US and Israel collude on Palestinian erasure

Many young American Jews are outraged and becoming alienated from the state that claims to represent them.

All the political talk in Washington is about allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow in 2016 to gain an advantage in the election against Hillary Clinton. The legal definition of “collusion” is “an agreement between two or more people to defraud a person of his or her rights.”

Whether or not US President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in 2016 is the subject of special counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation but there is another collusion happening right in front of us and it doesn’t take a special counsel to uncover it: The collusion between the United States and Israel — more specifically, between the Trump administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — to erase the Palestinian people.

Not to literally erase them — except maybe in Netanyahu’s wildest dreams — but to erase them as a legitimate people with legitimate rights.

Consider the evidence.

Exhibit A: Trump announced that the United States would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that the issue of the city’s status was “off the table.” In other words, the Palestinians’ legitimate claims to Jerusalem and its sacred sites have been swept onto the floor.

Exhibit B: The Trump administration wagged nary a finger at Israel as it relentlessly expanded settlements in the West Bank. Israel is confiscating and settling Palestinian land in a manner that renders impossible the creation of a viable Palestinian homeland. Israel envisions a collection of mini-Gazas in the West Bank — isolated aggregations of Palestinians, surrounded by and under Israeli control.

Exhibit C: Trump has signalled to Israel that it can do whatever it wants in Gaza regardless of the predictions that Gaza will be unliveable in several years’ time. Remember Gaza is the template for the Palestinian enclaves Israel is creating in the West Bank. Gaza is the template; unliveable is the goal.

Exhibit D: According to leaked e-mails, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and peace process maestro, wants to abolish the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) or, at a minimum, “disrupt” and defund it.

The 5 million Palestinian refugees for whom UNRWA provides basic human needs will, for Kushner, simply no longer exist: They are off the table (and on the floor, next to Jerusalem). Kushner defended this drastic move by saying that it is necessary “to risk breaking things” to get results in the peace process but he only wants to break Palestinian things.

Exhibit E: Israel’s nation-state law, which preferences its Jewish citizens over others, is the first step in an internal “erasure” effort. By declaring that 20% of its citizens are officially a lesser people, Israel is internalising its foreign policy. Both Kushner and David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, have expressed support for the law.

What this evidence shows is that Trump’s peace process team, in collusion with the Netanyahu government, is not interested in a “deal of the century.” They are interested in bringing about Palestinian surrender. As Anne Irfan, a teaching fellow in Middle East history at the University of Sussex, succinctly put it: “By gradually eliminating the permanent status issues, the Trump administration is working to severely restrict the scope of any final deal, with the aim of compelling the Palestinians to capitulate.”

The Trump-Netanyahu collusion makes sense on several levels. Both are captives of their respective bases — for Netanyahu, the coalition of right-wing parties that maintain his shaky hold on power; for Trump, evangelical Christians.

Yes, Christians. With several prominent exceptions (such as Sheldon Adelson) American Jewish leaders are appalled at what is going on with both the peace process and inside Israel. Even Ronald Lauder, former head of the World Jewish Congress and a friend of Netanyahu, called the nation-state law a “destructive action” in a New York Times opinion piece.

Many young American Jews are outraged and becoming alienated from the state that claims to represent them. Many support the boycott, divest and sanctions movement against Israel.

For evangelical Christians, however, devotion to Israel is about prophecy considering the second coming of Christ. And evangelical voters support Trump overwhelmingly — by 80% to 16% against Clinton.

Trump and Netanyahu are ideological brothers. “Israel and the United States are concurrently splitting into warring camps of majority supremacists against minorities and their defenders,” wrote Chemi Shalev in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The outlook is bleak but Palestinians are indelible and cannot be erased. They soon will be the majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. The tragic fact is that the Trump-Netanyahu policy is destined to create more bloodshed and destruction. Palestinians will, as always, suffer more, while Israel slowly erodes.

Mark Habeeb is East-West editor of The Arab Weekly and adjunct professor of Global Politics and Security at Georgetown University in Washington.

This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.