“Palestine” has been compared to many things. The world’s longest colonial war, a “hell-disaster” – Churchill’s memorable epithet – and the site of Israel’s “war on terror”, a conflict in which we are supposed to believe that the Palestinians are playing the role of al-Qaeda or Isis or any other outfit which the west and its allies have helped into existence, and which Israel is going to fight on our behalf.
But there are times when Palestine turns out to have been located in the Bermuda Triangle. The Palestinians disappear. They cease to exist. They are forgotten, irrelevant, outside the landscape of fear, pain, injustice and occupation that we once heard about so often. No one can imagine what has happened to these Palestinians. Like the aircraft and boats which strayed into the mythical triangle, they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Sad to see them go. But it’s a mystery.
The last two weeks have been a case in point. Trump’s fey and vain son-in-law Jared Kushner, a supporter of Israel’s colonial expansion on Arab land, set off with Trump’s “special representative to the peace process” Jason Greenblatt (the man who says that “West Bank settlements are not an obstacle to peace”) to work out the economic underpinning of Trump’s “deal of the century” to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Kushner went to visit some Muslim killer-states, some of them with very nasty and tyrannical leaders – Saudi Arabia and Turkey among them – to chat about the “economic dimension” of this mythical deal.
Middle East leaders may be murderers with lots of torturers to help them stay in power, but they are not entirely stupid. It’s clear that Kushner and Greenblatt need lots and lots of cash to prop up their plans for the final destruction of Palestinian statehood – we are talking in billions – and the Arab leaders they met did not hear anything about the political “dimension” of Trump’s “deal”. Because presumably there isn’t one. After all, Trump thinks that by moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and declaring it the capital of Israel, he has taken that most holy of cities “off the table”.
Our titans of journalism were silent – maybe they, too, fell into the Bermuda Triangle – and had absolutely nothing to say, absolutely zilch, about Kushner’s march of folly around the Middle East. They called it, inevitably, a “whirlwind tour” in which this foolish young man would – readers will recognise CNN’s equally inevitable clichés – “prep allies for a spring rollout” of the “plan”.
This very vagueness is amazing, because the Kushner-Greenblatt fandango was in fact a very historic event. It was unprecedented as well as bizarre, unequalled in recent Arab history for its temerity as well as its outrageous assumption.
For this was the first time in modern Arab history – indeed modern Muslim history – that America has constructed and prepared a bribe BEFORE the acquiescence of those who are supposed to take the money; before actually telling the Palestinians and other Arabs what they are supposed to do in order to get their hands on the loot.
Usually, the Americans or the EU come up with highfalutin “peace” proposals – two states, security for Israel, viability for Palestinians, talks about a joint capital, an end to Jewish colonies on occupied Arab land, mutual trust-building, refugees, the usual paint-pots – and then gently suggest that it might be financially worthwhile for everyone to start talking.
But now the bank account is being set up before the customers’ agreement. The banks themselves – we have to include Saudi Arabia, do we not? – have not even been told what investments their funds are meant to support. How many times can you fit a South Sea Bubble into a Bermuda Triangle?
It’s not a blank cheque the Americans want from the Arabs. It’s going to be a very big cheque with specific amounts, to be given to a people who have never – as an occupied, repressed, abandoned community – ever demanded cash from anyone. Sure – and this has been a Kushner theme – Palestinians would be happier if they were better off.
But who has ever seen, in all the bloody Palestinians protests, demonstrations and cries of despair and massacres, a single poster – just one demand – for prime business opportunities, new motorways, five-star hotels, hospitals or pre-natal clinics?
Palestinian demands have been uniformly identical: justice, dignity, freedom and – yes – the return of lost lands, if only of those properties thieved from them by Israel in the West Bank. Of the thousands of unarmed innocents eviscerated in the great Gaza wars, which of their families is now going to settle for an American cheque in return for the end of all their ideals, dreams and political demands? But then again, what do we care for any of those families?
For the Bermuda Triangle sucked into its vortex these past few days yet another Palestinian victim: the UN’s preliminary report on the mass killings by Israeli troops and snipers of unarmed Palestinians in Gaza demonstrating since 30 March last year – against their imprisonment in the enclave and their right, under UN General Assembly Resolution 194, to return to their families’ original homes or receive compensation for them.
More than 200 Palestinians have been killed and around 18,000 wounded. The UN investigated 189 fatalities. Its researchers thought that perhaps on two occasions, armed Palestinian men may have infiltrated the crowds to shoot at the Israeli army, but even the briefest reading of the UN report’s 22 pages makes it perfectly clear that the dead were largely the victims of deliberate and aimed shots. They included journalists, health workers, children. Israel may have committed war crimes, the UN report concluded.
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But each new war, each new set of casualties, each new UN report has become normal. Or perhaps the word is “normalised”. None more so than the 25 February UN document. The demonstrators belonged to the “terrorist” Hamas, according to Israel. The investigation was a “theatre of the absurd”, announced Israel’s spokesman, “a report that is hostile, mendacious and biased against Israel”.
But what did we expect? Ever since Israel trashed and demeaned and politically destroyed that great Jewish jurist Richard Goldstone after his devastating critique of the 2008-2009 Israeli bombardment of Gaza – the accusations by Israel and Jewish Americans of his antisemitism and his innate “evil” (the latter from Alan Dershowitz, of course) make even US Democrat Ilhan Omar’s sins look childlike – UN reports have been little more than wallpaper. Yet none of this matters.
The Palestinians are even supposed to be duped by the closure of the US consulate in Jerusalem and its merger with Washington’s embassy in Israel to enhance “the efficiency and effectiveness of [America’s] diplomatic engagements”, according to the ambassador David Friedman, who also, by extraordinary chance, supports Israel’s land expropriations in the West Bank but claims he wants a “two-state solution”.
Hanan Ashrawi simply and eloquently explained that the merging of the consulate with the embassy “is not an administrative decision. It is an act of political assault on Palestinian rights and identity, and a negation of the consulate’s historic status and function, dating back nearly 200 years.” She was quite right. And no one paid the slightest attention. The US consulate simply got swallowed up by the Bermuda Triangle.
Is all this because Trump has now steamrolled morality and so indelibly soiled the American flag that we have all, somehow, closed down in the Middle East on ideas like principles, promises and humanity, and accepted everlasting night – even if the latter is referred to as the deal of the century? Is that what happens when you fall into the Bermuda Triangle? Goodbye to the Palestinians. Didn’t they know this was dangerous territory? Hadn’t they heard the stories? It’s all a mystery if you ask me.