Creating people's geographies
Any good panel moderator knows that maintaining the integrity of debates involves allowing equal time and consistently and impartially applying rules to speakers. That debate in which Turkish PM Erdoğan walked out involved deliberately unequal times for speakers (see my calculations of actual speaking times in parentheses below for each panel member, and video of full debate below).
A decision was made to confer up to 25 minutes to israeli President Shimon Peres because, as this NYT blog post rationalises, “Mr. Peres was alone in defending the Israeli role in Gaza, which is why he was given the final 25 minutes to speak. Earlier, Mr. Erdoğan had spoken for 12 minutes about the sufferings of the Palestinians.” This is a flimsy excuse; whether or not Moussa and Erdoğan were advocates for justice does not at all mean that Peres should receive free rein or longer time; nor were there were any Palestinian speakers.
The debate in full, below, also shows a fawning David Ignatius — a columnist with The Washington Post who happens to be of Armenian Jewish descent and who supported the invasion of Iraq as “just and defensible” — introducing israeli President Peres by claiming, “No one has worked longer or harder on this thing we call the peace process than you have.” Quite apart from Erdogan’s dramatic departure, the more significant story of Peres being given a substantially longer platform to air his patently false apologia for israel’s unconscionable actions is the speech itself.
As Paul Woodward at the excellent War in Context points out,
Right now, the press has much less interest in exposing Peres’ lies than it has in the headline-grabbing moment — the point at which Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan left the stage in reaction to the insulting behavior of the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.
The real story — the story that an obsequious press corps has chosen to under-report — was a tirade from Shimon Peres that should rank on a par with Nikita Kruschev’s outburst at the United Nations in 1960 when he pounded his shoe in protest.
Woodward quotes from Peres’ shameless lies with refutational embedded links:
“Why did they fire at us? What did they want? We didn’t occupy. There was never a day of starvation in Gaza. By the way, Israel is the supplier of water daily to Gaza. Israel is the supplier of fuel to Gaza.”
Peres’ rant meandered incoherently and inconsistently, with a number of strange statements and complete lies that reveal the chasm between Israel and reality. Richard Silverstein also breaks down Peres’ display of histrionics, which he aptly describes as “shabby and loud-mouthed”, in more detail:
Here are a few of the stranger statements: he claimed that Israel could not accept the Saudi 2002 initiative because “there was a small problem of Iran” which wishes to rule the Middle East. Peres also claimed that Hamas did not win a democratic election. Rather Mahmoud Abbas DID win an election as president of the Palestinians. Peres also claimed there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza; that Israel supplies all the water, fuel and electricity that Gaza needs; and that if there is a problem he would personally intervene to correct it.
Israel’s president touted the work of his Peres Center, for bringing 5,500 Palestinian children to Israeli hospitals to be “cured” of their illnesses. He bragged that every Israeli hospital has Arab doctors who can communicate with these patients. The level of cultural condesenscion and nobless oblige in these remarks was rather astonishing.
Peres weirdly asked why Hamas wouldn’t turn to the path of negotiation, and then promptly said that Israel could never negotiate with a Palestinian government that included terrorist thugs like Hamas.
In contrast to Peres’ 25 minute time-allotment to indulge his raging tirade, Ignatius cuts Amr Moussa off before his eventual 13 minutes and Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan just before his 16 minutes in their half-allotments, to which Erdoğan then demanded a short right of reply.
After very reluctantly allowing him an easily exceeded minute, Ignatius invoked the need to go to … dinner. As if putting off dinner among the well-heeled delegates at Davos for just a few minutes was less important than the incineration of Palestinian civilians, a third of them children, in israel’s Gaza genocide.
See the full debate below (also available as a webcast here at the World Economic Forum (WEF) site, entitled ‘Gaza: The Case for Middle East Peace’).