The late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
That those words even needed uttering was an indication of how convoluted the application of free speech was growing a few decades ago. But Moynihan didn’t know the half of it. Today, the motto that is being imposed on and embraced by the Free World is that “everyone is entitled to his own facts, but not to his own opinion.”
It is for this reason that nobody is allowed to hold a dim view of Islam without paying a deadly price for it, yet official information provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear progress is debated “rationally” in TV studios and on op-ed pages.
It is thus, too, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to open his address to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday by restating the Jews’ biblical connection to the Land of Israel. So disputed has this fact become that the beleaguered democracy living in a sea of increasingly radical Islamist regimes has been put not only on the political, ideological and military defensive, but on the historical one, as well.
This was also at the root of Netanyahu’s reiteration of the number of Jews exterminated in the Holocaust — something that should be taken for granted by now. Instead, however, the only thing that seemed to be assumed this week was the attendance at the U.N. General Assembly of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose ambitions for nuclear and Islamist hegemony — proven repeatedly in word and deed — are being treated as “matters of opinion.”
So, after trying to set the facts straight, Netanyahu tried to tackle opposing opinions. “There are those who believe that a nuclear-armed Iran can be deterred like the Soviet Union,” he said. “That’s a very dangerous assumption. Militant jihadists behave very differently from secular Marxists. There were no Soviet suicide bombers. Yet Iran produces hordes of them. Deterrence worked with the Soviets, because every time the Soviets faced a choice between their ideology and their survival, they chose their survival. But deterrence may not work with the Iranians once they get nuclear weapons.”
Quoting Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis, Netanyahu then asserted, “For the Ayatollahs of Iran, mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent, it’s an inducement. Iran’s apocalyptic leaders believe that a medieval holy man will reappear in the wake of a devastating Holy War, thereby ensuring that their brand of radical Islam will rule the earth. That’s not just what they believe. That’s what is actually guiding their policies and their actions.”
No kidding. But try telling that to U.S. President Barack Obama, who is still hell-bent on giving diplomacy and sanctions a shot. And while he’s at it, he wants to make crystal clear to non-Muslims that making fun of Muhammad is a major no-no.
Netanyahu doesn’t need to be told this. He is in no mood for jokes right now, what with Iranian nuclear material being amassed by leaders threatening to finish off the job that Hitler started. Oh, right, except for when they deny the existence of the Nazi death camps, which they do when it suits them. In any case, the gas chambers of Auschwitz are relegated to all that murky “fact” territory.
All the Israeli prime minister is focused on at this point is getting Obama on board, if not to agree to an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, then at least to setting “red lines” for Tehran. This is something the American president does not want to do, because it would mean having to act on it if and when the lines got crossed.
Still, Netanyahu has not abandoned hope — rhetorically, at least — for persuading Washington to reconsider its position. “Red lines don’t lead to war,” he assured. “Red lines prevent war. Look at NATO’s charter: it made clear that an attack on one member country would be considered an attack on all. NATO’s red line helped keep the peace in Europe for nearly half a century. President Kennedy set a red line during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That red line also prevented war and helped preserve the peace for decades.”
He then went on to suggest that other conflicts would have been prevented had red lines been imposed, such as on the Nazis during the 1930s and on Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 1990, before hitting the audience with a classic Netanyahu weapon — one at which he has always been adept at using effectively: He took out a chart. With this prop, he illustrated the workings of nuclear bomb production, detailing fuses and detonators, and offering a timeline for their being made operational.
Netanyahu’s reliance on such relevant facts may have been a brilliant lead-in to his final plea for the red lines he claimed would cause Iran to “back down.” But it was met with the same old brush-off by the Obama administration as it has been for the last few weeks.
“…The United States and Israel share the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor responded to Netanyahu’s speech. “We will continue our close consultation and cooperation toward achieving that goal.”
On Nov. 10, 1975, Moynihan stood up at the U.N. and denounced the “Zionism is Racism” resolution, calling it an “infamous act.” His forceful speech was considered controversial. U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told him he should be “more diplomatic.” Even American Jews were slow to laud his performance. Other members of the diplomatic community shrugged at the resolution, saying its contents were “just words.”
“Words matter,” Moynihan retorted.
Netanyahu knows this all too well in relation to Ahmadinehad. Now he needs to internalize that Obama’s words are equally significant. This may be an opinion to which he, as the head of a country dependent on American backing, is not entitled. But it is a cold, hard fact nevertheless.
Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring,’" now available on Amazon and in bookstores in Europe and North America.