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From Jerusalem, A Letter to Jared Kushner

As a peace activist, I see the denial of Palestinian freedom by Israel and the United States following a tragic trajectory

President Donald Trump talks with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jared Kushner in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017.  (Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump talks with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jared Kushner in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017.  (Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images)

What follows is the text of an email I have just sent to Jared Kushner, in his role as Special Advisor to President Donald Trump, prior to the launch of his “peace plan” for Israel/Palestine.

Dear Jared Kushner:

I’m one of many Israeli peace activists you haven’t met. I suspect you haven’t tried to reach out to us, just as you didn’t reach out to leading Palestinian businessmen such as Sam Bahour, before launching your “economic peace” plan—which to me suggests Golden Calf enslavement, not conflict resolution.

And since the United States closed its USAID program in Palestine this year, I’m more than skeptical (absent basic trust building measures to convince us) that delivery of billions from Bahrain could be logistically feasible without a mechanism for delivery or the necessary institutional memory to serve efficiency rather than corruption.

Although I’ve been regularly invited to the US embassy’s July 4th celebrations, this year, together with most peace or human rights NGOs and other civil society representatives, I stayed away, sensing that attendance might indicate approval for American/Israeli policies—policies that are directly contrary to efforts for genuine peace. Having met with senior officers at both the embassy and consulate in preceding months, I noted even then that neither basic Palestinian civil rights nor their need to be able to live at peace with us in freedom were at the forefront of American thinking. When it came to Palestine, the magic word “viability” was no longer even being used.

As a peace activist, I see the denial of Palestinian freedom by Israel and the United States following a tragic trajectory: we create what we fear. If we deny higher purpose or give in to such lower motives as selfishness, greed or the inferiority that needs to feel superior or “chosen,” I believe that we Israelis will never experience the freedom we yearn for, as referenced in our national anthem, HaTikva, while deliberately choking those we desperately seek to control.

Nor can we fulfill intrinsic Jewish values that warn us not to do to others what we wouldn’t have done to us, nor raise coming generations to recognize the sacred and God’s image in ALL life, if we continue on this path of moral destruction.

Jared Kushner, maybe you believe you’re supporting Israel with your positions, statements and actions? For those of us who for many decades have fought for peace, nothing could be more mistaken. In our view, you’re condemning Israel to suicide. As the saying goes, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” Because Israel is seriously addicted, high on hubris, following policies that are creating what Israelis most fear without a responsible adult laying down borders, metaphoric and literal.

You and your colleague Jason Greenblatt tend to blame the Palestinians for the years of failed negotiations. This goes 180 degrees against the reality watched first-hand by those of us living here. We remember the lies of Ehud Barak’s 2000 election campaign, stating there was a generous offer rejected by Arafat (there was none – how could they be at peace with us when we weren’t even prepared to share the water with them?). They claimed that there was no partner, or that the Palestinians rejected peace—all so that Barak could win the election by blaming Arafat. Today, Barak’s aide Eldad Yaniv takes public responsibility for those positions in endless “mea culpas” on TV and in print, confessing he never realized our Israeli public would believe the lies then, and continue to believe them until now.

Israel, prejudicing its own long-term future—not least as a Jewish democratic state—has actively increased its highly strategic settler colonialism (220,000 settlers in 1991: 600,000+ today, largely located in the Jerusalem region, but also straddling all main mountain aquifer sources), while working to de-develop the Palestinian economy. According to the World Bank, due to Israeli occupation policies, the Palestinian economy is losing billions every year.

De facto gradual annexation is a reality, while outright annexation is regularly demanded by such as the Likud Central Committee or their partners in right-wing coalitions. Jared, even your father-in-law, soon after his inauguration called on Netanyahu to go easy on building new settlements. It’s no secret that settlements have been built deliberately to prevent Palestinian viability. Yet neither of them has upheld that position.

As an Israeli I find it tragic that at no point has Israel recognized Palestinian rights or reached out to serve Palestinian viability. Not only that, our Israeli policies create conditions in which terror thrives. Have you studied issues of home demolitions or zoning and planning, which deliberately prevent Palestinian landowners from building on their own land, in East Jerusalem, Area C or even – more recently in Sur Baher – Areas A and B? The Oslo Accords, as signed by Israel (also a signatory to the Geneva and Hague Conventions) cite that Areas A and B are to be under Palestinian administrative control. And Area C was to be only temporarily under Israeli control, until 1999.

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I hear your father-in-law believes he can ride the “tiger” of Christian fundamentalist Zionism (the Trump Administration’s base, many of whom believe “the hand of God is on Donald Trump”), which fundamentally empowers those following an agenda of war, contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Surely the tested principles of conflict resolution, and such basics as the need for generosity, equality and trust-building would be more in tune with Christianity than seeking the Rapture in holocaust? Not least at a time when scientists agree that World War III might cause the extinction of Mother Earth, especially if such a war is nuclear. Only death cultists or the singularly stupid and ignorant could willingly go down that route! The Trump administration denies climate change, despite the science and evidence—Noam Chomsky accuses it of crimes against life for that complicity. Jesus taught his followers to turn the other cheek when hit; his Beatitudes say, “Blessed are the peacemakers”—not those sentencing others to wanton destruction by death cult!

Finally, let me relate a conversation I had in late 2013 with Ron Dermer, then newly appointed as our representative to the US. Recognising him at my local post office, I asked if I might pose a question.

“Yes, of course,” he replied.

”You people aren’t very serious about peace, are you?”

The reply came with knee-jerk immediacy: “No, of course we want peace!  But… it takes two! You gotta have a partner!”

I rebutted with a swift, “No. The Palestinians want peace.”

Ambassador Dermer was somewhat lost for words by my conviction, and then said, “So, what’s your solution, then?”

I told him then what I say to you now: “We have to open our hearts and be generous, give them what they need to be able to be at peace with us, stop this wheeler-dealer mentality and stop abusing, killing and humiliating them. In the knowledge that as the stronger party, we have a larger share of responsibility in leading the way out of the current reality.  And then go on to save the planet.”

A mumbled thanks, almost no eye contact and Dermer disappeared. Because those who follow win-lose thinking, rather than win-win, those who need to dominate or rule supreme, are neither democratic by instinct, nor spiritual by principle. Since Palestinians are Semitic, one might even call them anti-Semites.

Jared Kushner, your project will not bring peace. It is a recipe for further stress and strain on those already stressed, strained, occupied and de-developed. While allowing Israel to continue to delete the many rich Palestinian cultures, not least that of Bedouin desert-dwellers who know how to live in desert with grace. At a time when Israeli desertification has made Israel the No. 2 most stressed country in the world when it comes to water resources, you might have thought that keeping alive the wisdom of how to survive sustainably in extreme weather conditions would be valued.

Ah, yes, but your father-in-law and his Administration don’t believe in climate change or global warming, do they? Or in the holistic nature of survival, the need for empathy so that we remain human and full partners in the human race. 

God help us. And protect us from so-called “friends” like you, sir. 

Angela Godfrey-Goldstein

Angela Godfrey-Goldstein

Angela Godfrey-Goldstein directs Jahalin Solidarity, a Palestinian organization advocating against the Israeli Occupation. An environmental activist in Sinai, Egypt, for four years and a 2018 Rebuilding Alliance Peacemaker awardee, she wrote a chapter about her work for the past 20 years with Bedouin in a 2018 book, published by Veritas, “Defending Hope.

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