What will future historians say about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at the United Nations General Assembly last week? Not clear. This is the risk he took on - to turn himself into a laughing stock but to be remembered as part of a tragedy.
Meanwhile the prime minister has inserted himself into the evangelical tradition of demagogic preachers. After he spoke so dramatically about King David, and about some eternal matters that are understood as facts in church sermons, he pulled out the images of Satan who threatens Paradise. It is doubtful whether anyone else since Bush-Blair coalition has dared to prepare the world for a crusade in so cynical a fashion.
In his arrogant description of Islam (only the militant Islam, of course) he pointed to its many branches "from the rulers of Iran with their Revolutionary Guards to Al-Qaida terrorists to the radical cells" that lie in wait in all corners of the globe. "But despite their differences," said the rewriter of the "protocols," "they are all rooted in the same bitter soil of intolerance."
The danger to our existence in our ghetto has become even greater, our national life has become more fragile, and over the course of the speech the Palestinians have gradually become the spearhead of this very Islam. In short, an Israeli leader has again managed to describe his pitiable, nebech country with Popeye-like megalomania.
And as if this were not a speech to those who boycott Darwin's theories throughout the United States, the history lesson continued: "Some 500 years ago, the printing press helped pry a cloistered Europe out of a dark age. Eventually, ignorance gave way to enlightenment."
True, this was war propaganda and election propaganda, but it was also shamelessness. The printing press and ignorance did not merely make way for enlightenment, and enlightenment was not merely the technological revolution that we heard about, of course, later in the speech - as befits the leader of a technological power that is preaching morality to the savages.
But let's set aside these details. Here is the breakdown: The leader of the last colonialist country on earth speaks to the representatives of the nations that have freed themselves of the "Western heritage." Who needed to hear about this? The victims of the English, French, Belgians, Dutch and Italians? Are they the ones who have to hear what was done to them in the name of enlightenment?
If there is something which is central to the "enlightenment" that Netanyahu represented, it was the possibility of standing in New York and talking rubbish in its name while at home there is an apartheid regime and his army is continuing to trample on the Palestinians' hope for freedom, to knock down doors every night, to send people to jail through a ridiculous military judicial system and with weapons of the 21st century, all controlled by the enlightened heirs of King David.
A second generation of Palestinians has been born into oppression, poverty and humiliation, and a leader from the margins of the West speaks about the darkness of the Middle Ages and enlightenment? By the way, where are the detention camps of Interior Minister Eli Yishai in this puzzle of progress?
Israelis go wild over their leaders who can speak English with a good accent. Our country is altogether a strange place that cannot differentiate between good English and intelligence. However an historical difference can be discerned between the speech-makers at the UN over the years. Abba Eban excited the Jews of America. Netanyahu excites the Christians there who are anxiously awaiting the the Battle of Armageddon. In 1843, a century before Hitler brought the "Western heritage" to one of its technological high points, Karl Marx wrote in a letter to his co-editor, Arnold Ruge:
"It is a truth which, at least, teaches us to recognize the emptiness of our patriotism ... and makes us hide our faces in shame. You look at me with a smile and ask: What is gained by that? No revolution is made out of shame. I reply: Shame is already revolution ... Shame is a kind of anger which is turned inward. ... I admit that in Germany even shame is not yet felt; on the contrary, these miserable people are still patriots. ... A ship full of fools could perhaps be allowed to drift for quite a time at the mercy of the wind, but it would be driven to meet its fate precisely because the fools would not believe this. This fate is the impending revolution."
Marx, of course, was also mistaken with regard to German patriotism.
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