It has come to be expected that Mahmoud Abbas uses his speech to the General Assembly to throw red meat at a predatory crowd hungry for Israeli blood. After all, this motley assembly of nations, some so obscure that few people have ever heard of them, would, if it could, reenact its notorious equation of Zionism with racism, were it not worried about being tossed out of New York City. Indeed in 2012, it voted to grant the ‘’state of Palestine” non-member observer status without requiring anything of the Palestinian Authority. This should not be surprising, since many of the nations that voted for that one-sided resolution do not even recognize Israel as the other state to a two-state solution.
So when Abbas invoked the “G word” - characterizing Israel’s efforts to stop the rockets and tunnels that endanger its citizens as “genocide,” for which the Palestinians could “not forgive” the nation state of the Jewish people - he could expect applause from the assembled Israel-haters. So too can he expect approval from his people back home, the very people who are supposed to be part of any two-state solution.
So I was not surprised by the provocative words Abbas chose to describe Israel’s actions this past summer, because I have listened to his previous General Assembly speeches and have come to expect little in the way of conciliatory language.
But even I was shocked by what Abbas did not say - by the two words he never mentioned during the course of his rambling 40 minute screed: “Rockets” and “tunnels.” He accused Israel of “genocide” in its attack on Hamas’s double war crime - rockets and terror tunnels - without even mentioning the rockets and tunnels that justified Israel’s right of self-defense. This would be as if a prosecutor accused a policeman of murdering a child in cold blood, without even mentioning that the child who was shot by the policeman was being held as a shield by a bank robber who was firing at customers from behind the child. Any prosecutor who mendaciously leveled such perversely and deliberately incomplete accusations - which would constitute perjury by omission - would be disbarred and removed from office.
Even without the omission of the provoking factors - thousands of rockets and dozens of tunnels - the charge of “genocide” is so irresponsible, so knowingly false, so deliberately provocative, as to raise serious questions about whether Abbas is a credible partner for peace.
Abbas’ misuse of the term genocide, directed against the nation-state of a people who experienced real genocide - indeed the very term was coined to characterize what the Jews experienced at the hands of Nazis - cannot help but remind of Abbas’ doctoral thesis in which he questioned historical accounts of the Holocaust, by deliberately omitting undisputed evidence.
This seems to be a pattern with Abbas, who went out of his way to blame Israeli “fascists settlers” for the gruesome killing of a young Palestinian, without mentioning the triple kidnapping and murder by Hamas activists of three Israeli teenagers - the act that directly provoked the deranged Israeli killers. This pattern of pregnant and mendacious omissions cannot be accidental. This was a deliberate effort to substitute half-truths, which are lies, for actual truths.
This was the worst speech, of many bad speeches by Abbas at the United Nations, ever delivered by the so-called “moderate” peace partner for the two-state solution. How then should Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have responded to it, when it was his turn to speak to the General Assembly?
I was there listening and I can tell you that he said exactly the right things with exactly the right tone. He was not defensive. He laid out Israel’s case, with precision and with evidence and he did it with unmatched oratorical skills.
He began by talking about the similarities between ISIS and Hamas, and the universality of militant Islamic extremism around the world. He then moved to the greatest threat posed by Islamic extremism, namely an Iran with nuclear weapons. Finally, he went after Abbas for his lies about Israel, analogizing them to the lies he had told about the Holocaust earlier in his life. In what universe of morality, Netanyahu asked rhetorically, does genocide consist of providing telephonic warnings to the alleged objects of the genocide, of providing them with medical and other resources even while rockets are raining down on your civilians, and of building field hospitals to treat wounded Palestinians?
Netanyahu’s critique of Abbas was devastating and unanswerable. He defended the soldiers of the IDF and the military actions of his government. He pledged that while he was ready to make territorial compromises in the interest of peace, he would never compromise the security of Israel, especially in these times of uncertainty and changing realities.
There was only point on which Abbas and Netanyahu seemed to agree: That the previous paths to peace are anachronistic and that new approaches are needed. Abbas’ proposed new approach included a veiled threat of renewed terrorism, invoking the tradition of the Fedayeen, a group that engaged in terrorism against Israel even before the 1967 war. Other than that, it was same old, same old with a renewed emphasis on unilateral actions, using the biased processes of the United Nations.
Netanyahu, on the other hand, did propose a new pathway to peace: Namely that Israel is prepared to work with Arab neighbors such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates to achieve a two state solution with the Palestinians. Some might say that by doing so he has marginalized Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Others would argue that it has been Abbas who has marginalized himself and his organization by the kind of hateful and unhelpful rhetorical poison he spewed during his notorious talk at the United Nations.
Alan Dershowitz’s newest book is an e-book entitled: Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas.
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