The neocolonial arrogance of the Kushner Plan

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner attending the ceremonial opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. (photo: Menahem Kahana / AFP / Getty Images)
With the neocolonial plans they have concocted for the Palestinians, Kushner and his Israeli allies are swimming against the tide of history.

By Rashid Khalidi | The New York Review of Books | Jun 12, 2019

The Trump administration’s Middle East ‘initiatives’ so far have virtually all come pre-packaged from the Israeli extreme right’s storehouse of ideas, including moving the Jerusalem embassy, recognizing the annexation of the Golan, airily dispensing with the Palestinian refugee issue, trying to liquidate UNRWA, and withdrawing from the nuclear deal with Iran.

“You cannot do without us,” Lord Curzon condescendingly told the Indians over whom he ruled as British imperial viceroy more than a century ago. As the Trump family rubbed shoulders with the Windsors during their recent visit to London, there was no mistaking the difference between the real aristocracy and the trumped-up one. However, Jared Kushner, presidential son-in-law and senior adviser responsible for crafting a Middle East peace plan, does have something in common with Lord Curzon and his colonial ilk.

In an interview with Axios shown on HBO on June 2, shortly before he arrived in the UK, Kushner cast doubt on the feasibility of independent Palestinian self-rule, declaring, “we’ll have to see,” adding, “the hope is that they over time can become capable of governing.” When asked if Palestinians should ever be able to enjoy freedom from “Israeli government or military interference,” he said only that this was “a high bar.” After suggesting that Kushner had consulted few if any Palestinians over the two years during which his peace plan was in the works, his interviewer asked if he understood why the Palestinians did not trust him. Kushner responded curtly, “I’m not here to be trusted.”

This was not the first time the Palestinians have been told they cannot govern themselves, that they are obliged to remain under foreign tutelage, and do not warrant being consulted about their national future. In 1919, another British imperialist, Lord Balfour, wrote — in a confidential memo to Curzon himself — “in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country. . . . Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”

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