Shimon Peres Yad Vashem
Shimon Peres speaking at Yad Vashem Sunday night. “The Holocaust determined once and for all that there is no replacement for a home of our own,” he said. Photo by Alon Ron
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The threats Israel faces to its existence are real, and not theoretical, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during the Jerusalem ceremony yesterday opening Holocaust Remembrance Day. He urged the world not to ignore the threat of Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Netanyahu spoke of lessons Israel must learn in the Holocaust's wake. He said Israel must not ignore the threats of those "wishing to annihilate us," and warned that we "mustn't bury our heads in the sand."

"Has the world learned this lesson? I doubt it. Have we learned it? I believe we have," Netanyahu said, noting that the Jewish people had not always excelled in anticipating the future, sometimes repressing "the bleak reality before us." Netanyahu said that while "many in the world, at least in the enlightened world, treat the memory of the Holocaust respectfully and seriously," that attitude, however, "recalls generals preparing for the previous war." "It seems easier for the world to discuss the lessons of the past than to apply those to the present and the future," the premier said, adding that "the Jewish people mustn't ignore the Holocaust's lessons today." Netanyahu said that "new enemies are rising," that deny the Holocaust and "call for the destruction of our people." He added: "Iran, and its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, are openly working to destroy the Jewish state."

President Shimon Peres, in his speech, said that the Holocaust proves the Jews must fend for themselves. He denounced Iran's leaders for denying the Holocaust and spoke of Israel as the "most anti-racist" country in the world.

Peres said the Holocaust proved beyond question that a Jewish state with a Jewish army was necessary. "We were alone, with no state of our own. The American bomber planes that flew over Auschwitz did not drop a single bomb on the machines of mass murder," Peres said. "The Holocaust determined, once and for all, that there is no replacement for a home of our own."

"Nothing can take the place of the Israel Defense Forces," he added.

Peres said that in this generation, there is a renewed threat to commit genocide against the Jews, this time from Iran's leaders, who publicly question the historical record of the Nazi Holocaust, and continually threaten to attack the State of Israel.

"The Iranian leadership is a danger to the whole world, not only to Israel. It is a danger to every one, a real danger to the fate of mankind," Peres continued. "The nations of the world have announced that they will not abide nuclear weapons in the possession of Iran. Their words will now be tested."

The president said that all citizens of Israel, regardless of religion or race, know that Israel "is committed to being the most anti-racist country in the world."