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The high price of playing catch-up

This is a Churchill moment when the West must act decisively against the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb

This week the crucial P5+1 talks with Iran opened on the heels of the crisis in the Ukraine. To the Jewish people there is no more important word than memory. Long before Santayana’s famous quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” that concept was deeply imbedded in the Jewish tradition. That’s what we do every year at the Passover Seder. We remember the past in order to apply its lessons to today.

In a few months world leaders will gather at Normandy to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of D-Day, when brave men and women from many countries assembled at the docks of Devon and the sea-ports of Plymouth to liberate the world from Nazism. It will surely be one of the last commemorations where a small remnant of the heroes who freed Europe will still be with us.

But there is another element of those epic days that every freedom loving person should remember; that whenever you have to play catch-up, the sacrifice is always going be greater.

Had the world heeded Winston Churchill in the thirties, millions would have been spared. In a speech broadcast to America on October 16, 1938 soon after the Munich crisis, Churchill warned:

I avail myself … of the opportunity of speaking to the people of the United States…. I do not know how long such liberties will be allowed. The stations of uncensored expressions are closing down. The lights are going out, but there is still time for those to whom freedom and parliamentary government means something, to consult together. …we are … in no doubt where American convictions and sympathies lie: but will you wait until British freedom and independence have succumbed and then take up the cause when it is three quarters ruined, yourselves alone?”

My friends, we all know that our world would be a lot safer if North Korea did not possess nuclear weapons, but they do, despite years of negotiations. Let us not make that same mistake again with Iran; a country whose supreme leader denies the Holocaust, threatens the destruction of Israel, continues to supply missiles to terrorists, and is a man who really lives in the 12th century. That combination alone makes it impossible to conclude any deal unless Iran agrees to destroy the bulk of its centrifuges and gives up much of its enriched Uranium.

This is a Churchill moment; it is not a time for the West to punt, but to act decisively, especially given the crisis in the Ukraine. Mankind can’t afford another rogue state acquiring nuclear weapons, least of all in the Middle East. Which means that the objective of the negotiations must seek to end Iran’s status as a nation on the cusp or threshold of having the bomb. Because an Iranian bomb means a Saudi bomb and an Egyptian bomb, a scenario which poses a threat to the United States and an existential threat to Israel.

While visiting the Museum of Tolerance last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu viewed the original 1919 Adolf Hitler letter where Hitler spelled out his plans for the Jews: “…its final aim however” he wrote “must be the uncompromising removal of the Jews altogether.”

In his remarks to leaders of the Jewish community the Prime Minister warned:

The letter I was shown a few minutes ago…wasn’t believed, it was discounted as ranting… it turned out to be very different….When somebody says that they are going to annihilate you, you take them seriously. …We cannot be tolerant to the intolerant.

From remarks delivered at the Wiesenthal Center’s National Tribute Dinner, Los Angeles, California, March 18, 2014

About the Author
Rabbi Marvin Hier is the Founder and Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He founded the Center in Los Angeles in 1977 as a global Jewish human rights NGO to confront anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, promotes human rights and dignity, stands with Israel, defends the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaches the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations. Rabbi Hier is also the founder of Moriah Films, the Center’s documentary film division, and has been the recipient of two Academy Awards™. He has twice been named as "The Most Influential Rabbi in America" by Newsweek Magazine.
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