“I stand here before you, burning memories in my heart, great hopes in my soul. I carry profound pain concerning the past. And look with confident eyes to the future.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres, 89, today addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg. It was powerful and personal and beautiful and brilliant. It was also historic. He spoke of being born and raised in Europe and having to leave before the Holocaust destroyed his family. He spoke of the deep and sordid historic enmity between Europe and the Jews, but also of how Europe changed after World War II and came to help Israel and the Jewish people.
“Peres’s speech was the first time a senior Israeli official addressed the European parliament in its current extended format with 754 members from 27 member states,” notes the Times of Israel. “In 1985, then-president Chaim Herzog spoke to the parliament in Strasbourg; at the time, the union had only 10 members.”
“The idea of the rebirth of Israel was born on European soil,” said Peres. “In the past thousand years, more Jews lived in Europe than in any other continent. Alas, more Jews were murdered in Europe in the last hundred years than in the preceding two thousand years. We experienced here the worst tragedy of our history. Here we dreamed an impossible rebirth. Six million, a third of our people, were murdered here by starvation, gas, rifles and fire. What remains from them is ashes. We shall not forget that the righteous among the nations carried candles of light in the darkness. They were small in number but great in heroism. Israel was born from the ashes at the end of the Second World War. If someone had stood up then and said that within three years a Jewish state would be created – he would have been considered a delirious visionary. But the dream became a reality.”
The threats posed by Iran and Syria were major themes in the address, new existential threats no less dangerous than the European Holocaust. The Israeli leader “called on the international community Tuesday to limit Iran’s production of the long-range missiles that could deliver nuclear weapons, in addition to restricting the regime’s uranium enrichment program.” He also “appealed to the European Union to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” noted the Times. “He said he opposed Western intervention in Syria, suggesting instead that the Arab League form a provisional government in Syria that would attempt to stop the bloodshed.”
“I believe that in addition to controlling the production of highly enriched uranium there is a need to control the means of delivery, to control the production of missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads,” Peres told the EU leaders. “Khamenei declared that religion prohibits the production and the use of nuclear arms. Why, then, does he build missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads?” Peres asked, referring to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader. He called the regime in Tehran the “greatest danger to peace in the world,” and urged the EU to condemn Iran’s human rights violations as they condemed Soviet violations during the Cold War.
Here is the full text of the Peres speech. I commend it to your attention.
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