Wednesday 22 February 2017

Analysis: Laughter is only rational response to pathetic Trump gobbledygook about Israel

Robert Fisk

Published 17/02/2017 | 02:30

US President Donald Trump (R) sits with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House this week. Photo: Getty Images
US President Donald Trump (R) sits with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House this week. Photo: Getty Images

It was almost as funny to listen to the "experts" on US channels trying to summarise Donald Trump's ravings on the Middle East as it was to listen to his original gobbledegook at his press conference with Bibi Netanyahu.

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Unable to understand what the president's inanities actually meant, the lads and lasses of the satellite channels were telling us that he was not as committed as his predecessor to the "two-state" solution but might favour a "one-state" solution - yet wasn't ruling out a "two-state" solution. Oh yes, and he'd like Bibi to "hold back" on settlements.

Most of the "experts" chose to leave out the pathetic Trump addendum - "for a little bit" - because they had no more idea than Mr Trump what this actually meant. The most lamentable quotation looks even worse on paper than it did when first uttered opposite a clearly nonplussed Israeli prime minister: "So I'm looking at two states and one state. And I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two states looked like it may be the easier of the two. To be honest, if Bibi and the Palestinians, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy - I'm happy with the one they like the best."

After the second sentence, most transcripts - and you could hear it clearly at the Washington press conference - inserted the word "LAUGHTER". Indeed there was laughter. Not because this was an intended joke by Trump, but because his words were so flippant, so careless, so ignorant, so utterly deplorable, that laughter was the only psychological human release available to sane men and women after such tragic frivolity.

An entire Arab people, a future Palestine - I notice the word itself was actually avoided - lies under the longest military occupation in modern history and the best the president of the United States could do was say that, heck, he'd go along with one state or two states - or maybe three, for all we knew.

The idea that one state might either be a secular Israel/West Bank state for Jews and Arabs with an Arab majority - goodbye Israel - or one state for Jews only but including a non-voting Arab majority - apartheid Israel - was simply neither here nor there.

No wonder Bibi - how charming the old reprobate seems beside Mr Trump, almost "moderate" you might say - kept his mouth shut longer than usual in the press conference. Mr Trump has some nasty anti-Semites among his supporters, and Mr Netanyahu preferred to keep his throwaway hygienic gloves on during this performance.

But it was instructive to recall beyond all this nonsense just how the very foundations of any modern discussion of an Israeli-Palestinian "solution" have for decades been built on a pile of journalistic and political semantic trash - which has now become so normal a part of the Palestine story that we have come to accept it as genuine. We all invented "alternative facts" in the Middle East when Mr Trump was still at school. Let's start with settlements, the one word which both the sane Bibi Netanyahu and the insane Donald Trump felt happy to use. There's a problem here. Because there are no such objects as "settlements" on the Arab-Palestinian West Bank. They are colonies for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, stolen - immorally, as well as illegally under international law - from their rightful owners. The Jews who live on them are colonialists. This word is forbidden by all parties for obvious reasons.

Which is why Bibi, more anxious about the encroachments of the anti-Israel boycott campaign than he cares to admit, was waffling on about how "Jews are called Jews because they come from Judea" (the Israeli name for the occupied West Bank) and thus "Jews are not foreign colonialists in Judea". Alas, Palestinians are called Palestinians because they come from Palestine - and that part of Palestine which the Israelis call Judea is not within the border of the territory of the internationally recognised Israeli state (of which Bibi is prime minister). But this is far, far too much to grasp for Mr Trump. Better keep to those friendly "settlements" and the hate-filled Palestinian communities who - in some reports - "surround" the settlements.

We've long ago settled on a vocabulary of lies to support these alternative facts. Media reports often speak not of settlements, but of "Jewish neighbourhoods" - as if these examples of land theft are modern versions of Milton Keynes, harmless little state-sponsored suburbs whose Jewish people just want to live in peace with their "neighbours" (the hate-filled Palestinians) whose territory they have stolen.

Pack them all into one state, Israel and the West Bank and you've got an Arab state. The Peacock, Gaddafi of Libya, almost as cracked as Mr Trump, once proposed to call this "Israel-tine". I'm not sure what it would be called if all its people had equal human rights. But it wouldn't be Israel.

Then there's the Jewish state called - I suppose - Israel, with no rights for the Arab majority and therefore an apartheid state, though one not much different from other Middle East nations in which minorities rule over majorities.

"So I'm looking at two states and one state," Mr Trump told the world. "And I like the one that both parties like ... I can live with either one."

The trouble is that the Israelis and the Palestinians cannot live with either one. But "I'm happy with the one they like the best," quoth Mr Trump. Cue: LAUGHTER! (© London Independent)

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