A park ranger spots a Mexican and points him out to Trump and Steve Bannon. Photo by Evan Vucci/ AP
By Robert A. H. Cohen, Writing from the Edge/ Patheos
January 01, 2017
There’s a part of me thinking that Donald Trump’s inauguration can’t come soon enough. I’m impatient for him to enter the Oval Office, I’m looking forward to his cronies taking over the West Wing.
It’s the part of me that thinks everything will be so much easier once the Donald is in charge.
Have I lost my mind? Shouldn’t we be mourning the death of truth? Aren’t the lights of liberal reason being snuffed out?
In many respects the fear and foreboding are right and I feel it too.
Trump’s attitude towards women, the LGBT community, Muslims, Blacks, Mexicans are appalling. His views on the environment and nuclear weapons are terrifying. There’s good reason to be angry and worried. As for his foreign policy statements, they’re a rag bag of contradictions and that’s just on Iran and Russia.
But on Israel/Palestine it feels different. Perhaps it’s my innate optimistic disposition, but all I’m seeing right now is ‘opportunity’.
Opportunity to cut through years of political denial.
Opportunity to show people what should have been obvious years ago.
Opportunity to shine a spotlight on the hypocrisy of so much of Jewish communal discourse.
I used to have to write a couple of thousand words a time to make my case on Israel/Palestine. But those days are gone. With President Trump in charge the man himself becomes the message.
Now I can just say: “Take a look over there, what do you see?”
Listen to what they’re saying in Washington. Watch what they’re doing in Jerusalem.
Meet the new US ambassador to Israel.
Meet the son-in-law who’s in the inner circle.
Meet the special representative for international negotiations.
Welcome to the New World Order.
It turns out there is no Occupation. The two-State solution was always a terrible idea. Listen up folks, Israel can do no wrong. And who wants to be ‘an honest broker’ anyway?
Carrots not sticks
For all my disappointment in Barack Obama, at least he believed there was an Occupation and thought the Settlements were ‘obstacles to peace’.
The problem was, he and John Kerry expended a great many political air miles but no political capital. Plenty of carrots but no sticks. For eight years it was possible to maintain the fiction that diplomatic progress was a possibility. Perhaps, on a good day, even Obama and Kerry believed it was true. But I don’t remember many good days.
In the final days of his administration, we’ve had a picture of what the Obama Presidency might have been. Funny how a UN abstention can look so courageous. And when John Kerry gave his post Christmas speech at the State Department I thought he was auditioning to become a West Bank tour guide for ICAHD or Breaking the Silence. It all looked impressive. But it was just desperation. The clock had already counted them down and out.
United Nations Security Council resolution 2334, if it had passed in Obama’s first term, could have signalled the necessary sea change in international diplomacy. The beginning of political isolation for Israel. A moment when government trade policies might have begun to align with the work of peace-making.
Resolution 2334 could still prove useful, but mostly to those like me who will use it to bolster the argument for BDS. After all, if the UNSC says all Settlements are illegal and so is the entire Occupation then the onus is on business and governments to justify why they are trading rather than for me to explain why I’m boycotting.
For those still pining for Hillary, remember that If Hillary had won in November, Obama would have vetoed 2334 and Kerry’s speech would have stayed locked away in a bottom draw. Under Hillary, the current status quo would have gone on providing ‘two-State diplomatic cover’ for the ongoing moral bankruptcy of the international community.
The Age of Trump
But instead we are entering the Age of Trump. And when it comes to Israel/Palestine it already looks like a familiar landscape.
After all, on this matter, we’ve been living in a ‘post-truth’ world for decades.
Until the UN resolution it seemed that nobody was willing to raise objections even when the Settlement facts were in plain view. Meanwhile, ‘post-truth’ has long been the ideology of the establishment Jewish community outside of Israel and for most Israeli Jews. The accepted narrative of Jewish return, national self-determination, Arab rejection, Israeli defence and security have become Jewish articles of faith. They’ve become embedded in our liturgy and in far too many Synagogue sermons. As a Jew, you challenge them at your peril. Social, political and communal ‘excommunication’ soon follows.
But if your aim is to reach beyond those whose minds are already locked down and to get beyond the echo chamber of social media, then there is all to play for.
With Trump running the shop I predict the break-out moment for BDS on university campuses everywhere. I expect the White House to help build the launch pad for anti-Occupation Church divestment campaigns around the world. And I can safely rely on Israel to make the most effective case against its own legitimacy week in and week out.
The end of public ambivalence
With some big anniversaries coming up in 2017, public interest will be running high. Thirty years since the start of the First Intifada; fifty years since the start of the Occupation; seventy since the UN Partition Plan; and it’s the centenary of the Balfour Declaration this November.
I’m hopeful that years of public ambivalence and public confusion are coming to an end.
After all, who’ll believe there’s a peace process to support when the American Embassy moves to Jerusalem? How much longer can the pretence of a Jewish democracy last when the Settlements become annexed but equal rights remain forbidden? And why would an objective observer wait patiently for diplomatic progress when the Age of Trump also becomes the Age of Naftali Bennett?
Of course, I know it’s not all good news.
Making the case for equality in the Holy Land may become easier for me in Britain. But life for the Palestinians will just get rougher.
More homes demolished. More rights denied. Israeli style apartheid growing by the day. While the next assault on Gaza will be delivered without the slightest critical hindrance from Washington.
Closer to home, as the defenders of discrimination and the opponents of equal rights start to panic, I expect emboldened attempts to delegitimise boycott campaigns. As for antisemitism, it will become one of the most debased, misunderstood and misused words in the English language – unhelpful to anyone but those who want to close down free speech.
At some point soon it will become clear that our Jewish leaders have opted for blinkered tribalism rather than anything resembling the prophetic biblical values that are our enduring Jewish inheritance.
Actually, the tribalism is already here. In Britain, in the closing days of 2016, the President of the Board of Deputies, Jonathan Arkush, castigated not only the UN, Obama and Kerry but Theresa May too for her anti-Israeli deceitfulness. And this just weeks after May’s prolonged standing ovation for her speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel.
The Jewish Chronicle editorial of 30 December under the headline ‘Obama’s last kick’ spoke in a similar tone: “UN Resolution 2334 will not, of itself, change much. But it has thrown a light on the hypocrisy and double dealing of our current political leaders.”
So that’s the Jewish support that $38bn of carrots and eight years of UN vetoes buys you these days.
As for Theresa May, the left hand is out of touch with the right. One minute the UK Foreign Office is helping to draft 2334 and the next the PM is rebuking Kerry for making it sound as if the Settlements are the only issue that matters.
In trying to keep Obama, Trump and the Jewish community in Britain all on side, May has only succeeded in looking ridiculous. The PM has learnt an interesting lesson though. Support from the Jewish community in Britain can quickly evaporate if you dare to question Israeli policies.
So yes, it will be a rough ride at times but let’s embrace the dynamics of the new order. Let the Donald give truth a helping hand.
There’s a long delayed reckoning coming on Israel/Palestine. But it’s coming.
With pro-Israel lobby groups (Jewish and Christian) still bombarding my inbox insisting that Settlements are not the only obstacle to peace, I look forward in 2017 to proving them absolutely right.
We shouldn’t just be talking about Settlers.
There’s the entire separate and unequal domination of the West Bank. There’s the siege of Gaza. There’s Jerusalem too. There’s compensation and return for Palestinian refugees. There’s security, justice and peace for all who call the land home and holy.
So build your courage, spread the word and gather support.
Think global, act local, care for yourself and for all who are your neighbours. It’s still going to be a long haul. But however long it takes, remember that at every moment we have the freedom to choose where we stand and who we stand with.
So this is it.
It starts now.
It’s you, it’s me. It’s us.
It’s Love in the Age of Trump.