BY YITZHAK BENHORIN, YNET—
In his first appearance as president at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, a solemn President Barack Obama announced on Monday a new crackdown on Iran and Syria and said the world must never again allow hatred to take root into the “madness” of mass atrocities.
The president announced new sanctions on people and entities in Iran and Syria that use technology to target citizens and erode their human rights. More broadly, Obama spoke of the work that “will never be done” — the global challenge of preventing atrocities.
The US leader promised he would “always be there for Israel” and that his country would continue to oppose any efforts to attack the Jewish state.
“When efforts are made to equate Zionism to racism, we reject them. When international fora single out Israel with unfair resolutions, we vote against them,” Obama said.
“When attempts are made to de-legitimize the state of Israel, we oppose them. And when faced with a regime that threatens global security and denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy Israel, the United States will do everything in our power to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” he added.
To Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, Obama said: “You show us the way. If you cannot give up, if you can believe, then we can believe.”
His words came as the US is under pressure to help rally an international solution in Syria, where President Bashar Assad is accused of running a lethal crackdown on his people.
“National sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people,” Obama said.
The president announced he would be giving a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a wartime emissary of the Polish government-in-exile who was among the first people to provide accounts of the Holocaust to the world.
Before delivering remarks, Obama spent about 30 minutes touring the museum with Wiesel. The president and Wiesel quietly entered the museum’s Hall of Remembrance, where they lit candles and paused, heads bowed, for a moment of silence.
Obama placed his candle in the hall’s Buchenwald section in memory of the concentration camp his great-uncle helped liberate at the end of World War II.
Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was among the dignitaries who attended the event.