Op-ed: Netanyahu’s UN address was an opportunity for the Iranian people to hear the truth
By A.B. Yehoshua
When Prime Minister Netanyahu delivers a speech at the UN General Assembly, it is usually intended for three or four target audiences: First of all he is speaking to the American government and people; he is also addressing the US Jews and the representatives of countries that are more or less friendly to Israel – in Europe, South America and Asia; and, of course, he is also addressing to the Israeli public, although this public has many other opportunities to hear what he has to say.
But Netanyahu’s speech showed that he has no intention of making any sort of appeal to the Iranian people or to the Islamic Republic’s allies. The prime minister and his aides have apparently reached the conclusion that battle for Iranian public opinion is apparently lost, this in stark contrast to Zionism’s diplomatic tradition, whereby appeals were made to the Arab audience even during those years in which access to the electronic and written press was blocked by the totalitarian regimes in Arab countries and in the former Soviet bloc.
Israeli leaders and spokespeople traditionally turned to the Arab nations and explained as best they could the history of the Jewish nation, its struggles, its place in the region and so on. Despite the wall of hatred, some of these explanations seeped into the Arab psyche. This process resulted in peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and also led to the Palestinian moderation, which produced the agreements in Oslo and Geneva.
I’m not an expert on the Iranian regime’s evil propaganda efforts, but I have noticed that it has recently moved from denying the Holocaust to completely discounting the Jews’ history in the Middle East. But instead of presenting historical facts, the prime minister repeated the same old clichés about divine biblical promises, King David’s reign and the Jews’ spiritual connection to the Land of Israel
It did not occur to him, for instance, to mention the declaration made by Cyrus the Great, the Persian king, who called on the Jews in 538 BC to return to their homeland and build the temple. The Iranians have a deep sense of history. They are familiar with Cyrus, and mentioning this historic fact would have refuted the Iranian president’s lie.
Netanyahu did not think of mentioning the presence of Jewish communities in the Middle East for thousands of years, including in Iran itself, or praising the relatively fair treatment of Iran’s Jews today.
It did not occur to him to speak of the fact that Iran and Turkey, two Muslim powers, recognized the State of Israel after its establishment and maintained diplomatic relations with it for more than 30 years. He failed to mention the Israeli aid and rehabilitation mission headed by Aryeh “Lova” Eliav, whose members stayed in Iran’s northwestern Qazvin region for two years after it had been severely hit by an earthquake in the 1960s.
The prime minister did not think of discussing Israelis of Iranian descent, who have held key civilian and military positions throughout the country’s history.
These facts would have been news not only to the dozens of representatives from African, South American and Asian countries, but also to the Iranians themselves and to the few Palestinians who remained in the hall to listen to Netanyahu’s speech. Mentioning these facts would have helped disprove the Iranian claims that we do not belong in the region, much more so than discussing divine promises or biblical kingdoms.
And why speak in the language of the eternal victim who is forced to threaten and warn? And why do we have to talk to the Americans as if we really are an extension of the US? Or in the words of a Likud minister – “Israel is an American aircraft carrier in the Middle East.”
At this point, Netanyahu’s exaggerated ‘Americanism’ is doing more harm than good.
View original Ynet publication at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4287805,00.html