The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, visited Israel and met with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and the leader of the West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas. The entire noise of the Biden administration regarding US foreign policy could be rounded off to one word: status quo. Well, maybe those are two words but you get the idea. Blinken in the quintessential American way expressed his unflinching support for the Jewish state. He made the right noise and did the right diplomatic dance. He talked about restoring aid to the Palestinian people as well as restoring the US embassy in Jerusalem. But he also stood next to Netanyahu who made a threat against Hamas.
Most importantly, Blinken along with Netanyahu tried to make a distinction between Hamas and the Palestinian people. Laughably, even Netanyahu talked about making the lives of the Palestinians better when the Arab citizens of his own country are facing the worst discrimination in any state. That is the man who in the 2015 election made a last-ditch racist attempt to rally his voters by saying, “The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses.” No wonder chutzpah is a Hebrew word: it takes a ridiculous amount of that chutzpah to indulge in such strong doublespeak.
Truth be told, the only two things that Blinken changed were the rhetoric and the pledge of restoring aid to the Palestinians. President Trump viewed all Muslims in the same light. To him, there was perhaps no distinction between Hamas and the Palestinians in that region. There is no indication that his son-in-law Jared Kushner knew either. Kushner had gone to Harvard and knew Netanyahu such that on various American trips Netanyahu slept in Kushner’s bedroom while the latter slept in the basement of his house. Yet, Kushner didn’t know much because he had made it to Harvard through bribery (donation loophole), which was recently uncovered in the notorious college admissions scandal. Furthermore, both Harvard and Netanyahu have been extremely unreliable sources regarding the truth about Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians. Their ignorance, however, only fed their loathing further.
Blinken is restoring the status quo of making the fictional distinction between Hamas and the Palestinian people. This is a classic example of two administrations doing the opposite to achieve the same aim. Every time, leading American news publications describe Hamas, it is followed by this phrase: “the militant group that controls Gaza”. Hamas is an elected party, regardless of how many would disagree with them and their actions. I wonder if, keeping to the same journalistic standards, the same newspapers would describe the Republican Party as the “militant organisation that sent bombs and missiles to Iraq based on lies” and the Democratic Party as “the militant party that bombed the Al Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, depriving people of much-needed medicine; or starved half a million children to death and then said that their death was a worthy price to pay?”
Actually, a double status quo was restored with Blinken’s visit. One, of keeping the Palestinians as they were under Trump and even before. Gaza was literally an open-air prison before and that is what it is now. Two, of tapping oneself on the back for helping the Palestinian cause with the two-state solution. The latter status quo is for the American audience. This doublespeak serves everyone: the Democratic vote bank that sympathises with the Palestinian cause as well as those who believe in Israel’s right to defend itself. Because it helps the self-image to think we are helping Palestinians while we are arming Israelis to the teeth so they can defend themselves against those slingshot armed Palestinians. This doublespeak is the real status quo that was restored.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2021.