Imagined Communities: Netanyahu’s speech to US Congress

In his speech before the US Congress on Tuesday 24 May, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, notes how he suffers at the thought of having “to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland”. Very graciously – acting only from the noble aim of bringing peace to the region – Netanyahu promises to give up the “ancestral Jewish homeland” to Palestinians – although the land he will give back, and more besides, was in fact their homeland for the 2000 years before 1967.

Now, this is not easy for me. It’s not easy, because I recognize that in a genuine peace, we’ll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland. And you have to understand this: In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. (Cheers, applause.)

It is indeed possible to trace back some of the ancestors of Jews to people who once lived in the Levant in the first millennium BC (i.e. more than 2000 years ago). But Netanyahu – not afraid of grossly embellishing a kernel of truth when talking to fellow Chosen Peoples who believe the same myths – goes on to adds another millennium before that for good measure. And just to take the piss, Netanyahu then includes the two millennia after that (when, for most of it, very few Jews were there). (Rich Americans cheer and applaud.) Knowing that attack is the best defence when you’re talking complete shit to an audience that shares most of your myths, Netanyahu denounces any who would deny the “4000-year-old” [sic] history [sic] of Jews in Judea and Samaria, [sic] – claiming that it is they who present a “distortion of history” [sic]. (Rich Americans applaud vigourously.)

Netanyahu defends his “4000-year-old history” of Jews in the land with a reference to a figure of legend called Abraham, and a legendary story of a boy (David) who slays a Giant. Legendary founding figures and Giants, apparently, are not “distortions of history”. He also makes reference to a reactionary vision report by some unknown Judean who fantasized that Judea could one day rule the world in the same manner as the Persian Empire.

(The US Congress, recalling these stories from Sunday School, and so knowing they are thereby true, automatically applauds.)

We’re not the British in India. We’re not the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one god, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw his vision of eternal peace. No distortion of history — and boy am I reading a lot of distortions of history lately, old and new — no distortion of history could deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land. (Sustained applause.)

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