There is only one way to achieve sustained quiet in Israel and build a peaceful and prosperous Gaza. Hamas must be disarmed. Gaza must be demilitarized. And the international community must divorce itself from the romantic notion of Hamas as ‘freedom fighters’.
Winston Churchill, one of the great architects of this institution, is remembered for his remarkable ability to perceive danger long before the rest of the world had woken up to the threat.
In 1935, four years before World War II, Churchill criticized the international community for standing by as Germany rapidly rearmed itself. In his words, the family of nations suffered from a "want of foresight, [an] unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, [a] lack of clear thinking," and "confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong."
The international community is once again experiencing a severe lack of foresight. Every day, we are confronted by stories of radical Islamic terrorism. ISIS is purging Iraq of Christians. Boko Haram has kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria. Al-Shabaab gunmen are raiding fishing villages on the Somalian coast.
And yet this Assembly doesn’t utter a word. It can only muster its outrage when Israel acts to defend its citizens. The double standards are absolutely appalling.
In Iraq, over 1,600 people were killed in July. In Libya, clashes between rival militias killed 200 people last month. And in Nigeria, Boko Haram has slaughtered nearly 3,000 people this year.
It may just be me – but I didn’t hear the Arab Group rally to condemn these atrocities. Instead, this group gangs up against the only democratic nation in the Middle East that is defending its citizens from the totalitarian forces threatening every enlightened country in this Assembly.
I heard the head of UNRWA speaking today, and the special envoy, and the briefings of other high UN officials this morning. They talked about the addressing the causes and consequences of this conflict.
So let’s begin by reminding this Assembly of something. When I headed Israel’s Foreign Service in 2005, Israel turned every inch of Gaza to the Palestinians. We hoped that this would serve as a model for two societies to live side by side in peace. But instead, Hamas built a terror stronghold.
We went completely out of Gaza. We left them greenhouses. Gaza could have turned into an amazing place. Does Israel have an interest in Gaza? We left never to turn back into Gaza. But look at what Hamas created in Gaza.
And I never heard a clear an unequivocal statement by the officials of the United Nations saying squarely and unequivocally that all attempts to achieve a cease-fire were broken by Hamas. Israel said yes to each and every one of them, Hamas said no. You know it’s possible to utter that statement.
And, yes, you say the nice sentence that "Israel has legitimate security needs that must be addressed." Very nice words. But how do you address, how do you defend your citizens when Hamas uses the money that come from good people in this assembly to build Gaza, they build terror tunnels, hundreds of millions, cement, steel, instead of building kindergartens and schools and hospitals? Creating a launching pad for nearly 10,000 missiles. You ask yourself, my god, in that small place, how could they amass that many rockets in one place? Those are the consequences? We went out of Gaza because we wanted that to be a model for the next stage.
It is clear that some in the international community have lost their way. This institution was founded to stand for truth, for justice and for moral clarity. This is no longer the case. Instead of moral clarity, we see moral ambiguity. Instead of justice, we see travesties of justice. And instead of truth, we see falsehoods and fabrications.
It may be too much to ask that you stand on our side in this battle between civilization and barbarism – but at least have the decency to swallow your selective outrage as Israel wages war against the extremist groups seeking to eradicate the values we all hold dear.
Israel is on the frontline of the war against radical extremism. The battle we fight today is the same battle that all of you will fight tomorrow. Hamas – like ISIS and Al-Qaeda – shares a disdain for democracies, a contempt for modernity, and a willingness to target innocent civilians.
And yet some of you have abandoned the only democracy in the Middle East standing against this tide of terrorism. What does this say about your values? What will it mean for the next generation?
This institution is being held hostage by some of the world’s worst human rights abusers.
The Arab nations, backed by some members of the Non-Aligned Movement, may have the numbers, but they don’t have the morals. They use their majority to convene special sessions, issue condemnations, and push through resolutions demonizing Israel. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Arab states passed a resolution saying that the terror tunnels were simply an irrigation system and the rockets were nothing more than shooting stars.
Israel did everything in its power to avoid this conflict. We accepted every cease-fire – even as the people of Israel came under attack. The world witnessed Hamas’s understanding of ‘cease-fires’ – Israel ceases and Hamas fires.
We were left with no choice. We sent our sons and daughters into Gaza for one reason and one reason only – to restore sustained quiet in Israel and disrupt the Hamas infrastructure that has produced terror and violence for well over a decade.
Israel deeply regrets the loss of innocent lives. We are heartbroken by the stories and images of loss and grief that have emerged from Gaza. To us, the death of any civilian – Israeli or Palestinian – is a tragedy.
But Israel faces an enemy that does not abide by any rules or morals. Hamas sees no problem with abusing international humanitarian centers and religious institutions for terrorist purposes. It stores weapons in UN facilities, transports terrorists in ambulances and fires rockets indiscriminately from mosques, schools and hospitals deep into the heart of civilian centers.
Six stories below Gaza are miles of dense terror tunnels crisscrossing like a giant web. Reinforced with thousands of tons of concrete and supported by massive beams, these terror tunnels extend like tentacles into Israel, ending on the doorsteps of our communities.
For years, the international community criticized Israel for restricting the entry of construction materials into Gaza. And for years, the international community believed it was sending money to develop Gaza.
In truth, the construction materials and aid dollars were only aiding Hamas to build its terror stronghold. The fact that Hamas directs its budget underground rather than above ground proves once again that it has no concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people.
Let me remind you that Hamas has a seat in the Palestinian unity government. The idea is absurd. It’s like inviting ISIS to participate in the Iraqi government – and yet when it comes to Israel, the absurd is somehow acceptable.
Few nations have the courage to admit that Hamas is committing a double war crime – targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians. Fewer still have the courage to admit that Hamas is willing to see its own children killed so it can build sympathy for its cause.
By not vocally condemning Hamas you are condemning another generation of Israelis and Palestinians to further suffering.
There is only one way to achieve sustained quiet in Israel and build a peaceful and prosperous Gaza. Hamas must be disarmed. Gaza must be demilitarized. And the international community must divorce itself from the romantic notion of Hamas as ‘freedom fighters.’
Hamas has been clear about its intentions. It is a genocidal organization committed to the destruction of Israel and the murder of the Jewish people.
A few days ago, Hamas Spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, called on Palestinians to murder Israelis by any means saying, "Anyone with a knife, club, weapon or a car, and who does not run down a Jew or who does not kill dozens of Zionists with these means – he does not belong to Palestine."
And yet many in the international community are still not convinced of Hamas’s murderous intentions. This is a dangerous delusion. Amos Oz, a renowned Israeli novelist and peace activist expressed it best when he said, "I have been a man of compromise all my life. But even a man of compromise cannot approach Hamas and say: ‘Maybe we meet halfway and Israel only exists on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.’"
Yesterday, the Jewish people marked Tisha B’Av – a national day of mourning commemorating a chain of Jewish tragedies to occur on this day and stretching back thousands of years.
I look around the world and I see no end to the grief. From the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Guinea, tyranny and terrorism reign. Countless innocent men, women and children are being oppressed and murdered by extremist groups. No nation and no people are immune to this threat.
The Jewish people know the dangers of intolerance and indifference all too well. In every generation, our enemies have risen up against us and this generation is no different. For thousands of years, we faced this threat alone – but it does not have to be this way.
No nation should stand alone while its sons are kidnapped and brutally murdered by terrorists. No nation should stand alone when thousands of rockets rain down upon its cities and towns. And no nation should stand alone as its enemy builds a vast network of terror tunnels to ambush and kill its citizens.
Every member of this Assembly has a choice. You can take a firm stand against terrorism, or stand on the sidelines as the threat grows stronger throughout the world. You can support Israel’s right to defend its citizens, or support some of the world’s worst human rights abusers. You can stand up for peace and freedom, or sacrifice the ideals of this institution on the altar of petty politics and personal agendas.
Seventy years ago, Winston Churchill bemoaned what he saw as the inability of mankind to act "until the emergency comes."
Today I am here to issue a warning – stand with Israel and stand against terror before it is too late – before the danger lands on your doorstep, and "self-preservation strikes its jarring gong."
Thank you, Mr. President.