Opinion: Two performances

On Monday we were treated to two pieces of public performance art, one by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the other by Mahmoud Abbas, the closest thing the Palestinians have to an agreed national leader. Both performances were beyond bizarre, and taken together they demonstrate how politicians whose lives are dominated by the Arab-Israeli dispute are ultimately reduced to self-caricature.

Abbas’s contribution was a rambling 90-minute speech to the Palestinian National Council, the (unelected) legislature of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. It’s the first full meeting of the Council in 22 years, and an attempt by Abbas to restore some measure of legitimacy to his own position as President of the Palestinian Authority.

The ‘peace process’ has been dead for 20 years. President Trump is moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv up to Jerusalem despite anguished Palestinian protests. Hamas, the Islamist rival to Abbas’s Fatah movement, controls the Gaza Strip and almost half the Palestinian population in the occupied territories, and it doesn’t even deign to send delegates to Abbas’s meeting. So what was Abbas’s speech about? History.

Not even real history. Fantasy history, in which the Jews of Europe brought the Holocaust down upon themselves by choosing to fulfill a specific (and lucrative) ‘social function’. “The Jewish question that was widespread throughout Europe,” Abbas explained, “was not against their religion but against their social function which relates to usury and banking and such.”

Whatever Abbas may believe privately he would once have known better than to say such vile nonsense in public. But all hope is gone, and there is nothing useful left to say, so he just dredges up the weary old Holocaust denial stuff he played with as a student and serves it raw to an equally despairing audience.

Binyamin Netanyahu, by contrast, is on the winning side, and his contribution on Monday was an up-market, updated version of his celebrated performance at the United Nations in 2012. That was when he showed the General Assembly a child-like drawing of a bomb and warned the diplomats that Iran would have a nuclear weapon by 2013.

In 2015 Tehran agreed to allow strict international inspections to guarantee that no work on nuclear weapons, even of the most preliminary sort, would be done for the next ten years. Netanyahu, who is paranoid on the subject, would have greatly preferred a ‘pre-emptive’ attack on Iran — and now he has an ally in Donald Trump, who also wants to kill the 2015 deal.

So Bibi did another show-and-tell performance on prime-time Israeli television, all in English and aimed at the global audience, in which he sorta kinda claimed that Iran was cheating on the agreement and still working on nuclear weapons. One of the visuals even said (in metre-high letters) “Iran lied.”

Netanyahu didn’t lie, of course; politicians seldom do. He just stood in front of aerial photos and images of documents and talked about recently acquired Iranian secret documents that showed the country had an active nuclear weapons program. And it was all true — except that the Iranian program in question was mostly closed down in 2003, and completely dead by 2009.

“There was nothing there,” said Alexandra Bell, senior policy director at the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. “There was nothing the International Atomic Energy Agency didn’t know, and all the theatrics and circa-2004 PowerPoint were a bit silly.” So why did Netanyahu do it?

Partly it was to provide something resembling a justification for his friend Trump’s forthcoming abandonment of the 2015 Iran deal. People who were not paying close attention might walk away from Netanyahu’s dog-and-pony show thinking he had proved that Iran was cheating on its commitments.

But mainly he did it because he lives in a political environment so polarized, so toxic, that people who are immersed in it gradually lose touch with reality. Even as Netanyahu carefully manipulated the facts in order to create a false impression, at another level he probably believed that he was expressing a deeper truth. He’s a winner, not a loser, but he is just as much trapped on the wheel as Abbas.

Gwynne Dyer’s new book, ‘Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy (and Work)’, is published this month by Scribe in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand.

Just Posted

WATCH: Red Deer walks to reduce stigma associated with schizophrenia

First annual Strides for Hope walk takes place across Alberta

Thunderstorm watch issued for Red Deer, Central Alberta

Environment Canada warns of possible thunderstorms in area

High school students’ art work on display in downtown Red Deer

Select pieces will be at St. Joseph High School’s Cultural Street Fair May 30

Central Alberta athletes shine on the track at CASAA Zone Track and Field Championships

Lindsay Thurber Raiders athlete Hayley Lalor took the win in the senior girls individual aggregate

Trudeau defends $600-million price tag for G7 summit in Quebec town of La Malbaie

LA MALBAIE, Que. — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is defending the hefty… Continue reading

Weather now co-operating with evacuation of fire-threatened communities

WINNIPEG — The weather is now co-operating with efforts to evacuate some… Continue reading

Canadian auto sector observers doubt U.S. will carry through on tariff threat

Canadian auto industry observers are reacting with shock and disbelief to news… Continue reading

Bus bursts into flames on parkway; driver, passengers safe

HOLMDEL, N.J. — Authorities say a bus driver and about two dozen… Continue reading

Facebook won’t pay compensation for Cambridge Analytica case

BRUSSELS — Facebook said Thursday it will not compensate users in the… Continue reading

Five standout tracks from Shawn Mendes’ vulnerable new self-titled album

TORONTO — Shawn Mendes is slowly letting the world capture a glimpse… Continue reading

Canadians confused about GM foods, support mandatory labelling: study

HALIFAX — The vast majority of Canadians believe genetically modified foods should… Continue reading

Bucks’ Brown decries ‘police intimidation’ during arrest

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee police chief has apologized to Sterling Brown and… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month