I am concerned that we have yet to see a unified and resolute stance against the most antisemitic regime on the planet – a regime that openly seeks to develop nuclear weapons and annihilate the one and only Jewish state.

Israel salutes President Trump and Vice President Pence for confronting the Tyrants of Tehran that subjugate their own people, and threaten the peace and security of the entire world. They threaten the peace and security of everyone in the Middle East and everyone beyond. I call on all governments to join the vital effort of confronting Iran.

In any case, I wish to assure again our people and all our friends, Israel will do whatever it must do to defend our state, defend our people and defend the Jewish future.

[Translated from the Hebrew]

Ladies and gentlemen, as the Prime Minister of Israel, I am promise that the words ‘Never again’ will be no empty slogan but an eternal call to action. With this call to action, we will continue our marvelous journey of the revival of our people that emerged from the valley of dry bones. From bones [atzamot] to independence [atzmaut], and from independence to strength [otzma], from Auschwitz to Jerusalem, from darkness – to light. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.’”

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