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Netanyahu threatens Iran, rails against UN and Goldstone

Sept. 24, 2009 10:44 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 26, 2009 9:45 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unleashed on his detested Persian adversaries in a bellicose address at the General Assembly on Thursday, challenging the legitimacy of the United Nations and labeling Iran's leaders modern-day Nazis.

"The jury is still out on the United Nations, and recent signs are not encouraging," Netanyahu said, condemning the world body for its stance on Israel's Gaza assault last winter, in which at least 1,400 Palestinians were killed by his country's military.

Echoing Hamas' sentiment following a UN investigation that found evidence both authorities committed atrocities during the assault, he said, "Rather than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons, some here have condemned their victims."

"That is exactly what a recent UN report on Gaza did," he added, in regard to conclusions made by South African justice Richard Goldstone's six-month investigation released earlier this month, which Netanyahu charged with "falsely equating the terrorists with those they targeted."

But more damaging to the UN's credibility, according to the prime minister, was that its member states afforded Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadenijad the same opportunity to speak to the UN a day earlier.

"Have you no shame? Have you no decency?" he asked. "What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations!" "You give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state," he added over Ahmadenijad's views on the Jewish Holocaust.

He slammed "those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing" for not walking out along with diplomats from Israel, the US, Canada and others during the Iranian leader's address.

'Iran threatens you'

However Netanyahu went on to say that Ahmadenijad did not just threaten the legitimacy of the international community's most important institution, but that indeed he threatens the safety of all nations on the planet.

"Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews. If you think that, you're wrong," he said, before comparing Iran to Nazi Germany. "History has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on the Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others."

Netanyahu said that the most urgent challenge facing the UN "is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons," which he said he was sure they would use to reverse "the march of history." He added, "And like the belated victory over the Nazis, the forces of progress and freedom will prevail only after a horrific toll of blood and fortune has been exacted from mankind."

"The greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between religious fanaticism and the weapons of mass destruction," he said, ripping Iran's "primitive fanaticism" and its alleged nuclear program but extolling Israel, which is thought to maintain at least dozens of nuclear warheads and missiles, for being "at the forefront" of advances and offering "humanity a sunlit future of unimagined promise."

He called on the UN to challenge Iran. "Are the member states of the United Nations up to that challenge?" he asked. "Will the international community thwart the world's most pernicious sponsors and practitioners of terrorism? ... Above all, will the international community stop the terrorist regime of Iran from developing atomic weapons, thereby endangering the peace of the entire world?"

'Gaza assault was UN's fault'

Netanyahu spent much of the rest of his speech slamming the UN for its Goldstone report.

He said the Human Rights Council, which commissioned the report, was "a misnamed institution if there ever was one," and explained how his country's assault on Gaza was performed more ethically than the Allies' attacks on Nazi Germany during World War II. "There is only one example in history of thousands of rockets being fired on a country's civilian population. It happened when the Nazis rocketed British cities," he said, comparing Hamas' homemade projectiles with Hitler's artillery.

"Israel chose to respond differently," he insisted, blaming Hamas for the hundreds of Palestinian civilians killed over the course of the three-week assault. "Faced with an enemy committing a double war crime of firing on civilians while hiding behind civilians – Israel sought to conduct surgical strikes against the rocket launchers."

As Netanyahu began defending Israel's conduct during the assault, Palestine's delegate to the UN left the hall.

Before the Gaza assault, Netanyahu said, Israel "heard nothing – absolutely nothing – from the UN Human Rights Council." He said that when Israel fulfilled its obligations to withdraw from occupied Gaza, Hamas upped its attacks. "Again, the UN was silent." "Never has a country gone to such extraordinary lengths to remove the enemy's civilian population from harm's way," he said. "Yet faced with such a clear case of aggressor and victim, who did the UN Human Rights Council decide to condemn? Israel."

The report, in fact, criticized both Israel and Hamas for their actions in Gaza.

"By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals," he said. "What a perversion of truth! What a perversion of justice!"

Netanyahu thus called on the UN to dismiss the report's findings. "The same UN that cheered Israel as it left Gaza and promised to back our right of self-defense now accuses us - my people, my country - of war crimes? And for what? For acting responsibly in self defense," he said. "What a travesty!"

"Delegates of the United Nations, will you accept this farce?" he asked. "Because if you do, the United Nations would revert to its darkest days, when the worst violators of human rights sat in judgment against the law-abiding democracies, when Zionism was equated with racism and when an automatic majority could declare that the earth is flat."

'UN founded Jewish Israel'

Although challenging the UN's legitimacy on multiple points throughout his speech, Netanyahu opened and concluded it by acknowledging that the UN had created his country in the 1940s. "Nearly 62 years ago, the United Nations recognized the right of the Jews, an ancient people 3,500 years old, to a state of their own in their ancestral homeland," he said. "In 1947, this body voted to establish two states for two peoples – a Jewish state and an Arab state."

Despite that, he laid out his position that its original European immigrants were not "foreign conquerors" or "strangers to this land," but rather that Israel was "the land of our forefathers" and "our homeland."

In any event, Netanyahu noted, "We recognize that the Palestinians also live there." He said Palestinians "want a home of their own," and offered to give it to them on certain terms, which he listed. He said his country was Jewish, that the failure of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination had always been rooted in the rejection of this fact, and ultimately preconditioned the establishment of their state on recognizing Israel as such.

"Palestinians must be asked to recognize the nation state of the Jewish people," he said. "We ask the Palestinians to finally do what they have refused to do for 62 years - say yes to a Jewish state."
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