Jared Kushner, the 39-year-old senior adviser to the American president and chief honcho behind the much-awaited but by now much-derided Middle East peace plan trumpeted by the administration as the Deal of the Century, will not give up on trying to make Palestinians give up.
Since the release of the plan two weeks ago, he has lobbied fiercely to see it accorded credence by all and sundry, tailoring his campaign around visceral appeals not just to the Arab establishment but to the international community as a whole. So far he has come up empty. Predictably, Palestinians, along with the Arab street, have opted, for crystal clear reasons, to have no truck with it.
Last Thursday, over a two-hour lunch at the US mission to the United Nations, Kushner pressed more than a dozen Security Council diplomats — using a plethora of PowerPoint slides — to buy into his putative vision, but it was a hard sell. It came up against a wall of sceptical envoys who peppered him with tough questions, with one of them confronting the young, former real estate developer about the evident fact that Palestinians had core demands they could not relinquish — demands flippantly ignored in the plan. Mirroring the sentiment of the international community, few in the room rallied to his side.
Does the challenge spell nothing but doom and gloom for their aspirations to be a truly independent people living freely in their ancestral homeland? Not at all. Far from it. Nowhere near it.
Ironically, that same day, two Jewish legislators in the House of Representatives (with whom Kushner shares his faith) spearheaded a letter to President Trump, signed by as many as 107 of their fellow Democrats in the Chamber, voicing “strong disapproval” of his essentially jejune ideas for peace in Palestine. Among them were seven other Jewish members. The letter conveyed concern with the substance of the deal “which will exacerbate conflict rather than resolve it”, as with the green light it gives Israel to annex about 30 per cent of the West Bank. “While your proposal uses the language of statehood for Palestinians, it produces far less than an actual, viable state,” said the letter.
An unfortunate victim of this campaign by Kushner was Muncif Baati, Tunisia’s ambassador to the United Nations, a highly respected diplomat and an expert on international law. When it was discovered that Baati was drafting a Security Council resolution blaming the United States for breaking international law by releasing a peace settlement that effectively sanctioned the annexation of occupied land in the West Bank — a contravention of the UN charter about the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by an occupying power — Washington decided to seal his fate. According to news reports, after a complaint by the White House, the Foreign Ministry in Tunisia, a small country anxious to avoid the risk of damaging its relations with the United States, had the veteran diplomat recalled.
Unfortunate indeed. Yet those are the breaks, especially when you’re up against the clout and reach of a big power.
Are Palestinians bereft of ideas on how to confront this challenge to their national rights? Does the challenge spell nothing but doom and gloom for their aspirations to be a truly independent people living freely in their ancestral homeland? Not at all. Far from it. Nowhere near it. Mutatis mutandis.
The wretched of the earth, as Frantz Fanon, the Martiniquais psychiatrist and political philosopher, whose writings on the psychopathology of colonisation have inspired national liberation movements worldwide, called oppressed people in struggle against overwhelming odds, would have perished each time they rose in revolt had it not been for the inherent political and psychological frailties of the other side.
Deal of the Century
What matters in this struggle, pitting the weak against the strong, is the ability of the weak to shape the story, not the reality on the ground, a phenomenon we’ve seen, among other places, in Ireland during the Easter Rising in 1916, in Algeria during the Battle of Algiers in 1962 and in Vietnam during the Tet offensive in 1968. That way the weak win wars even as they lose battles. Consider, as a case in point, how the first intifada in 1987 raised the consciousness of the world about the Palestinian struggle and how the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement is doing in equal measure today.
The dialectic here is that for all the suffering and destitution, all the death and destruction, all the psychic pain of exile and alienation of otherness inflicted on the Palestinians by an incomparably cruel colonial entity, the victims have become ennobled, as it were, by the spite of their enemy. In that calculus of historical life, the Deal of the Century merits mention only as the footnote of the century. Jared, give up.
— Fawaz Turki is a writer and lecturer who lives in Washington and the author of several books, including the Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile.