Netanyahu’s Speech to the United Nations 2017

The Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu had some strong words for Iran at his recent speech at the United Nations. Mirroring Churchill’s famous ‘Iron Curtain’ speech Netanyahu spoke about the ‘Iranian curtain’ which is spreading terror across the Middle East. “Iran spreads this curtain of tyranny and terror over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere, and it pledges to extinguish the light of Israel. Today, I have a simple message for Ayatollah Khamenei, the dictator of Iran: The light of Israel will never be extinguished”.

These are very powerful words. Netanyahu used both Kairos and apostrophe to draw attention to his message. Kairos is the reference to time, apostrophe is when a speaker breaks away from addressing your audience to address a third party. Apostrophe is a very effective way of drawing attention to what you are about to say as the audience becomes the spectating third party rather than the recipients of the message (it works in a similar fashion to dramatic irony in theatre). Apostrophe is often used for powerful or emotive statements; It was also used by Earl Spencer in his powerful funeral address to Princess Diana.

To demonstrate of the scope of Iran’s influence Netanyahu says, “From the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean, from Tehran to Tartus, an Iranian curtain is descending across the Middle East”. This is clearly designed to mirror Churchill’s famous ‘Iron Curtain’ speech where he is attacking the influence of the Soviet Union. Churchill said, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.” By mirroring Churchill’s language Netanyahu is drawing a comparison between the threat the Soviet Union posed in 1946 to the threat the Iran is posing today.

Netanyahu then goes on to say…

“Those who threaten us with annihilation put themselves in mortal peril. Israel will defend itself with the full force of our arms and the full power of our convictions. We will act to prevent Iran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria for its air, sea and ground forces. We will act to prevent Iran from producing deadly weapons in Syria or in Lebanon for use against us.”

The important message here is the promise to ‘act’. Netanyahu is threatening ‘those who threaten us’ referring indirectly to Iran (who regularly makes threats to destroy Israel). There is also a potent contrast between ‘the force of our arms’ and ‘the power of our convictions’ which is an isocolon and also antithesis. He also uses a tricolon when he says “its air, sea and ground forces”. All of these tropes add to the potency of his speech.

Netanyahu then goes on to give us another example of apostrophe when he addresses the people of Iran. He says…

“But I also have a message today for the people of Iran: You are not our enemy; you are our friends. Shomaah doosteh mah hasteed [You are our friends]. One day, my Iranian friends, you will be free from the evil regime that terrorizes you, hangs gays, jails journalists, tortures political prisoners, and shoots innocent women like Neda Sultan, leaving her choking on her own blood on the streets of Tehran. I have not forgotten Neda. I am sure you haven’t too. And when that day of liberation finally comes, the friendship between our two ancient peoples will surely flourish once again.”

His objective here is to make a clear distinction between the government of Iran and its people. It is also an example of ethos, as Netanyahu is trying to paint himself out as the ‘good guy’ whilst at the same time condemning Iran.

Overall his speech is quite powerful, however, it is weakened by its repetitive praise of Trump and a dodgy joke about penguins…

You can read the full speech online.

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