Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump

Donald Trump with Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: via Twitter, file)

By Yoav Litvin

“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women. I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” — Donald Trump

Donald Trump is an American capitalist. He is a real estate mogul who owns buildings, casinos and golf courses. He 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 twelve films and fourteen 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 November 8th, 2016 Trump won the Presidency of the United States of America: the richest, strongest super-power 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.

Israel-Palestine Today

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 Trump who 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% 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.

Trump and Netanyahu also share a gift for manipulating the media. Throughout his campaign Trump, the ever dramatic reality-show star, received more free press than any other candidate by playing on the networks’ need for ratings. He frequently uses his popular Twitter account at all times of day or night to communicate random nonsensical thoughts and misinformation to millions of his followers, and as a useful means to divert attention from corruptions and critique.

Using and perfecting the skills he initially acquired as a furniture salesman, Bibi is a master of spin and propaganda and has successfully crushed free press in Israel. Moreover, in a shrewd political appointment, Netanyahu selected Miri Regev to head the Israeli Culture Ministry, knowing full well she will target the critical left-leaning media and art establishments. Trump’s contrarian cabinet appointments demonstrate that he will use similar tactics to restrain departments that are opposed to his policies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be headed by Scott Pruitt, a known advocate for the fossil fuel industry.

But how does one reconcile Trump’s history of racism and allegiances with white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups with his devotion for Netanyahu’s Israel?

Anti-Semitism, Trumpism and Zionism 

“I will be Donald Trump’s most loyal advocate” – David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan

“PJTN congratulates President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Pence on a historic victory of biblical proportions” Laurie Cardoza-Moore, a Christian Zionist leader 

Anti-Semites and Zionists have long collaborated toward mutual interests. While the former have been interested in ridding Europe and America of Jews, the latter have worked toward moving as many Jews as possible to Israel in order to Judaize it, i.e. as a weapon against the “demographic threat” posed by native Palestinians.

There are two major classes of anti-Semites. The first is religiously grounded and views Jews as lapsed children of god to be converted or employed as an instrument of the second coming of the messiah, and the second discriminates against Jews based on alleged biological differences, which are seen as underlying threats of ethical “contamination” and disintegration. Both groups support Trump.

“Trumpism” is the perfect nexus for tribal and nationalistic attitudes that are championed by both classes of anti-Semites, white supremacists and Jewish right-wing Zionists. The far-right website Breitbart News serves as an outlet for these agendas in general and Trump’s candidacy in particular. In fact, Larry Solov the CEO and owner of Breitbart confessed that the idea for the website was conceived in Israel. Furthermore, Trump selected Breitbart’s former executive chair, pro-Israel anti-Semite Steve Bannon, to be his campaign manager and future chief strategist and Senior Counselor in his administration.

But this twisted alliance is not a new phenomenon. Christian Zionism, which thrived in Britain and America well before Jewish Zionism, is an ideology that aims to bring about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and is rooted in religious anti-Semitism. Tens of millions of Evangelical Christian Zionists seek to hasten the arrival of the messiah by fomenting an apocalyptic scenario in which Good triumphs over Evil. This doomsday battle will only occur when/if there is an ingathering of Jews in a Jewish-controlled Holy Land (i.e. modern day Israel), during which they will all be annihilated, except for several thousand who will submit to Christ. As such, it is not surprising that evangelical groups comprised a major voting block and source of financial support for the erratic Trump, who recently declared he may renew the nuclear arms race, and for their other favorite politician, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been itching to bomb Iran and possibly kick off World War 3.

Though pro-Israel groups have been collaborating with Christian Zionists for decades, the inherently immoral hypocrisy of this cooperation does not escape them. As such, they have been working hard to redefine the term “anti-Semite” so that it includes organizations with broader humanist concerns who criticize Israeli policies, such as the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. As a result of intense lobbying, the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism now includes “demonizing”, “delegitimizing” and “applying a double-standard to the state of Israel”. Incidentally, these humanist groups include many progressive Jewish members.

Trump-inspired anti-Semitism has proven to serve right-wing Israel and its American advocates even before he has manned the Oval Office. The spike in anti-Semitic attacks after the election has encouraged the bipartisan Anti-Semitism Awareness Act in Senate, which targets students who criticize Israeli policies on campuses across the United States. With Bannon closely advising Trump in the White House, and right-wing Israel’s uncontrollable glee at his triumph, there is no doubt that Israel will continue to work closely with anti-Semites in and out of Trump’s administration to promote its expansionist agenda.

The art of the deal

“The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead. The best thing you can do is deal from strength, and leverage is the biggest strength you can have. Leverage is having something the other guy wants. Or better yet, needs. Or best of all, simply can’t do without.” — Donald Trump; Trump – The Art of the Deal; Page 53 

The future looks bleak. Trump has partnered with the darkest and most extreme elements in American and Israeli societies, championing a disastrous agenda that will escalate the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestinian society. Lately, the most serious threats to Israel have come from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the BDS movement. Once again Trump has proven his loyalty to Israel by denouncing the Obama administration’s decision to abstain on UNSC resolution 2334 and by appointing Nikki Haley, a vocal supporter of anti-BDS legislation and Israeli policies, as the incoming U.S. Ambassador to the UN.

Palestinians should avoid dealing with Trump from a point of desperation; any signs of weakness will evoke Trump’s sadistic nature. In his own words: “sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition.” Instead, Palestinians and their advocates would perhaps be wise to exploit Trump’s narcissistic need to be liked and his fear of humiliation.

Concurrently, and in similar fashion to the struggle against apartheid South Africa, Palestinian advocates must continue to focus on other members of the international community. It is painfully obvious that the struggle should prepare for the long haul and partner with groups who are facing similar challenges in the United States, South America, Europe and Asia. Meanwhile, Trump’s radical agenda of supporting the expansion of illegal settlements, annexing parts of the OPT and moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem may serve as a blessing in disguise by finally destroying the last traces of the façade known as the “peace process”, the two-state illusion and the ethnocratic aberration known as “The Jewish state”. Greater pressure will inevitably result in the recognition of Palestine-Israel as a single, bi-national, and democratic state between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. Trump may well not care that this may be the ultimate outcome of his words and actions, so long as he appears as a president of decisive action in a circle of transient winners.

“Life is very fragile, and success doesn’t change that. If anything, success makes it more fragile. Anything can change, without warning, and that’s why I try not to take any of what’s happened too seriously. Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what I should have done differently, or what’s going to happen next. If you ask me exactly what the deals I’m about to describe all add up to in the end, I’m not sure I have a very good answer. Except that I’ve had a very good time making them.” — Donald Trump; Trump – The Art of the Deal; Page 63

– Yoav Litvin is a doctor of psychology/behavioral neuroscience, a documentary photographer and writer living in New York City. He contributed this article to Contact him at: 

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