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Barghouti: Trump peace effort ‘is about liquidating Palestinian rights’

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As the Trump administration held the economic track of its forthcoming peace plan in Bahrain yesterday and Tuesday, thousands of Palestinians protested the summit across the West Bank and Gaza.

Outside the Israeli settlement of Beit El near the outskirts of Ramallah, Mustafa Barghouti joined demonstrators on Wednesday. Barghouti is a leading political figure and head of the Palestinian National Initiative political party. He spoke to Mondoweiss about Palestinian opposition to any Trump led peace effort, even its economic incentives, “because it is part of the ‘deal of the century,’ which is about liquidating Palestinian rights.”

Neither the Palestinians or the Israelis were asked to send official delegations to Manama workshop.

While the White House has sought to focus on its $50 billion aid and investment package, Palestinians are keenly aware that high level officials have showed approval for Israeli annexation of the West Bank. The most recent example came earlier this month when the Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, told the New York Times, Israel has the “right to retain” parts of the West Bank. Days earlier Kushner questioned if the Palestinians are “capable of governing” on “Axios on HBO.”

“We’re not judging it with our imagination. We are judging it by what was officially stated by the team,” Barghouti said.

“Everything they’ve done, and everything they’ve declared, shows they are trying to kill the two-state solution and the rights of Palestinians to have a state of their own. They advocate sustaining occupation and apartheid,” Barghouti said.

In conjunction with the Bahrain summit the White House posted the full 140-page economic plan on its website. Missing from the report was the terms “occupation,” “freedom,” “equality,” and “blockade,” Barghouti explained. Fine details show just under half of the money will be disbursed to neighboring countries of Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. He questioned if those funds were for resettlement for Palestinian refugees.

“I think, they are planning to take the money away from UNRWA, the money that helps refugees will then be used to kill the issue of refugees,” and dissolve “Palestinian refugees rights, by settling them in Egypt and Jordan and Lebanon,” he said using the acronym for the United Nations agency responsible for refugees.

When asked about the viability of the proposed growth projects in the plan, which includes 179 infrastructure and business projects, Barghouti dismissed the ventures as “camouflage.” 

“The whole game of claiming there will be economic development is a false one…There is no economic prosperity. From these figures, we can say that what Kushner is proposing is deceit,” Barghouti said.

“It’s strange the Americans are calling for a meeting in an Arab country. And it’s a strange thing that all these people are discussing the issue of Palestinians without Palestinians,” he said.

More broadly, Barghouti castigated the summit for failing to address the main issue around Palestine’s stalling economy which is not lack of investment, but the occupation itself.  A United Nations report in 2016 found the Palestinian economy could double in size if the illegal Israeli military occupation was lifted.

Hence, his opinion of this summit: it was dead-on-arrival. “This whole workshop is still-born. It was born dead,” he said. 

He concluded Palestinians will agree to a deal , “Only by ending the occupation, ending the system of apartheid and allowing Palestinians to have statehood.”

Protesters demonstrate near the Beit El checkpoint outside of Ramallah. (Photo: Miriam Deprez)

Protesters demonstrate near the Beit El checkpoint outside of Ramallah. (Photo: Miriam Deprez)

Other Palestinian leaders similarly spurned the economic plan.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh publicly stated his reservations in a cabinet meeting on the eve of the summit, dismissing workshop in Bahrain as “simply nonsense”.

“It is really ironic, that the American administration who is imposing serious financial war on the Palestinian Authority is the one that is calling for the Bahrain workshop to improve the living conditions of the Palestinian people,” the prime minister said.

Denunciations were made from most Palestinian factions. Hamas rejected Kushner’s proposals and the entire Bahrain economic workshop as a “new plot against the Palestinian lands and cause.”

In a press release, the militant group that runs Gaza had terse words for Arab participants in the summit, including Egypt an often mediator in disputes with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It said it considers “the participation of any side as an assault against the Palestinian people” and stressed that “the decisions made in this event are null and void.”

Indeed the resentment towards Arab officials was on display in the center of Ramallah.

At Manara Square, a focal point for protests, Palestinians carried a coffin with the words “the deal of the century” and the “decisions of the Arab League” – indicative that it’s not just the summit which Palestinians are angry with, but all of the involved parties.

Back at the protest by Beit El, 16-year-old Palestinian-American protester Zanab who asked for her last name to be excluded from publication rejected that lack of Palestinian involvement in peacemaking. Last December after the President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the PLO and the White House cut ties. Yet the process has moved forward with Israeli officials still involved, increasingly regarded by Palestinians as sharing objectives with the Trump administration.

“I think that it’s unfair. I think that it’s unjustified and it is unhumanitarian,” Zanab said. “It shouldn’t be anyone else’s decision.”

Miriam Deprez

Miriam Deprez is an Australian-born freelance photojournalist. Her images and articles have been published in several international and national media outlets reporting from Palestine, Europe, Russia, India, Cambodia, Pacific Islands and regional Australia to name a few.

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7 Responses

  1. LiberatePalestine on June 27, 2019, 7:15 pm

    → it’s a strange thing that all these people are discussing the issue of Palestinians without Palestinians

    Reminds me of the Munich Betrayal, in which Britain and France did the same thing to Czechoslovakia.

    «Peace for our time»?

  2. Misterioso on June 28, 2019, 9:25 am

    “US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ conference actually offers Palestine little hope”
    Middle East Monitor, June 26/19, by Yvonne Ridley

    “The Trump administration’s vision for a futuristic-looking Gaza Strip is like something dreamed up by a Hollywood theme park, with pristine beaches reaching out into the calm, blue waters of the Mediterranean. It ignores the fact that these are the same beaches where children playing football in the sand and Palestinian families enjoying a picnic have been killed by Israeli bombs.

    “America’s vision for a high-rise Metropolis conveniently overlooks the Palestinian civilians killed and injured in their tens of thousands during three major Israeli military offensives against the enclave. So-called Operation Protective Edge, launched on 8 July 2014, for example, slaughtered thousands of civilians over a seven-week period during which carnage, punishment bombings and devastation on a massive scale were inflicted upon Gaza’s besieged population who had nowhere to run. More than 550 Palestinian children were among those killed, while hundreds more received life-changing injuries in war crimes which still have to be accounted for.

    “These are the facts bulldozed to one side by the son-in-law of the US President who wants the world to embrace his vision for economic prosperity in Palestine. Jared Kushner is married to Trump’s daughter and acts as a senior White House adviser despite having little or no diplomatic experience in the Middle East. He is swaggering across the world stage to promote this glossy image.

    “What he will not do is address the real problem, which is exactly how Palestinians will achieve their aspirations for a sovereign state of Palestine. Kushner is doing everything in the wrong order; in Britain we’d say that he is putting the cart before the horse.

    “Furthermore, this farce is a bit like reheating toast. Something similar — the Trump Administration is devoid of originality — was attempted while optimism was high during the Oslo peace process. US lawyer and politician Mel Levine and James Zogby, the co-founder and president of the Arab American Institute, served as co-chairs for a project called Builders for Peace, which pulled together a high-powered team of Jewish American and Arab American business leaders.

    “Running parallel with the peace process designed to negotiate a real political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within five years, this prestigious group set about developing a scheme to bring prosperity to Palestine. The scheme lasted barely three years and failed miserably because of Israeli intransigence. Thriving businesses and a bustling economy could then — and, significantly, can now —only be achieved through Palestinians having freedom of movement for both people and goods. Such independence would enable them to import raw materials and export their finished products to the world.

    “Despite the terms of the Oslo Accords and follow-up economic agreements, Israel’s government has consistently refused to hand over control of the Palestinian economy in the occupied territories. Thus, the real freedom for Palestinians to do business with the outside world was crushed, as international companies withdrew their offers to extend or relocate to Palestine while it was still under Israeli occupation.

    “Israel’s petty, spiteful approach even extended to a small shipment of flower bulbs to Gaza intended to jump-start a plan to export flowers to Europe. The Israelis refused to allow the bulbs to be unloaded and, as a direct result, they rotted and died.

    “The truth is that all the evidence points to the fact that a Palestinian State could flourish only if Israel stepped back and stopped meddling. Israel, though, does not want to see Palestine prosper beyond Zionist control. A recent World Bank study revealed that Palestinians would triple their growth rate if barriers to free trade were lifted, but the last thing Tel Aviv wants is a success story emerging from Palestine.

    “What’s more, thanks to the continuing expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, Palestine has been reduced to a series of ‘Bantustan’ pockets of land surrounded by roadblocks, the grotesque wall and settler-only highways making it impossible to establish free movement for trade or any other normal life. East Jerusalem, which once served as the economic, political, social, cultural and educational hub of its West Bank hinterland, has been annexed by Israel in an illegal move unrecognised by most of the world, fuelling Palestinian hardship. The situation in Gaza is even worse.

    “Against this backdrop of misery and hardship, why is Kushner so keen to push his Peace to Prosperity Conference in Bahrain? Some say that it’s a vanity project, or a back door way of enabling the business-led Trump administration to identify who has the cash to splash. Whatever its rationale is, without a viable political solution in place this conference will lead nowhere. As it stands, it is an insult to the Palestinians living in dire poverty in the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, as well as the refugee camps scattered around the Middle East and the wider diaspora.

    “Like everything coming out of the fantasy factory that is Washington’s White House these days, this is a grotesque farce that has been conceived by an administration whose president was propelled to fame by ‘reality’ TV shows, but the Palestinians deserve better than this. They need the freedom to trade and move around; that alone will attract investment. However, as long as Israel keeps a tight grip on the occupied Palestinian territories and their economy, this is not going to happen.

    “Kushner and Trump’s $50 billion proposals, unveiled in a 90-page dossier in Bahrain is nearly as daft as those who will be attending the conference, which does not include the Israelis or the Palestinians themselves. If that doesn’t set alarm bells ringing I’m not sure what will.

    “The reality is that whatever support is promised in Manama, everything will be conditional on seeing the political solutions of what Donald Trump himself has called the ‘deal of the century.’ In the meantime, the US President’s America looks increasingly unlike a credible honest broker in the Middle East peace process as it continues to make crazy decisions involving Jerusalem, the status of Palestinian refugees and the future of Syrian’s Golan Heights.

    “In conclusion, I have another word of warning for the Palestinians. Promises of state money, foreign investment and international funding upon achieving independent statehood were once made to the good citizens of East Timor and South Sudan. Their experience demonstrates that promises are easy and plentiful, but real investment is more elusive until and unless genuine freedom is part of the deal. Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is unlikely to provide anywhere near that. ‘Peace to Prosperity’ actually offers Palestine and its people very little hope indeed.”

  3. James Canning on June 28, 2019, 12:05 pm

    Kushner apparently is a fan of Israel’s Bantustan program.

  4. Mayhem on June 28, 2019, 7:04 pm

    “the rights of Palestinians to have a state of their own”
    What are we talking about here – the right of the ‘Palestinians’ to establish yet another failed Muslim state in the Middle East?

    • Vera Gottlieb on June 30, 2019, 12:11 pm

      Failed state??? And this presumption gives the West/israel to decide what the fate of Palestinians is going to be? Of course, I must remember that Christianity never had a ‘failed state’…never.

      • Mayhem on July 4, 2019, 7:14 am

        How can there be a state now with the irreconcilable differences between Hamas and Fatah, the hatred driving Hamas and the appalling corruption of the PA?

  5. Vera Gottlieb on June 30, 2019, 12:09 pm

    Hitler had a definite plan to eliminate European Jewry and the world looked the other way. Same thing happening to Palestinians and the world looking the other way…again? Do we ever feel shame?

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