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The Israel-Palestine mask is off. It may never be reworn with the same naivety

September 18, 2018 at 11:08 am

People come together to protest against US President Donald Trump’s announcement to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel [PalestineGN/Twitter]

The mask is off. The US as an extremely biased arbiter in the Israel-Palestinian conflict has fully revealed itself.

In the ignoble Deal of the Century, Palestinians are told – your national aspirations are nothing. Right of return, refugee status, East Jerusalem as a capital and UNWRA aid from the US are gone. So is your mission in Washington. If you complain of our, or Israel’s, behavior to the International Criminal Court, the court itself will be sanctioned and its members prosecuted should they enter the United States.

When this ‘peacemaker’ strips Palestinians of negotiating bargaining chips, it’s no surprise that Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to sit at the table. The table is rigged to protect the bicycle thief; the victim cannot allude to getting their bike back nor even to the fact that it was stolen.

But perhaps there is a silver lining. Masks are invented to induce the public into believing in phantoms. These phantoms suggest that a 50-plus year occupation is justified; that Palestinians are terrorists, or at least dramatise their victimhood to gain international sympathy; that codifying Jewish demographic dominance is a ‘democratic’ norm; and that conducting mass murder against unarmed protesters is a legitimate means to ‘security’.

When masks are disrobed, reality becomes more transparent. The 2014 Gaza slaughter helped crack the mask’s plaster.

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However, although significantly less Palestinians were killed in the March of Return protests by the Israeli Army, there has been a far greater response among popular figures than in 2014. In April, Nathalie Portman refused to accept the Genesis Prize in Israel. Recently, Lana del Rey cancelled a concert in Israel. Days ago, US Senator Diane Feinstein called on Israel to cancel a planned demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar, a Bedouin community in the occupied West Bank.

Israel’s demolition of Al-Khan Al-Ahmar - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Israel’s demolition of Al-Khan Al-Ahmar – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Shattering the illusions of Israel as a human rights abiding nation has not resulted from just Israel’s egregious behaviour in recent years or its depiction on the Internet. It also derives from Democrats’ virulent opposition to Donald Trump. Democrats tend to oppose what he supports – often with due cause. As Trump is the most overtly pro-Israeli President in US history (because, if you’re a real American, then you must display an undying love for Israel), at least some of their criticism of Israel is implicitly a critique of Trump.

Certainly, this is not a bad thing.

But when the next Democratic president reaches office, will Democrats don the mask of being impartial brokers for peace, while relentlessly supporting Israel? Will liberal criticism of Israel then wither away into nothingness?

As past actions suggest future behaviour, most Democrats are likely to continue supporting Israel in the future, no matter what. As a measure of this past support, the Obama administration offers ample evidence.

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With less than a month to go during Obama’s tenure, Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech critical of Israel, referring to Israeli West Bank settlements as illegal. Despite Kerry’s last-minute speech, Obama protected Israel from UN condemnation all but one time, which was also during the lame duck month of December 2016. In 2015, when a resolution condemning Israeli war crimes in Operation Protective Edge came up at the UN Human Rights Council, the Obama administration voted against it and was duly thanked by Netanyahu. This was unsurprising, as Obama only offered tepid criticism as Israel targeted civilians during the 2014 Gaza slaughter.

Now Trump has cast off the impartial mask. It is hard for anyone with any conscience not to look on with horror. Yet this – in essence – is what US policy toward Israel-Palestine has been already, though now exacerbated and more obvious.

With the masks shattered, they may never ever be reworn with the same naivety. For when an ugly reality asserts itself, it is hard to forget – both that the US has always been heavily biased towards the conflict, and Israel’s occupation and rights abuse of Palestinians.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.