When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed world leaders at the U.N. on September 24, 2009, listeners could be forgiven for hearing echoes of Ronald Reagan’s moral clarity and Winston Churchill’s unbending will. It was a clarion call to all nations who claim to honor the rule of law, urging them to rise up against Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by asserting reality over fiction, and duty of self-defense over the suicide of appeasement.
As a Jew and a citizen of Israel, Netanyahu is rightly concerned with Ahmadinejad’s rejection of history and the implications such a rejection portends not just for Israel, but for other Western countries as well. And he has good reason to be worried — Ahmadinejad hasn’t exactly been discreet in his calls for the destruction of Israel or his belief that the holocaust never happened.
Not unlike Adolf Hitler, who used Mein Kempf to explain his intentions of wiping out the Jewish people, Ahmadinejad spent the waning years of the George W. Bush presidency giving speeches on how Israel should be “wiped off the map.” And because he was largely answered with the appeasing spirit of Neville Chamberlain instead of the blunt force of a Churchillian military, he has only been emboldened.
Just a week before Netanyahu’s U.N. speech, Ahmadinejad said: “After the Second World War, [Jews] created the story of Holocaust…and then…made hundreds of films and wrote hundreds of books to argue they have suffered and need a home…. This is a myth, and Zionists are criminals." Then, the day after Netanyahu’s speech, Ahmadinejad again asserted his rejection of the holocaust by asking rhetorically: "Why should everyone be forced to accept the opinion of just a few on a historic event?"
These are the bold words of a tyrant, and Netanyahu knows it, but the Kool-Aid drinkers in the U.N. are still hoping for the waitress to come back by and refill their glasses. They’re so excited over the drink special that they overlook the fact that Ahmadinejad is part of the regime that opened fire on the Iranian people earlier this year, after thousands of them refused “to accept the opinion of just a few” in the fraudulent elections that gave Ahmadinejad another term.
As the prime minister of a nation at risk, Netanyahu wonders how we can continue to respect a body like the U.N. when that body refuses to take a stand against a tyrant of Ahmadinejad’s proportion. Asked Netanyahu: “[Will you not] take action against the [Iranian] dictators who stole an election in broad daylight and gunned down Iranian protesters who died in the streets choking in their own blood?”
Unlike the majority of world leaders in the U.N. who simply gathered in New York for the chance to pick up a hospitality bag and spend a few days riding around the city dining and shopping, Netanyahu knows firsthand that appeasing a terrorist thug like Ahmadinejad is an invitation to destruction. He knows this because Israel tried (unsuccessfully) to appease Hamas, whom Iran supports, in 2005, and saw that “the Hamas rocket attacks [against Israel] not only continued, they increased tenfold.”
Netanyahu said that although “Israel unilaterally withdrew from every inch of Gaza [in 2005]” and “dismantled 21 settlements and uprooted over 8,000 Israelis,” the carnage only increased — there was no peace. And the reason for this was simple: Terrorists like those in Hamas (and Iran) appreciated an Israel that rolled over instead of fighting back. And when Israel finally responded in self-defense to the seemingly endless attacks by Hamas, attacks the U.N. would not condemn, the “U.N. Human Rights Council” condemned Israel for fighting back.
No wonder Netanyahu asked the U.N. — “Will you stand with Israel or will you stand with the terrorists?”
Reagan used to say of the Soviet Union that they didn’t understand our treaties, our handshakes, or our good gestures: they only understood our guns, our planes, and our bombs. Netanyahu is now telling a new generation that the same is true of men like Ahmadinejad and groups like Hamas.
Yet the U.N. finds itself in a quandary, for its members are cowardly when courage is needed most. And even those inclined to courage have Kool-Aid stains down the front of their shirts.
Netanyahu is a man for our times. This was the best speech given in the U.N. building since Daniel Patrick Moynihan left the scene. We should study it — with Barack Obama’s side by side — because from the two we can see clearly the path of the world, at least for the next few years.