PH Opinion: Kushner's racist, patronizing comments about Palestinians

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by Kathryn Shihadah

On Monday, Slate recapped an interview between Axios interviewer Jonathan Swan and Jared Kushner. Kushner is the chief architect of the “peace plan” that his father-in-law nicknamed “the Deal of the Century.”

Slate called the interview “a clown show,” and Kushner’s answers “cringeworthy.” Below is the Middle East portion of the exchange (with a few words of commentary):

Swan: Do you believe that the Palestinians are capable of governing themselves without Israeli interference?

Kushner: I think that’s a very good question. I think that that’s one that we’ll have to see. The hope is is that they, over time, can become capable of governing …

Swan: They being the Palestinians.

Kushner: The Palestinians. I think there are some things that the current Palestinian government has done well, and there are some things that are lacking.

The ignorance and/or bigotry Kushner is displaying here - that Palestinians might, perhaps, someday be able to take care of themselves - completely disregards the constraints of the US-sponsored, brutal occupation in all its manifestations, or the ravages of the Gaza blockade. Does he think the reason for the current turmoil is poor self-governing? That if Israel had even more power over their lives, things would be better? The idea that Palestinians might eventually “become capable of governing” views them as nothing more than simple-minded children playing at self-rule.

Kushner: And I do think that in order for the area to be investable, for investors to come in and want to invest in different industries and infrastructure and create jobs, you do need to have a fair judicial system, freedom of press, freedom of expression, tolerance for all religions, and so …

Again, Kushner showcases his total blindness to the real situation: The problem with Palestine is that it lacks certain freedoms, not that it is under the thumb of a merciless oppressor.

He also indicates that the solution lies in foreign investment - White Money - as if Palestinians lack the ability to generate income of their own initiative. Has he heard that Israel has wasted millions of Palestinian dollars by demolishing their homes, schools, factories, and farms; has withheld hundreds of millions in revenue from the Palestinian government? (Here’s one example. This discusses the Palestinian policy of supporting families of prisoners and martyrs.) The UN reported in 2016 that without Israeli interference, “[t]he economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory could easily produce twice the gross domestic product (GDP) it generates now.”

And then there’s Kushner’s intimation that Israel is a good risk for investors, at least partly because it has a fair judicial system (it doesn’t), freedoms of the press and expression (nope), and tolerance for all religions (patently false).

Here’s another snippet from the interview:

Swan: Can they have freedom from any Israeli government or military interference?

Kushner: I think that it’s a high bar.

Swan: Do you believe the Palestinian people deserve their own independent sovereign state with a capital in East Jerusalem?

Kushner: There’s a difference between the technocrats, and there’s a difference between the people. The technocrats are focused on very technocratic things, and when I speak to Palestinian people, what they want is they want the opportunity to live a better life. They want the opportunity to pay their mortgage, to have …

Swan: You don’t think they want their own state, free from Israeli government and military?

Kushner: I think that they want an opportunity.

The gobbledygook about technocrats sounds like something Kushner’s father-in-law would say. It doesn’t merit comment (except the comment, “it doesn’t merit comment”).

Kushner doesn’t hold out much hope of a Palestinian state that would be free of Israeli “interference” - why? The stated reasons for current interference are the twins: Security and fear of Terrorism. For those who see Palestinians as pathologically (and inexplicably) filled with hatred toward all Jews, there is no reason to expect peaceful coexistence. Israeli military presence would have to continue as a “precaution.”

As for Kushner’s statement that Palestinians “want an opportunity,” he frames the statement in the only language he knows: the Benjamins. In his small mind, he thinks Palestinians don’t care about self-determination or statehood - or even justice - only the opportunity to “pay their mortgage.”

It’s clear that the chief architect of the Deal of the Century is utterly out of touch with the aspirations of the Palestinian people. This comes as no surprise, as the Trump administration has zero interest in the oppressed, or in doing anything that is morally right. The peace plan team - Kushner, Ambassador Friedman, and M.E. envoy Jason Greenblatt - don’t care a fig for Palestinian aspirations or justice, only for Israeli supremacy.

Kathryn Shihadah