Thank you Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General.
Let me remind you of what many of you, unfortunately, ignore: Hamas is an internationally designated jihadi terrorist organization that has fired more than four thousand rockets at Israeli cities over the last 11 days. Right now, as I speak to you, Israeli civilians are running to find shelter from Hamas's indiscriminate attacks.
Here is a quote from the Hamas charter: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”
And it continues: “The Day of Judgement will not come until Muslems fight the Jews and kill them.”
Now, let me remind you of another charter. One that some of you seem to have forgotten: the UN charter, which was formulated in the wake of the horrors of World War II and the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people. The Charter of the UN calls to, and I quote: “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, practice tolerance and maintain international peace and security.”
Sadly, in today’s debate, we are not seeing a defense of the goals laid out for the UN, but rather an indifference to Hamas's charter, which, like the Nazis, is committed to the genocide of the Jewish People.
We see an attempt to create a false moral equivalence, an immoral equivalence, between Israel, a democracy that seeks peace and abides by international law, and a murderous terrorist organization with an ideology similar to ISIS, that is carrying out the double war crime of firing at Israeli civilians while hiding its weapons behind Palestinian civilians, using them as human shields.
This is what today’s debate should be about.
It is about who takes steps to supports the values of the UN Charter, and who takes steps to ignore the values of the Hamas Charter. It is about who is on the side of extremism and hate, and who is on the side of moderation and dialogue. It is about who has the moral courage to support a democracy fighting radical terrorists, and who has sunk to such depths of moral depravity, that they equate between the two.
Every speaker here today, that fails to unequivocally condemn Hamas, that fails to distinguish between Hamas’s war crimes and Israel’s self-defense, that chooses to demonize Israel, rather than supporting its heroic efforts to dismantle Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure, is only strengthening extremist forces, encouraging terrorist groups to use civilians as human shields, and undermining the chances for peace.
For years now, Hamas has held Israeli citizens and the bodies of our soldiers hostage. It is outrageous that you not only fail to call Hamas a terror organization, but you also refuse to demand that our sons are returned to their families.
Mr. President, it is really quite remarkable. You know, usually the UN works slowly. Very slowly.
It took the General Assembly a few months to convene a discussion on the fight against COVID-19, from which millions around the world have died. But, when it comes to holding a debate to pressure Israel and give a terrorist organization a free pass, you were able to convene after only 11 days.
What a disgrace. Is this what the UN was established for? Are those your priorities?
These debates in the General Assembly are always characterized by deception and lies. So let me share some simple but critical truths: Hamas targets civilians. Israel targets terrorists.
Israel makes every effort to avoid civilian causalities. Hamas makes every effort to increase civilian casualties, Israelis and Palestinians, by the way. Israel uses its missiles to protect its children Hamas uses its children to protect its missiles.
Hamas’s rockets are indiscriminate by design. They have struck Jewish towns, Arab cities and Bedouin villages. They have killed Jewish and Muslim Israelis, they have killed not just Israelis, but Indian and Thai citizens, and they have killed numerous innocent Gazan children, and destroyed Gazan homes.
Mr. President, are you aware that out of every one hundred rockets fired by Hamas at Israel approximately 25 fall on Gaza, spreading death and destruction among Hamas’s own people??
While Hamas rockets are indiscriminate, Israel’s strikes are precise, surgical. We go above and beyond the demands of international law. How many militaries warn civilians with phone calls and text messages to evacuate buildings hiding terror centers, in order to avoid collateral damage?
Yet, despite our greatest efforts, Hamas’s cynical ploy of building a subterranean terror metro beneath schools, maternity wards and mosques in order to cause the death of civilians, sadly, works. But, we must not forget – Hamas is to blame for those fatalities as well.
As an Israeli and as a Jew, I am deeply pained by every civilian casualty. But while Israel sees every civilian death as a tragedy, Hamas sees every Israeli civilian death as a victory in its campaign of Jihad, and every Palestinian civilian death as a victory in its propaganda campaign.
I have heard voices in this hall, accusing Israel of a disproportionate response based on the different number of Israeli and Palestinian casualties. If the UN General Assembly had existed during the Nazi regime, would it have held a special session to condemn the Allies for their disproportionate response and the large number of German casualties? Would it have urged them to show restraint in the face of Hitler, the Nazi army and their supporters? I don’t think so.
Did the General Assembly hold an emergency debate to condemn Coalition forces for acting disproportionately in their fight against ISIS? You and everyone around the world know the answer to that question.
And let me be clear. This is not a war between Israel and the people of Gaza. This is not a war between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a war only between Israel and Hamas. We will never apologize for defending our citizens, even if some of the countries here might be happy to see a greater number of dead Jews.
Mr. President, these are the facts.
And here is one more critical fact, that you should take into account as you choose which side of history you will be on today. The massive unprovoked Hamas assault had nothing to do with the legal dispute in Sheikh Jarrah, or the situation in the Al Aqsa Mosque. Nothing.
In fact, during this Ramadan, and throughout the year, like every year hundreds of thousands of Muslims prayed peacefully at the Al Aqsa Mosque. Israel’s police were forced to enter the Temple Mount only after Hamas encouraged Palestinian extremists to store weapons at the holy site, and to desecrate its sanctity by turning it into a launching pad for attacks on Jewish worshippers and on the police.
Look at this photograph.
Is this the way to treat a sensitive holy site? Who undermined the holiness of this site? The police that worked to restore order and to quickly reopen the site for prayers? Or the rioters who repeatedly launched violent attacks?
You all know, and even the Palestinian representative here today knows, that Hamas’s premeditated assault had nothing to do with any Israeli action.
This was all the result of Hamas's frustration with President Abbas' decision to cancel the elections and its desire to increase its political influence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Hamas seeks to replace the Palestinian Authority, and take control of the Palestinian territories.
So, after the elections were canceled, it decided to launch a war of aggression against Israel. Suddenly, Hamas leader Muhammad Deif, who has been silent for years, was threatening Israel would pay a heavy price if an Israeli court went ahead and ruled on a property dispute in Jerusalem.
Have you asked yourselves why the Hamas leadership in Gaza would be commenting on a legal dispute in Jerusalem that has been going on for years?
This was all a part of Hamas's strategy to gain political power.
You all know that Israel did everything to deescalate the situation. Our efforts were met with rockets on Jerusalem, rockets on our capital. You cannot fire at our capital and then pretend you want a ceasefire. Israel wants a ceasefire, but only after significantly degrading Hamas's terror machine.
We are looking for a cure and not a band-aid. And yet, you have once again been calling on Israel to exercise restraint when facing hundreds of indiscriminate attacks every day.
Let me ask you a question: What would you do if it was you? If it was your civilians under fire? If it was your family running to the bomb shelters? How would you want the international community to respond?
Would you be responding differently if Jihadi terrorists were firing thousands of rockets at Istanbul or Tripoli? Think about it. Would you be calling on both side to show restraint if rockets were destroying homes in Copenhagen or Paris? I don’t think so.
The hypocrisy in this institution knows no boundaries.
I will tell you what you wouldn’t do - you wouldn’t accept attempts by the General Assembly to make the immoral comparison between a state which sanctifies life, and a terrorist group which glorifies death.
Despite the hypocrisy and institutional bias here at the UN, and the acquiescence to Hamas's actions, an organization, which may I remind you, celebrated the terror attacks of 9/11 and mourned the death of Bin Laden, the State of Israel will take all steps necessary to protect its civilians, while making every effort to avoid harming Palestinian civilians.
I thank all of the countries that have expressed their support for Israel’s right to self-defense, first and foremost, President Biden and the American administration.
Mr. President, just as Israel will always defend our civilians against terror, we will always work to advance peace.
Just this year we signed four peace agreements with Muslim countries. We are so proud of it.
We made painful concessions for peace with Egypt and Jordan, and six Israeli prime ministers were ready to make painful concessions in the past to reach peace with the Palestinians.
In 2005, we uprooted and removed every Jewish home in the Gaza Strip, because some thought that it would bring calm. Instead, ever since Hamas seized power over the Gaza Strip we have experienced unending terror.
In 2007, when Hamas violently took control over the Gaza Strip, its militants threw their Palestinian brothers – Fatah members – off rooftops, and cheered as the bodies fell.
I hope today that you do not choose to throw the chances for peace from the rooftop, and pat yourselves on the back as extremism triumphs.
Hamas does not accept Israel's right to exist, it refuses to renounce violence and refuses to acknowledge past agreements – the quartets three principles. There should be no mistake: if this institution strengthens Hamas, it will make the possibility of Hamas replacing the PA much more likely and eliminate the chance of future dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
There is nothing to discuss with a terror organization committed to your annihilation. Nothing. So, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Mr. President, the demonization of Israel in the international arena, spurred on by members of this assembly such as Turkey who are using antisemitic tropes, is encouraging sickening antisemitic attacks all around the world.
The Turkish leadership is in no position to preach to Israel, or anyone else, about human rights or the military harming innocent civilians.
The State of Israel will never stay silent in the face of such antisemitic attacks.
Never has there been a clearer example of the fact that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.
So today, we call on all governments to take swift and effective action to protect their Jewish communities, apprehend the perpetrators, and ensure that Jewish citizens everywhere can live proud and open Jewish lives.
Mr. President, in the face of those here who have chosen the values of the Hamas Charter over the values of the UN Charter, I stand here as a proud representative of the State of Israel.
The State founded upon the 4000-year old connection between the Land of Israel and the Jewish People. The State, which rose from the ashes of the Holocaust to ensure that the Jewish People will never be defenseless.
I stand here and declare: never again.
The State of Israel will always do whatever is necessary to defend our people and we will do so while continuing to protect human lives and aspiring to peace with all of our neighbors.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Gilad Erdan is Israel's Ambassador to the US and the UN