When the two old political fraudsters emerged at the White House this week with the most deranged, farcical tragi-comedy in Middle East history, it was difficult to know whether to laugh or cry.
The 80-page “peace” plan from the White House contained 56 references to “Vision” in its first 60 pages – and yes, with a capital V on each occasion to suggest, I guess, that this “deal of the century” was a supernatural revelation. It was not, though it might have been written by a super-Israeli.
It said goodbye to Palestinian refugees – the famous/infamous “right of return” and all who now rot in the camps of the Middle East; farewell to the old city of Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital; adieu to UNRWA, the UN relief agency. But it welcomed a permanent Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the total annexation of almost every Jewish colony built there against all international law.
It’s a given, of course – and has been for days – that this nonsense might just cast some magic dust over the travails of the leaders of America and Israel. As the two rogues, Donald Trump under impeachment and Benjamin Netanyahu charged with corruption, grinned to the applause of their supporters in Washington, it became clear at once that this mendacious document – containing absurdity, burlesque and dreary banality in about equal measure – destroyed forever any hope of an independent Palestinian state of any kind. That’s not what it said, but you only had to glance at the verbiage – where Israel’s occupation, the longest in modern history, was described as a “security footprint” and where the Oslo accord was trashed as an agreement which produced “waves of terror and violence”.
Truly, all must read these 80 pages. And every reader should go through them twice, in case, first time round, they missed some extra egregious indignity inflicted upon the Palestinians.
The document wasn’t just a gift to Israel. It embodied every Israeli demand ever made to Washington (plus a few more) and effectively destroyed every effort made by the United Nations Security Council; every UN resolution on Israeli withdrawal; every effort of the EU and the Quartet on the Middle East to produce a just and fair resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli war.
In short, Israel will – under this wretched “deal”, doomed though it was within seconds – get all of Jerusalem forever, most of the West Bank, own almost every Jewish colony in occupied land and dominate a disarmed, truncated, neutered Palestinian people who must promise to call Israel the “nation state of the Jewish people” (albeit almost 21 per cent of its people are Arabs), censor its own schoolbooks, arrest and interrogate anyone daring to oppose the Israeli occupier, and who will have a cluster of villages outside Jerusalem’s walls to call a capital.
True, this is a unique and historic document that the Trump menagerie (especially son-in-law Jared Kushner) has produced, since its belief that the Palestinians would dream of accepting such a deranged, farcical set of political demands is without precedent in the western world. But when should we journalists take all the stops out, I asked myself when I’d finished reading the 56 “Visions” – there are others, by the way, in lower case, and several “missions” – and the list of prohibitions imposed upon the Palestinians? These included, we should note, the instruction that “the State of Palestine may not join any international organisation if such membership would contradict commitments of the State of Palestine to demilitarisation and cessation of political and judicial warfare against the State of Israel”. So goodbye as well to the protection of the International Criminal Court.
Some of my colleagues lapsed into apoplexy, like Marwan Bishara of Al Jazeera. Farce, fraud, fury, surrealistic, opportunistic, populist and cynical. He used all these descriptions – but surely he was mincing his words. Gideon Levy, my hero from the Israeli daily Haaretz, was not so apoplectic. He was apocalyptic. It was “the final nail in the coffin of that walking corpse known as the two-state solution”, he wrote, and created a reality “in which international law, the resolutions of the international community and especially international institutions are meaningless”.
There is no Palestinian state, quoth Levy, and there never will be. It’s got to be one democracy between the Jordan and the Mediterranean – equal rights for both Israelis and Palestinians – or Israel is going to be an apartheid state. Trump had created “a world in which the US president’s son-in-law is more powerful than the UN General Assembly. If the settlements are permitted, everything is permitted.” Quite so.
But do we writers and journalists and “experts” and analysts still possess the tools to deal with this mumbo-jumbo? Is this not a moment – not just the end of morality, justice, integrity, dignity – to ask an ever-more important question: when will journalists have to stop taking this stuff (and themselves) seriously? Merely to write about this Trump ballyhoo as if it is real or workable or even discussable is somehow demeaning, humiliating, preposterous. Not just for media rabbits, but for those who must suffer the consequences of this dreadful document; the Palestinians and all who have faithfully supported their perfectly reasonable demands for freedom and fairness.
I realised a few hours after reading it that, for every anti-Israel Muslim who believes in the fantastical, crazed verbiage of the “Zionist conspiracy”, these 80 pages of White House notepaper would only reinforce those mind-boggling beliefs. In cases like this, perhaps we should invite our comedians to become reporters. Or ask our cartoonists to write the story. Or maybe I should turn to that fine old Ripley’s Believe It or Not feature to get the message across. Believe it Or Not: a US president gave a foreign power the right to eternally occupy someone else’s land. To me, that captures the story in 15 words.
But let’s not forget that in return for their abject surrender, the Palestinians will get cash, cash and more cash – millions of greenies set out in pages of graphs and funding plans, and “fast-track” tourism (that phrase is actually used in the document) and massive investment, “social betterment” (sic), “self-determination” (sic again, I guess), and “a path to a dignified national life, respect, security and economic opportunity…”.
And didn’t our Boris Johnson tell Trump it was “a positive step forwards”? And didn’t our Dominic Raab call it “a serious proposal” worthy of “genuine and fair consideration”?
Believe it or not, indeed.