Trump’s ‘Lord Balfour moment’ is formal recognition the US was never an honest broker

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It is “the morning after,” and the world, with few exceptions, is denouncing Trump’s declaration that the US recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  With those few exceptions, politicians globally are making vapid statements about the “dangers” of that declaration, namely that it would lead to an escalation of violence, and jeopardize the “peace process.”   There seems to be little recognition of the relentless violence of Israeli settler-colonialism, and the complete violation of the Geneva convention and international law by both Israel and the US president.   

There is something to be said about Israel’s deeply-seated need for “recognition,” of its right to exist, its right to “defend itself,” and its claim that Jerusalem is its capital city.  That need betrays the (sometimes repressed) knowledge that Israel is a usurper, that Jews globally do not have a “right” to becoming settlers, and that what Israel is “defending” is an illegal occupation.  Specifically, in the case of Jerusalem, the city is illegally annexed, with a clear system of apartheid privileging one socio-political ethnicity over the indigenous people.  It is no wonder a president, Trump, who openly aligns himself with white supremacy at home, would naturally favor Jewish supremacy in historic Palestine. This is his “Lord Balfour moment,” in which, in a gesture of imperial largesse, he presumes to hand over land that is not his, to another people. Britain’s gambit did not work out so well one hundred years ago, and neither will Trump’s gesture.  It may satisfy his own ignominious hubris, his ambition to conclude “the deal of the century,” but it cannot bring about justice.

And yet Trump’s announcement does not jeopardize the peace process. This is because “Oslo” was still-born, it just has not been buried yet.  Rather, for the past 20 years, it has been on life-support, with no chance of survival.  And there has been no “peace” during the “process,” only growing injustice, more disenfranchisement of the indigenous people, ongoing ethnic cleansing, and a genocidal siege on two million Palestinians in Gaza.  This is the “process” that led to two intifadas, and created the political context of global grassroots solidarity in the form of BDS.  

And still, politicians continue to prop up this cadaver.  The European Union, for example, holds on to the chimera of a two-state solution, and “negotiations” that will determine the fate of Jerusalem.  “There is a UN resolution on this issue and the issue of Jerusalem must be raised in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” the EU ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, said, as he announced that the EU will not be moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has finally unplugged the useless apparatus.  Whether the US embassy is moved or not–and that is yet to be determined, and cannot possibly be accomplished in under two to three years–what Trump has achieved is the formal recognition that the US has never been a fair mediator, a “neutral broker,” but rather that it has always supported Israeli settler-colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid.  Democrats have been more hypocritical about it, consistently increasing their financial aid to Israel even as they criticized the settlements as an obstacle to peace.  Trump lacks any and all diplomacy, and if there is anything he is good at, it is his unabashed embrace of various oppressive systems.  His national base is white supremacists, his global base is Zionism, another form of ethnic supremacy.

The mask has come off.  Both in the US, as well as in Israel, which is open about its desire to keep on expanding. “From the river to the sea” is not only the Palestinian dream of liberation, since all of historic Palestine is occupied, it is also the Zionist vision of Greater Israel, which the settlers have been slowly but surely making a reality, with the “facts on the ground.” 

If any pain is felt today, and in the coming weeks, it is the pain that comes from removing a band-aid that has long covered up a festering wound.  The wound will certainly heal better now.  And the rage is an expression of the people’s recognition that there seems to be no end to imperial hubris in sight. Yet now is not the time to glorify the “sumoud narrative;” the pain, the rage, the outrage, are too raw.  Palestinians, especially in Jerusalem, will pay a very high price for Trumps’ declaration.  Yet we persist, because we must.

One of the earliest Zionist visionaries, Vladimir Jabotinsky, remains relevant today. In his 1923 treatise, the Iron Wall, where he laid out his vision for settler colonialism, he explains, with impressive foresight:

It may be that some individual Arabs take bribes. But that does not mean that the Arab people of Palestine as a whole will sell that fervent patriotism that they guard so jealously, and which even the Papuans will never sell. Every native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being colonised. That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they will be able to prevent the transformation of ‘Palestine’ into the ‘Land of Israel’.”

No, Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel did not kill the two-state solution.  That “solution” never had a chance. Palestine, like justice, is indivisible. Trump’s declaration merely pushed aside any pretense at objectivity, neutrality, fairness, or “process.”  It certainly did not smother the “spark of hope.”

Trump’s declaration has made clear that, just as with South Africa last century, the US government is on the wrong side of history today. And just as with apartheid South Africa, the people of the land, along with the global community, will determine the outcome. Apartheid, or one democratic state?  

Even in the searing pain of “the morning after,” as we look around, and see a clearly-demarcated strategy of resistance, and take in the multiple expressions of global solidarity with the Palestinian people, we know we will overcome, someday.

About Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism.

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17 Responses

  1. RoHa
    December 8, 2017, 12:57 am

    I don’t think anyone over the age of fourteen has ever believed that the US was an honest broker.

    Trump took the final step, but, as Keith has pointed out elsewhere, that step was to stop blocking decisions made by previous US governments. It was not him alone, but the US power elite. As far as I can tell, Trump’s actual voting base was not white supremacists, but working class people who were fed up with being screwed over by the rich and sneered at by the fashionable artsy-fartsies. But white-supremacy is the fashionable villain.

    • Marnie
      December 8, 2017, 10:01 am

      “I don’t think anyone over the age of fourteen has ever believed that the US was an honest broker.”

      Well, I’m ashamed to say that I was way, way over age 14 when I believed in the US. I stopped believing in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus when I was well under 14. I hung onto the propaganda that the US was something it had never been, a belief that was heavily reinforced by my family, schools, community, my church and later synagogue and the dead relatives who died in her various wars. The scales have fallen off my eyes over the last 20 years.

      To me, tRUMP and netanyahu are the same person; they’ve managed to stay in power lying to a base they don’t give a damn about and endlessly searching for the next victim for their constituents to direct their rage at.

    • Mooser
      December 8, 2017, 1:40 pm

      ” As far as I can tell, Trump’s actual voting base was not white supremacists, but working class people who were fed up with being screwed over by the rich and sneered at by the fashionable artsy-fartsies. But white-supremacy is the fashionable villain”

      So I see you’re back to wrestling crocodiles. And so quickly, too!

      • eljay
        December 8, 2017, 2:01 pm

        || Mooser: … I see you’re back to wrestling crocodiles … ||

        RoHa FTW!! :-)

      • Mooser
        December 8, 2017, 2:33 pm

        “RoHa FTW!! :-)”

        Well, I didn’t want to say anything medically incorrect.

      • eljay
        December 8, 2017, 3:52 pm

        || Mooser: … Well, I didn’t want to say anything medically incorrect. ||

        I know. I’m sure you’d enjoy having a beer with him as much as I would. :-)

    • RoHa
      December 10, 2017, 5:43 am

      I ran out of steam before I could finish that.

      It seems to me that Zionist political power – Zionist money, Zionist controlled media, Zionists in high and influential positions – is quite sufficient to explain it.

      Trump and the power elite may be white supremacist. (Though I suspect that money supremacism is more likely.)
      There might be some resonance between white supremacism and Jewish supremacism. (Though conflict seems at least as probable.)

      But I see no need for such postulates.

  2. Citizen
    December 8, 2017, 4:45 am

    Ralph Nader should be POTUS.

  3. Elizabeth Block
    December 8, 2017, 10:06 am

    The two-state solution is in its casket at the funeral home. Politicians, and pundits, who still support(ed) it don’t take the Palestine issue seriously.
    Ditto the US as an honest broker – never was, never will be. Maybe it’s a good thing that the b.s. has been dumped.

    • Citizen
      December 8, 2017, 11:59 am

      Nobody influential in USA main media or government cares enough to put their career on the line.

      • MHughes976
        December 8, 2017, 12:31 pm

        I don’t think that in recent years anyone of importance has ever really claimed to be an honest broker, except perhaps for Trump at that one strange moment in the campaign. Which didn’t last long. The ideological climate makes fairness and impartiality seem like moral faults. Support for the 2ss continues, though. It’s not so much a corpse to my mind as a mirage but it flickers and tantalises still and will be back on the agenda of Abbas and the Saudis very soon.

    • LHunter
      December 9, 2017, 1:38 am

      Agreed – sometimes I think anything but status quo

      • ritzl
        December 11, 2017, 11:58 am

        Agree.

  4. inbound39
    December 9, 2017, 12:51 am

    Funny really as well as damned sad. Trump’s crew claimed to have spent much time making this choice and apparently looked at all pertinent information. They obviously missed Israel’s declaration of sovereignty where the Israeli government stated its borders were those defined by Resolution 181. Jerusalem and Golan were not part of its territory. Later the UN asked them to clarify their borders and again Jerusalem was not part of their territory. They stated it was Occupied. Since, the Zionists have turned the story around and and illegally annexed Jerusalem and now US claims Israel has Jerusalem as its capital. Trump nor any of his crew have ever visited the Harry Truman Museum,,,the declaration is on view there. Talknic also has the pertinent document contents on his site.

  5. ritzl
    December 11, 2017, 11:58 am

    A) Don’t forget Wahhabism as the third component of Trump’s Greek-chorus of adoring bigots/repressors.

    B) Noura Erakat made an interesting distinction between “peace process”/Oslo and a “two-state” objective – declaring the former a stillborn sham, and the latter now unachievable. Equally interesting is that she (pretty open-endedly) concludes that the “one-state” rights-based approach is equally unachievable. Hard to tell where it all leads now, but it has to lead somewhere new, I reckon.

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