Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (a.k.a. Bibi) Netanyahu is known for exploiting visual aids to maximize the impact of his message. Last Thursday during his speech to the UN General Assembly he asked, "How much enriched uranium do you need for a bomb? And how close is Iran to getting it? Well, let me show you. I brought a diagram.'' Then he showed what has since been called the Bibi-bomb, and proceeded to use a marker to draw a red line across what he said was a threshold that Iran was approaching and that Israel could not tolerate - 90 percent of the way to the uranium enrichment needed to make a nuclear weapon.
The talk was all part of a well-prepared and over-played theatric, and as we have come to expect from the master of lies and deception, it was all lies. Netanyahu claimed that Iran's nuclear program was very close to producing uranium enriched to the level of 70 percent purity, and that to build a bomb, it would have to convert that uranium to above 90 percent, which would only take less than a year, even as early as by early Spring next year.
Netanyahu's claims twist well-known scientific facts and distort Iran's current capabilities, let alone the intention. Uranium has to be enriched way beyond 90% (typically above 95%) to make a nuclear bomb. More importantly, as the latest IAEA report, released on August 30, shows Iran's enrichment of uranium (LEU) remains at 19.75% (below 20%), and nowhere close to the false claims made by Netanyahu. The report also said that while Iran has more than doubled the number of centrifuges at the underground facility at Fordow, from 1,064 centrifuges in May to 2,140 centrifuges in August, the number of operating centrifuges had not increased. The report said that since 2010 Iran had produced about 190 kg of 20%-enriched uranium, up from 145 kg in May. The report also noted that Iran had converted approx. half of the 20%-enriched uranium to an oxide form and fabricated into fuel for use in research reactors, and that once this conversion and fabrication have taken place, the fuel cannot be readily enriched to weapon-grade purity. [Note: If Iran intended to make bomb, why would it convert LEU to the oxide form?]
The IAEA Director General's report "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran" to the Board of Governors also said, "Since Iran began enriching uranium at its declared facilities, it has produced at those facilities approximately: 6876 kg (+679 kg since the previous report) of UF6 enriched up to 5% U-235; 189.4 kg (+43.8 kg since the previous report) of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235."
So, where is Netanyahu getting his information about Iran's enrichment program reaching close to 70% that no one else seems to know? Is he trying to deceive the world community the same way he did back in 2002? It is worth pointing out that Netanyahu's comments on Iraq in 2002 were almost verbatim what he is now saying about Iran. Fooled us once, shame on you -- Netanyahu; don't try to fool us twice!
As noted by Prof. Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, an expert on Iran, Netanyahu has been predicting an Iranian nuclear bomb since 1992 (a time when Iran had no nuclear program at all), and he has been wrong for more than a decade. Even his own ministers and other Israeli officials have said publicly that Iran has not decided to go for a nuclear weapon. The IAEA inspectors have not found anything to remotely suggest that Iran is developing a bomb. Iran's supreme leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei has given more than one formal religious edict stating unequivocally that making and stockpiling nuclear weapons are absolutely haram or forbidden under Islamic law. "Netanyahu is in a position similar to that of someone who wants to argue that Pope Benedict XVI secretly has a condom factory operating in the Vatican," noted Prof. Cole.
There is absolutely no way that Iran can make a nuclear bomb under IAEA's watchful eyes. And no country has ever developed a nuclear weapon under active inspection by the UN. [Note: both India and Pakistan, like Israel, developed bombs as non-signatories to the NPT.]
So, what drives the Israeli leaders like Netanyahu to twist facts deliberately? The reason behind Israel's false allegations against Iran has much to do with its strategy towards cutting off support base for the Palestinian cause. Under the pretext of disarming Iraq of the never-to-be-found WMD, Iraq has already been decimated and Saddam Hossein removed, and now if Iran can be destroyed similarly, Israeli leaders surmise that there won't be any serious advocate for the Palestinian cause left behind.
What the sly and disingenuous Israeli leaders won't publicly tell us is that they have no desire to let Palestinians ever attain statehood. That is why, in spite of objections from the world community, they continue to build settlements after settlements in the West Bank, violating several UN Resolutions. Under the pretext of conducting negotiation, their policy is to drag the process as long as it takes so as to truncate the Palestinian Territory with hundreds of illegal settlements thus making a Palestinian state impossible to even imagine. Stateless and without citizenship rights, the Palestinian people would then have to embrace the tragic fate of the forgotten Rohingyas of Myanmar. And that would be the end of the Palestinian dream for statehood.
But Israel can't do the job of destruction alone without a powerful backer. It is there it needs its greatest benefactor - the USA. According to Prof. Cole, "Israel's policy has long been to use its close relationship with the United States to domesticate or destroy any country in the region that gives hope to the Palestinians that they might one day get their own state. Now, Iran is more or less the last man standing."
Already, a highly demeaning ad to dehumanize the Palestinian cause (and insult Muslims) has been posted in some of the major cities (e.g., San Francisco, New York) by a pro-Israeli, Islamophobic hate-group - American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). The ad reads, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad." The AFDI is run jointly by Islamophobes Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, and is funded by some powerful Jewish and 'Israel-first' Christian financiers.
I am, however, not surprised by such Goebbels-style propaganda tactics. After all, a slave learns from its master! And surely, Pam and Bibi have learned the trade quite well.
But can such hatemongering against Iran and fear-mongering against Palestinians hoodwink our social-media savvy generation from seeing and hearing what are so obvious?
In his speech, the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shattered all the myths to be propagated a few minutes later from the same UN podium by Netanyahu. He said that the Palestinian people are facing ethnic cleansing. He said, "During the past months, attacks by terrorist militias of Israeli settlers have become a daily reality, with at least 535 attacks perpetrated since the beginning of this year. We are facing relentless waves of attacks against our people, our mosques, churches and monasteries, and our homes and schools; they are unleashing their venom against our trees, fields, crops and properties, and our people have become fixed targets for acts of killing and abuse with the complete collusion of the occupying forces and the Israeli Government."
Is this how Netanyahu is protecting "the rights of all our citizens: men and women, Jews and Arabs, Muslims and Christians - all are equal before the law?" Oh, I forgot, Palestinians are not citizens, so, as 'stateless' people, they don't apply here!
Abbas's statement below clearly challenges Netanyahu's claim about equality before Israeli law: "The escalation of settler attacks should not surprise anyone, for it is the inherent byproduct of the continuation of occupation and a government policy that deliberately fosters the settlements and settlers and deems their satisfaction to be an absolute priority. And, it is the inherent byproduct of the racist climate fueled by a culture of incitement in the Israeli curriculum and extremist declarations, which are rife with hatred and are rooted in a series of discriminatory laws created and enacted over the years against the Palestinian people, as well as by the security apparatus and courts, which provide excuse after excuse for the settlers' crimes and for their accelerated release should one of them happen to be arrested, and by official and military commissions of inquiry, which fabricate justifications for soldiers who have committed what are clearly considered to be war crimes and perpetrated acts of murder, torture and abuse of peaceful civilians."
In his speech, Netanyahu bloated about Israel's compassionate nature. But the reality is quite opposite. Abbas complained of Israeli policy, "It is a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people via the demolition of their homes and prevention of their construction; the revocation of residency rights; the denial of basic services, especially with regard to construction of school; the closure of institutions; and the impoverishment of Jerusalem's community via a siege of walls and checkpoints that are choking the City and preventing millions of Palestinians from freely accessing its mosques, churches, schools, hospitals and markets." He continued, "At the same time, the occupying Power continues to tighten the siege and impose severe restrictions on movement, preventing the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) from implementing vital infrastructure projects and providing services to its citizens, who are also being prevented from cultivating their land and deprived of water for irrigation. It is also obstructing the establishment of agricultural, industrial, tourism and housing projects by the private sector in vast areas of the Occupied Palestinian Authority, which are classified as areas subject to the absolute control of the occupation, which encompasses approximately 60% of the West Bank. The occupying Power continues to deliberately demolish what the PNA is building, projects funded by donor brethren and friends, and destroying PNA projects involving the building of roads, simple homes for its citizens and agricultural facilities. In fact, over the past 12 months, the Israeli occupying forces demolished 510 Palestinian structures in these areas and displaced 770 Palestinians from their homes. These illegal measures have caused great damage to our economy and impeded our development programs and private sector activity, compounding the socio-economic difficulties being endured by our people under occupation, a fact confirmed by international institutions."
Need I go any further to show Netanyahu's pyramid of lies?
So, Mr. Netanyahu, if you are for freedom, then tear down the walls of occupation and settlements and let the Palestinian people live free within the pre-1967 border. That is the least you could do to show your real worth. The road to Palestinian statehood does not require endless, marathon sessions but only the sincere intent. Do you have that?
And by the way, Mr. Netanyahu, before you lecture about intolerance of radical Muslims, you should have said (as so brilliantly coined by Justin Raymond of the antiwar.com), "Militant Judaism has many branches, from the Washington offices of AIPAC to the center of Jewish power in Tel Aviv - but they're all rooted in the same soil of intolerance." That would have been more appropriate.
It is really disheartening to witness how the war criminals and liars like Netanyahu are trying not only to whitewash their monumental crimes against the Palestinian people whose lands they have illegally occupied but also have the audacity to behave like the jury, judge and executioner to eliminate their innocent victims.
Contrary to Netanyahu's claims, today the great battle is being waged between the forces of justice and injustice, between the forces of freedom and occupation, between truth and falsehood. And surely, falsehood cannot win, not for too long -- any way. Israeli leaders cannot win in this battle to win the mind of people. They are bound to be defeated.
Dr Habib Siddiqui has authored 10 books. His latest book - Devotional Stories - is now available from A.S. Noordeen, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.