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Benny Gantz: 'Lest we forget: We must all resist the Jew-hatred that is threatening Israel'

Benny Gantz


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'Israel will remain a protector of the modern values for which Europe has fought so valiantly since the calamitous results of WWII.'

'Israel will remain a protector of the modern values for which Europe has fought so valiantly since the calamitous results of WWII.'

'Israel will remain a protector of the modern values for which Europe has fought so valiantly since the calamitous results of WWII.'

Seventy-five years ago, my mother, Malka Gantz, took what should have been her final steps. Forced with hundreds of her fellow prisoners through the gates of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on a death march from which there should have been no return. Remarkably, she survived.

She was only 17 years old, a human skeleton weighing 4st 5lb. Her own father - my grandfather - unable to keep up the pace, was executed. His murder was one of many unbearable losses she endured during those terrible years.

The horrors of the Holocaust did not begin in a vacuum. The systematic propagation of fascist incitement had the effect of numbing the collective senses to manifestations of injustice, and ultimately transformed Germany from a cradle of cultural civilisation into a perpetrator of the worst crimes ever committed against humanity.

Those dark times are well behind us, but the rise of nationalism, xenophobia, and the global isolationist trend, coupled with the ease by which hateful sentiment can be spread with modern technology, make our own times precarious for the battle against hatred, and modern manifestations of anti-Semitism in particular.

Holocaust memory, being honoured as we mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, is not just about communing with the past.

Holocaust memory is about looking honestly at our present and future. We must recognise that we are contending not only with rising anti-Semitism, but also with growing hatred of the Jewish collective through attempts to delegitimise the Jewish state. In its most extreme form a new cloak for Jew-hatred, the desire to undermine the existence of Israel conceals the desire to eradicate the Jewish people.

Since the very first days of the State of Israel, our neighbours have sought to destroy us. Our military and ethical power averted disaster. But not all of our detractors have come to peace with our existence.

The Iranian regime is working feverishly to achieve the capacity to destroy Israel. Should they achieve their objectives, the Middle East would no longer be secure and the world would no longer be secure.

As someone deeply familiar with the horrors of war, I would always favour diplomacy over military intervention. But we need to concede that the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iranian conflict have failed.

Iran will never have nuclear weapons. As a former IDF chief-of-staff, I am familiar with Israeli operative plans and can say this definitively. Israel has the intention, the capacity, and the means to prevent it, even though the cost would be considerable. To avoid military intervention, world leaders must stand as a united front against a regime promoting terror and hatred.

Just as world leadership was called to arms during the world's darkest times, we must not shirk our responsibilities in the present. Israel will always be grateful to the Allied armies and the Red Army for their role in uprooting the absolute evil of Nazism. Today, I commend US President Trump for decisively stepping up the pressure against the Iranian regime and I applaud European leaders for their decision to trigger the nuclear deal's dispute mechanism. Once military and economic deterrence have been bolstered, we can safely return to diplomatic channels.

The anti-Semitism during the dark times of the Holocaust tried to eradicate European Jewry in its entirety simply because they were Jews. That desire, evidently, lives on today in different form. But we will not allow it to become reality. Under my leadership, I vow that Israel will remain the strongest country in the region. A shelter for the world's Jews, as well as a beacon of freedom and democracy, Israel will remain a protector of the modern values for which Europe has fought so valiantly since the calamitous results of WWII.

When we get there, as we surely will, we will all enjoy the fruits of peace together. The benefits of thriving relations between the countries of the Middle East, Europe, and the world at large will outweigh the sacrifices demanded of us along the way. We have not yet arrived. But we will get there together. Strong, determined and with justice on our side.

Benny Gantz is chairman of the Blue and White political alliance in Israel

Irish Independent