By Ramzy Baroud
In a TV interview on June 2, on the HBO news docuseries “Axios,” Jared Kushner opened up regarding many issues, with his so-called “Deal of the Century” being a prime focus. The major revelation made by Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, was not surprising: He believes that Palestinians are not capable of governing themselves.
This was not surprising because Kushner thinks he is capable of arranging the future of the Palestinian people without the inclusion of the Palestinian leadership. He has been pushing his deal relentlessly, while including in his various meets and conferences countries such as Poland, Brazil and Croatia; but not Palestine.
Indeed, this is what transpired at the Warsaw conference on “peace and security” in the Middle East. The same thing is expected in Bahrainon June 25.
Much has been said about the subtle racism in Kushner’s words, which reek with the stench of old colonial discourses where the natives were seen as lesser beings, incapable of rational thinking, and who needed the civilized “whites” of the Western Hemisphere to help them cope with their backwardness and inherent incompetence.
According to leaked informationconcerning Kushner’s “Deal of the Century” published in the Israel Hayom newspaper, if Palestinian groups refuse to accept the US-Israeli diktats, “the US will cancel all financial support to the Palestinians and ensure that no country transfers funds to them.”
In his HBO interview, Kushner offered the Palestinians a lifeline. They could be considered capable of governing themselves should they manage to achieve the following: “A fair judicial system… freedom of the press, freedom of expression, tolerance for all religions.” The fact that Palestine is an occupied country, subject in every possible way to Israel’s military law, and that Israel has never been held accountable for its 52-year occupation seems to be of no relevance whatsoever as far as Kushner is concerned.
On the contrary, the subtext in all of what Kushner said in the interview was that Israel is the antithesis to the unquestionable Palestinian failure. Unlike Palestine, Israel needs to do little to demonstrate its ability to be a worthy peace partner.
While the words “US bias toward Israel” is as old as the state of Israel itself, what is hardly discussed is the specifics of that bias: The decidedly condescending, patronizing and often racist view that the US political classes have of Palestinians — and all Arabs and Muslims for that matter — and their utter infatuation with Israel, which is often cited as a model for democracy, judicial transparency and successful “anti-terror” tactics.
According to Kushner, a “fair judicial system” is an essential condition when determining a country’s ability to govern itself. But is Israel’s judicial system “fair” and “democratic?”
Israel does not have a single judicial system, but two. This dualityhas defined Israeli courts from the very inception of Israel in 1948. This de facto apartheid system openly differentiates between Jews and Arabs. “Criminal law is applied separately and unequally in the West Bank, based on nationality alone (Israeli versus Palestinian), inventively weaving its way around the contours of international law in order to preserve and develop its ‘(illegal Jewish) settlement enterprise’,” Israeli scholar Emily Omer-Man explainedin her essay “Separate and Unequal.”
In practice, Palestinians and Israelis who commit the same crime will be judged according to two different systems, with two different procedures. “The settler will be processed according to the Israeli Penal Code, (while) the Palestinian will be processed according to military order,” Omer-Man wrote.
This unfairness is part of a massively unjust judicial apparatus that has defined the Israeli legal system from its outset. Take the measure of administrative detentionas an example. Palestinians can be held without trial and without any stated legal justification. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been subjected to this undemocratic “law” and hundreds of them are currently held in Israeli jails.
It is ironic that Kushner raised the issue of freedom of the press, in particular, as Israel is being derided for its dismal record in that regard. Israel has reportedly committed 811 violationsagainst Palestinian journalists since the start of the “Great March of Return” in Gaza last March. Two journalists — Yaser Murtaja and Ahmad Abu Hussein — have been killedand 115 woundedby Israeli snipers.
Like the imbalanced Israeli judicial system, targeting the press is also part of a protracted pattern. According to a press release issued by the Palestinian Journalists Union last May, Israel has killed102 Palestinian journalists since 1972.
The fact that Palestinian intellectuals, poets and activists have been imprisoned for posts on Facebook and other social media outlets speaks volumes about the limits of the freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Israel.
It is also worth mentioning that, in June 2018, the Israeli Knesset votedfor a bill that prohibits the filming of Israeli soldiers as a way to mask their crimes and shelter them from any future accountability.
As for freedom of religion, despite its many shortcomings, the Palestinian Authority hardly discriminates against religious minorities. The same cannot be said about Israel, as the nation-state law of July 2018 cemented the superiority of Jewsin its legal system. According to this Basic Law, Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people,” and “the right to exercise national self-determination is unique to the Jewish people.”
Palestinians do not need to be lectured on how to meet Israeli and American expectations, nor should they ever aspire to imitate the undemocratic Israeli model. Instead, what they urgently need is international solidarity to help them win the fight against Israeli occupation, racism and apartheid.