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Two Speeches

By       Message Uri Avnery       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   7 comments

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Cross-posted from Gush Shalom

From youtube.com/watch?v=9DIWkT0fWXs: Benjamin Netanyahu United Nations speech.
Benjamin Netanyahu United Nations speech.
(Image by YouTube)
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IF I could choose between the two rhetorical gladiators, I would rather have Mahmoud Abbas representing Israel and Netanyahu representing the other side.

Abbas stood almost motionless and read his speech (in Arabic) with quiet dignity. No gimmicks.

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Netanyahu used all the tricks taught in a beginners course in public speaking. He rotated his head regularly from left to right and back, stretched out his arms, raised and lowered his voice convincingly. At one point he produced the required visual surprise. Last time it was a childish drawing of an imagined Iranian atom bomb, this time it was a photo of Palestinian children in Gaza playing next to a rocket launcher.

(Netanyahu was carrying with him a stock of photos to exhibit -- ISIS beheadings and such -- rather like a salesman carrying samples.)

Everything a bit too slick, too smooth, too "sincere." Like the furniture marketeer he once was.

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Both speeches were delivered to the General Assembly of the United Nations. Abbas spoke two weeks ago, Netanyahu this week. Because of the Jewish holidays, he came late -- rather like the person who arrives at the party after all the main guests have already left.

The hall was half empty, the sparse audience consisted of junior diplomats sent to demonstrate the presence of their government. They were obviously bored stiff.

The applause was provided by the bloated Israeli delegation in the hall and the Zionist dignitaries and indignitaries packed into the galleries, led by casino-mogul Sheldon Adelson. (After the speech, Adelson took Netanyahu to an expensive non-kosher restaurant. The police cleared the streets on the way. But Adelson publicly criticized the speech as too moderate.)

Not that it matters. One does not speechify in the General Assembly in order to convince its members. One speaks there for the home audience. Netanyahu did, and so did Abbas.

THE SPEECH of Abbas was a contradiction between form and content: a very moderate speech clad in very extreme language.

It was clearly addressed to the Palestinian people, who are still boiling with anger over the killing and destruction of the Gaza war. This led Abbas to use very strong language -- so strong as to defeat its main purpose of promoting peace. He used the word "genocide" -- not once, but three times. That was a bonanza for the Israeli propaganda machine, and it immediately became known as the "Genocide Speech."

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During the Gaza war, more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed, mostly civilians, many of them children, almost all by bombardment from land, air and sea. That was brutal, even atrocious, but it was not genocide. Genocide is a matter of hundreds of thousands, millions, Auschwitz, the Armenians, Rwanda, Cambodia.

Also, Abbas' speech was totally one-sided. No mention of Hamas, rockets, offensive tunnels. The war was solely an Israeli affair: they started, they killed, they genocided. All good for a leader who needs to defend himself against the accusation of being too soft. But spoiling a good case.

The speech itself, shorn of the strong language, was quite moderate, as moderate as it could be. Its crux was a peace program identical with the terms Palestinians have proposed from the start of Yasser Arafat's peace policy, as well as with the Arab Peace Initiative.

It stuck to the Two State Solution: a State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital "alongside the State of Israel," the 1967 borders, an "agreed-upon solution to the plight of the Palestinian refugees" (meaning: agreed upon with Israel, meaning: essentially no return). It also mentioned the Arab Peace Initiative. No Palestinian leader could possibly demand less.

It also demanded a "specific time frame" to prevent the charade of endless "negotiations."

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)
 

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