In three and a half years of Palestinian terrorist attacks that have murdered hundreds of innocent Israeli civilians and wounded thousands more, this Council has not met even once to express condemnation of a single attack. Not one resolution, not one presidential statement has been adopted by this Council to specifically denounce the deliberate massacre of our innocent civilians. Not two months ago when 11 Israeli citizens were murdered in a horrific homicide bomb attack on a bus in central Jerusalem on 29 January. In the wake of our anguish, our efforts to elicit some response from the Council were not met with even a presidential statement.
And yet today, following a sad and familiar pattern, the Council convenes. Why? Not to condemn the terrorism, not to honor the memory of the hundreds murdered by it, but to come to the defense of one of its prime perpetrators, a godfather of terrorism. This is not a message of which the Council can be proud. Frankly, it is an outrage.
As long as we pretend that the response to terrorism is more serious than the terrorism itself, we only invite more of it. If we want to give the peace process a chance -- the kind of terror that Sheikh Ahmed Yassin directed and perpetrated, and which he swore to continue relentlessly, cannot be appeased or assuaged, it must be defeated. It must be defeated not just for our sake but for the sake of the whole free world.
Although the Security Council has never met to discuss the attacks for which Sheikh Yassin is responsible, the list is gruesome and shocking. To characterize him as a "spiritual leader" is to attempt to characterize Osama bin Laden as a Mother Therese. Underneath his supposed clerical garb, Sheikh Yassin is a true pioneer in the ruthless murder of innocents. Under his direct leadership, inspiration, and instruction, Hamas -- an organization recognized around the world for its brutal terrorism - has perpetrated over 425 attacks that have killed 377 Israelis and wounded 2076 in less than three and a half years of violence. He has stood at the head of a command and control structure dedicated to the destruction of Israel. If Sheikh Yassin was not an arch-terrorist, there is no such thing.
In my hands I hold 187 pages documenting the horrific scope and extent of Hamas terrorism that has wreaked unspeakable anguish on the lives of the citizens of Israel. Among 425 attacks perpetrated by Hamas since September 2000, the organization has perpetrated no less than 52 separate suicide attacks, in which 288 Israelis were murdered and 1,646 were wounded. I will mention only a few of them, to give you an idea of the evil this man represented and the horror the organization he headed has inflicted, while he proudly claimed responsibility.
Time and again, while Israeli mothers were in excruciating pain, burying their babies and widows mourning their husbands, Sheikh Yassin's gloating face appeared on every TV screen, exalting the murderers as martyrs. What follows is just a short list of his bloody and gruesome record.
- The June 1, 2001 suicide bombing of the Dolphinarium discotheque in Tel Aviv, in which 21 people were murdered and 120 were wounded, when a Hamas terrorist blew himself up while standing in a large group of teenagers waiting to enter the club;
- The August 9, 2001 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem restaurant, in which 15 people were murdered and 130 were wounded;
- The December 1, 2001 double suicide bombing on the Ben Yehuda Street pedestrian mall in Jerusalem, in which 11 people were murdered and 188 were wounded;
- The December 2, 2001 suicide bombing of a #16 bus in Haifa, in which 15 people were murdered and 40 were wounded;
- The March 9, 2002 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem cafe, in which 11 people were murdered and 54 were wounded;
- The March 27, 2002 suicide bombing in the dining room of the Park Hotel in the coastal city of Netanya on the first night of Passover, in which 30 people were murdered and 140 were wounded;
- The June 18, 2002 suicide bombing of the #32A commuter bus in Jerusalem, in which 19 people were murdered and 74 were wounded. The bus, which was completely destroyed, was carrying many students on their way to school.
- The August 4, 2002 suicide bombing of #361 bus at Meron junction, in which nine people were murdered and 50 were wounded;
- The November 21, 2002 suicide bombing of a #20 bus in Jerusalem, in which 11 people were murdered and 50 were wounded;
- The March 5, 2003 suicide bombing of a #37 bus in Haifa, in which 17 people were murdered and 53 were wounded;
- The May 18, 2003 suicide bombing of a #6 bus in Jerusalem, in which seven people were murdered and 20 wounded;
- The June 11, 2003 suicide bombing of #14A bus in Jerusalem, in which 11 people were murdered and over 100 were wounded;
- The August 19, 2003 suicide bombing of a #2 bus in Jerusalem, in which 23 people were murdered and over 130 were wounded;
- The September 9, 2003 suicide bombing of a hitchhiking post near the IDF base at Tzrifin, in which nine soldiers were murdered and 10 were wounded;
- The September 9, 2003 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem cafe, in which seven people were murdered and 70 were wounded;
- The January 29, 2004 suicide bombing of a #19 bus in Jerusalem, in which 11 people were murdered and 44 were wounded;
- And just last week, on March 14, 2004 at the Ashdod port, in which 10 people were murdered and 16 were wounded.
His hands were steeped in the blood of the innocent. Sheik Yassin personally instigated and specifically authorized homicide attacks, encouraged individual men and women to become suicide bombers, ordered the firing of Qassam missiles attacks against Israeli communities, coordinated joint activities with other terrorist organizations and collected funds for terrorist activity, campaigning throughout the Arab world to raise millions of dollars to improve Hamas' terrorist capabilities.
Through his words he spawned an ideology of hatred, incitement and murder, glorified as martyrdom. In numerous public appearances, Sheik Yassin called repeatedly for the intensification of the "armed struggle" against Israelis and Jews "everywhere." Just one day before the twin homicide attacks at Cafe Hillel in Jerusalem and the bus stop near Tzrifin on 8 September 2003, that claimed 17 lives, Sheik Yassin called on Hamas to attack Israeli civilians without restraint, saying "We will not limit the military command, battalions or factions." Indeed, he knew no limit.
Sheik Yassin's murderous reach extended not only to the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem but to our global streets. He was an arch terrorist with international aims and international ties. He called for suicide attacks against American and British forces in Iraq and praised Osama Bin Laden, wishing that Allah grant him the possibility to continue his fight against the United States.
This is the man that the Council is asked to defend. His victims were denied the attention of this Council. Will you now give that attention to the person who bears direct responsibility for their murder?
Mr. President, Members of the Council,
In comparative terms, the number of innocents deliberately murdered by Palestinian terrorists as of March 2004, is equivalent to 22,499 Russian citizens; 43,136 citizens of the United States, or 58,963 citizens of the EU. Can there be any doubt as to what your countries would do - or in some cases have already done - in the face of terrorism of this scale and magnitude? I ask those that join us today for this debate: could you sit quietly and wait for the next homicide bomber to appear on your doorstep?
By any reasonable standard of international law, Israel has a legitimate right, in fact a duty, to defend itself against those illegal combatants and their commanders who are committed to murder as many of its civilians as possible. The Palestinian leadership has proved beyond any doubt that it has no intention of taking a single measure to fight terrorism, as it is legally and morally obliged to do. This mass murderer, Shiekh Yassin, lived and operated for years not just in freedom, but under the protective authority and safe haven of the Palestinian Authority in violation of the most basic international norms. What would you have us do? Stand idly by as Yassin and the Palestinian leadership co-sign the death warrants of more innocent civilians?
It is the basic obligation of the Government of Israel -- like any other government -- to protect the lives of its citizens from the threat of terrorism. Unlike the terrorists we confront, we make every effort under excruciatingly difficult conditions to minimize harm to civilians. We recognize that we have responsibilities. But we will not negotiate by day and bury our dead by night. By removing Sheikh Yassin from the international stage, we send a very strong message to the terrorists: when you kill our civilians, you are not immune.
Yesterday's operation constitutes an important stride forward in our march against fundamentalist terrorism in our region, enabling a return to the peace process. Sheikh Yassin was one of the greatest obstacles to the cessation of hostilities and the renewal of negotiations: a road block on the road map to peace. Since he founded Hamas from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood organization in 1987, the organization has opposed peace talks with Israel, and attempted to thwart every single peace initiative. So the question shouldn't be "why now?" The question should be "why not before?"
There cannot be peace and terror. There cannot be peace and Hamas. The Road Map explicitly requires the elimination of Hamas and other terrorist organizations, it calls for an end to funding and support for their efforts, it recognizes that peace is impossible while these messengers of death are allowed to flourish.
Israel remains committed to peace. We will persevere in the hope that a partner for peace will emerge so that we can arrive at a political solution based upon the implementation of the Road Map. In the meantime, Prime Minister Sharon has announced plans for bold measures of disengagement that hold the potential for reenergizing the process.
The Palestinian leadership has a choice. It can continue to get into bed with terrorists and tyrants. It can continue its morally depraved strategy of murder and terror and, in so doing, continue to bring suffering and despair on the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. But it can also choose a different path. It can prove to the world that it is ready to assume responsibilities, not just assume privileges. It can show that it is ready to establish a democratic society that will respect the rights of its people, and the rights of its neighbors, and not another terrorist dictatorship in the heart of the Middle East. Israel is ready, as always, to be a partner to such a leadership.
The Security Council has a choice too. It does not have to continue to send a message that puts the response to terrorism on trial, instead of the terrorism itself. It does not have to pander to initiatives that defend the terrorist rather than his victims. In the legacy of resolutions 242, 338 and 1373, the Council can also send another message: one of hope and of peace. One that does not pretend that this is a conflict in which one side has a monopoly on rights and on victimhood. One that rejects terror without compromise.
Which message will you send today, to our region, and to the rest of the world?
Thank you, Mr. President