After dealing two devastating blows to the Palestinians on the status of Jerusalem and US aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and/or the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, Trump might be ready to reverse US policy on the occupation. Although a spokesperson for the State Department denied that the US has changed its position on the Israeli occupation, it was reported that US Ambassador David Friedman has already ordered the State Department to refrain from using this word to refer to Israel’s “alleged occupation” of the West Bank.
Trump could follow suit: He would not only strike the word “occupation” off the US playbook on Middle Eastern politics, but more dangerously endorse the Likud Party’s Central Committee’s colonialist policies of annexation of the West Bank.
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Palestine and the Truth of Trump’s Politics
Trump’s putatively anti-Palestinian policies are part-and-parcel to a wider global campaign that aims at sharpening the national and international contradictions that inform the new shift toward authoritarian capitalist politics in the global capitalist system.
Trump does not have it in only for the Palestinians. Palestine is only one critical issue in a constellation of global crises and contradictions where the brutality of Trump’s politics appears in its worst shape. These contradictions include the ecological catastrophe, immigration (racism), resource wars, freedom of the press, civil rights and his war on the poor and haves-not in the new apartheid regime.
In his morally bankrupt ideology, Trump refers to these vulnerable and disposable groups, the 99 percent of the world’s population, as the “worst of the worst.” He has also reduced them to metaphors of “garbage” and waste (feces), the way he has done to Muslim refugees and immigrants, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients, Salvadorans, Haitians and Africans. Palestinians must unite in solidarity with the “worst off” in the global capitalist system and actualize the promise for a radical change in the system.
Pax Americana’s Motley Alliances
Trump’s militaristic and oligarchic brand of authoritarian capitalism draws on ultra-right (white supremacist) and populist nationalist ideologies for support through the mediation of the transnational capitalist class. Trump’s wager is that the instability that could result from the explosion of these contradictions would make it easier for ultra-right authoritarian regimes around the world to take over. However, this politics is not without its political and ideological inconsistencies.
At the political level, Trump’s brazen attack on the Palestinians exposes the contradictions and limits of US hegemony and soft power in the world. In these times of geopolitical transitions, US hegemony in the Middle East and around the world is in decline, and other world powers, especially China, are ready to step in to fill the void left by the erosion of Pax Americana.
As it has become amply clear, the political and diplomatic agenda of the current White House on the Middle East is, for all intents and purposes, set outside the corridors of power in Washington. The Trump administration’s agenda has been defined in collusion with foreign governments, including the Israeli government, through the mediation of business moguls who are willing and ready to compromise US national security and interests in return for massive foreign investments in their personal business empires.
The international reaction to Trump’s anti-Palestinian politics clearly demonstrates this decline in US power around the world. When the number of the countries that voted for rescinding the Jerusalem declaration (128) is translated into world population size, these countries represent 90.5 percent of the world population, while 9 percent abstained and only 0.5 percent backed up the US.
Moreover, his immoral attack on the Palestinians reveals the ideological inconsistencies in the international fascist ultra-right alliances. Trump’s anti-Semitic Zionist convictions might seem to benefit the settler-colonial project and the apartheid politics of the Israeli occupation in the short term, but the long-term ramifications of such proclamations to Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem still remain unclear.
Needless to mention, Arab governments have worked in cahoots with the Trump administration on what has been dubbed as the “deal of the century,” which President Mahmoud Abbas has just referred to at the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Central Council meeting as “the slap of the century.” This would grant autonomous status to certain parts of the West Bank under Jordanian tutelage, while putting Gaza under Egyptian control. This deal would not only end any hopes for a two-state solution; it will liquidate the Palestinian struggle in exchange for formalizing relations with Israel.
The Collapse of the Palestinian Authority
Trump’s fervent anti-Palestinian politics has inadvertently exploded two major contradictions in the Palestinian struggle: the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the prospects of popular resistance.
In response to Trump’s threat to cut off aid to the PA, many Palestinian activists and media pundits urged him to make good on his threats. They hoped that such a move would bring down the ineffective comprador Palestinian Authority and lead to its total collapse and the termination of all accords and agreements for which it stands.
Little, it seems, did Trump know about the controversy over international aid in Palestinian circles. Many Palestinians have accused international donors of financing the occupation, domesticating Palestinian civil society and undermining civil resistance.
Although President Abbas has recently acknowledged that the PA is an “authority without any authority,” the dissolution of the PA is not feasible and will not probably be allowed to happen. First, Palestinians do not have any leverage to dictate settlement terms or force concessions. Unlike Pakistan, for example, Palestine will not be able to use its own dissolution, the way Pakistan has, as a bargaining chip in any negotiations.
Second, Palestinians are aware that once the Palestinian Authority collapses, neighboring Arab countries are ready to step in and take over the West Bank and Gaza. Third, Israel will probably intercede with the Trump administration on behalf of the PA, as it did in the past, to keep the Palestinian Authority in place. The security cooperation between Israel and the PA is vital for the stability of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank.
These days, the Palestinian Authority is flirting with the possibility of nixing both the Oslo Accords and the security coordination with Israel, but commentators concur that no “game-changing” strategies are in sight.
No New Intifada to Televise
The other contradiction that exploded as a result of Trump’s anti-Palestinian politics centers around the decline of popular resistance in the occupied Palestinian territories and Gaza. The wedge between official Palestinian national discourse and popular resistance has been amplified as a result of Trump’s politics and has been played out on the mobilization of the people in resisting Trump’s decrees and the occupation.
Against all predictions, calls for “days of rage” right after Trump’s Jerusalem declaration did not draw out the crowds and protesters that many media outlets were predicting. Although 20 Palestinians have been killed, thousands injured and more than a thousand arrested after clashes with the Israeli military and police, Jerusalem did not come crashing down and there was no revolution or new Intifada to televise.
With the eclipse of spontaneous or organized mass popular resistance, however, the debate about civil resistance and armed resistance is back in the news. The Israeli government’s attempt to clamp down on civil, nonviolent resistance has created a gap which more violent forms of resistance are trying to fill.
Recently, Israel has not only detained Ahed Tamimi, a fearless young Palestinian woman who has been involved in unarmed civil resistance to the Israeli occupation all her life. Ahed’s arrest has also reignited the international controversy about Israel’s targeted killings and mistreatment of Palestinian children under detention.
The Israeli government has also published the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions blacklist, banning the members of 20 organizations, including pro-Palestinian Jewish activist organizations, from entering Israel.
This crackdown on peaceful and nonviolent resistance created the conditions for the return of armed resistance to the occupation. Although no Palestinian faction or organization has claimed responsibility for the killing of an Israeli settler rabbi in a drive-by shooting near Nablus, media pundits view this as an indication of a “pivotal change in the general Palestinian mood towards a return to armed resistance.”
The Politics of “the Worst of the Worst”
Trump’s campaign against the Palestinians echoes his anti-poor and anti-immigrant domestic politics as well as his attack on Black people in Africa and Haiti, and Palestinians must continue working in solidarity with communities that have been deemed disposable to make a difference. For this to happen, Palestinians must reject any real or fictional support system that can allegedly fulfill their national dreams or conveniently provide fantasies of national wholeness and unity.
The answer to the Palestinian struggle should not come from any belief in a Big White Hope, who will “one day reward the Palestinians for their good behavior.” The most recent Palestinian Liberation Organization Central Committee meeting reveals that the Americans will still play a role in any future negotiations, even though it is not that of the “exclusive mediator.”
Moreover, Palestinians seem to be gravitating toward the international community (EU, UN, etc.) for a solution, despite the fact that, as President Abbas noted, none of the 86 UN Security Council resolutions on Palestine were implemented.
Radical change lies with genuine identification with those left out of the global system — the people Trump has deemed “garbage” and “waste.” They are the truth of this system. By uniting with them in a common emancipatory struggle, Palestinians can actualize the universal ideals for which they stand, and reinvigorate the class struggle that Trump’s politics has been intensifying around the world. Adapting a more politicized version of the renewed Poor People’s Campaign to the local conditions in Palestine within the context of Tricontinental politics could be a place to start.