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October 17, 2015

Fact and fiction

Opinion

October 17, 2015

There is much for our leaders to learn from Netanyahu’s speech at the UN General Assembly. He proved one point – language can be effectively used as a tool to organise thought and speech, and more importantly to construct reality. Differences and similarities may be created and highlighted when in reality none exist.
A comparison of what the Israeli prime minister says and does and what our leaders say and do will make us realise the power-language nexus. Before attacking Iraq, Bush and Blair fooled the world by speaking persistently and passionately about “liberating Iraqi people from the tyranny of Saddam Hussain and getting rid of Iraq’s WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction)” which supposedly posed a real threat to the global security.
They also forcefully argued that Al-Qaeda, having been defeated in Afghanistan, had shifted its command and control structure to Iraq with the blessings of Saddam Hussain in order to destabilise the Gulf region. Everyone now knows that it was all rhetoric, a fabricated story.
The reality was that the US had been supporting Saddam Hussain, who was fighting a long war with Iran; that there was not a single WMD found in Iraq, and that the Sunni-Shia rift was created and promoted. The US had economic and strategic interests in the Gulf region that warranted a ‘shock and awe’ attack on Iraq.
Now see the other side. Saddam Hussain insisted he would annihilate Israel from the world map; he would use biological and chemical weapons against the US and its allies if pushed to the wall; and that his Republican Army would dig a mass grave for US troops in the region in order to teach a lesson to potential invaders. It was all rhetoric, a hoax. The reality? Period.
Now listen to Netanyahu speaking at the UN General Assembly. Read his body language and look at his choice of words. Iran was portrayed as an evil state with unquenching thirst for regional power; its attempts to orchestrate revolts in neighbouring

Sunni majority states; its role in spreading the dreaded ideology of Jihad; its ambitions to develop nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missile system; and most importantly its intentions to wipe out Israel.
In the midst of frequent thundering applause, he delved upon the enduring relationship with the civilised world built on the principles of shared human values and common destiny. He concluded with Israel’s prowess to defend itself (read: destroy others) and a call for imposing more economic sanctions on Iran.
All he said was mere rhetoric filled with false alarms, anecdotal evidence, and euphuisms to prove his points. What is the reality? The reality is that Israel possesses huge nuclear stockpiles; it has a huge appetite for expansion; it is a prime example of a rogue country violating international laws; and it is the source of all terrorism, by denying freedom to people in their own homeland.
The response from Muslim leaders has always been less than sober and prudent. They either become apologetic or fanatical in raising crucial issues at international forums like the UNGA. In the case of terrorism, for example, little is said about how unresolved disputes and global power politics in the Muslim world lead to violent extremism.
Religion only provides a veneer of justification for deep anguish against imperialism and fascism. Slogans such as ‘Death to America’, ‘End to Israel’, and ‘US is the greatest Satan’ etc do not help either.
Our leaders need to understand the rules of the game and the language of the times. The world we live in is harsh for demagogues. Honour, dignity, and progress require hard work more than basking in past glory; rationality more than insanity; and convergence more than divergence.
Let our leaders understand contemporary challenges and take hard decisions to ensure that no one in the Muslim world feels political alienation, economic deprivation, and social injustice. They must know that societies with enemies within need no external aggressors to obliterate them.
The writer teaches at FAST-NU, Peshawar.
Email: [email protected]

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