Israeli hypocrisy on a nuclear
Middle East By Thalif Deen
When world leaders packed their bags and
headed home last week, there was one lingering
memory of the General Assembly's high-level
debate: Benjamin Netanyahu's dramatic presentation
of a cartoonish nuclear red line, which hit the
front pages of most mainstream newspapers in the
The Israeli prime minister
warned Iran against crossing that red line even
though the Jewish state itself had crossed it when
it went nuclear many moons ago.
Rabbani, contributing editor to the Middle East
Report, told IPS, "The real absurdity of Netanyahu
lecturing the world about nuclear weapons was
precisely that - an Israeli leader
lecturing the world about
the dangers of nuclear proliferation in the Middle
The fact of the matter is that not
only is Israel the region's sole nuclear power,
and not only has it on previous occasions all but
threatened to use these weapons of mass
destruction, but it has since its establishment
consistently and steadfastly rejected ratification
of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),
"It's a bit like listening
to (Hustler magazine publisher) Larry Flynt
denouncing pornography - though to be fair to
Flynt, it's unlikely he will reach the levels of
hypocrisy displayed by Netanyahu," said Rabbani, a
Middle East expert who has written extensively on
the politics of the volatile region.
Still, most Middle East leaders, speaking
during the high-level debate here, seem to have
accepted Israel's double standards on nuclear
politics - and with hardly an aggressive response
to Netanyahu's address to the Assembly.
Besides standard bearers like Jordan's
King Abdullah and Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas, the new generation of Arab leaders who
addressed the General Assembly included Mohamed
Morsi of Egypt, Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour
Hadi, Libya's Mohamed Yousef El Magarief and
Tunisia's Moncef Marzouki.
As one Asian
diplomat put it, "Netanyahu's nuke-oriented speech
ended with a bang while the speeches of most
Middle East leaders ended with a whimper."
Asked why Arab leaders were reticent, Ian
Williams, a senior analyst at Foreign Policy in
Focus and Deadline Pundit, told IPS, "Perhaps one
of the problems is that Arab leaders and their
people are so aware that Israel has nuclear
weapons they do not realize how much of a taboo
subject it is in the West.
"So while they
have on other occasions referred to Israel's
nuclear capacity, they were slow to riposte on the
flagrant hypocrisy of Netanyahu posturing with a
cutout card bomb while standing on 200 real ones,"
said Williams, a longstanding observer of Middle
Even as Iran continues
to insist that its nuclear program is only for
peaceful purposes, Israel continues to taunt the
As Netanyahu told delegates last
week, "The relevant question is not when Iran will
get the bomb but at what stage can we no longer
stop Iran from getting the bomb."
told IPS, "Many observers commented on the -
literally and figuratively - cartoonish nature of
his remarks, replete with a Looney Tunes graphic
of a bomb with fuse.
"If Netanyahu wanted
to present a point of view with potential
interest, he would instead have explained why
Israel remains committed to rejecting the
long-standing Egyptian initiative for a Middle
East free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of
mass destruction, and more importantly, why Israel
only days before Netanyahu mounted the U.N. podium
rejected participation in the Helsinki conference
to be held later this year and backed by the US,
to debate the establishment of a nuclear-weapons
free zone in the Middle East," Rabbani added.
He said Arab leaders appear not to have
directly challenged Israel's war-mongering towards
Iran - in part because some Arab states
desperately hope such an attack materializes.
Others either do not want to strain
relations with influential Arab states for whom
containment of Iran is their primary foreign
policy objective, or risk tensions with Washington
by being seen as supporting Iran in its conflict
"It is a very different Arab
world than existed mere decades ago. Yet it is
also beginning to change, and is in the process of
a fundamental transformation," Rabbani said.
Thus Egyptian President Morsi devoted more
than a few words to the Palestine question, and
spoke about it in ways that were unthinkable
during the Mubarak era. "Expect to see more of the
same in years ahead," he said.
also said there is a growing perception in the
Middle East that the United States is going the
way of the British and French before them, that
its imperial moment is behind it and that "we are
witnessing the gradual decline of American
influence in the region."
This in part
helps explain why so many Arab leaders felt the
need to harp on about the controversy ignited by
the ludicrous yet patently offensive video clip
"Innocence of Muslims", which ignited protests
throughout the Muslim world.
or at least reports about it, caused genuine
outrage in the region. And condemning this clip
was a convenient method for leaders known to be
excessively close to Washington to demonstrate
they haven't yet surrendered that final shred of
national dignity," Rabbani said.
said Morsi was relatively circumspect in
addressing the controversial video.
"Christian leaders in the West have called
for blasphemy laws to be applied in the past and
few countries are absolutists on free speech. His
approach was balanced with nuances to head off
criticism at home and abroad," Williams added.
"His engagement of Iran over Syria did of
course challenge the US-Israeli consensus, but he
is not alone and already seems to have produced
some results since (Iranian President Mahmud)
Ahmedinijad's discursive speech did not mention