Everybody is talking about the two-day Bahrain Conference held in Manama entitled “Peace to Prosperity Workshop” to discuss “prosperous” economic development proposals in Palestine. This conference is said to come as the first stage of the so called the “Deal of the Century.” But this is not true. The deal already started when the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem last year after declaring it, all of it, as the capital of the Jewish state of Israel as Israel killed 62 Palestinians participating in the peaceful demonstration of the Great Return March. Moreover, the U.S. declared Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights. And that the West Bank could be annexed to Israel. The “Peace to Prosperity Workshop” simply represents an economic aspect of this slowly unraveling deal.
On the surface, this conference looks exclusively economic but it goes beyond this. The danger of this conference not only manifests in boosting normalization between Arab countries, especially the Gulf, with Israel, but also minimizing the Palestinian struggle into an economic crisis. Meaning, it depoliticizes the Palestinian cause and portrays it as a humanitarian issue in the first place, denying the fact that Palestine suffers from a multi-tiered system of oppression enshrined in Israel and incarnated in occupation, settler-colonialism and Apartheid.
This conference, in fact, is one step in the continual dehumanization of the Palestinian people. It says that the Palestinian cause costs as much as 50 billion dollars as distributed to Palestine ($28 billion) and surrounding countries like Egypt ($12 billion), Jordan ($7 billion) and Lebanon ($6 billion) within the next 10 years. It says that the blood of the Palestinian martyrs and the people’s long suffering can be bargained upon. That money can make up to Palestinians for the ongoing ethnic cleansing which began in 1948. That the incremental genocide inflicted by Israel on Palestinians can be forgotten for crumbs of bread and a trivial sum of money. And most importantly, that the unquestionable right of Palestinians to return to their usurped homelands and compensation as guaranteed in Resolution 94 can be alienated.
What Kushner wants to convey is that peace can be achieved in the Middle East through building infrastructure in trade, transportation, tourism and digital services, forgetting the fact that Israel is the main reason behind the destruction of this infrastructure. Whatever apolitical projects are proposed will be deficient and unsuccessful, though it may prove the opposite in the short run, because the root of the problem lies in the existence of an apartheid state in Palestine.
Occupying the senior adviser in Trump’s current administration and living in a post-colonial America which wouldn’t have been the America known today without the genocide against its indigenous population, Jared Kushner insists on giving the impression of doing the Palestinians a favor by bringing “peace” and “prosperity” into their “reactionary” and “poverty-stricken” homeland. This colonial white supremacist mentality asks Palestinians to be the good slave by obeying and cooperating. The good Palestinian is the one who admits total submission to their master. Palestinians are expected to thank the American administration for saving them from themselves. Earlier this month, Kushner expressed racist remarks regarding the incapability of Palestinians to govern themselves. Therefore, Palestinians need a superior side, who are capable and advanced, to take control of them and direct their affairs.
From their side, Palestinians, inside the occupied Palestine and in the diaspora, announced their rejection of Manama conference and, consequently, its outcomes. Palestinians in the West Bank led civil demonstrations in the street condemning this conference, which is an auction in its essence, and those taking part in it. Gaza also has showed its rejection with a general strike. The Palestinian leadership asserted that this conference is empty of meaning as it comes against the will of Palestinians, and opens the gate to undervaluing the Palestinian cause. On the 63rd Friday of the Great Return March, Palestinians went out protesting under the slogan “Land Is not for Sale”
The power remains with the people. The civil society in the participating countries need to protest their governments’ participation. Palestinians bank on the conscientious people to heed their call of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, known widely as BDS, which aims at isolating Israel from the world until it ends its violations of human rights and complies with the international law. It is Palestinians who determine the form of solidarity with them as they are the oppressed. Palestinians seek freedom, justice and equality.
Once again, Kushner uses a decorated language to evade the fact that his plan aims at liquidating the Palestinian cause once and for all by obliterating the refugees cause. If the U.S. really had cared a bit about the economic status of the Palestinians, it would not have tried to shut down UNRWA or halted its aid in the first place! The picture is made even clearer by the Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, asking Palestinians to surrender and yearning for the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat who officially normalized with Israel in signing the Camp-David treatment in 1978.
This deal is beneficial to Israel only. After all, Trump and Kushner strive to maintain Israel’s security as if Israel is the not the real threat in the Middle East. Lately, the US ambassador, David M. Friedman, said that “Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”
The Oslo Accords evidently constitutes a fertile ground for the “Deal of the Century.” When signed in 1993, Oslo implanted the hope of bringing about prosperity in Palestine within 5 years and turning it into Singapore. After half a century of futile and fruitless peace process, the Palestinian situating is worsening. Jerusalem is gone, the West Bank is annexed, and the Gaza Strip has become the biggest concentration camp and largest open-air prison on Earth. And Palestinians annoy the world by not dying in silence. Because they keep banging on the tank!
What Kushner fails to understand is that freedom, justice and equality and dignity are rights that cannot be bought. The great late Egyptian poet Amal Donqol described this case well in his verses
“Do not reconcile
even if they give you gold
if I were to gouge out your eyes
and replace them with two gems
would you see?
These things are priceless”