The son-in-law, the son and the spelling of ‘Palestine’

by Claude Salhani

US President Donald Trump has promised to come up with a new and innovative peace plan for the Middle East that would settle the Arab-Israeli dispute. That’s a tall order coming from an administration with no experience in resolving conflicts on such an important and widely complex scale.

The plan, on which the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is believed to have done all the preparatory footwork, is to be made public after Ramadan.

No details of the plan have been released but judging from Trump’s failed attempts at other major projects and his ability to sugarcoat reality — if not outright lie, mesh parts of what he imagines to be the truth from what is actually true — one must take this peace initiative with a grain of salt.

The outcome for the Palestinians does not look too promising but, as Trump pointed out, let’s keep an open mind until we learn more.

Having said that, there are still controversial, important dossiers this administration has tried to push through and failed. From the wall Trump so badly wants along the US southern border, to attempts at replacing Obama Care, from relations with the Arab world to his negotiations with North Korea added to his dismal record in dealing with the Palestinians, makes me believe that his chances of success are not promising.

Trump has riled the Palestinians by showing his lack of respect for their demands by moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something all previous US administrations since 1948 had avoided doing and with good cause. The status of Jerusalem was a major trump card in Israeli-Palestinian negotiation, which Donald Trump gave away.

He shut the office of the Palestinian Authority in Washington. He stopped the US financial contribution to the UN agency that provides health care and education for the children of Palestinian refugees.

Adding insult to injury, Trump announced that the United States would recognise Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights, going counter to all international conventions on the conduct of war. Israel occupied the Golan during the June 1967 Six-Day War.

Now, top it all off with the arrogance — or rather the foolishness– of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s son Yair.

Yair Netanyahu, 27, sparked controversy when he used a dubious academic theory to promote the claim that Palestine does not exist.

Taking to Twitter, Yair Netanyahu said “there is no such thing” as Palestine because the letter “P” does not appear in the Arabic alphabet. His theory attracted ridicule on social media, as users noted that, indeed, there is no letter “p” in the Arabic alphabet but the Arabic word for “Palestine” is “Falasteen.”

You would think that in 27 years of living next to a people with whom you have gone to war with multiple times, a people whose land you have occupied and a people with whom you are supposed to enter into peace negotiations, in the very least you should know how they refer to themselves.

Choosing to ignore the basic facts about a people you claim you aspire to coexist with as peaceful neighbours demonstrates a certain level of sheer arrogance.

Then again it is perhaps more than arrogance. Yes, it is absolute ignorance.

Such a mental state of mind is dangerous. To borrow a slogan from Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress when apartheid was the policy enforced by the South African government: “Ignorance is NOT bliss.”

Such asinine thinking reflects the feelings, the belief, that one people is superior to others. This makes it much harder to sit down and negotiate.

Much as I would like to give the Donald Trumps, Jared Kushners, Binyamin Netanyahus and his spoiled brat the benefit of the doubt, it is extremely difficult to remain optimistic.

An Israeli prime minister’s son should learn how to spell “Palestine,” in any language. The least one can do is to know how one’s neighbours spell the name of their country.

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