Only a Jew of Uri Avnery’s credentials could get away with comparing the US Congress to the German Reichstag under the Nazis! Perhaps he’s being tongue-in-cheek? Even so, the comparison is chilling.
In truth, if you watch the video of Netanyahu’s speech with the sound muted and just follow the interaction between audience and speaker it is quite scary! As Avnery points out, politicians in Israel’s Knesset would never fawn over their Prime Minister the way US members of Congress do! Of course this makes the speech in Congress all the more valuable for Netanyahu’s target audience – the voters back home. Even so, the tens of thousands of Israelis who subsequently rallied in opposition to Netanyahu and his anti-Palestinian militancy suggests that the strategy didn’t work.
One thing that hadn’t occurred to me until I read Avnery’s commentary was that the vacuous nature of Netanyahu’s speech may have been due to drastic last-minute revisions in the prepared text! Perhaps he realised that the leaked Mossad cable – revealing Israel’s official intelligence assessment that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon – could not be ignored? It is hard to work up a head of steam in fear-mongering when everybody knows that what you’re saying has been flatly contradicted by your own intelligence community!
I hope and pray that these are Netanyahu’s final days and that someone with a heart for peace will take the helm in Israel soon, before it is all too late!
by Uri Avnery
SUDDENLY IT reminded me of something.
I was watching The Speech by Binyamin Netanyahu before the Congress of the United States. Row upon row of men in suits (and the occasional woman), jumping up and down, up and down, applauding wildly, shouting approval.
It was the shouting that did it. Where had I heard that before?
And then it came back to me. It was another parliament in the mid-1930s. The Leader was speaking. Rows upon rows of Reichstag members were listening raptly. Every few minutes they jumped up and shouted their approval.
Of course, the Congress of the United States of America is no Reichstag. Members wear dark suits, not brown shirts. They do not shout “Heil” but something unintelligible. Yet the sound of the shouting had the same effect. Rather shocking.
But then I returned to the present. The sight was not frightening, but ridiculous. Here were the members of the most powerful parliament in the world behaving like a bunch of nincompoops.
Nothing like this could have happened in the Knesset. I do not have a very high opinion of our parliament, despite having been a member, but compared to this assembly, the Knesset is the fulfillment of Plato’s dream.
ABBA EBAN once compared a speech by Menachem Begin to a French souffle cake: a lot of air and very little dough.
The same could be said about The Speech.
What did it contain? The Holocaust, of course, with that moral impostor, Elie Wiesel, sitting in the gallery right next to the beaming Sarah’le, who visibly relished her husband’s triumph. (A few days before, she had shouted at the wife of a mayor in Israel: “Your man does not reach the ankles of my man!”)
The Speech mentioned the Book of Esther, about the salvation of the Persian Jews from the evil Persian minister Haman, who intended to wipe them out. No one knows how this dubious composition came to be included in the Bible. God is not mentioned in it, it has nothing to do with the Holy Land, and Esther herself is more of a prostitute than a heroine. The book ends with the mass murder committed by the Jews against the Persians.
The Speech, like all speeches by Netanyahu, contained much about the suffering of the Jews throughout the ages, and the intentions of the evil Iranians, the New Nazis, to annihilate us. But this will not happen, because this time we have Binyamin Netanyahu to protect us. And the US Republicans, of course.
It was a good speech. One cannot make a bad speech when hundreds of admirers hang on every word and applaud every second. But it will not make an anthology of the world’s Greatest Speeches.
Netanyahu considers himself a second Churchill. And indeed, Churchill was the only foreign leader before Netanyahu to speak to both houses of Congress a third time. But Churchill came to cement his alliance with the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who played a big part in the British war effort, while Netanyahu has come to spit in the face of the present president.
WHAT DID the speech not contain?
Not a word about Palestine and the Palestinians. Not a word about peace, the two-state solution, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem. Not a word about apartheid, the occupation, the settlements. Not a word about Israel’s own nuclear capabilities.
Not a word, of course, about the idea of a nuclear-weapon–free region, with mutual inspection.
Indeed, there was no concrete proposal at all. After denouncing the bad deal in the making, and hinting that Barack Obama and John Kerry are dupes and idiots, he offered no alternative.
Why? I assume that the original text of The Speech contained a lot. Devastating new sanctions against Iran. A demand for the total demolition of all Iranian nuclear installations. And in the inevitable end: a US-Israeli military attack.
All this was left out. He was warned by the Obama people in no uncertain terms that disclosure of details of the negotiations would be considered as a betrayal of confidence. He was warned by his Republican hosts that the American public was in no mood to hear about yet another war.
What was left? A dreary recounting of the well-known facts about the negotiations. It was the only tedious part of the speech. For minutes no one jumped up, nobody shouted approval. Elie Wiesel was shown sleeping. The most important person in the hall, Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Congress republicans and of Netanyahu, was not shown at all. But he was there, keeping close watch on his servants.
BY THE way, whatever happened to Netanyahu’s war?
Remember when the Israel Defense Forces were about to bomb Iran to smithereens? When the US military might was about to “take out” all Iranian nuclear installations?
Readers of this column might also remember that years ago I assured them that there would be no war. No ifs, no buts. No half-open back door for a retreat. I asserted that there would be no war, period.
Much later, all Israeli former military and intelligence chiefs spoke out against the war. The army Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, who finished his term this week, has disclosed that no draft operation order for attacking Iran’s nuclear capabilities was ever drawn up.
Why? Because such an operation could lead to a world-wide catastrophe. Iran would immediately close the Strait of Hormuz, just a few dozen miles wide, through which some 35% of the world’s sea-borne oil must pass. It would mean an immediate world-wide economic breakdown.
To open the Strait and keep it open, a large part of Iran would have to be occupied in a land war, boots on the ground. Even Republicans shiver at the thought.
Israeli military capabilities fall far short of such an adventure. And, of course, Israel cannot dream of starting a war without express American consent.
That is reality. Not speechifying. Even American senators are capable of seeing the difference.
THE CENTERPIECE of The Speech was the demonization of Iran. Iran is evil incarnate. It leaders are subhuman monsters. All over the world, Iranian terrorists are at work planning monstrous outrages. They are building intercontinental ballistic missiles to destroy the US. Immediately after obtaining nuclear warheads – now or in ten years – they will annihilate Israel.
In reality, Israel’s second-strike capability, based on the submarines supplied by Germany, would annihilate Iran within minutes. One of the most ancient civilizations in world history would come to an abrupt end. The ayatollahs would have to been clinically insane to do such a thing.
Netanyahu pretends to believe they are. Yet for years now, Israel has been conducting an amiable arbitration with the Iranian government about the Eilat-Ashkelon oil pipeline across Israel built by an Iranian-Israeli consortium. Before the Islamic revolution, Iran was Israel’s stoutest ally in the region. Well after the revolution, Israel supplied Iran with arms in order to fight against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (the famous Irangate affair). And if one goes back to Esther and her sexual effort to save the Jews, why not mention Cyrus the Great, who allowed the Judean captives to return to Jerusalem?
Judging by its behavior, the present Iranian leadership has lost some of its initial religious fervor. It is behaving (not always speaking) in a very rational way, conducting tough negotiations as one would expect from Persians, aware of their immense cultural heritage, even more ancient than Judaism. Netanyahu is right in saying that one should not trust them with closed eyes, but his demonization is ridiculous.
Within the wider context, Israel and Iran are already indirect allies. For both, the Islamic State (ISIS) is the mortal enemy. To my mind, ISIS is far more dangerous to Israel, in the long run, than Iran. I imagine that for Tehran, ISIS is a far more dangerous enemy than Israel.
(The only memorable sentence in The Speech was “the enemy of my enemy is my enemy”.)
If the worst comes to the worst, Iran will have its bomb in the end. So what?
I may be an arrogant Israeli, but I refuse to be afraid. I live a mile from the Israeli army high command in the center of Tel Aviv, and in a nuclear exchange I would evaporate. Yet I feel quite safe.
The United States has been exposed for decades (and still is) to thousands of Russian nuclear bombs, which could eradicate millions within minutes. They feel safe under the umbrella of the “balance of terror”. Between us and Iran, in the worst situation, the same balance would come into effect.
WHAT IS Netanyahu’s alternative to Obama’s policy? As Obama was quick to point out, he offered none.
The best possible deal will be struck. The danger will be postponed for ten years or more. And, as Chaim Weizmann once said: “The future will come and take care of the future.”
Within these ten years, many things will happen. Regimes will change, enmities will turn into alliances and vice versa. Anything is possible.
Even – God and the Israeli voters willing – peace between Israel and Palestine, which would take the sting out of Israeli-Muslim relations.
For more wisdom from Uri Avnery visit the Gush-Shalom website.
Apparently Google Play has just pulled from its virtual shelves a new hit game – “Bomb Gaza”. The game – previously available for both iPhone and Android – required the player to bomb military targets in virtual Gaza while avoiding killing civilians wherever possible!
It’s hard to think of a game that could dredge the bottom of the bad-taste barrel any more effectively. Not only does it caricature the suffering and death of so many Gazan people but it simultaneously supports the Zionist narrative that allows the blood-letting continue by depicting the assaulting army as a group of concerned humanitarians, only wanting to defend themselves against faceless assailants armed with all sorts of scary weaponry.
My feeling is that rather than retire the game, a greater service would be done to the online community if the rules could be re-written so as to make the game more educational by bringing it into greater accordance with reality.
For a start, the object of “Bomb Gaza” should be for the assailant to simply destroy everything – combatants, civilians, men, women and children, civilian infrastructure, schools and hospitals, with special bonus points being scored for every mosque or church that’s hit while worshippers are still inside!
This would make for satisfying gameplay, I’m sure, even if a little less challenging to begin with. But in the rewritten game, the real challenge would take place at the end of each level where, once the village has been flattened and every creature that had breath has been extinguished, the player would have to convince ‘the boss’ that all civilian deaths were actually unavoidable accidents!
At this point the player would be able to choose from a variety of well-worn excuses, ranging from outright denial to sophisticated obfuscation:
- We cannot confirm that the school was actually targeted
- That UN compound was actually hit by Hamas rockets that missed their targets
- Hamas was storing weapons in the hospital’s basement
- Hamas was using the murdered children as human shields
These would be high-scoring defences. Less effective defences would include claims that a ‘mistake’ was made or that there was ‘collateral damage’. Appeals to The Holocaust would entail a loss of credibility points.
Perhaps this sort of diplomatic work is beyond the scope of the small-screen-game-playing demographic? I don’t know, but when I look at the list of excuses used to justify the murder of so many people in Gaza, one does wonder whether the Israeli propaganda department is run by a 12-year-old child.
Having said that, high-level politicians and dignitaries around the world continue to pay homage to the propaganda of the Israeli military machine. It does make you wonder what sort of game they are playing!
This is a tragic situation, and we can appreciate the frustration all round. The people of Gaza are frustrated because they are desperately poor. The managers of the UN relief work are frustrated because they fear for the safety of their staff when the frustration of their clients boils over into violence. The authorities in Gaza are frustrated because they know their people badly need the assistance that the UN relief agency gives them.
Evidently what is required here for everybody concerned is a concrete political solution. Even so, this doesn’t make the short-term welfare needs any less serious.
Palestinian Tensions Simmer Ahead of Kerry Visit
GAZA — Islamist group Hamas on Friday urged a United Nations agency to resume its operations in the Gaza Strip, accusing the world body of over-reacting by shutting down after its headquarters was stormed by demonstrators.
The main U.N. humanitarian agency for Palestinians closed all its offices in Gaza on Thursday after protesters stormed its headquarters to demand it reverse a decision to cut an annual $40 handout to the poorest Gazans.
The dispute comes against a broader backdrop of growing Palestinian unrest in both Gaza and the occupied West Bank, with no end in sight to the decades-old Middle East conflict.
- April 6: Istanbul, Turkey for talks with senior officials
- April 7-9: Jerusalem and Ramallah for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders
- April 10-11: London for the G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting
- April 12: Seoul, South Korea
- April 13: Beijing, China
- April 14: Tokyo, Japan
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to return to Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy on Sunday, with meetings scheduled in both Ramallah and Jerusalem from April 7-9, just two weeks after President Barack Obama’s first visit to the region.
Like Obama before him, Kerry is not expected to bring any new initiative to revive peace talks, which broke down in 2010.
The past week saw violent clashes between youths and Israeli security forces in the West Bank, which raised fears that a new uprising, or Intifada, might be brewing. There were reports of sporadic confrontations on Friday, but not on the same scale as earlier in the week.
In another sign of the tensions, rockets were fired out of Gaza for three days running this week, while Israeli warplanes carried out their first strike on the territory since November.
The storming of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) compound in Gaza on Thursday was part of a dispute that has been brewing for weeks and was not tied to diplomatic events, but it laid bare the frustration brewing amongst Palestinians.
UNRWA provides assistance in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank to Palestinian refugees and their descendants — now put at some five million spread across myriad camps.
The agency has said it will not resume work in Gaza, including food distribution to 800,000 Palestinians — nearly half the enclave’s population — unless it receives assurances from Hamas over the safety of its staff.
“People are demonstrating because they’re frustrated and the situation in Gaza just seems to be getting worse,” said Robert Turner, the director of UNRWA operations in Gaza.
“We respect everyone’s right to peaceful protest, but what happened yesterday was unacceptable,” he told Reuters, saying initial reports suggested up to 200 demonstrators, some carrying iron rods, had forced their way into the UNRWA compound.
Hamas called the closure of UNRWA offices “unjustified.”
“When UNRWA’s administration called Palestinian security they arrived, restored calm and ended the state of chaos,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “Therefore, we urge UNRWA to rethink its decision.”
Turner said UNRWA faced a $68 million shortfall in 2013 and took the decision to cut the $40 annual handout to 106,000 Gaza refugees to save some $5.5 million. To soften the blow, the agency was offering job schemes to help the poorest families.
News that food centers had been shut down shocked Gaza.
“If UNRWA closes down the food distribution centers, it would lead to a disaster,” said Fathi Al-Seidi, 30, who lives in a refugee camp. He added that locals were dependent on the UNRWA aid and cash from Western-backed authorities in the West Bank.
“Without this, life will be equal to zero,” he said.
U.N. officials said UNRWA appeared to be bearing the brunt of disillusionment in Gaza that followed a short-lived spurt of optimism last November when a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel raised hopes of an easing of restrictions on the enclave.
Israel, supported by Egypt, imposes a partial trade blockade on Gaza, saying it is needed to prevent arms reaching Hamas, which does not recognize Israel and has not renounced violence.
Since the November truce, which ended eight days of fighting, the restrictions have barely changed while Egypt has launched a crackdown on illegal smuggling tunnels into Gaza.
Underscoring Hamas’s difficulties, the group’s leader Khaled Meshaal said on Thursday it faced a “financial problem,” suggesting Arab allies were not providing sufficient aid.
It’s deeply encouraging to see some of the great peacemakers of Isarel/Palestine recognised and celebrated.
WCC congratulates Mitri Raheb for German Media Prize
The World Council of Churches (WCC) congratulates Palestinian Lutheran pastor Rev. Dr Mitri Raheb on receiving the 2011 “Deutscher Medienpreis” (German Media Prize). The award recognizes his individual work and Palestinian churches’ efforts for peace.
“Dr Raheb is a person with immense integrity. His understanding of Christian witness with clear words and profound actions makes him a deserving recipient of this honour,” said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC.
Raheb is pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). He is among four recipients of the prestigious prize to be awarded in Baden-Baden, Germany today.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the prize this year, it honours individuals who, in their work for peace, have quietly carried on with little media attention. The Deutscher Medienpreis jury said Raheb was being honoured for building the Bethlehem congregation’s education, health care and dialogue programmes.
Raheb is president of the Diyar Consortium and the ELCJHL Synod. The Bethlehem congregation and the Consortium, along with other congregational and educational ministries, reach out to thousands of individuals and families each year in Jerusalem, other parts of the West Bank and Amman, Jordan.
“Raheb’s vision for building peace from within, knowing the roots of Palestine, its culture, churches and people, makes his work unique. Therefore we acknowledge his contribution to the ecumenical movement with great pride,” said Tveit.
This is not the first time that Raheb’s work has been internationally recognized. In 2008 he received the Aachen Peace Prize. Also receiving the Deutscher Medienpreis today are Dr Denis Mukwege of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Stanislaw Petrow of Russia and Dr Sakena Yacoobi of Afghanistan.
The 3,000-member ELCJHL has five congregations in Jerusalem, Ramallah and the Bethlehem area, and in Amman, Jordan. The church is led by Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, who is also president of the Lutheran World Federation.
Original post on the World Council of Churches website