Below are Israel's UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman's impassioned remarks this morning.(I highlighted the choice comments.)
Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, let me take you back to a warm summer's day in Beirut 32 years ago -- exactly this very significant day for you and your people -- the 14th of July, 1974. I want to describe the scene to you and to my Lebanese colleague. Cafes and bars bustling with young people, beaches filled with happy holiday-makers -- the Switzerland of the Middle East.
How different this scene is from the one on Beirut streets today, 32 years later. But this difference did not start this week or last year. The difference started only one year after the scene I just described, in 1975, when the Lebanese began their long dissent into oppression, depression and terror. This is a country that has been held hostage for more than 32 years by tyrants from the north and terrorists in the south, a country whose fun-loving, business-minded entrepreneurial and liberal population has been tormented by decades of oppression, sectarian strife, fundamentalist violence, religious conflict, Syrian control, political assassinations, terror, and full- fledged civil war...
In May 2000, Israel took the painful and politically difficult decision to fully withdraw from southern Lebanon, having been compelled a few years earlier to establish a security zone there in order to prevent terrorist attacks and rocket-shelling from Lebanon into Israeli towns and villages. This council acknowledged Israel's complete withdrawal from southern Lebanon and its full compliance with Security Council Resolution 425 in a presidential statement on June 18th, 2000.
This was Lebanon's moment of truth. Would its government look inward and free its people from the stranglehold of terror, or would it allow its territory to become a base from which Hezbollah terrorists would launch attacks against Israeli civilians.
Tragically, Mr. President, the Lebanese government chose the latter.
The Lebanese government got a second chance after the partial implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, which resulted in the withdrawal of most Syrian forces from Lebanese territory. Again, this council and the entire world were waiting to see how Lebanon would respond to this historic opportunity. Yet again, unfortunately, the Lebanese government chose to succumb to terror rather than vanquish it, to let its southern region be occupied by terrorism rather than disarm it, and to relinquish control over its country rather than exercise its full sovereignty.
Seldom before has the description of a people as never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity been so apt. Lebanon sadly did not heed the demands of the international community and did not obey the repeated resolutions of this aghast council. Today, sadly, the Lebanese people are burying the costs of this inaction and ineptitude.
Mr. President, two days ago Hezbollah terrorists, operating with impunity in southern Lebanon, unleashed a sudden and unprovoked attack into Israeli territory. Scores of Katyusha rockets rained down on Israeli towns and villages, causing many civilian casualties. In the midst of this horrific assault, Hezbollah terrorists infiltrated Israel, killing a number of soldiers and kidnapping two more, who were taken deep into the terrorist stronghold of southern Lebanon. Israel had no choice but to react, as would indeed any other responsible, democratic government.
Having shown unparalleled restraint for six years while bearing the brunt of countless attacks, Israel had to respond to this absolutely unprovoked assault, whose scale and depth was unprecedented in recent years.
Let me emphasize this indisputable fact -- Israel's actions were in direct response to an act of war from Lebanon. Although Israel holds the government of Lebanon responsible, it is concentrating its response carefully, mainly on Hezbollah strongholds, positions and infrastructure.
The hundreds of Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon in the last few days demonstrate the magnitude of the immense arsenal of rockets and weapons that Hezbollah has amassed over the last few years, a danger we have repeatedly warned against. Many of the long-range missiles that have hit Israeli towns, including Nahariya, Safed, Rosh Pina, and the port city of Haifa, were launched from private homes, with families residing inside, where a special room was designated as a launching pad, with a family playing host to the missile. This is yet another example of the cynical and brutal way the Hezbollah organization uses civilians as human shields, with complete disregard for human life.
Mr. President, over the last 48 hours, more than 500 Katyushas and mortar shells were fired into the northern part of Israel, killing two civilians and wounding hundreds more, among them women and children. Israeli civilians and eight soldiers have been killed, hundreds have been wounded.
It is very important for the international community to understand that while Hezbollah executes this vicious terrorism, it is merely the finger on the bloodstained, long-reaching arms of Syria and Iran. Hezbollah, together with Hamas, Syria and Iran, comprise the world's new and ominous axis of terror, an infamous club -- infamous club, the entry fee to which is the blood of innocents and the terrorizing of the entire world.
Membership to this club requires an unfathomable capacity for evil. The president of Iran has repeatedly denied the Holocaust, while gleefully preparing the next one. Many of the long-range missiles fired into Israel in recent days were Iranian missiles, made by the same regime that is now trying to possess nuclear weapons, the same region that is funding Hezbollah to the sum of $100 million a year.
Do we dare to ask ourselves how many families in Lebanon today are being prepared to house dirty bombs and other weapons of mass destruction courtesy of Iran?
Syria, another member of this club, is a well-known protector and financier of terrorist organizations, playing host to them in its capital, Damascus. The Syrian government, which still regards Lebanon as "southern Syria," works ceaselessly to undermine all efforts towards a peaceful future in the region.
Lebanon is today occupied by terror, whether in the south, where it is directed at Israel, or in Beirut, where it kills opponents of Syria and former prime ministers. The real occupying power in Lebanon is terror, terror instigated by Hezbollah, but initiated, funded and perpetrated by Syria and Iran.
The Lebanese government, having missed so many chances in the past, at such a horrendous cost to its people, today has another chance to free itself from the stranglehold of terror, another chance, Mr. President, to release itself from the evil control of Syria and the deadly influence of Iran, and deploy its forces in the south, exercising its sovereignty over a free Lebanon.
Mr. President, there are words that speak far louder and clearer than anything I can voice today. These are voices of Lebanese -- brave, patriotic Lebanese parliamentarians and ministers who, just over the last two days, have cried out to all of us from the brink of the abyss in their beloved country. Let me quote some of these courageous statements to you.
The words of Lebanon's communications minister, Mr. Marwan Hamadeh, only yesterday saying that -- and I quote -- "Damascus gives the orders, Iran supplies the equipment, Israel reacts, and Lebanon is the victim."
Or the words of Alias Attala (sp), a Lebanese politician representing the majority of its parliamentary members, and I quote, "We welcome any Arab and international support, but strongly oppose any enforced involvement of Lebanon by regional players' considerations" -- a reference to Syria and Iran -- "that are not within the interests of the Lebanese people, for the sole attempt to achieve opportunistic benefits at the expense of the Lebanese people. The Syrian regime indulges itself in teaching Lebanon and Palestine lessons according to its own interests through these peoples. Why do those who always protect their regime express understanding of its reasons and preferences and do not express any understanding of Lebanon's reasons and preferences?"
Or the words of an unnamed Lebanese minister who said, again only yesterday, and I quote, "The Hezbollah has not only kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, it has taken the whole of Lebanon hostage," end quote.
Mr. President, with your permission I would like to make a personal appeal to my esteemed Lebanese colleague.
Your Excellency, you know deep down that if you could you would add your own brave voice to those voices of your brave compatriots and colleagues. You know deep in your heart that if you could you would be sitting here right next to me right now because you know that we are doing the right thing, and that if we succeed, Lebanon will be the beneficiary. And I believe that most members around this table, as well as many in this chamber, including our neighbors, realize this reality.
Mr. President, this council and the international community have a duty today to help the Lebanese people achieve the goal of a free, prosperous, democratic Lebanon. The sad and tormented life of this war-torn land has today entered another sad chapter in its history. It is up to every one of us to help right this chapter to ensure that this opportunity is seized not only for the benefit of the Lebanese and Israeli people, but for the sake of generations to come.
Thank you, Mr. President.