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The Peace Deal That is All Israel

Photo by U.S. Embassy Jerusalem | CC BY 2.0

Honor, like integrity, is not a commodity,  like a gilded condominium in New York City for sale to the highest bidder. Nor does it license a messenger to whisper through a backdoor that which cannot be said through the front because it’s been closed for want of fairness and respect.

Yet, having been rebuked by Palestinian leadership due to the shameful move of the US Embassy to the capital of Palestine that is precisely what Jared Kushner has tried to do with his deceitful appeal to the Palestinian people in his recent interview with Al Quds.

It would be far too easy to dismiss Kushner as a mere partisan novice who, with his family, has spent a lifetime extolling the primacy of the Jewish state in the chase of personal greed, framed as religious principle. To them, like other Zionists, Palestine is but an impediment in a supremacist reach that began with the blessings of the United States well before the onset of the Nakba.

Jared Kushner, the Kushner family, and its Kushner Companies holdings are deeply tied to the financing of Israeli occupation in Palestine and the exploitation of Palestinians.

Jared Kushner has been a regular visitor to Israel since his childhood. As a 16-year-old, he and thousands of other Jewish teenagers were led on a tour of the Auschwitz concentration camp by Benjamin Netanyahu, himself, waving Israeli flags along the way. At the end, they flew to Israel as part of their “Zionist rebirth.”

The Kushners consider Netanyahu part of the family, and it is often told of how the future Prime Minister was, during Jared’s boyhood, a frequent overnight guest in the Kushner New Jersey home and even slept in his room.

The elder, Charles Kushner, has given steadily to Israeli projects including schools and the IDF, and even to Likud Party campaign coffers.  Kushner Companies use Israeli financing extensively… including tens of millions from Israeli banks, insurance firm investment funds, and private Israeli investors… to fund its empire of real estate debt. These financial ties continue to the present day and are inextricably woven through the operations and maintenance of Jared Kushner’s sizable fortune.   Kushner cements his family’s long commitment to Zionism in charitable contributions to West Bank settlers (including the notorious, radical settlement Bet-El, built on land confiscated by the IDF in the 1970s from impoverished Palestinian farmers driven off at gunpoint), and even to the IDF itself.

With foreseeable ease, Kushner, in his interview in Al Quds, embraces the standard Zionist blame game which reduces Palestinians to mindless observers of a history over which they have no personal interest, input or participation. To him, it is all about “bad leadership” and not, at all, a 70 year old colonial project long supported and funded by the United States. It continues unabated to date.

Nowhere is this more vivid than in his simple minded… almost childlike… view of life and death in Gaza.  To Kushner, two million people are hostage not to the calculated systematic state terror of Israel, but rather to the PA and Hamas who choose, of their own volition, to exploit other Palestinians as mere “pawns [in] a narrative of “victimhood” so as to garner a “feel good” moment of sympathetic press while they bury their own sons and daughters.

That Kushner would speak of headlines in lieu of substance should come as no surprise. He is, after all, the anointed mouthpiece of an administration consumed not with deeds of enlightened, meaningful concern and consequence, but rather the cheap banner of the moment or the mindless tweet of the day.

Nowhere in Kushner’s peek at Gaza does Israel bear any responsibility, whatsoever, for the world’s largest outdoor concentration camp which has grown exponentially more and more sadistic day by day and year by year under its complete occupation.

Predictably, Kushner sees the collective suffer that is Gaza as not the result of Israeli destruction and embargo but, rather, an economy that has been held hostage to a handful of tunnels and some defensive “rockets” that have caused no harm, at all, but to pierce Israel’s geopolitical veneer of invincibility.

Indeed, to speak, as he does, of long term investment and economic growth as the linchpin of Gaza’s immediate need and survival is to blink the reality of its daily anguish. Dramatically absent in his sophomoric cause and effect analysis is any acknowledgment by Kushner of Israel’s complete and punitive check over the flow of food, water, medicine and movement in and out of Gaza.

True to form, he is wholly silent about the Jewish state’s calculated control over Gaza’s broken infrastructure intended to punish and manipulate the fundamental right of Palestinians to obtain clean water and energy to power their homes, hospitals and schools. To argue that these core human rights are somehow contingent upon investment and reconstruction opportunities a decade down the road is little more than a selective rewrite fueled by Kushner’s own feel good denial.

In the partisan preach of the White House, all Gaza need do is to surrender its political will and basic right to self determination and, like the fractured nuclear treaty with Iran and the newly prettied détente with North Korea, all will be well overnight, as if by magic. Elsewhere, the well crafted message of Kushner ranges from sheer naiveté to utter falsehood.

Thus, while he is quick to cast the humanitarian crises in Gaza upon the political winds of prior administrations alone, at the very moment Kushner spoke at the opening pomp at the US Embassy in Jerusalem, thousands of defenseless Palestinian men, women and children were mowed down for the temerity of exercising their right to demonstrate in Gaza. And while Israeli snipers may have worn a uniform that day, decorated with the crest of the Star of David, there can be no doubt that, inside, the label itself said made in America.

Even before Donald Trump took office, his son-in-law was busy trying to illegally intervene on behalf of Israel as he tried to get member states of the UN Security Council to stop a vote on a resolution critical of Israel’s illegal settlement policy.

Following his inauguration, among his first acts, Trump froze the transfer of $221m in discretionary USAID funds for emergency humanitarian aid for Gaza. At other times, he has shown unprecedented unilateral support for Israel ranging from threats to close the PLO office in Washington to freezing $65 million in US funds to UNRWA for critical services for Palestinian refugees . . . to a threat to suspend all money for Palestine “…  unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

Recently, the U.S. vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for international protective measures for the people of Gaza that won the backing from 10 of its other member states. Earlier, the U.S. vetoed a resolution that stated “… any decisions and actions which purport to have altered… the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.” Just last week the U.S. withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council citing the group’s “political bias” against Israel.

The United States has, for decades, posed as a neutral interlocutor in the so-called “peace process” … claiming to broker a just peace for Palestinians even as it armed Israel and abetted its steady expansion into Palestinian lands.  To maintain the fiction of its “referee” role, successive White House administrations of both parties have typically deployed well-meaning, eminent envoys with deep diplomatic pedigree and the appearance of fairness… even sincerity… all the while blocking any international action against Israel’s illegal settlements and bank-rolling the IDF with billions from U.S. taxpayers.

This charade held sway over forty years of the true U.S. Policy… to build its client state, Israel, into a fortress and regional military power capable of furthering American interests… as the Israelis pursued their agenda of dispossessing Palestinians, stealing their land and imprisoning or killing them.  It should be clear, now, that the U.S. never intended to support any Palestinian statehood. American bad faith suffuses the wreckage of the two-state solution with the stench of betrayal and death.

Today, there is no longer any need for the charade or even for any diplomats.  Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jewish real estate developer, arrives, now, as the latest American Mideast envoy… a man so thoroughly vested in the success of Zionism that no one can seriously accept him as anything but a rank salesman for the Israeli dream.

In this respect, he fits the Trumpian mold of “trolling” the opposition: appoint the most objectionable person to the role for which he is least suited, and watch your enemies foam at the mouth in outrage.   Kushner’s job here is to disrupt and shatter the genteel tradition of “middle east peace”… a polite Western-powers parlor game… and finish it.  Trump’s intent is to pull American interests completely and irrevocably to Israel’s side and render any future American negotiator position impossible. After Trump, there will be no more “peace process”… just as there will be no American credibility in international relations.

The U.S. State Department is gutted and staffed by amateurs as Trump plays a one-man-band when it comes to his catastrophic style of diplomacy.  Why would any Palestinian listen to Jared Kushner?  Even if he promised the world with a side of falafel, his father-in-law can, and will, take it away with a single tweet the following day.

Kushner, in his interview, insults Palestinians and offers only economic vassalage in his vision of a high-tech, economic empowerment zone… Silicon Valley on the Med.  Palestinians, stripped of sovereignty, civil and human rights, and any political future, can only serve Israelis as a captive labor force with no agency or control.   This is the “deal” America’s latest envoy offers… accept plantation slavery or cease to exist.  The Trump agenda has succeeded in burying the two-state solution.  Palestinians will return to the barricades and prepare for resistance.

To walk down memory lane from Oslo is to take a sure path of broken promises and empty tease accompanied not by good faith but the wail of endless funerals where martyred young women and men have been laid to rest for little more than the courage of their Palestinian voice.

The notion the United States can or will play a role as a fair and honest broker in seeing that justice be had for Palestinians is so much doctored myth and little else.

It is mocked by its own silence as Israel has illegally annexed much of the occupied West Bank since Oslo and imprisoned well over a hundred thousand Palestinians who have simply dared to seek justice and equality. Many hundreds of others have lost their lives to settler violence or at the hands of the IDF. During the same period tens of thousands of civilians have been killed or injured by repeated onslaughts on Gaza.

Like his father-in-law, Jared Kushner is very much the burglar who would break into your home to steal your most precious belongings and then promise to return them in exchange for your child. Filled with hollow promise and little more, make no mistake about it Kushner speaks to Palestine not just as a delivery boy for Donald Trump, but as a rubber stamp for Netanyahu and his age old colonial project. To the lot, the “grand” deal has nothing to do with the ends of justice but is all about personal partisan profit.

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Stanley L. Cohen is lawyer and activist in New York City.

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