"But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency?"
-- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride -- of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong, good and evil."
-- President Ronald Reagan
(The American .spectator).. A mere nine days after taking office, at the height of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan strode into his very first presidential press conference in 1981 and found himself asked by ABC reporter Sam Donaldson what he thought the Soviet Union's long-range intentions were."Do you think, for instance, the Kremlin is bent on world domination that might lead to a continuation of the Cold War, or do you think that under the circumstances détente is possible?"
And then it came. After decades of presidents talking the Washington gobbledygook of détente favored by the town's diplomatic mandarins,Reagan's blunt answer stunned.
Here's what he said:
Well, so far détente has been a one-way-street that the Soviet Union has used to pursue its own aims… I know of no leader of the Soviet Union since the revolution, and including the present leadership, that has not more than once repeated in the various Communist congresses they hold their determination that their goal must be the promotion of world revolution and a one-world Socialist or Communist state… Now, as long as they do that and as long as they, at the same time, have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that, that that is moral, not immoral, and we operate on a different set of standards, I think when you do business with them, even at a détente, you keep that in mind.
All of this comes to mind having watched the speech that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered to the United Nations this past week. His subject: the United Nations, Iran and the Holocaust-denying, nuclear bomb-building President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The man who has vowed to wipe Israel off the map.
The appropriate description of Netanyahu's words was used in the speech itself. It was a model of moral clarity -- one might even say Reaganesque moral clarity. In a moment of drama Netanyahu held aloft a copy of the detailed minutes of the meeting held by senior Nazi officials in the Berlin suburb of Wansee, where the infamous decision was taken in January of 1942 to methodically exterminate the Jews. Then he produced the actual blueprint for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, signed by Hitler's deputy Heinrich Himmler. This, of course, became the notorious camp where a million Jews were murdered.
Let's say that again. The place where one million Jews were murdered.
The revelation that along with a third of the Jewish population the entire family of Netanyahu's wife Sara, in Netanyahu's words, his "wife's grandparents, her father's two sisters and three brothers, and all the aunts, uncles and cousins were all murdered by the Nazis" was nothing if not a clear recognition of what remains one of history's most brutal realities. Asked Bibi: "Is that also a lie?"
It is, of course, not a lie. It is something much more dangerous. It is irrelevant -- to those who are willfully closing their eyes to the considerable danger that is looming in Iran. Closing their eyes because they are either unwilling, unable or -- infinitely worse -- in fact in sympathy with the anti-Semitic ravings of Mr. Ahmadinejad.
..... Now it is Benjamin Netanyahu who has picked up Reagan's torch, looking the "quiet men" of the United Nations straight in the eye and speaking as plainly of evil as Reagan once did of the Soviet Union. In doing so he addressed a body that has gone out of its way not to defeat evil but to coddle it, to give seats on the UN Human Rights Commission to notorious violators of human rights like Cuba, the Sudan and Zimbabwe. A body that finally replaced its discredited Human Rights Commission only to re-create it in the form of a UN Human Rights Council -- which has managed to condemn Israel some fifteen times in a mere two years while giving a free pass to the activities of Hezbollah in Lebanon. A body in which the "quiet men" in the carpeted precincts of the UN sat by in silence while, as the Prime Minister noted, Hamas used Gaza to fire "thousands of missiles, mortars and rockets on nearby Israeli cities" out-and-out murdering Israeli civilians over the course of eight years.
The world is entering yet another perilous moment in a history filled with such moments. One would like to think that humankind would learn from them. One would like to believe that the one million Americans who joyfully filled the streets of San Francisco in 1945 to cheer an American president and the United Nations were the precursor of a wiser age. Instead, once again, we are face-to-face with a moment in which yet another madman will seek to inflict a tragedy of unimaginable proportions on the Jews, a tragedy that could engulf the rest of the world in the blink of an eye.
Unlike the horrors of the Holocaust, this time the quiet men in white collars padding about the carpeted precincts of the United Nations itself are bidding to effectively become accomplices to the modern version of the quiet men of Wansee -- the mullahs of Tehran. This time, instead of Nazi uniforms the favored dress of the new Wansee will be that of the Islamic cleric, smooth-shaven cheeks replaced with the requisite beards.
Ronald Reagan made history by his unwillingness to gloss over the hard truths of his time. He told us that "if history teaches anything, it teaches that simpleminded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly. It means the betrayal of our past, the squandering of freedom."
Today there is one nation, at least, that has a leader who understands this.
That leader would be Benjamin Netanyahu.