Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, the “moderate” alternative to Bibi Netanyahu’s far-right coalition, spoke to the UN General Assembly this week. In remarks tailored for a foreign audience, he offered claims of support for a two-state solution. This is a proposal that no Israeli politician, including Lapid himself, actually supports. In fact, when his coalition colleague, Naftali Bennett was premier, Lapid specifically ruled out even talking to Palestinians, much less advocating for two states. So there are either of two possibilities: Lapid really believes what he said last January for a domestic audience and lied at the UN, where he pandered to a foreign audience; or he has changed his tune and now supports what he once excoriated. Anyone clear of thought knows the answer is the former.
Amira Hass pointed this out in her Haaretz column comprehensively rebutting the lies in Lapid’s speech. Reading between the lines, it’s clear that even what the PM claims to support has hardly anything to do with a real Palestinian state. If you read between the lines in this passage, it’s clear he intends a demilitarized Palestine:
That a future Palestinian state will be a peaceful one. That it will not become another terror base from which to threaten the well-being, and the very existence of Israel. That we will have the ability to protect the security of all the citizens of Israel, at all times.
That’s code for a state with no ability to protect and defend itself and its territory. Every real state has such a force (with the possible exception of Costa Rica). Further, it’s an indication that Israel, which has quite a formidable military which regularly violates Palestinian sovereignty, arresting thousands (including children) and killing hundreds, will continue such depredation even after such a “state” is founded. In other words, Lapid supports something HE calls a state, but which is a fiction.
What follows is a point-by-point rebuttal of the speech. Anyone who follows Israeli politics and its relations with the Palestinians knows they are based on lies and delusion. This speech is no different. But because it was delivered on a world stage, it is important to dissect it with a scalpel to expose the tumor it conceals within.
The prime minister fed the UN audience the typical bromides praising Israel’s love for peace, which he juxtaposed with the Palestinian devotion to hate and violence:
The people of the Middle East, the people of the entire world,…ask themselves: Who is doing better? Those who chose the path of peace, or those who chose the way of war? Those who chose to invest in their people and country, or those who chose to invest in the destruction of others? Those who believe in education, tolerance and technology, or those who believe in bigotry and violence?
Any leader whose own army kills tens of thousands of unarmed civilians over the span of decades has no right to utter the words “peace” or “tolerance.” No country steeped in apartheid and war crimes has the right to put these words in its mouth. It is Israel that “invests in the destruction of others.” How else to explain the IDF’s $20-billion annual budget, whose sole purpose is to fuel the garrison state Israel has become? Not to mention that its army has murdered far more Palestinians than they have murdered Israelis. So who is more successful at such destruction: Israel or the Palestinians?
As for “bigotry,” let’s talk about the Judeo-fascism which infuses Israeli society: the simmering hatred of Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular that explodes regularly leading to state-sponsored thuggery, and paroxysms of hate (“Death to Arabs!”) through the streets of the country. Let’s talk about the brutal provocations by Border Police into sacred Muslim sites which incite retaliatory violence against Israel. Let’s have a reality check here, after all. Rather than sit and listen to this confection of lies.
A vibrant democracy. A country in which Jews, Muslims and Christians live together with full civic equality.
Ah, the old “only democracy in the Middle East” bromide. As just about anyone with eyes in their head knows (except the True Believers) Israel is not and has never been a democracy, vibrant or otherwise. Muslims know this by the brutality shown them by Border Police thugs beating them senseless on Haram al Sharif. Christians know this through the bombing of their churches by hate-filled Judeo-fascist settlers. Israeli Palestinians certainly do NOT have “full civic equality.” Their language, once one of two national languages, has been derogated to second-class status. Instead of being full citizens of a state that purported to offer equal status with Jews, the Nation State Law makes clear that the state is only for Jews. All others are merely tolerated.
In the government which I lead, there are Arab Ministers. There is an Arab party as a member of our coalition. We have Arab judges in our Supreme Court. Arab doctors saving lives in our hospitals. Israeli Arabs are not our enemies, they are our partners in life.
Yes, there are Arab ministers, who have at best junior portfolios. There has never been a Palestinian MK who has run a major ministry, nor will there ever be. As for the Arab [sic] party which is a coalition member. While that is true, Lapid neglects to mention that this is the first time in the nation’s history that such a Party has been in a governing coalition. Not to mention that in a previous election, Lapid’s coalition failed to form a government because it refused to include the Joint List in it. Yet another indication of Israeli racism. As for “Arab judges,” yes there have been a few. But despite Palestinians being 20% of the population, there is never more than a single Palestinian judge out of the nine seats. Nor had there ever been a Muslim justice until the last year.
As for Israeli Arabs being “our partners in life”: tell it to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who endured a week of sheer terror two years ago as gangs of Judeo fascist hoodlums surged through the streets looking for “Arabs” to attack. Despite violence overwhelmingly directed at Palestinians, it was they who the police arrested and prosecuted for fighting back against their attackers. Israeli Jews don’t see their fellow Palestinian citizens as “Partners.” They see them as an underclass barely tolerated minority. Poll after poll confirms the racist attitudes of Israeli Jews toward Palestinians.
The anti-Israel movement has been spreading…lies for years. In the media, on college campuses and on social media. The question is not why they do it, but why are you willing to listen.
Why are you listening to people who have invested billions of dollars in distorting the truth? Why do you side with Islamic extremists who hang gay people from cranes, oppress women, and fire rockets at civilians from kindergartens and hospitals?
Here Lapid has lapsed into an alternate universe of his own making. “Lies?” What sort of lies? He doesn’t say. But we can assume he’s speaking of lies like those of the BDS movement and even Israeli NGOs that it is a racist apartheid state from the river to the sea. Or the “lie” that Israel has committed war crimes, for which it is being investigated by the ICC. But for something to be a lie, you must offer evidence that it is. And there is no possible fact or evidence that refutes this truth.
Curious that Lapid claims “billions of dollars” are invested in smearing Israel. Who has billions to spend on such an enterprise? The BDS movement? Don’t make me laugh. The six Palestinian human rights NGOs who his defense minister labeled as “terrorists?” All of them operate on a shoestring budget. They are supported by European states who assuage their guilty conscience by funneling a few thousand dollars to each of them. But “thousands” are not “billions.”
In this passage, Lapid engages in a nice bit of Muslim-baiting by conflating Hamas with Iran as if they are one and the same. Because aren’t all Muslims the same? Don’t they all hate women and Jews and “gay people?” Don’t they all relish killing Jewish babies in their cradle? Of course, what he misses is that those rockets never reach their target. While Israeli missiles, artillery and air attacks murder tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians. Isn’t it convenient to have such a major case of moral amnesia that permits you to erase your own sins from existence?
Antisemitism is the willingness to believe the worst about the Jews, without questioning. Antisemitism is judging Israel by a different standard than any other country.
Ah yes, here the scandalous IHRA misdefinition of anti-Semitism rears its ugly head. Anti-Semitism is indeed about Jews, as the first sentence indicates. But the so-called anti-Semites don’t believe the worst about “Jews.” They see the worst and denounce the worst about Israel, which is by no means the same thing. As I’ve said repeatedly here: Jews are not the issue. The Palestinian militants resisting Israeli oppression are not fighting Jews. They are fighting Israelis. That cannot be construed as anti-Semitism.
As for the claim that the anti-Semites judge Israel by a different standard than other countries, that too is a lie. Israel’s war crimes are no different than those of the Serbs against Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims; or the Rwandan Hutus against the Tutsis; or the Chinese against the Uighurs; or the Myanmar Buddhists against the Rohingya; or the Sri Lankan Sinhalese against the Tamils.
These are all crimes against humanity. Israel’s crimes are no different and must be judged by the same standard.
Iran’s regime hates Jews…
Nope, just nope. Iran has the largest Jewish community in the region outside of Israel. 25,000 Jews live in Iran. They are a protected minority even assigned a representative in the Majlis. What Lapid should say, but purposely elides, is that Iran’s quarrel is with Israel.
And for good reason. Israel has engaged in a systematic decades-long attack on Iranian nuclear facilities and scientists. It has bombed military bases, planted explosives inside Iranian nuclear plants, and murdered its military commanders and nuclear physicists. It would deny Iran the very same nuclear weapons which it possesses in bulk. It has concocted a bete noir to instill fear in every Israeli heart. The sort of fear which unites a country, otherwise divided and dysfunctional.
There is only one member-state in the UN that openly states its wish to destroy another member-state. Iran has declared time and time again that it is interested in the “total destruction” of the State of Israel.
Another in a long litany of lies. Iran has not only not declared “time and again” it is interested in the total destruction of Israel, it has never declared this. As I have shown here and other Iran experts have shown, the claims that Ayatollah Khomeini called for the destruction of Israel are categorically false. Never happened. But Israel, on the other hand, has regularly threatened Iran with annihilation. Bibi Netanyahu stood outside the Dimona nuclear reactor which has produced all of Israel’s 200 nuclear weapons and did precisely that.
The country that wants to destroy us, is also the country that founded the largest terrorist organization in the world, Hezbollah.
Whoa. Not so fast. Iran did not “found” Hezbollah. Hezbollah was founded by Lebanese Shia who were fighting to oust foreign forces from Lebanon, including US marines and Israeli invaders. And, in fact, Israel played a major role in founding Hezbollah as a counter to the PLO, which it sought to oust from Lebanon. Iran’s role as an ally of Hezbollah came much later. But why should an Israeli leader bother with facts and accurate portrayal of history when lies and distortions serve him better?
If the Iranian regime gets a nuclear weapon, they will use it.
Ahem. Only one country in the world has ever used a nuclear weapon. That is Israel’s chief ally, the US. As everyone knows, Israel has nuclear weapons and we know that some of its most senior leaders have, during wartime, counseled the use of a nuclear weapon when they felt the nation was in danger. Not only is there no indication that any Iranian leader has ever entertained such act, Iran doesn’t even have a nuclear weapon.
It needs to be made clear to Iran, that if it advances its nuclear program, the world will not respond with words, but with military force. Every time a threat like that was put on the table in the past, Iran stopped, and retreated.
Good luck with that, my friend. No one outside of Israel wants to go anywhere near an attack on Iran. So if Israel wants to be the one to do so, it will have to go it alone. And pretending that there is even a remote possibility that anyone in that General Assembly hall during his speech wants to jump off that cliff with him, is delusional.
As for such threats making Iran stop or retreat–I have no idea what he’s talking about. On the contrary, Iran has never stopped or retreated from its nuclear program by threat of force. It has, on the other hand, restrained itself through diplomatic negotiation and agreements like JCPOA. But those agreements didn’t come at the barrel of a gun. They came between five states and Iran sitting around a table, coming up with a framework agreeable to all. That is the only thing that has worked.
We have capabilities and we are not afraid to use them. We will do whatever it takes: Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. We will not stand by while there are those who try to kill us. Not again. Never Again.
Ah, yes. Trotting out that old shibboleth, the Holocaust, to justify Israeli aggression against its neighbors. Pounding one’s chest like an alpha gorilla frightens no one. No Iranian will lose any sleep over such threats. In fact, many Iran experts, including Israelis, argue that Iran will indeed obtain nuclear capability. And that when it does the world will not end. Nuclear warheads will not rain down on Tel Aviv. Rather, the world will continue as it has during all the decades when multiple states have possessed nuclear weapons, but determined not to use them. The same will be true of Iran.
What Israel truly fears is a Muslim state which has such a weapon, that guarantees it cannot be cowed into submission by a bully like itself. Like Kim Jong Un, Iran understands that the only reason his enemies have not attacked his country and overturned his regime is that he’s made it quite clear he not only has such weapons, but that he will use them if necessary. That is the ultimate deterrence. And Israel wants no rival to have such deterrence, which threatens its regional hegemony.
The Jews today have a state.
Wrong again. “Jews” do not have a state. Israelis have a state. Jews have their religion and their homes, which are most often outside Israel. For those Jews, Israel is not their state. It is not my state. My state is the United States. This notion that Israel is a state of, by and for Jews is racist. That racism and Judeo-supremacy are at the heart of the toxic entity Israel has become.
Israel’s…military strength allows us to protect ourselves but it also allows us something else: To strive for peace with the entire Arab world. And with our closest neighbors – the Palestinians.
The notion that militarism (which is essentially what Lapid is portraying) leads to peace with one’s rivals or enemies is historically false. States which bristle with missiles will use them. Guns are made to kill, not to make peace. This is certainly the case with the Palestinians. Israel uses its weapons to brutalize, steal and kill them. It in no way considers that its massive military complex is a means toward peace with the Palestinians. I’d guess that what he really means is: we are so armed to the teeth that our Arab neighbors would rather be our friends than our enemies given that we could annihilate them if we chose. Again, this is true of the relationship with Palestinians. Israel does not believe in peace with them. It believes in controlling them, dominating them. Making them realize that they are little more than drugged cockroaches in a bottle as far as Israel is concerned.
An agreement with the Palestinians, based on two states for two peoples, is the right thing for Israel’s security, for Israel’s economy and for the future of our children…
Today a large majority of Israelis support the vision of this two state solution. I am one of them.
Of all the lies here, this is the worst. As I noted above Lapid, speaking to an Israeli audience, told them what they wanted to hear; which was that he would under no circumstances negotiate for a Palestinian state. As far as what Lapid will actually do, that is what he knows his Israeli audience and electorate will permit him to do. And that excludes a Palestinian state. So his UN speech was a fraud. He told the foreigners what they wanted to hear. He did this because it will relieve international pressure on his government. Now he can say to Israel’s critics: you see, I told you I want a Palestinian state. What more do you want of me? I gave you what you want. Now leave me alone. This is an utterly cynical strategem. But one Israel has used time after time.
…Look at the neighborhood in which we live: Look at Lebanon, a collapsing state controlled by Hezbollah. At Syria, where a murderous regime massacred half a million of its own people. Look at Afghanistan. At Libya. At Iran.
Yet more racist stereotyping of The Arab, who is always bloodthirsty, corrupt, and mired in hate. The fact that Lebanon is a dysfunctional state is due in large part to its colonial past, including Israeli massive intervention and sabotage of the country in the 1980s and beyond. Israel facilitated the Sabra and Shatilla massacre. It occupied southern Lebanon for two decades. It engaged in a years-long covert bombing and assassination campaign to sow chaos in Lebanon. Yet here Lapid tells us that all of the country’s problems lie at Hezbollah’s door.
Not to mention that the notion that the militant group “controls” the country is yet another falsehood. But, as I wrote earlier, why let facts interfere with the narrative you want to sell the world?
Further, if the neighborhood Israel lives in is dangerous, chaotic, and savage it is again Israel that has made it so. It has fought major wars in every decade since the 1940s against its Arab neighbors. It has spent tens of billions on armaments which it has used with abandon in fighting these wars. It has sowed hate and violence within these Arab countries. It has murdered their leaders and killed unarmed civilians in the tens of thousands. But again, as I wrote above, why look in the mirror when it’s so much easier to blame others for your crimes?
My father was a child in the Ghetto, my grandfather was murdered in a concentration camp. We want to live in peace but only if it gives us security…
There’s that Holocaust card again. So easy to play. So powerful to suppress legitimate criticism, invoking Jewish suffering as a means to silence analysis of Israeli crimes. The Holocaust does not give Israel carte blanche to engage in savagery against another people. It is not a Get Out of Jail Free card.
Look at Gaza. Israel did everything the world asked of us, including from this very stage. We left. 17 years ago we dismantled the settlements, took apart our military bases. There is not a single Israeli soldier in Gaza. We even left them 3,000 green houses so they could start to build an economy for themselves.
The lies are strong in this one. Israel did not leave Gaza because the world asked it to. It left Gaza because Ariel Sharon determined it was a hellhole whose occupation offered no strategic benefit to Israel. And because the Israeli settlers on the border served no national purpose. And Sharon withdrew abruptly and unilaterally. He did not negotiate with the Palestinians. He simply left. The greenhouses were not a gift by Israel to Gaza. They were a project devised by foreign donors (certainly not by Israel) as a means to help the Gaza economy.
The notion that having no Israel boots on the ground in Gaza means Israel has left it is false. Israel has thousands of troops around Gaza enforcing a strangling siege on the enclave. International law declares that any power exercising full control (including entry and exit) over a territory is an occupying power. Israel is occupying Gaza, and such an occupation and siege is a violation of such protocols. In fact, the ICC is examining whether the Israeli Occupation itself constitutes a war crime, as indeed it is.
I have a child with special needs. Her name is Yaeli. She is autistic. She doesn’t speak. In May last year I had to wake her at 3 o’clock in the morning and run down with her to the bomb shelter, because missiles were exploding above our home. All those who preach about the importance of peace, are welcome to try running to a bomb shelter at 3 a.m. with a girl who does not speak. To explain to her, without words, why there are those who want to kill her.
Do spare us the sob stories. For every Yaeli whose sleep is disturbed during an Israeli assault on Gaza, I can point to scores of Palestinian babies who suffer far worse than disturbed sleep. Thousands of these children are killed in their sleep or cowering in their homes as Israeli shells and bombs rain down on them. But no concern from heartless charlatans like Lapid for them. The bottom line is Yaeli lives, while the children of Gaza die.
…We’ve been asked more than once why we do not lift the restrictions on Gaza. We’re ready to do that, tomorrow morning. We’re ready to do more than that. I say from here to the people of Gaza, we’re ready to help you build a better life, to build an economy. We presented a comprehensive plan to help rebuild Gaza.
We only have one condition: Stop firing rockets and missiles at our children. Put down your weapons, there will be no restrictions. Put down your weapons…and we will build your economy together.
Yes, of course Israel suggested a plan to build a port and airport for Gaza. It even built pretty models of them. But it never intended to permit such facilities. It was nothing but a Potemkin village designed to score points before the international community. In fact, whenever Israel attacks Gaza it makes a point of destroying any building donated by foreign funds, along with critical infrastructure like power plants and water treatment facilities. Even if Israel permitted the building of such facilities, what would stop it from destroying them in the next war?
Those Hamas weapons are a means of defense against Israeli aggression. There isn’t a hope in hell any Palestinian would lay down their weapons with Israeli weapons hanging over their heads by a thin thread. Lapid’s offer is this: you disarm and after you do I promise we will treat you like brothers. Of course, it’s very possible, even likely that once Hamas disarms Israel will do to Gaza what the Romans did to Judea after the second rebellion: destroy the Temple and sow the soil with salt so it would never sustain a Jewish community. Lapid’s offer is a bit of flim-flammery for foreign consumption.
The burden of proof is not on us. We have already proved our desire for peace…We are a country that keeps its word and fulfills agreements.
Precisely the opposite is true. Israel has never kept its word or fulfilled its agreements. It signed the Oslo Accords and failed to implement them. They called for creation of a Palestinian state, which again Israel refused to permit. It has signed multiple ceasefire agreements with Hamas which it routinely violates when it finds it convenient to do so. Hamas rockets do not rain down on Israel unprovoked. In every case, Israel is the party which fires first, followed by a Palestinian response. So it is Israel that must stop such provocation and itself must be the one to agree to come to the table and offer a real deal that involves compromises on both sides. Of course, Lapid has no such intent, which makes this entire speech an exercise in futility.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.