Netanyahu’s Address to Congress: A Lesson on Courage

March 5, 2015

Picture by Speaker John Boehner, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed quite the hubris Tuesday. The fact that he was able to preach at the podium of a man whom he insulted to get there showed tremendous gall. The fear-mongering he engaged in, making nuclear war seem on the threshold, was fascinating. While Nancy Pelosi found these types of scare tactics “condescending” to our intelligence, it took confidence to talk to grown men and women in that manner and expect them to believe it. A man who encouraged the Iraq invasion and still has no hesitation in asking others to again listen to his alarm bells about weapons of mass destruction is an awe-inspiring individual.

Along with the scare tactics and the insults to the President, Netanyahu gave a speech full of exaggerations and no real substance. Apart from totally misrepresenting his “friend,” Secretary of State John Kerry, who made comments about the number of centrifuges Iran has, Netanyahu’s speech was fraught with numerous exaggerations. For example, he equated Iran with ISIS. Netanyahu is a politician and a salesman - he knows very well that it’s intellectually dishonest to equate a Shia theocracy with a terror group borne of ex-Baathists. Netanyahu accused Iran with a straight face of taking over territory in the Middle East while dismissing the irony of his support for settlements “gobbling up” Palestinian lands.

When it came to alternatives, Netanyahu was skimpy. Perhaps if one were to think not-so-long about it, one would find there actually was an alternative to a nuclear deal - Netanyahu’s implicit call for military action against Iran.

But debunking Netanyahu’s claims and exaggerations is a futile exercise. Anyone who knows the field also knows this is not about logic - it’s about politics. At the end of the day, he wants Iran to be undermined economically and even militarily, crippling that nation, if not destroying it similar to the military intervention in Iraq. So what does this mean for the United States?

We must recognize when our interests diverge from any foreign nation’s. In this case, being pro-Israel should not mean putting American interests on the back-burner. It is in our interests to make sure that there is a way to ensure Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons. Instead, if the world had access to Iran’s nuclear program and had verifiable, transparent ways of ensuring Iran was using technology for purely peaceful purposes, then American interests would be achieved in the most effective way possible.

We must be encouraged by the nearly 60 Members of Congress who saw the speech as a political ploy for Netanyahu’s domestic audience in Israel, and a major insult to the the office of the presidency. These Members saw that allowing a foreign leader to intervene in such a way was degrading to our country.

American Muslims and all people of conscience must encourage putting American interests above all others. The first step is to contact the Members who boycotted the speech and thank them for their decision. We must offer support to those who took politically-risky decisions in order to stand up for principles, the ones who chose values over politics - the ones who showed true courage.




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