“I speak on behalf of an angry people...” — Mahmoud Abbas at the 67th UN General Assembly address.
The yearly orations and political posturing at the disempowered assembly hall of the United Nations are over. Once again the elected and non-elected leaders of the new world order used their thirty minutes in the sun to lecture, to scare, to grandstand, to remind, and in the case of the Palestinians, to implore for justice in front of a powerless yet sympathetic audience which has been forced to turn its attention to phantom warnings of one non-existent bomb by a madman in the Middle East.
And I don’t mean Ahmadinejad.
In fact, if you suspend disbelief and look past the glaring duplicity of what his own government represents, all that talk of Rumi, poetry, and harmony between the children of Adam may have even given you the warm fuzzies, especially when followed by the ramblings of this year’s comic relief – Wyle Bibi Coyote.
Too bad political leaders are often deaf to their own preachings, as if reading from a script written by an alter ego in a foreign language. This year’s dueling event at the GA address was also marked by breathtaking hypocrisy as the Iranian leader orated on the interdependence of all human beings as limbs of the same body and lamented the killing of Bin-Laden without legal due process. All of this while hundreds of political activists languish in Tehran prisons, and homosexuals find themselves to be endangered species in their own land.
Ahmadinejad spoke of equality and Justice, apparently drawing a blank on the condition of women who live as second-class citizens, segregated -- indeed considered half their hairy counterparts in the eyes of Islamic law. And for those thriving on Israel hate-talk, he denounced the “Zionist regime” as a fake government, yet failing to address the irony of his own ascent to a second term in the now famous “where-is-my-vote” 2009 fraudulent elections.
Not to be outdone, Bibi drew on history to rebut the “fake” label by mapping out thousands of years of Jewish roots in the Middle East – blond and blue eyed included – evidently seeing no paradox in uprooting millions from the same land and relegated to ghetto existence. Then he reached out to garner world empathy for the primordial Jewish dream of return, knowing fully well these are the policies denying the same dream to millions of Palestinians in their homeland.
He mocked the outdated Islamic orders of the neighbouring states as throwbacks to the medieval ages, all the while quoting Abraham, Isaiah and Jeremiah; framing Jewish claim to the land of Israel in biblical terms; and he postured as the region’s only force of modernity, technology and progress as if the nuclear advances in Iran were resulting from black market dealings, rather than fruits of achievements of a highly educated population in the fields of math and sciences.
He spoke of the sacredness of life, of democracy and protection of the rights of people – all except that of the Palestinians of course. And of those who may perish in the eventual elective attack he lobbies for on a daily basis. He went on to hail the Israeli humanitarian compassionate efforts in Japan, Haiti and elsewhere, while dismissing his government’s direct hand in sustaining the catastrophic conditions of 1.7 million sardine-packed inhabitants of the 140 sq mile Gaza strip – a place described as “hell on earth” by those who have seen it first hand.
Finally, he lobbies daily for the U.S. to go to war with Iran based on self proclaimed unilateral red lines, while denouncing the desperate lone appeals for statehood and self determination by the Palestinians at the United Nations, the only international forum for such a plea, as unilateral -- therefore irrelevant.
At the end, the leadership in Israel and Iran have more in common than they realize – both rooted in hypocrisy, each needing the other to self legitimize as the rightful upholders of justice and the protectors of the persecuted – two sides of the same coin, one drawing on centuries of shi’i martyrdom; the other, exploiting Jewish collective victimization — the Islamic Republic, enjoying a welcome distraction to its widespread human rights abuses; Israel diverting world attention to something other than illegal and expanding settlements on stolen land.
Bibi will sorely miss Ahmadinejad when he finishes his term next year.
Polarizing figures are crucial to political maneuvering and divisive posturing. Meanwhile, for me, the takeaway was the haunting words of Mahmoud Abbas on the podium alarming the world of impending catastrophe in the holy land: “I am here on behalf of an angry people,” a sober forewarning of what is to come. If the recent events in the Middle East are any indication, the road map from hopelessness to violence and destruction should be self-evident, not that anyone’s listening.
I don’t know if Bibi’s red line on his toy bomb will get him the regime change he is hoping for, be it in the U.S. or Iran – but one thing's for sure. The regime now has a great excuse to step up production towards a real bomb – after all, they say, there is a crazy man on the loose in the neighborhood.
Firouzeh Afsharnia holds a Master of International Service from American University with a focus on Conflict and Africa; and MBA from University of Southern California. She is a former United Nations officer, consulted for the World Bank and served on multiple Election missions for the Carter Center in Nepal, DR Congo and Ivory Coast. She has lived and traveled extensively in Africa. She is a freelance writer and development consultant living in Los Angeles. www.conflicttalk.com