The rights of the Palestinians were wholly absent from US President Donald Trump’s recent trip to Israel
By Ramzy Baroud
June 02, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – As if he had overnight been transformed into a master politician, US President Donald Trump’s 27-hour trip to Israel has left many analysts mystified.
Quoting former Israeli political adviser Mitchell Barack, The New York Times referred to Trump as the “Liberace of world leaders”, in a reference to the late pianist Wladziu Valantino Liberace. The latter, known as “Mr Showmanship”, was at one time the highest paid entertainer in the world and his successful career lasted over four decades.
New York Magazine quoted former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro trying to decipher the supposedly complicated persona of Trump in its online edition. “Either Trump’s visit was substance-free, or he ‘is being uncharacteristically subtle’ in planting the seeds for a new round of peace negotiations,” the magazine quoted Shapiro as saying, paraphrasing its tweets.
The US “liberal” media, which has stooped to many lows in its attacks on Trump, including on his family, his mannerisms, his choice of words, even his body language, became much more sober and quite respectful in the way it attempted to analyse his short trip to Israel and his very brief detour to Bethlehem where he met with Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas.
“Mr Trump’s speech at the Israeli Museum was so friendly and considerate of Israeli emotions,” reported the New Your Times, “that one right-wing Israeli legislator described it as deeply expressive of the ‘Zionist narrative.’” Palestinian emotions, however, were of no consequence, either to the Trump entourage, or, of course, to the New York Times or the rest of the mainstream media.
The Washington Post, on the other hand, still found faults, but certainly not because of Trump’s lack of balance and his failure to criticise the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians.
Despite the fact that Trump has indeed fully embraced a “Zionist narrative”, and a particularly right-wing version of it (he made no reference to a Palestinian state, for example), he still fell short, according to the newspaper. His performance at Israel’s National Holocaust Memorial (Yad Vashem) did not impress.
Journalist Max Bearak wrote in the Post that “Trump’s entry in the guest book at Israel’s National Holocaust Memorial was strangely upbeat, self-referential and written in his signature all caps: ‘IT IS A GREAT HONOUR TO BE HERE WITH ALL OF MY FRIENDS — SO AMAZING & WILL NEVER FORGET,’” he said.
Bearak found such a choice of words and the style in which it was written offensive, especially when compared with the supposed thoughtfulness of former US president Barack Obama. The latter wrote a significantly longer note when he visited, which read in part that “at a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man’s potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world.”
Neither then, nor now, did the Washington Post bother to examine the historical context in which this particular sentence was written or identify the hypocrisy of the whole endeavour. Had it bothered to ask the Palestinians, they would have given a wholly different interpretation of Obama’s words.
Indeed, wherever occupied Palestinians look they find “man’s potential for great evil”: a 400-mile Israeli Annexation Wall being mostly built on their land; hundreds of military checkpoints dotting their landscape; and a suffocating military occupation controlling every aspect of their lives.
They see the holiest of their cities, Bethlehem and Al-Quds — occupied East Jerusalem — subdued by massive military force, and thousands of their leaders thrown into prison, many without charge or trial. They see siege; endless war; daily deaths and senseless destruction.
But since none of this matters to the “Zionist narrative”, it subsequently matters very little to the mainstream American media either.
Trump’s trip to Israel, however short, was indeed a master stroke by the ever-unpredictable Liberace of world politics, although it takes no particular genius to figure out why. From an American mainstream media perspective, to be judged “presidential” all US presidents have to commit to three main policies. These are, in no particular order, privileging the economic business elites, war when needed, and unconditionally supporting Israel.
The US media, otherwise polarised according to political allegiances, has taken a break from its raging conflict over Trump’s presidency and rallied behind him on two separate occasions: when he bombed Syria earlier this year and during his recent visit to Israel.
Ironically, the man has often been judged for lacking substance on numerous occasions in the past. But in fact his trip to Israel was the most lacking and most divisive occasion thus far. The fact that he time and again reiterated Israeli priorities was all the media needed to give the man a chance. Its collective verdict seemed to rebrand his lack of substance as his unique way of doing politics.
The Israeli media, which is often more critical of the Israeli government than the US media ever dares to be, needed to keep up with its “democratic” traditions on this occasion, but Trump’s grovelling gave little room for criticism. The often-impulsive Trump this time stuck to the script and followed his rehearsed speeches and media comments to the letter.
Nevertheless, Israeli journalist Josefin Dolsten found a way to nit-pick, composing for the Times of Israel a list of “seven awkward moments from Trump’s Israel trip”.
One of these, Dolsten wrote, was “a White House statement listing Trump’s goals for the trip that included a hilarious (and juicy!) typo: ‘promote the possibility of lasting peach’ between Israel and the Palestinians. Yes, we get it — it meant to say peace, but who’s to say the two sides can’t bond over some delicious fruit,” he asked.
For Palestinians, it can’t be easy to find humour in these tough times. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including leader Marwan Barghouti, have been enduring a prolonged and life-threatening hunger strike in which they have been making the most basic demands for better treatment, longer visitation hours with their families, and an end to arbitrary detentions.
On the day that Trump, along with right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, lectured Palestinians on peace, 17-year-old Tuqua Hammad was shot for allegedly throwing stones at Israeli military vehicles at the entrance of her village of Silwad near Ramallah.
Hammad “was shot in the lower extremities, and Israeli troops prevented a Palestinian ambulance from accessing the victim to treat her,” the Ma’an news agency reported.
A few miles away, Trump was writing his remarks after visiting Israel’s Holocaust Museum. Regrettably, he failed to meet the expectations of the Washington Post, for unlike Obama he was not poignant enough in his language and style for the newspaper’s approval.
The irony of the story is inescapable. But the American media still cannot see it, for it also seems to follow a script in which Palestinian rights, dignity and freedoms are hardly ever mentioned.
The author is an internationally-syndicated columnist, media consultant, author of several books and founder of the website PalestineChronicle.com