On Saturday, November 19, 2016, I had the honor of attending the ANSWER Coalition’s anti-Trump demonstration in San Francisco. On that cold, rainy Saturday afternoon, Bay Area believers in equality and justice gathered at UN Plaza to hear amazing speeches before marching through the streets. The speakers were:
Oscar Salinas– Justice for Alex Nieto Coalition
Miles Mohammad– Nation of Islam and Justice for Mario Woods Coalition
Eyad Kishawi– Free Palestine Alliance, and
Phelicia Jones– Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community
The issue of the current Israeli government’s illegal occupation and settlement of Palestinian lands, and the myriad human rights abuses inherent therein, has been very close to my heart for a long time. I considered it a key issue in this past election, and it is one of the many reasons that Jill Stein’s “peace offensive” stood out as my favorite campaign platform piece of any candidate this year. While she pitched it as a way to combat ISIS and prevent Saudi Arabia from continuing to fund terrorists, I think it could– and should– also be applied to US allies who use American money and American weapons to violate international laws and oppress large swaths of humanity.
Mainstream media habitually claims that the US is “critical” of Israel’s illegal settlements. Every time a new one pops up, there are murmurs of disapproval; still, earlier this year, a proposed aid package offered $40 billion dollars to Israel over the next ten years, with which it can upgrade its military aircraft and missile defense systems.
Say your teenage daughter broke her curfew and you decided to chastise her the following morning. Your words would mean precious little if you handed her a fistful of Benjamins while doing so. Traditionally, parents who offer their child an allowance use “no allowance for x amount of time” as part of the, if not the entire, punishment for various offenses committed by said child. You don’t need a Ph.D. in International Relations to understand this most basic of concepts.
One could argue that the proposal was made in June and the most recent settlement was not occupied until October; but that excuse presupposes that this new settlement is somehow “worse” than the many that have preceded it. We have had ample reason to cut funding to Israel and demand its government cease all illegal occupations in order to ever receive that funding again for many years now.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that, on the night of November 8th, as I watched a map of our country turn blood red and with it, an orange demagogue rise, I felt any last remaining hope that the US might take a firm stance against the illegal occupation of Palestinian land within the next four years extinguish.
At the ANSWER demonstration, Eyad Kishawi confirmed my fears. He reminded us that Trump has already promised to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would imply that the U.S. officially recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and thus weaken efforts by Palestinians to claim part of Jerusalem as their own capital. Mainstream left-wing outlets remain doubtful that he will keep this promise, as it has been made by many past US presidential candidates (such as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) and has yet to be realized. Still, Kishawi warned that even considering the move– and doing so this early, before Trump is even officially in office– indicates, at best, apathy and, at worst, antagonism on the part of the soon-to-be US administration to work towards a two-state solution in the Middle East.
A senior Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs official told Al-Monitor on the condition of anonymity that while such a move is favorable to Netanyahu, it is not a top priority for him. Rather, his priority is “Israel’s wish to continue its settlement construction in the West Bank, mainly within the settlement blocs, and including in the Jerusalem area.”
Construction in the Jerusalem area is highly important to Netanyahu, as it could block any eventuality of a future shared capital. Thus, with or without the issue of relocating the US Embassy, the Jerusalem topic will be on the president’s agenda sooner rather than later.
It appears that Netanyahu is hoping to capitalize on Trump’s election by quickly, quietly unraveling the already-loose threads holding together the potential for peaceful coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East, securing Jerusalem as a strictly Israeli capital city while using US funds to enhance an already-powerful military and push onward with more and more settlements.
Trump’s public musings about the subject, meanwhile, independent of whether or not they come to fruition, set a dangerous precedent. The international community has avoided directly acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or Palestine or both, remaining largely silent on the issue and traditionally placing embassies in the cultural and commercial center of Tel Aviv. Trump has broken this silence, and only time will tell whether other world leaders will follow suit.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed by Congress in 1995, has already declared that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and called for the embassy to be moved there by 1999, but a loophole allowed presidents Clinton, George W. and Barack Obama to sign waivers delaying the move for six months at a time. All were advised that moving the embassy would effectively give the long finger to Palestinians and tell the world that the US officially sides with Israel in the ongoing conflict and supports its settlement campaign (never mind that we’ve already been saying so with our money and weapons for ages).
Will Trump heed this advice, if offered? Or has he already encased himself in such a bigoted and myopic echo chamber that no such advice has been forthcoming?
An important pillar in that echo chamber is the loathsome douchebag Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and campaign manager. Apparently Trump is thinking about appointing Kushner to broker peace between Israel and Palestine, perhaps in lieu of giving him a cabinet position, as anti-nepotism laws prohibit him from doing. As right-wing Israeli leaders celebrated Trump’s win last month, Education Minister Naftali Bennett chillingly declared, “the era of a Palestinian state is over.”
Given that Jared Kushner had zero political experience prior to becoming Trump’s campaign manager and has only been admitted to colleges after his father donated far out the ass to them, one wonders whether he is capable of brokering his way out of a paper bag, much less negotiating a peace deal between two countries that have been at war with one another since long before he was born. Many of Trump’s appointments thus far have been unnerving for various reasons: Bannon is a hate monger; Sessions has crossed swords with both the NAACP and the EPA; Mnuchin is in Wall Street’s pocket, and so on. This one, while less formal than the others and more limited in scope, is nevertheless a contender for the most irresponsible of Trump’s appointments.
To throw some real estate noob into the fray when experienced political powerhouse after experienced political powerhouse has failed to get the job done shows just how little respect Trump has for the position he slandered and Tweeted so hard to get. This is not The Mighty Ducks or Troop Beverly Hills. It’s going to take more than an 80s soundtrack and a two-minute montage to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
All content © Saryta Rodriguez, 2016.