Ethical standards have dropped so much that we now live in an age where few of us expect politicians to be truthful; when their lies are exposed, even fewer of us are really surprised. The days of politicians doing the honourable thing by resigning in such circumstances are long gone; instead they feign a startled look when rumbled and try to bluff their way out of a tight spot.
So when the Israeli prime minister went to Washington recently and spoke in what is supposed to be one of the most democratic of countries in the world, no one in the audience gasped before, during or after the lies that came tumbling from the mouth of Benjamin Netanyahu.
There were at least six whoppers, which leads one to conclude that on Capitol Hill facts matter not. Politicians lie to stay in power and others lie to gain power; both positions show an utter contempt for the electorate and democracy.
Sadly most of the members of the Fifth Estate, once the gatekeepers of integrity and the watchdogs over such matters holding politicians to account, have crossed the Rubicon and become complicit in governmental dirty dealings and the subversion of democracy itself.
Just recently I was given sight of a slick dossier which was drawn up by public relations experts advising the Israeli government. The contents are, essentially, an idiot’s guide for politicians on how to hoodwink the media and the general public when promoting, defending and praising Zionism and Israel, the Zionist state.
It must be the same handbook that Australian-born Mark Regev keeps on his bedside table; that would certainly explain his almost robotic delivery as chief spokesman for the prime minister of Israel. This is especially obvious when he is confronted with the reality of the death and destruction caused by the Israel Defence Forces, including the trampling of Palestinian human rights and other atrocities committed by the government he is paid to defend.
Each carefully crafted word in this dossier is designed to dupe the general public into thinking that Israel really cares about the Palestinian people as much as it does its own national security. I can only imagine that the same people who created this dossier of mass deception helped Netanyahu to craft his speech to the US Congress earlier this month, for he used it to –
- EXAGGERATE claims about Israel’s future existence;
- PROMISE that he would do everything in his power to protect his people;
- INVENT existential threats which don’t exist; and
- PROMOTE the idea that Israel is a humanitarian state.
The strategy enabled him to dupe an audience of American leaders and opinion formers as he shamelessly paraded six big lies during his speech. Every sentence was delivered with the conviction and pitch of a snake oil salesman; the bigger the lie the more the audience nodded enthusiastically, clamouring for more. Bearing in mind that this was basically the same audience which fell for George W Bush’s “weapons of mass destruction” deception, the task of winning Congress over with a few sexy sound bites was never going to be too difficult for Netanyahu, with his slick, American accent.
If for no one else, therefore, the following analysis and exposure of the lies is for the benefit of Congressmen and women, and US Senators, because as they sat through his speech they failed to spot a single lie among the half dozen that Netanyahu spewed out so shamelessly.
The first lie was the purpose of his visit to Washington. Netanyahu claimed that he was trying to stop the potential nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 when the real reason was that he was trying to look presidential in front of Israeli voters. The speech was being relayed live back to Israel and would, he hoped, give him the edge over his political rivals. It appears to have succeeded.
His views on the Iranian talks were already widely known but he needed a reason to get into Washington to impress the voters back home. House Speaker John Boehner duly obliged by sending him an invitation without giving ample notice to the White House, straining even further the already difficult relationship between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama.
The next lie – and some might say that there were several packed into one sentence – was his description of Israel as “humane”, “compassionate” and a “force for good”. The Palestinians would certainly disagree with him, as would the 60,000 Africans who’ve fled the violence in Eritrea and Sudan in the last decade to seek refuge in Israel. Netanyahu has labelled the African asylum seekers as “infiltrators” and accused them of threatening Israel’s Jewish identity.
But it’s not just Netanyahu’s words that have upset the Africans; harsh laws introduced a few months ago means that they are forced into a detention centre in the Negev Desert. They are not allowed to work and are denied basic medical essentials at the centre into which they must check three times a day.
Nor is there anything “humane and compassionate” about the ill-treatment of Palestinian children held within the Israeli military detention system. In a 2013 report, UNICEF described Israel’s abuse of Palestinian minors as “widespread, systematic and institutionalised.” The 22-page document examined the Israeli military court system for holding Palestinian children and found evidence of practices it said were “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment”.
Over the past decade, Israeli forces have arrested, interrogated and prosecuted around 7,000 Palestinian children aged between 12 and 17, most of them boys, the report said. It noted that the rate was equivalent to “an average of two children each day”. Over the past 13 years, a Palestinian child has been killed by Israel on average every 3 days. This is a disgraceful state of affairs.
“In no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights,” said UNICEF.
Another lie which rolled off Netanyahu’s tongue was his attempt to boast about the humanitarian efforts made by Israel towards Syrian refugees. They have been treated for injuries, he said, at field hospitals on the Golan Heights. What he failed to mention was that they are given no time to recuperate before being forced back to their war-torn land. The Golan, of course, was seized from Syria and has been occupied by Israel illegally since 1967. In a nutshell, Israel is patching up the injured and then booting them off their own land.
Israel offers no sanctuary to Syrian refugees, unlike neighbouring countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey which have taken literally millions of dispossessed people uprooted by Bashir Assad’s brutal regime.
The gullible US politicians were fed a fourth lie with the claim that Israel has treated thousands of Palestinians from Gaza, all the while coming under fire from “thousands of rockets” fired from the besieged enclave. What he neatly failed to add was that many of the Palestinians were being treated for injuries received as a direct consequence of the three major military offensives that Israel has launched on Gaza over the past 10 years. Others are being treated for cancers thought to be a consequence of the munitions used by the fourth largest army in the world, including chemical weapons, on the most densely populated region in the world.
The siege on Gaza has been so brutal that ambulances often can’t reach sick and injured people because there’s no fuel to power them and life-saving medicines, in abundance in Israel, can’t get through to the Palestinians.
Lie number five came as Netanyahu thundered, “Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, where the civil rights of all citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, are guaranteed.” Any American law student – and there are scores on Capitol Hill doing internships – could have challenged this by citing 50 Israeli laws drawn up to discriminate specifically against Palestinian citizens of the state.
A quick check on the Adalah NGO website gives the details of all of the discrimination faced by non-Jews who live in Israel, including those belonging to various Christian denominations. For example, there are at least 100 Palestinian villages hidden across Israel; they are neither identified on maps nor have any access to services provided by local authorities, such as water, electricity or roads. It’s as if they don’t exist and have been air-brushed from the maps.
The sixth lie was really an extension of the fifth, when Netanyahu boasted how Israel “protects Christians and protects the right of worship for everyone”. Anyone who has tried to worship at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, knows that there are no guarantees of getting past the Israeli soldiers guarding the entrances to the Noble Sanctuary; some of the guards demand that Palestinian and other individuals recite Qur’anic verses to prove that they’re Muslims.
As for the Christians in the Holy Land, they are fleeing because of the Israeli occupation, government policies and the Apartheid Wall which has virtually surrounded the birthplace of Jesus. Bethlehem, home to the oldest Christian flock in the world, “The Living Stones”, is fast losing its Christian population and there are reports of other Christian families coming under pressure from Israeli settlers to quit their farms nearby.
It seems that Netanyahu’s propaganda is based on the principle that the bigger the lie the more believable it will become. Those practicing such dark arts have learnt well how to influence the audience with emotionally manipulative speeches punctuated with lies, half-truths and distortions.
Of course this strategy is nothing new. Joseph Goebbels, close friend and associate of Adolf Hitler, and the architect of the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, was the master of propaganda as he tried to enforce Nazi ideology. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it,” he once said, “people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
That is how low Benjamin Netanyahu has sunk, to the great shame of those members of the US Congress, Republican and Democratic alike, who hold him in such high esteem. Can there be any greater irony than the prime minister of Israel using tactics perfected by Nazism’s chief propagandist to promote the state of Israel? I can’t think of one.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.