Did Trump do the Palestinian cause a favor?

Mohammed Al Rumaihi

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In the political scene, events sometimes yield unexpected, indirect results. Of course, Donald Trump did not directly serve the Palestinian cause, but in the political sense he did it a favor, in an indirect way. This had to do with the extreme domestic policies he enacted to appease the white Protestant right wing, as a response to the growing white fear of people of color in the United States, which is has historical roots. Before World War II, “black or yellow refugees” were banned from entering the United States, in order to maintain a white majority. Trump revived this ban against certain religions and peoples. Only at times when the US economy was in need of a workforce was temporary immigration permitted, and over the decades ethnic and religious minorities and colors of people were formed and developed in the core of American society, minorities whose rights are often undermined. Perhaps Trump’s battle cry is the last before people of color make up America's majority.

Those policies over the four years of Trump's presidency pushed people of color across the spectrum in America to join forces and rush to elect Joe Biden, America's second Catholic president, Kamala Harris, a brown vice president of Indian origin. America's internal discourse from the Black Lives Matter revolution, which spread to include all people of color, has awakened among large swaths of the American public, especially young people, the demand for equality and universal human rights in the face of white supremacy. These people have become attuned to the violation of human rights occurring anywhere on the planet, including the human rights stolen from the Palestinians.

On the other hand, the events that unfolded in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the al-Aqsa Mosque, the rockets launched, the political activity of Israeli Arabs internally, the declaration of peaceful resistance from Ramallah, the number of Palestinians killed, many of whom were children, and the use of excessive and unequal force, all of this awakened a Palestinian national spirit, eliciting the response of large pro-human rights populations in the US. This forced the administration to move up the Palestine and Middle East issue, which was the least of its priorities, to the top of the list along with the Iranian issue. This change is spurred by the similarities between the demand for equality in American society, and the inequality in Israeli society, where Arabs Israelis were subjected to years of military rule, and then years of incomplete justice, while representing 20% of the population. This shift in American public opinion was not surprising. A number of Palestinian writers living in the US saw it coming a few months ago. Birzeit University organized a seminar on the issue and a suggestion was made at the time from the participants that it is necessary to consider this growing possibility. Recent events in Palestine thrust it back into the limelight of the American media, exposing the racist practices a country whose legitimacy lies in convincing others that its people were victims of fascism!

The dilemma faced by observers is how to persuade locals, especially some leaders in Palestine and their sympathetic supporters, to gain insight from these events. What happened in recent weeks is a Palestinian national spirit, mostly carried by young people inside Israel and in the neighboring region, not directly related to what are known as "factions". It is dangerous for any faction in any Palestinian land to claim that it is the best placed to reap the fruits of that patriotism. The hardest part is yet to come, which is overall how to leverage that widespread sympathy around the world, led by Washington, to achieve political progress that is meaningful for the cause, not for the faction. Of course, the new awareness in American public opinion has its limits. Some experts talk of Hamas publications which do not recognize the possibility of coexistence in two states. The current US administration, even if it expresses a desire for a two-state solution, is against dealing with Hamas for the same reasons or any other faction that it deems to be “militant” among the Palestinian rift which must be healed in order to maximize the gains made in light of the current international political conditions. As for saying that a group should be the leader because it is the victor, that is a delusion among many that made the Palestinian cause a scramble for the highest bid. In the end, the price is paid by Palestinian citizens in blood, tears, poverty and oppression.

This article was published in, and translated from, pan-Arab daily newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

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