It’s hard to describe what it felt like listening to Benjamin Netanyahu speak yesterday at the United Nations. Many phrases came to mind: “alternative reality,” “parallel universe,” “clinical denial,” and the list goes on.
Then I remembered one of my favorite TV shows I used to watch as a kid:
You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!
Netanyahu introduced himself:
I feel deeply honored and privileged to stand here before you today representing the citizens of the state of Israel. We are an ancient people. We date back nearly 4,000 years to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We have journeyed through time. We’ve overcome the greatest of adversities. And we re-established our sovereign state in our ancestral homeland, the land of Israel.
Of course, 1.2 million of Israel’s citizens are Palestinians. About 20% of Israelis are non-Jews. Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that he does not speak for them. We Palestinians kind of already knew that.
In America, about 13% of the population is black. In today’s world, we cannot imagine an American president, even a white one, explicitly stating that he does not include them in his ranks.
But to Netanyahu, these 1.2 million people do not exist. If that’s not living in another dimension, I don’t know what is.
He then started talking about Iran. And he kept talking about Iran. And kept talking. In fact, he spent 2535 of his 3015 words talking about Iran. I counted. That’s 84%. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani didn’t even spend 84% of his time talking about Iran.
He then went into the background of Hassan Rouhani. We learned that Rouhani was a member of Iran’s national security council for some time. He was also Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator for a couple years. He has been involved in Iran’s government at different levels for a really long time. I didn’t know any of that. Who needs Wikipedia when we have Bibi?
Rouhani is worse than Ahmadinejad, he says, because as his predecessor was a “wolf in wolf’s clothing,” Rouhani is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” One can see Bibi’s point here. If you remember, Ahmadinejad’s beard was dark and scraggly. Rouhani’s is white and lush. He does look more like a sheep.
Rouhani, according to Netanyahu, is cold, calculating, and deceptive. We would be making a huge mistake if we trusted him. Bibi backs up his argument by telling us that one of Rouhani’s devious tactics is to “smile a lot.” Is he telling us that smiling Muslims can’t be trusted? I guess I should forget everything my grandfather ever told me. Or is it just that smiling Iranians can’t be trusted? No more Maz Jobrani shows for me. Or maybe he means that smiling politicians can’t be trusted. Then we can definitely trust Bibi. He never smiles.
Now I’m sure Netanyahu has never met a smiling Muslim. It’s hard to smile when you have a M-16 in your face.
Netanyahu went on to detail how Iran is building a nuclear weapon. He talked of warheads, percentages of uranium enrichment, stockpiles, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. In fact, according to him, Iran will soon have missiles that could reach New York City. And they’re doing all this in secret. Scary stuff indeed.
And Netanyahu speaks from some authority on this subject. If anyone knows how to build a secret nuclear weapons program, it’s Israel. Israel has had a stated policy of “nuclear ambiguity” for over 50 years. That means no admissions, no inspections, and no accounting. In fact, despite international calls, Israel has never signed nor ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In his speech to the General Assembly, Netanyahu said, “facts are stubborn things.” Israel has at least 200 nuclear warheads. They even have those scary intercontinental ballistic missile things Bibi warned us about. But in Israel’s alternate dimension of existence, everyone should follow the rules, except her.
Rouhani has stated that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful. He even told American news outlets that Iran will never seek to build weapons of mass destruction. But this is not enough for Israel’s prime minister. It’s almost as if Netanyahu doesn’t know how to live in a world where Iran does not want to obliterate Israel from the face of the earth.
Now I guess no one really knows for sure whether or not Iran actually wishes to develop nuclear weapons capability. Maybe they’re trying. But Netanyahu asked, “Why does Rouhani think that he can get away with it?” Well, he doesn’t need to look far. Just about 3 countries to the west.
Then Benjamin Netanyahu did something that might have been worse than any of the human rights violations that Israel has ever committed. After describing how the new Iranian president was duping us all, he said, “Rouhani thinks he can have his yellowcake and eat it too.” Oy vey, Bibi. I know there is a long tradition of Jewish comedians. But please, for God’s sake, leave the jokes to us professionals.
And if you still don’t believe that Netanyahu lives in a world of “wondrous imagination,” you only had to listen to how he scolded anyone who might take Rouhani at his word:
The last century has taught us that when a radical regime with global ambitions gets awesome power, sooner or later its appetite for aggression knows no bounds.
Tell me about about it.
Of course, he addressed the Palestinian question briefly. He said he wanted to have successful negotiations where a new Palestinian state would be demilitarized. This is kind of like of saying a wife wants to have successful negotiations with her husband about how often they should go curtain shopping. He doesn’t want to go curtain shopping.
But just when I didn’t think Benjamin Netanyahu could sound any more cuckoo, he did:
In our time the Biblical prophecies are being realized. As the prophet Amos said, they shall rebuild ruined cities and inhabit them. They shall plant vineyards and drink their wine. They shall till gardens and eat their fruit.
Now, in the real world, you don’t get credit for rebuilding ruined cities if you’re the one who devastated and emptied them, stealing their vineyards and looting their gardens along the way. But in Netanyahu’s alternative universe, these stubborn facts don’t exist.
We all loved “The Twilight Zone.” It was beautifully imaginative and entertaining. But after watching each episode, we were always mindful of one thing. It was all a fantasy.
Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."
In politics one has to cater to the religious and gullible, they are the majority. He, like many successful politicians, does it well. Does he believe in what he says, I don’t think see. He just hopes others would. He is neither a “cuckoo”, nor a coocoo.
I’ve always enjoyed your political humor and great skill at writing these blogs. Somehow you make us laugh at things that shouldn’t be funny. Netanyahu has been dangerous since first sight. Keep up the good work.
I would like to respond to your Comedy Show in Dearborn last Friday (2nd show) that I attended. This might not be the right place, so please remove this from the posts after you’ve (hopefully) read it. I’ve written you before, and praised you for your blog, and once again on the way out of the show at the Arab Museum. The Comedy Show, you specifically, raised many issues that I’ve mulled over with my wife and now feel I should forward them to you hopefully to be taken as constructive criticism.
I was the white guy in the second row, who has been in that auditorium many times. I didn’t laugh as much as I had hoped, although you could tell the comics were trying hard to make everyone laugh. Some were obviously better than others. I especially enjoyed the woman from Chicago, and the big Palestinian guy. But you made me sort of uncomfortable, I must admit.
First I should say, we don’t attend many ‘comedy’ shows nowadays because ‘comedy’ has degenerated into scatological references, insults and contemporary references that my old mind is not familiar with. But we had hoped to hear some witty political humor, based on what I read in your blogs. But the rare references to politics was disappointing and the constant denigration of the ‘whites’ in the audience didn’t enamor us to the comics. By the way, you, if anyone, should know that Arabs are ‘white’ according to the Census that both you and I disagree with. It would have been more correct to title us ‘non-Arabs’ rather than ‘whites.’ But you and Ahmed constantly insulted those ‘non-Arabs’ that came to your show as being ‘lost,’ ‘guilty’ or ‘patronizing.’ After much thought I remember who you reminded me of: those narrow nationalist Blacks who refused to accept non-Blacks as equals in the struggle. Folks like Rev. Cleage, Malcolm X and others who I followed and supported closely regardless of their attitudes about my skin color. I knew WHY they held that position (because peope only looked at THEIR skin color) and was willing to overlook it. Same in your case. I know in the stand-up comic world (my wife did it for a few years) you have to read and get to know the audience as soon as possible to develop a comfort zone. Asking if there’s any Jews in the audience, and then with no reply from the audience, saying “that’s great! didn’t expect any” is to go against everything you write about in your political columns. Of course there are many progressive Jews, active in the struggle against the Occupation, and these would be the exact Jews that would show up at your shows in support, and you should welcome them with understanding and an open heart. But I guess that’s the world of comedy, and you have to get laughs wherever you can.
I’ll continue to read your columns, even though I have yet to see any ‘welcome light’ in your eyes.
Oh yeah, one last compliment. The evening was a nice diversion mostly free of scatological references, insults and contemporary references that my old mind is not familiar with. Except for the Arabic language jokes and cultural references that I couldn’t understand, that most Arabs in the room laughed uproariously, surprisingly, those were my favorite moments because honest uncontrollable laughter is infectious, regardless if you know what people are laughing at.
I think your show is very valuable and it’s the non-Arab audiences that also need to see it to break cultural stereotypes.
Peace and solidarity.