Incendiary language in U.N. address renders efforts futile

Last Friday, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas delivered an incendiary address to the United Nations General Assembly. His speech was packed with fighting words — rhetoric that, in an ironic twist, has turned out to be points of weakness. WEB_dt-palestine

Though his proposal to end Israeli occupation in the West Bank expresses his people’s frustrations well, Abbas’s fiery language empowers the wrong people in this struggle to bridge the Israeli-Palestinian rift.

“War of genocide,” “racism” and “war machine” on Israel’s part are just a few of the strong, provocative words included in Abbas’s address. No doubt he has reason to use these loaded terms. In an Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’s Gaza Emergency Situation Report, the Palestinian death toll totaled 2,104 — 69 percent of which consisted of civilian casualties.

His very human account of the conflict gives those statistics depth and a glimpse into understanding things from the perspective of the Palestinians.

“The occupying Power has chosen to defy the entire world by launching its war on Gaza,” Abbas said. “Its jets and tanks brutally assassinated lives and devastated the homes, schools and dreams of thousands of Palestinian children, women and men in reality destroying the remaining hopes for peace.”

Yet, for each line that sheds light on the Palestinian side of the story, there are a dozen accusations of genocide that draw attention away from that plea for peace.

The cutting responses from the United States and Israel show how Abbas’s choice of words has backfired on him. “President Abbas’s speech today included offensive characterizations that were deeply disappointing and which we reject,” said Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the State Department.

Just as expected, the “offensive characterizations” are the focus of attention while lines that talk about Abbas’s commitment to maintaining “respect and commitment to international law” don’t seem to be worth mentioning. In their place, lines such as, “We will not forget and we will not forgive” are easily taken out of context to empower the Israeli right wing in painting Abbas as a warmonger, misrepresenting his message and worse, letting go of a chance at peace.

Ironically, it is Abbas’s own words that bear fault. Instead of repeatedly condemning Israel as the bad guy while intermittently inserting his desire for peace, Abbas should have delivered his message with more finesse and consistency. It is definitely understandable to call out the atrocities committed against his people, but not in a way that will cut off all chance of negotiation in the future. Abbas labeled Israel as an enemy when he could have approached the conflict in a way that left the past behind so that an agreement could be reached.

Though Abbas’s efforts “[to aspire] to correct the deficiency” of past negotiations were admirable, his delivery was not. Rather than help his case at ending conflict, the speech seems to have given opponents the power to paint him as a diplomat who has “lost all touch with reality,” as Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Liberman put it.

“It is impossible, and I repeat — it is impossible — to return to the cycle of negotiations that failed to deal with the substance of matter and the fundamental question,” Abbas declared. It’s clear that he’s fed up with talks that lead nowhere, but the bad news is, his own speech seems to be headed down that same road.


Valerie Yu is a junior majoring in English. She is also the editorial director of the Daily Trojan. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Tuesdays.


3 replies
  1. William Buttrey
    William Buttrey says:

    I don’t consider President Abbas’ terminology ‘loaded’ but rather painfully accurate. That the response from the US and Israel was predictable in its condemnation merely highlights the fact that the US has long stood in the way of accountability for Israel in the UN and the world community.

    • Arafat
      Arafat says:


      Why is it Muslims are free to violently conquer lands anywhere and everywhere without a word of protest from American Muslims, or any Muslims or any liberals?

      But if Jews have a legally established homeland Muslims and
      Liberals and their ilk will never stop protesting against it? Why is this do
      you suppose? What explanation can be given other than as the Qur’an states
      repeatedly that Islam’s goal is to establish a worldwide caliphate in which all
      non-Muslims are subjugated.

      For instance, Mohammed was born around 571 AD thousands and
      thousands of years after Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism existed. But within a few centuries of Mohammed’s birth Islam had violently conquered vast sections of Asia, all of North Africa and smaller sections of Southern Europe.

      Now Muslims tell us that all this land belongs to them even
      though, for instance, in Afghanistan they killed every last Buddhist who once
      lived there. According to Muslim logic per Israel shouldn’t this land belong to
      the Buddhists?

      Or in North Africa all the Berbers have been forcibly
      converted to Islam or have been killed and now we’re told all this vast
      landmass belongs to Islam. That’s interesting, if not completely hypocritical.

      And what about Southern Thailand. Did anyone know that in
      the last several years something like 5,000 Buddhists have been killed by
      Muslims because, or so we’re told, the land the Buddhists are on belongs to

      And Southern Russia? Muslims are relentlessly waging a slow
      reign of terror in Russia because, you guessed it, Russians are treating
      Muslims poorly and they should give up the Southern section of that country to
      Muslims since Islam deserves all lands.

      Or, let’s take Sudan as another example. How many millions
      have been killed in Sudan? How many babies and children have starved in Sudan while Islamists steal the food from aid compounds? How many women have Muslims gang-raped in Sudan all because that land belongs to Muslims and only Muslims. All other people can go somewhere else to live, I guess. They can go to South Sudan, but wait a minute, now Muslims are killing the people of South Sudan too.

      And Kashmir? The same. Despite Hindus having lived there for 3,000 years – something like 2,000+ years before Mohammed was born – Muslims tell us Kashmir belongs to them. Amazing logic isn’t it? Muslim logic, I guess.

      And that brings us to Israel. Israel also belongs to Islam too. Did you know that? It’s true. Just ask a Muslim or a liberal if you prefer. Even though it’s no bigger than a small pimple on the caliphate’s ass it is still their land and they will fight to the death to prove their point.

      Doesn’t the logic here make a lot of sense. Isn’t it as clear as day? Of course it does. The world belongs to Islam and we’re mere players on their stage.

  2. Arafat
    Arafat says:

    You left out the part where Israel removed all settlements from Gaza in exchange for peace, but let’s not worry ourselves with minor details, for we all know this is not about seeking truth and justice so much as it is about besmirching Israel.

    But the noble Hamas-led Palestinians – as is typical of their good neighbor policy-
    tore up that treaty with Israel, and no sooner had the Israeli settlers left
    than the Palestinians started lobbing rocket, after rocket, after rocket into
    Israel. But this is a mere detail, and as noble college students and editorialists we should not be bothered with such trivia.

    Instead welcome to our fantasy-world where we pretend that it is the poor-poor Hamas who are the victims: the good guys in our fictional depiction of this conflict. For we all know Hamas is an ethical and loving organization for whom respect for core values such as women’s rights, gay rights, Jew’s rights, freedom of conscience, the sanctity of life – are all paramount.

    In short, Orwell could not make this crap up it is that far detached from reality.

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