When the Israeli Prime Minister got up in the United Nations and asked “In what moral universe does genocide include warning the enemy’s civilian population to get out of harm’s way?”, he made a number of embarrassing rhetorical mistakes, especially when one recalls that Binyamin Netanyahu is considered a virtuoso in the field. He repeated the absurd accusation of genocide to an audience which included those who may not have heard it, and by even referring to it, gave it validity.
He also asked a question whose answer, especially considering the audience, was far from obvious. They might reply, much like Jon Stewart, “where can they run?”, thus turning Israel’s sincere attempt to protect civilian lives into a cynical PR exercise to “adhere to international standards” without really intending to avoid civilian deaths.
Worst of all, he is effectively asking permission. He places himself at the judgment of his audience. Even if the crowd itself were on his side, this is nevertheless a fundamentally flawed approach. It grants the crowd power no self-respecting state would grant it. Whether Netanyahu appeals to his citizens or judges, he should be placing before them a fait accompli and not a murky vote. The right of Israel to defend itself should not even be up for debate. To take it off the agenda, Israel needs to do a very simple rhetorical move: take it off the agenda. The idea is so absurd it’s not even worth addressing. [...]
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