By Ramona Wadi
The near-absence of Palestine contrasted sharply with the promotion of Israel’s international positioning in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the UN General Assembly. This is not the first time that Palestine was side-lined in Israeli ministers’ speeches – the spectrum ranges from incessant incitement of ethnic cleansing to non-recognition. However, Netanyahu’s latest speech clearly indicates Israel’s focus on foreign policy is directly tied to the disappearance of Palestine from rhetoric. As a result, any action taken by Israel to colonise Palestine will, in future, meet with tacit complicity not only by the international community as a collective, but also regionally and by individual countries supporting Israel’s multi-faceted endeavours.
For the undiscerning, Israel was presented as an epitome of success in various fields, particularly those tied to surveillance, purported humanitarian aid and development of exploited countries. Netanyahu described the process of Israel’s current position as being “in the midst of a great revolution, a revolution in Israel’s standing among the nations.” A more apt description of Israel’s self-professed fame would include an assessment of how the international community allowed a colonial entity to thrive at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian people, allowing Israel to make claims which eliminates the duplicity it cherishes – namely promoting development while implementing the opposite in Palestine with the aim of expelling the entire population.
Reading Netanyahu’s complete speech, one realises that the rhetoric used reflects the propaganda that is routinely touted at an international level, including by UN officials during occasions when lauding the alleged advances is necessary to obliterate the organisation’s track record in destroying societies and promoting different forms of violence.
It is, therefore, no surprise that in the same vein, Netanyahu continued to lambast the UN regarding alleged anti-Israel bias, while at the same time making specific references to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ comments that denying Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitism. This latest cacophony which Israel has endeavoured to promote internationally will continue to serve as a generalised reference if ever the international community decides to state a stance of favour of decolonisation. By managing to disseminate a fabricated narrative at an international level and substantiate with action that can also be generalised under the wide spectrum of “humanitarian aid”, Israel is now closer to experimenting with the equation of oblivion.
With PA President Mahmoud Abbas seeking authoritarian control over Palestinians in the name of national unity and US President Donald Trump blatantly indulging in diplomatic delays, the space for forgetting is enlarging. Conversely, the fact that Palestinians have been rhetorically displaced as a prelude for further physical forced displacement should also create an insistence to the contrary. Absence creates a presence that cannot be displaced – historical narratives and collective memory, such as in the case of the disappeared, for example, have reinforced remembrance. If individual countries and the international community seek to alter this truth by capitulating to Netanyahu’s global requirements, the ramifications of such a decision will continue to fuel the contradiction between professed support for Palestinians and participation in their displacement from land and history.