Palestine Update 250
American mediation in Palestine almost drops off the precipice
Jared Kushner’s comments on Palestinians calling into question their capacity for self-rule is not merely from inexperience. It is rooted in the racist-colonist foundations and methods of American foreign policy.
Kushner’s approach to forging a Middle East policy and a final settlement to the Palestine-Israel conflict is now approaching a blind alley. The most likely political creation Kushner would ever manage is a no-peace deal after all the big talk about the ‘deal of the century’. It was wrong, in the first place, to assign the responsibility of manufacturing a peace formula in the hands of an inept, even unintelligent, real estate businessman. But, that’s Trump and his impulse decision making. It is not uncommon for him to operate at the level of political crudity. .
From the time Trump moved to recognize Jerusalem – a prominent historic, religious and political symbol for the Palestinian cause – as the capital of Israel, the role of the US as an honest peace broker may have officially ended. The rules of the game were broken almost irrevocably. Add to that, the way in which the Kushner ‘deal of the century’ has navigated, there is justifiable mistrust of the intentions of the USA among Palestinians.
The peace process has been rendered more meaningless than it has ever been. A solution that excludes self-determination for everyone and basic civil, human, and political rights for everyone is not a process worth its salt. The United States has pretended that there is asymmetry between Israel and Palestine, when the fact is; one party is occupying the other. It is simply untenable and inherently unjust. It’s not as if the USA does not know this. It wants to live in the make-believe paradigm of creating political compromise rather than pursue a historical justice.
In this issue of Palestine Updates, we bring you two articles that sharply critique the Kushner role. There is also an evaluation of the US decision to refuse Hanan Ashrawi a visa to the USA. Ashrawi, herself, has attributed her “outspoken advocacy on behalf of Palestine and critical assessment of Israeli and recent U.S. violations” to the decision.
In killing a peace deal, Trump is sounding a sort of death knell to democratic values and bases for solutions to this long-standing conflict.
Imagine suggesting Jews couldn’t govern themselves? Kushner’s remarks on Palestinians slammed
This is the racist subtext of so much conservative pro-Israel advocacy, but Jared is too inexperienced to know it’s supposed to stay subtext.
White House envoy Jared Kushner stands accused of “racism” for answering a question about Palestinians’ ability to self-govern by expressing hope they’ll be capable of this in the future – implying they’re incapable of this now. In a sit-down interview with Axios on HBO, the son-in-law of US President Donald Trump and his charge d’affaires for brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal triggered a storm of anger when he equivocated about Palestinian competence. “We’ll have to see,” said Kushner. “The hope is that they [Palestinians], over time, will become capable of governing.”
Kushner’s comments – called “racist” by some observers – put in doubt the possibility that the so-called “deal of the century” he has been hawking for over a year and a half stands a chance of meeting the minimum expectations of Palestinians, let alone cracking the code for a peace agreement that has long eluded the land’s inhabitants. His remarks elicited scorn from Twitter users, especially from Palestinian figures. “One of the painful things to listen to is Jared Kushner pretending that he knows – or cares – what the ‘Palestinian people’ want,” wrote Palestinian-American professor Shibley Telhami. “The Palestinian people don’t need half a man to decide if they are capable of governing themselves,” wrote US-based Palestinian analyst Mohammad Oweis, in a tweet dripping with rage. “We have seen enough sh*t like him since 1948,” he said, a reference to the year the State of Israel was founded.
Matt Duss, a foreign policy adviser for US Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, argued that Kushner’s comments unwittingly revealed that he views Palestinians through a prejudicial lens. “This is the racist subtext of so much conservative pro-Israel advocacy, but Jared is too inexperienced to know it’s supposed to stay subtext,”tweeted Duss.
Some progressive Jewish pundits likewise slammed Kushner for his remarks, also attributing to him anti-Palestinian prejudice. “Democrats and Jewish leaders should be calling out Kushner’s egregious racism. Can you imagine the outrage if someone suggested Jews couldn’t govern themselves?” tweeted Max Berger, co-founder of the liberal US Jewish activist group If Not Now. “Why is it okay to say that about Palestinians? Because Islamophobia is extremely powerful in the US,” Berger opined.
The policy and strategy director for the liberal Jewish charity New Israel Fund, Harry Reis, said he doubted that the embryonic peace plan Kushner is promoting remotely resembles his description of it. ”Kushner[’s] scheme is clearly designed to peel back whatever progress towards self rule was achieved at Oslo, not build on it,” tweeted Reis. “The aim may very well be to collapse the institutions of the Palestinian national government and cement annexation.”
A Middle East Peace Plan Built on Un-American Principles
The Trump administration hasn’t actually released its Middle East peace plan. It’s so close-held that the Palestinians who are to be its object have not been invited into discussions of the subject. But the whispers of those who have been consulted suggest the possibility that the sequencing will commence with economic incentives for Palestinian acceptance of eventual subjugation into the state of Israel—a “one-state solution,” in diplomatic parlance. If that is White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s approach, it would represent a reversal of the administration policy, which has until now been focused on imposing economic hardship on Palestinians in order to compel their acceptance of what Kushner terms “facts.”
The secrecy in which the Kushner plan is shrouded has not prevented the president from publicizing the plan as the “deal of the century.” The first stage is to be a “Peace for Prosperity” meeting in Bahrain, at which the administration expects Gulf states to provide $68 billion in investment to the Palestinians, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon to ease acceptance for subsequent political “facts” – the imposition of unwelcome political outcomes like moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
I am a Palestinian negotiator. I was denied a visa – and I think I know why
By Hanan Ashrawi
Hanan Ashrawi is a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee
As a negotiator and advocate for Palestinian rights, I have been a regular visitor to the United States for decades. In my visits to these shores, I have delivered hundreds of lectures, met with friends and colleagues from academia and civil society, and engaged in countless frank conversations with dozens of senior Republican and Democratic officials, regardless of their positions about the conflict. But last month, my visa application to the United States was rejected by the State Department. No reason was given for the decision — but I suspect it had something to do with my outspoken advocacy on behalf of Palestine and critical assessment of Israeli and recent U.S. violations.
I am one of several Palestinian leaders and activists who can no longer enter the United States after recent visa denials. These decisions appear to be an attempt to limit our ability to engage with the American public and inform decision-makers and civil society actors. This response is unlike anything we have seen before. In the United States, there has always been room for dissent and constructive debate among those with differing opinions. Then Donald Trump became president. His administration does not have the tolerance or capacity to engage in fact-based dialogue. It combats meaningful discussion because it has no interest in respectful negotiations and sees no value in international engagement.
Nowhere is this more visible than in its farcical plans in the Middle East. For more than two years now, Americans and Palestinians who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of justice have watched in horror as the Trump administration distorted the foundations of a credible and lasting peace beyond recognition. This administration prefers diktats and exhibits an infatuation with messianic-laced rhetoric at the expense of the standing of laws and the universal values of dignity, freedom, justice and human rights.
At the White House and across the administration, officials insist on negating the political, legal and moral dimensions of the conflict and ignoring our core rights to justice and self-determination, considering them old and failed formulas. Instead of rectifying the failures of previous U.S. administrations, the Trump team has fully embraced the agenda of Israel’s right-wing government. It has unilaterally recognized Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem, supported settlement construction, and attempted to justify Israel’s pervasive and widespread violations of Palestinian human and national rights.
Just last week, White House adviser Jared Kushner visited Israel and reportedly aligned the administration’s timetable and priorities with those of the Israeli government. He delivered a map depicting the illegally annexed Golan Heights as part of Israel to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Next to the map was the word “Nice,” a symbol of the administration’s failed logic and inability to grasp the context of this conflict. The Trump administration has also launched an ongoing economic and political assault on the Palestinian people, especially refugees. It has stopped funding the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is mandated to provide care and assistance to Palestinian refugees, and called for the agency’s dismantlement, which would threaten to destabilize the whole region. It has withdrawn official and non-official assistance to the Palestinian people, including support for civil society, hospitals in Jerusalem and student scholarships, and closed down the operations of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Its planned “economic workshop” this month in Bahrain to discuss assistance for Palestinians is another glaring example of the administration’s errors in judgment. This diversionary sideshow will discuss investment in Palestine and the region, as well as Israel’s integration in it, divorced from the political context and despite the serious objections of the Palestinian leadership and business community, who refuse to trade their political rights for the false promise of improving conditions under occupation. Through concrete actions, the Trump administration has made it clear that it will not settle for anything less than the Palestinian people’s surrender and the defeat of their struggle for freedom. However, it is ignoring the fact that, although armies and political regimes can be defeated in battle, peoples are never truly defeated.
Trump and his team do not represent the United States I know. That United States embraces the revolutionary spirit that defeated colonial oppression. It stands for the legacy and continuing work of fearless civil and human rights advocates who challenged segregation, injustice and oppression in the United States and around the world. This is the United States that Palestinians – and anyone else who supports the idea of long-term peace in the region – would like to see once more. Whether I am allowed to visit the United States again soon is not the issue. My work, and that of countless brave American advocates for peace and justice, will continue. Our voices will not be muted, and our resolve will not be deterred. We will defend our agency and humanity. We will continue our work for peace, justice and freedom for all. We will not surrender to political bullying and extortion, nor abdicate our basic right to defend these principles and the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to enjoy them.