Two Views on Trump and the Israel Reality
Posted on May 22, 2017
“During my travels in recent days, I have found new reasons for hope,” Trump said Monday upon his arrival at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. “We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and its people, defeating terrorism and creating a future of harmony, prosperity and peace, but we can only get there working together. There is no other way.”
Here is the full transcript of Trump’s speech in Israel.
Below are the views of Tom Dine, former head of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and author Yoav Litvin.
—Posted by Eric Ortiz
Donald Trump is an American capitalist. He is a real estate mogul who owns buildings, casinos and golf courses. He has bought a football team, founded a modeling agency and established a university. Trump’s precise net worth is unknown, yet is estimated in the billions.
Donald Trump is a celebrity. He appeared in 12 films and 14 television series. He starred in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Wrestle Mania’s “The Battle of the Billionaires.” Trump was the executive producer of NBC’s reality show “The Apprentice,” which was nominated for two Emmy awards for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program in 2004 and 2005.
Donald Trump is a notorious womanizer. He has been married three times, most recently to the model Melania Knauss. He owned the Miss USA beauty pageant from 1996-2015. Trump has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by a long list of women.
Donald Trump is a newly-minted politician. He is a dog-whistling, media-spinning, deal-making sensationalist. His scapegoating and outlandish policies have brought together desperate blue-collar workers, unabashed racists, primitive misogynists, messianic Christians, hard-core militarists and crony capitalists. On his breakneck ascent to the top, Trump managed to dazzle an arrogant media establishment, humiliate senior members of the Republican Party and pull the carpet from under the elitist neoliberal Clinton machine.
Everyone loves to hate Donald Trump, and with good reason. Trump’s motivations are domination, reward and victory. He is primarily concerned with puffing up and stroking his bombastic ego and shows no moral integrity or concern for the greater good.
In the biggest upset in modern times, on Nov. 8, 2016, Trump won the Presidency of the United States of America: the richest, strongest superpower in world history. Now that Trump has assumed the role of number one politician, he will be faced with challenges that affect millions of people. Among the many national and international tasks facing him, lies the poster child of political challenges—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a political battle between Zionists and an indigenous Palestinian population over the land between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. Jewish Zionism, a settler-colonialist project and ideology, was born out of the emancipation and secularization of Eastern European Jews in the 19th century. Profoundly influenced by European nationalism, Zionism redefined “Jewishness” for the purpose of outlining a unitary ethnic group that originated in historic Palestine and therefore had concrete and justified claims to the land. In the words of Professor of History Yakob M. Rabkin, “Traditional Jews can be distinguished by what they do or should do; the new Jews by what they are.”
In its infancy, various branches of Jewish Zionism struggled for dominance; on the one extreme were those who advocated for an inclusive multinational state that would seamlessly integrate into the Middle East and would serve as a cultural center for Jews, and on the other those who championed an exclusivist, nationalistic and Jewish homeland and haven. The latter emerged triumphant, resulting in an ethnic cleansing of Palestinians during the Israeli war of independence in 1948, also known as the Palestinian Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe.” Since then, the state of Israel has continued its brutal practices of ethnic cleansing and apartheid toward Palestinians within its 1948 borders and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), captured in 1967, with the underlying goal of controlling all land and resources. May 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of Israeli control of the OPT.
Currently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu presides over the most extreme right-wing government in Israel’s history. His coalition weds fundamentalist Judeo-supremacist Zionists, ultra-orthodox Jews and secular capitalists. Whereas Netanyahu and his government aim for Jewish dominance over a segregated, privatized and deregulated Israel, Palestinians seek justice and equality either in their own autonomous state, or within a binational Israel-Palestine. Since the Oslo Accords in 1993, Israeli leaders, including Netanyahu, have exploited the façade of negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to continue building and populating illegal settlements and dispossessing Palestinians by force. A comparison between the economies of Israel and the OPT is but one of many gross inequalities that exist between the societies: the per-capita gross national income (GNI) in Israel was $35,670 in 2014, while in the OPT it was a measly $3,090.
Know Your Enemy
The struggle for justice in Israel-Palestine has long depended on a solicitous approach toward the American president and Congress. Donald Trump is a new and different sort of politician: he seems capricious, thin-skinned, ignorant and childish. However, a careful examination of Trump’s words and deeds portrays a consistent mindset and agenda that should be carefully studied in order to formulate a long-term and sensible strategy for ending the Israeli Occupation.
“My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I’m after. Sometimes I settle for less than I sought, but in most cases I still end up with what I want.” – Donald Trump (From “Trump: The Art of the Deal,” page 45)
Donald Trump was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. After attending several Ivy League schools, he became his father Fred Trump’s protégé in the art of navigating the high-stakes world of New York City real estate. In contrast to Old Man Trumpwho built housing for the middle-class, Donald made a fortune from catering exclusively to the needs of the uber-wealthy.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Trump has never had qualms with exploiting workers or government loopholes. In fact, he takes pride in his manipulative practices. Trump’s fortune has been built on three grand thefts: wage theft from workers, tax theft from the state and land theft from the commons. Though appealing to the working class throughout his campaign, Trump never truly cared about working Americans, and has already betrayed his promises to “drain the swamp” by appointing several billionaires and Goldman-Sachs operatives to key government positions.
Trump’s history begs the question: Where does he, a man who has no identifiable moral backbone or social conscience, stand on an ideological quagmire like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Trump and Israel: A No-Brainer
“People think I’m a gambler. I’ve never gambled in my life. To me, a gambler is someone who plays slot machines. I prefer to own slot machines. It’s a very good business being the house.” – Donald Trump (“Trump: The Art of the Deal,” page 48)
Israel is deeply entrenched in American politics and discourse and is sometimes referred to as the 51st state. Along with the U.S., Israel has the worst inequality in the developed world with the richest 10 percent earning 15 times more than the poorest, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Israeli and American societies are both based on settler-colonialism and capitalism, and their elites closely cooperate to advance mutually beneficial political, commercial and military interests. Israel, referred to by Nixon’s Defense Secretary Melvin Laird as one of America’s “cops on the beat” in the Middle East, employs powerful lobbying groups in Washington, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and billionaires such as Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban, to promote its friends and terrorize its enemies. Furthermore, Israel and its lobbies in the U.S. use sophisticated propaganda, also known as “hasbara” in Hebrew, to present Israel and its brutal policies favorably and dehumanize and villainize Palestinians.
Though Netanyahu’s right-wing dominates American politics and the public narrative within Israel and mainstream media in the U.S., world Jewry is in a state of crisis.
“On one side of this struggle are those committed to our vision of time-honored Jewish and democratic values—grounded in respect for ‘the other,’ a tolerance for dissent, and a willingness to sacrifice territory for peace. On the other side are those who seem willing to muffle dissent, view all conflict as zero-sum, and place retaining captured land and territory at the center of its value system.” – Jeremy Ben Ami, President of J Street
After initially claiming neutrality on Israel-Palestine in February, Donald Trump aligned himself with Netanyahu’s Israel at the AIPAC conference in March. Since, he has demonstrated his favoritism in rhetoric and deeds, and on some issues has gone farther to the right than Netanyahu himself. Trump supports the expansion of Israeli settlements in the OPT and annexation of parts of the West Bank, prioritizes the controversial move of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and has suggested he may appoint his son-in-law Jared Kushner to head Middle East peace negotiations, in spite of Kushner’s vested interests in Israel and the OPT. In addition, Trump has appointed his bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman as ambassador to Israel, a hardliner who has called President Obama an anti-Semite and J Street, the liberal Zionist group, kapos (Jewish collaborators with the Nazis). Trump, Kushner and Friedman have chosen to partner with the most extreme right-wing forces in Israeli society, and by so doing have in effect put the final nail in the coffin of the two-state solution, an illusion of Palestinian self-governance, which has been central to the American policy in the Middle East.
Trump has also stated he would dismantle the Iranian nuclear deal, which has been a crux of contention between the Obama administration and Netanyahu, and has backed his rhetoric with the appointment of cabinet members such as James “Mad Dog” Mattis, a man hell-bent on antagonizing the Iranian regime. As a natural born autocrat, Trump knows an external perceived threat is useful; there is nothing like the possibility of war to consolidate power and distract from corruptions. This manipulative and often deadly technique has been perfected by Bibi Netanyahu, Trump’s ideological twin.
Trump and Netanyahu: Natural Allies
“The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (U.N.)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!” – Donald Trump on Twitter
Trump and Netanyahu are mirror images of each other in their demagoguery, corruption, lack of social conscience and racism, including white supremacy. They share a similar brand of right-wing ethnocentric populism, which employs dog whistles and fear-mongering to galvanize support and consolidate power. Authoritarians at heart, their mandate is to guarantee the purity, safety and well-being of the in-group—white Anglo-Saxons and Jews, respectively. Sons who grew up in the shadows of powerful and influential father figures, they developed narcissistic tendencies that have led them down a path of an incessant need for power, reward and fame, a lifestyle of extravagance, wastefulness and corruption, and a propensity to throw temper tantrums when they do not get what they want.