It was almost as funny to listen to the “experts” on US channels trying to summarise Donald Trump’s ravings on the Middle East as it was to listen to his original gobbledegook at his press conference with Bibi Netanyahu.
Unable to understand what the President’s inanities actually meant, the lads and lasses of the satellite channels were telling us that he was not as committed as his predecessor to the “two-state” solution but might favour a “one-state” solution – yet wasn’t ruling out a “two-state” solution. Oh yes, and he’d like Bibi to “hold back” on settlements. Most of the “experts” chose to leave out the pathetic Trump addendum – “for a little bit” – because they had no more idea than Trump what this actually meant.
The most lamentable quotation looks even worse on paper than it did when first uttered opposite a clearly nonplussed Israeli Prime Minister: “So I’m looking at two states and one state. And I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two states looked like it may be the easier of the two. To be honest, if Bibi and the Palestinians, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy – I’m happy with the one they like the best.”
After the second sentence, most transcripts – and you could hear it clearly at the Washington press conference – inserted the word “LAUGHTER”.
Indeed there was laughter. Not because this was an intended joke by Donald Trump, but because his words were so flippant, so careless, so ignorant, so utterly deplorable, that laughter was the only psychological human release available to sane men and women after such tragic frivolity.
An entire Arab people, a future Palestine – I notice the word itself was actually avoided – lies under the longest military occupation in modern history and the best the President of the United States could do was say that, heck, he’d go along with one state or two states – or maybe three, for all we knew. The idea that one state might either be a secular Israel/West Bank state for Jews and Arabs with an Arab majority – goodbye Israel – or one state for Jews only but including a non-voting Arab majority – apartheid Israel – was simply neither here nor there.
No wonder Bibi – how charming the old reprobate seems now beside Trump, almost “moderate” you might say – kept his mouth shut for longer than usual in the press conference. Trump has some nasty anti-Semites among his supporters, and Netanyahu preferred to keep his throwaway hygienic gloves on during this particular performance. Trump waffled on about Palestinian “hate”, and the hate-filled Palestinians (poor Hanan Ashrawi, Saeb Erekat and the rest) later preferred to take Trump more seriously, which – given that their homes might soon be stolen from them in their entirety by love-filled Israelis – was only to be expected.
But it was instructive to recall beyond all this nonsense just how the very foundations of any modern discussion of an Israeli-Palestinian “solution” have for decades been built on a pile of journalistic and political semantic trash – which has now become so normal a part of the Palestine story that we have come to accept it as genuine. We all invented “alternative facts” in the Middle East when Trump was still at school.
Let’s start with settlements, the one word which both the sane Bibi Netanyahu and the insane Donald Trump felt happy to use. And there’s a problem here. Because there are no such objects as “settlements” on the Arab-Palestinian West Bank. They are colonies for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, stolen – immorally, as well as, in many cases, illegally under international law – from their rightful owners. The Jews who live on them are colonialists. This word is forbidden by all parties – especially journalists – for obvious reasons.
Which is why Bibi, more anxious about the encroachments of the anti-Israel boycott campaign than he cares to admit, was waffling on about how “Jews are called Jews because they come from Judea” (the Israeli name for the occupied West Bank) and thus “Jews are not foreign colonialists in Judea”. Alas Palestinians are called Palestinians because they come from Palestine – and that part of Palestine which the Israelis call Judea is not within the border of the territory of the internationally recognised Israeli state (of which Bibi is Prime Minister). But this is far, far too much to grasp for Donald Trump. Better keep to those friendly “settlements” and the hate-filled Palestinian communities who – in some reports – “surround” the settlements.
We’ve long ago settled on a vocabulary of lies to support these alternative facts. Media reports often speak not of settlements, but of “Jewish neighbourhoods” – as if these examples of land theft are modern versions of Milton Keynes, harmless little state-sponsored suburbs whose Jewish people just want to live in peace with their “neighbours” (the hate-filled Palestinians) whose territory they have stolen.
Similarly, the “wall” – mercifully unmentioned by Trump and Netanyahu – is still often referred to as a “security fence”, or even just a “fence”. The late Ariel Sharon’s alleged purpose in building this monstrosity was to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israel – or “Israel Proper”, as we have taken to calling it, to distinguish it, I suppose, from “Israel Improper”, which is the bit to the east of Israel inhabited by “settlers” but also by the hate-filled Palestinians. I might be more persuaded to accept Sharon’s explanation if it was not for the fact that the so-called fence – higher and longer than the Berlin Wall – encroaches on Palestinian territory which does not belong to Israel; and thus is part of the Israeli land-grab from the Arabs.
The story, needless to say, goes on and on. Talk of “occupied territories” – in other words, the West Bank (we shall speak not here of Golan) – is an absolute no-no these days in all respectable Western/American/Israeli conversation because the “occupied territories”, filled with hate-filled Palestinians, cannot be “occupied” if they are the lands of the Jews who are not (ergo Bibi) colonialists. And thus we have devised another phrase: they are “disputed” territories.
This expression has two advantages. Firstly, it avoids – as it did for Trump and Netanyahu – all talk of occupation. Secondly, “dispute” suggests a little local disagreement about land deeds, something which might be resolved over a cup of coffee or a chat between two lawyers. Anyone who tries to resolve such a “dispute” by throwing stones or protesting must therefore obviously be generically violent – which accounts for all those hate-filled Palestinians.
And thereby we have to conclude. Pack them all into one state, Israel and the West Bank – both Israel Proper and Israel Improper – and you’ve got an Arab state. The Peacock, Gaddafi of Libya, almost as cracked as Trump, once proposed to call this “Israel-tine”. I’m not sure what it would be called if all its people had equal human rights. But it wouldn’t be Israel. Then there’s the Jewish state called – I suppose – Israel, with no rights for the Arab majority and therefore an apartheid state, though one not much different from other Middle East nations in which minorities rule over majorities.
“So I’m looking at two states and one state,” Trump told the world. “And I like the one that both parties like … I can live with either one.” The trouble is that the Israelis and the Palestinians cannot live with either one. But “I’m happy with the one they like the best,” quoth Trump. Cue: LAUGHTER!