Netanyahu Uses Rhetoric of Peace to Practice Violence

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's UN speech on Friday was not a good one; it was a destructive speech.

Merav Michaeli
Merav Michaeli
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Merav Michaeli
Merav Michaeli

The social protest stemmed from the public's understanding that it is being deceived by the politicians in everything concerning economics and social issues. They, and all those who profit from the economic system, are lying and exploiting us for their personal benefit. The next stage is to understand that in exactly the same way the politicians, and all those who profit from the policy of war and occupation, are deceiving and exploiting the public in everything concerning diplomacy and security.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's UN speech on Friday was not a good one. It was a destructive speech. Beyond the factual lies it contained, it was a perjurious speech in its use of the terminology of peace, reconciliation and honesty - in order to practice violence. Lying that uses the rhetoric of peace is destructive because it confuses war and peace, because it erodes the belief in the possibility of a peaceful life and eliminates hope.

It's called spin, or tactics, but in effect it is cynical, unscrupulous behavior that is scandalous and sickening. Netanyahu didn't invent it, but he has refined it to a level of art that befits the Hollywood actor that he should have been. In Israel there is a legacy of destructive cynicism - Defense Minister Ehud Barak's claim that there is "no partner," Ariel Sharon's claim of "the end of the occupation" in Gaza - but Netanyahu has stretched it to the limit.

Statements such as "Let's speak frankly," "Let's sit here and now," and "I extend my hand in peace" are a direct continuation of the deceptive gestures at the start of his term - hosting Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in his home, including a Palestinian flag, and calling him "my partner for peace," only in order to demand impossible opening conditions for negotiations (under the generous title "without preconditions" ) - building in Jerusalem and the settlements, passing anti-Arab laws, withholding from the Palestinians money that is legally theirs, and getting embroiled in violence against Turkey.

"We check them from all angles, do all the tests, and no matter how well they behave, we don't believe them," said Shlomo the security guard, explaining to me the UN speeches. "Why is that? They don't recognize a Jewish state. That's why I came here, so I would have a state!"

And you don't have a state?

"I don't! If they don't recognize a Jewish state I don't have a state!" Shlomo cried with all his might.

That's how Netanyahu succeeded in making Shlomo feel that if the Palestinians don't say that Israel is a Jewish state, then Shlomo has no state. The pundits can write that statements by politicians are spin or tactics, but the media, with their headlines, report the spin as though it were the thing itself. Thus, large parts of the public believe those who serve as their leaders. That's not surprising: Most of the public relates in good faith to those who are elected as their leaders. Most think that politicians may be liars, but trust that when it comes to matters of life and death, war and peace, it's not possible that they are lying to them.

There is no difference between Bibi Netanyahu's espousal of economics that percolate from the top down, which supposedly will lead to growth whose fruits will reach everyone - although the facts on the ground prove unquestionably that this system only enriches the wealthy and increases the numbers of the poor - and Bibi's espousal of "defensible borders" and "recognition of Israel as a Jewish state," as though that is what will bring security to Israeli citizens. This despite the facts on the ground proving that it only endangers their lives and turns them into compelled occupiers.

All these lies are made possible because the discourse is being conducted in the old language; the language of a world of the zero-sum game, in which the achievement of one comes at the expense of the other's loss, instead of creating a situation in which everyone gains; a world in which people are concerned about honor instead of being concerned about life itself and the quality of life; a world of divide and rule instead of connection and inclusion.

When we began to imagine equality and social justice and started to speak a new and different language, which is the only language that can lead to their realization, we also began to demand them of the managers we appointed. The time has come for us, the public, to begin to imagine peace and partnership and to believe in them, to expand our new language in a way that it can realize them, and demand them of those who are supposed to be leading us.



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