As Israel enjoys impunity on every front for every action, PM Benjamin Netanyahu has stepped into a whole new realm of chutzpah – and the world didn’t bat an eye when he signaled that Palestine has vanished, or at best is irrelevant.
by Kathryn Shihadah
On Friday, September 22, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu painted a picture for the UN General Assembly of a fictional Israeli past, a distorted Israeli present, and a preposterous future in which Israel is the key to world peace and prosperity – with barely a nod to the Palestinian people over whom he rules with an iron fist.
Most reporting on his speech focused on his announcement of an imminent peace treaty with Saudi Arabia, ignored his fabrications and lies, and mentioned the erasure of Palestine as an afterthought – if at all.
One issue that should be disturbing to anyone with an eye for peace with justice is in the un-subtle message of Netanyahu’s visual aids.
A map is worth a thousand words
Near the nine-minute mark, Netanyahu began to talk about historic Israel – not the ancient kingdom, but the 20th-century state. “Here’s Israel in 1948,” he declared, holding up a map. “It’s a tiny country, isolated, surrounded by a hostile Arab world.” Naturally, he said nothing about why the Arab world harbored hostility (Israel had just ethnically cleansed and taken over 78% of the land of Palestine).
But the map he used was falsified.
Warning: Netanyahu talking about “peace” means Israeli weapons’ companies, cyber spying and others, will be celebrating. This is what normalization is about.
The fact that this isn’t about “peace” is Netanyahu showing an annexation map making all Palestine disappear as his… pic.twitter.com/ZYjupCQHF3
— Sami Abou Shahadeh (@ShahadehAbou) September 22, 2023
Netanyahu’s map does not show Palestine or the 22% of the land still held by the Palestinians in 1948. A valid map of Israel – one that illustrates which regions Israel had successfully ethnically cleansed, and which regions the Palestinian people still retained, would look like this:
Was this an error? Netanyahu does not make errors. He has been methodically rewriting the history of Israel for public consumption in a way that minimizes, distorts, or disregards the very existence of the Palestinian people. This is simply part of his campaign (and that of his extremist party) to re-train the world.
At about the same time in his speech, the Prime Minister declared (once again misrepresenting history), “For centuries, my country was repeatedly raided by empires passing through.”
According to Jewish Virtual Library, the united kingdom of Israel lasted all of 120 years, after which the kingdom broke in two (Israel and Judah). The splintered kingdom of Israel hung on for another 200 years, and Judah lasted “a bit longer.” Netanyahu’s suggestion that “his country” endured invasions for centuries is false, and imposes the apparition of a modern, enduring nation-state onto ancient history.
In case there is any doubt, Netanyahu made clear with his little map today what normalization really seeks: eliminating Palestine and Palestinians from the region and legitimizing greater Israel, all with the blessing of Arab regimes. pic.twitter.com/nFxwEMAKVR
— Yousef Munayyer (@YousefMunayyer) September 22, 2023
Netanyahu then presented a second map, this one representing the modern Middle East. Again, Palestine was nowhere to be found. Again, the entire region was labeled “Israel.” While it is true that Israel occupies and controls the entire region, it is not all Israel. His map erased the existence of five million indigenous Palestinian people living in the West Bank and Gaza.
The world is is being re-programmed to recognize the map of Israel and Palestine as only Israel.
Drawing with a red marker on the second map, Benjamin Netanyahu described the trade corridor that would open up when Israel and Saudi Arabia reached a peace agreement: “the whole Middle East changes. We tear down the walls of enmity.” (This last statement was a gift to Christian Zionists within hearing – a reference to Ephesians 2:14 in the New Testament. Although the verse is completely unrelated to Netanyahu’s context, Christians who support Israel were bound to appreciate the nod – especially since US news reports don’t mention this.)
Before the twelve-minute mark in his speech, Netanyahu began his explanation of why Israel has not achieved peace with its Palestinian neighbors. Again, he missed the truth by a mile.
He ignored the critical facts: Israel ethnically cleansed and exiled over 700,000 indigenous Palestinians and stole their land and wealth, and has for decades violated international laws and conventions in its oppression of the Palestinians who remain under Israeli rule.
Instead, the Prime Minister blamed the Palestinians and their leader, Mahmoud Abbas, for evading peace by pursuing “Jew-hatred” and “antisemitic conspiracies.”
Peace can only be achieved if it is based on truth. It can not be based on lies. It can not be based on endless vilification of the Jewish people.
The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas must stop spreading the horrible antisemitic conspiracies against the Jewish people and the Jewish state…and the Palestinian Authority [PA] must stop glorifying terrorists…
For peace to prevail, the Palestinians must stop spewing Jew-hatred, finally reconcile themselves to the Jewish state – by that I mean not only the existence of the Jewish state, but the right of the Jewish people to have a state of their own in their historic homeland, the land of Israel.
While PA president Abbas has recently been faulted for unhelpful, possibly antisemitic statements, he has been an ally of Israel, subcontracting much of Israel’s dirty work against the Palestinians of the West Bank.
Palestinians more generally have not been “spewing Jew-hatred,” but have denounced Israel’s illegal and immoral policies of land theft, excessive force, collective punishment, and other forms of oppression.
If Netanyahu were actually interested in “peace based on truth,” he would have to acknowledge that Israel initiated the conflict and has perpetuated it for decades. He would have to admit that the Jewish state is an apartheid state, that the actions Israel takes against Palestinians on a daily basis are violations of international law, and in some cases war crimes and crimes against humanity. And he would have to concede that the Palestinian struggle against Israel is not terrorism, but legal resistance.
He also took a moment to accuse American universities of welcoming antisemitism: “Antisemitism must be rejected wherever it appears, whether on the left or on the right, whether in the halls of universities or in the halls of the United Nations.” He was referring to the fact that university campuses have become a battleground over truth-telling about Israel’s crimes (various pro-Israel pundits have attempted – often successfully – to silence such truth-telling).
While the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) claims that hundreds of anti-Israel incidents take place on college campuses every year, it has not made a case for these as being antisemitic. Student groups are merely stating facts about the actions of a state that happens to self-identify as “Jewish.”
Israeli AI to make the world a better place?
At around 19:30, Netanyahu turned to the AI revolution. “The perils are great,” he declared. “The potential destruction of AI-driven wars could achieve an unimaginable scale.”
The prime minister knows whereof he speaks. Israel has been using advanced technology in fighting “wars” against the (largely unarmed) people of Gaza for years. Each new weapon, drone, smart bomb, and tank has been “battle tested” and proven its worth – and is available for sale to any state with money and a stomach for population control.
But Netanyahu claims he wants Israeli innovation to be used for the good of all mankind.
Imagine that we could achieve the end of scarcity…I’m confident that AI developed by Israel will…help all of humanity…
Our goal must be to ensure that AI brings more freedom, not less, prevents wars instead of starting them, and ensures that people live longer, healthier, more productive and peaceful lives.
“The end of scarcity” – except for Palestinians. Israel has had Gaza under a brutal blockade for sixteen years and counting. Gazan Palestinians have lived with shortages of food, medicine and medical supplies, blankets, diapers, replacement parts for farming equipment and electricity production, cement for rebuilding thousands of bombed-out residences, hospitals, and roads. The list goes on. “Scarcity” is the only thing Gaza has in abundance.
“AI [must bring] more freedom, not less” – except for Palestinians. In places like Hebron, Israel has set up AI-controlled machine guns so that Palestinians can be shot at checkpoints without the risk of a live Israeli soldier on duty.
“Ensures that people live longer, healthier, more productive and peaceful lives” – except for Palestinians, whose lives are cut short, whose crops are poisoned, who are psychologically worn down by constant surveillance, and who have in many cases lived their whole lives under occupation.
No wonder Netanyahu wants to erase Palestinians from the world’s consciousness: Palestinians bear witness to Israel’s multitude of transgressions.
Kathryn Shihadah is an editor and staff writer for If Americans Knew. She also blogs at Palestine Home.
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