Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seems to love waving around cartoonish props at the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting. This year his theme was the likelihood of an Israel-Saudi rapprochement, which is being pushed by the Biden administration despite the abysmal Saudi human rights violations and despite Netanyahu’s ongoing destruction of the last vestiges of Israeli democracy.
This year’s prop, in that regard, showed the wacky plan to build a rail line to transship goods from India’s Mumbai port to Haifa in Israel, where they’d be offloaded for delivery across the Mediterranean. Since shipping costs per pound are about five times cheaper than rail costs, the plan baffles me. It will allegedly cost $20 billion. I guess it is only money.
The problem? When the drawing of the rail line reaches Israel, the map just shows the entirety of what had been British Mandate Palestine as one country, Israel. The Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip had been wiped off the map.
This map, of course, depicts the openly stated ambitions of the current extremist government in Tel Aviv, of annexing outright all the Palestinian lands that Zionist militias had proven unable to take in 1948. Netanyahu wants it all, from the Jordan to the sea.
Yet when Palestinians say, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free,” this phrase is lambasted by the US Israel lobbies as anti-Israel hate.
The phrase as Palestinians use it is not, of course, intended to call for the replacement of Israel by Palestine, as propagandists charge, but to assert that Palestinians will not remain stateless (West Bank and Gaza) or second-class citizens (in Israel) forever, that they will ultimately be emancipated from Israeli Apartheid policies.
Prominent commentator Marc Lamont Hill of Temple University was fired from CNN in 2018 for using the phrase on air, in the sense I just outlined.
Wouldn’t Netanyahu’s map be, by the same token, an instance of anti-Palestinian hate? But let me assure you that no one is getting fired from US television for saying anything negative about Palestinians.
We all remember, as well, Netanyahu’s crude illustration of the alleged Iranian nuclear bomb. Iran is not assessed by US intelligence even to have a nuclear weapons program, only a civilian enrichment capacity. Israel, in contrast, has several hundred nuclear warheads, which it usually declines to confirm.
Since Netanyahu is such an inveterate liar, however, it was likely that sooner or later he would slip up. So at the roster of the United Nations, he asserted “Above all — above all — Iran must face a credible nuclear threat. As long as I’m prime minister of Israel, I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”
Menacing Iran with a “nuclear threat” contravenes the United Nations Charter, which forbids not only aggressive war but also aggressive threats of violence toward other states. It also contravenes Israeli policy of declining to admit to its nuclear arsenal, which kicked off the nuclear arms race in the region in the first place.
Netanyahu’s minders swooped in to clean up his indiscretion, and likely nothing more will be said about it in the West. Iranians are less likely to forget his threat to nuke them.
Nor will Palestinians forget that he wiped them off the map.