December 10, 2017
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by Jonathan Wallace

An Al Jazeera article which showed up in my newsfeed moments ago is headlined "Al Aqsa: Palestinians Killed as Jerusalem Protests Rage", and reports that the first three Palestinian people have been killed in Jerusalem as a direct consequence of Donald Trump's announcement that he recognizes the city as Israel's capital. The moment Trump spoke it was foreseeable people would die.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me". Even children know this is not true, that words can inflict terrible, and sometimes unendurable or uncurable suffering. Adults know that there are moments in our world when words uttered by powerful people may fly out in the world and instantly cause death. These people can speak words with perfect foreknowledge that people living as they speak will be dead within 36 hours.

This includes much speech about Jerusalem. A notorious previous example was Ariel Sharon's grandiose visit to the Temple Mount during the 2000 campaign, and a speech he gave immediately after, which also resulted in rioting and death. Sharon's words are unforgiveable and set the tone for Donald Trump: ""What provocation is there when Jews come to visit the place with a message of peace? I am sorry about the injured, but it is the right of Jews in Israel to visit the Temple Mount." A BBC site, "On This Day", says: 'By the end of the first year, more than 800 people had died.Critics say Mr Sharon knew the visit would trigger the ensuing violence and gambled on the Israeli public turning to a tough leader like him who would know how to handle it firmly." As a campaign maneuver, in other words, Sharon performed a symbolic action, and made a speech, which he knew would get people killed, with the expectation he would benefit politically--and was rewarded for his actions.

Donald Trump, similar to the level of egregious, murderous and--peace to Thimgumabob's law--Hitler-reminiscent bullshit in Sharon's speech, said: "I've judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a long-overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement... the Israeli people have built a country where Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and people of all faiths are free to live and worship according to their conscience and according to their beliefs.... This decision is not intended, in any way, to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement. We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians...There will, of course, be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement". With insane inappropriateness, a phrase that is beyond Orwellian: "So today, we call for calm, for moderation, and for the voices of tolerance to prevail over the purveyors of hate. Our children should inherit our love, not our conflicts.... It is time for the many who desire peace to expel the extremists from their midst. It is time for all civilized nations, and people, to respond to disagreement with reasoned debate –- not violence....So today, let us rededicate ourselves to a path of mutual understanding and respect.... Thank you. God bless you. God bless Israel. God bless the Palestinians. And God bless the United States."

This is approximately the same mentality as the terrorist group which commits a bloody attack and then declares a ceasefire.

In today's swamp of sophistry where the density of lies is terminally confusing and demoralizing, one longs for a truthful adversary, who will admit that he thinks he belongs to a higher race, and has a right to devour the lesser ones. I don't know how a nation based on such dense lying as ours is today can long survive: as a practical daily matter, living requires knowing a few critical facts, and our politics increasingly involves denying them all (climate change, or the effects of trillion dollar deficits, for example). It is as if no one could decide to head to the lifeboats on the Titanic due to powerful figures insisting the ship hadn't hit an iceberg.

One statement Trump made in passing deserves study as a particular masterpiece of sophistry: " The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides." He slipped that one in, and most people probably didn't notice it. The two state solution has always been the United States' position. It was never conditional. The United States for decades has announced that it was pushing the Israelis to accept it. Trump's revision has the same moral valences as a statement by President Johnson, "We will support civil rights for black people if whites agree".

Horrifyingly, the phrase "one state solution" has been in the air for some years now. It started out, as these things do, on the fringe, and became mainstream, as some racist, bloody and despicable ideas are doing in our own country as well. The version "favored by some rightists and Israelis, would involve Israel annexing the West Bank and either forcing out Palestinians or denying them the right to vote". Proponents of this deadly outcome are rejoicing at Trump's announcement. Most of the rest of us, including some progressive Israelis concerned about the long term prospects of their country, might agree with Professor Saree Makdisi's op ed in the L.A. Times that Trump's words are "a final, devastating blow to the prospect of a two-state solution for Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians".

I have a strange kind of inverse confirmation bias relating to Trump: he is clearly so ignorant, so blustery, so obviously solipsistic, oriented towards the most attention-worthy utterance or pose, that I was willing for a minute to believe that, surrounded by sycophants, he did not know his words would kill people. I couldn't hang on to that, especially once I read the speech. Presumably he absorbs and understands the words on the teleprompter as he speaks. The statement, "There will, of course, be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement", could not be misconstrued or ignored by any person of minimal experience and intelligence. What does "disagreement and dissent" mean in Jerusalem? It means Israeli police and troops firing rubber bullets (which themselves sometimes kill), tear gas, and then live ammunition, and people dying. Dissent in Jerusalem is not Occupy Wall street children chanting "Another world is possible".

It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Trump, and of course the people manipulating him (Steve Bannon and Sheldon Adelson in particular, in this case) intend to cause death, and benefit from it, as Ariel Sharon did in 2000. The three people Al Jazeera reported were the first to die were Palestinian, brown-skinned, and all had a variation of "Mohammed" as their first or middle name (or both). This tactic works for Trump on every front, polarizing the base and possibly other Americans, distracting attention away from the Special Prosecutor's investigation, and taking us into a world of worsening brushfire wars and resurgent terrorism in which Trump can pose as the indispensable Man on Horseback, someone who for now (and as a result, forever) cannot be questioned-- again, what Sharon was trying to do in 2000.

Of course, some Israelis and Americans are likely to die as a direct consequence of Trump's words, but these too are acceptable losses, collateral damage in the quest for a consolidation of personal power.

As an American Jew who has been to Israel twice, and might be excluded if I ever attempted a third visit because I am representing defendants in two lawsuits against BDS resolutions, my heart breaks, not only for Palestinians living under occupation, but for the Israelis whose families immigrated decades or generations ago based on a mistaken assumption that they were coming to an Enlightenment country with progressive values. Instead, they find themselves living in a nation which has become morally indistinguishable from South Africa in the apartheid years. Like our own nation, Israel too seems to be a Titanic whose captain, Netanyahu, is denying the iceberg. What happens when he pushes the Palestinans so hard that one million of them decide to walk from adjoining areas into Jerusalem? Can an Israel based on on the forceful suppression of a majority last a thousand more years? Or even thirty?