Kushner’s New Website for Palestinians Doesn’t Mention Palestine Once

Published June 24th, 2019 - 12:02 GMT
Rami Khoury/Al Bawaba

 

A first glance at the White Houses’ newly unveiled ‘Peace to Prosperity’ website for Palestine, and you would think the U.S. was launching a startup called ‘Palestine.’

In a surreal, glossy document the Trump Administration released ahead of the much-awaited Bahrain workshop on Palestine’s economy, the U.S. espouses an optimistic vision for the future of Palestinians; the same future the Trump Administration has been looking to undercut since getting into office.

The plan showers Palestinians with promises of better schools, infrastructure and global access without ever uttering the word ‘Palestine.’ Strangely absent from the document too, is any mention of the military occupation of the West Bank, the blockade of Gaza, the growing number of illegal Israeli settlements or the systemic harassment Palestinian business owners and farmers face on a daily basis.

Instead, the plan highlights the ‘logistical challenges’ Palestinians face while trying to live, without articulating who or what exactly is constructing those challenges.

The plan is doomed to fail and Palestinian leaders have already rejected it, but its language and proposals reveal a broader effort to disavow the existence of Palestine.

In platforming a fraught plan to build Peace and Prosperity, the U.S. can find neither a feasible path to peace nor a realistic way to build the economy of the West Bank and Gaza, which continue to feel the brunt of Israel’s militant stance against them.

 

Selling Palestine

(Peace to Prosperity, White House)

In the plan’s own words, the “Peace to Prosperity is a vision to empower the Palestinian people to build a prosperous and vibrant Palestinian society.”

“With the potential to facilitate more than $50 billion in new investment over ten years,” the plan excitedly announces, “Peace to Prosperity represents the most ambitious and comprehensive international effort for the Palestinians to date.”

“With the potential to facilitate more than $50 billion in new investment over ten years,” the plan excitedly announces, “Peace to Prosperity represents the most ambitious and comprehensive international effort for the Palestinians to date.”

Designed like a pitch to angel investors on the potential of their product, the plan features endless smiling Palestinians, bright yet soft sun beams reflecting off gleaming faces and pastures and a fancied development-focused jargon lacing every page.


(White House)

The plan’s overview proudly states it has “the ability to fundamentally transform the West Bank and Gaza and to open a new chapter in Palestinian history—one defined, not by adversity and loss, but by freedom and dignity.”

And here, the strange, careful wording begins.

It acknowledges that Palestinians face “adversity and loss” but opts not to explicate what is causing that adversity and loss. On top of that, it rarely goes into detail about exactly what kind of loss Palestinians face, beyond nominal details around limited opportunities for economic activity.

The omissions don’t stop there. 

 

Erasing the Occupation, Naturalizing Oppression

In purposefully mis-diagnosing the infrastructural issues of living under a military occupation, its every day realities are obscured under the ruse that bad roads are truly the culprit to Palestine’s ills. 

Israel’s military and police checkpoints in the West Bank never get a mention. This becomes an especially unwieldy problem when the plan attempts to diagnose the ills surrounding Gaza and the West Bank’s infrastructure in the “Roads and Rail” section.

“The Palestinian people routinely encounter logistical challenges in the West Bank and Gaza, impeding travel, stagnating economic growth, reducing exports, and stunting foreign direct investment.” The primary “logistical challenge,” according to the plan, is outdated and crumbling roads. 
 

The primary “logistical challenge,” according to the plan, is outdated and crumbling roads. 

Israel’s military checkpoints, ones dotted all around the West Bank that prevent the free-flow of goods and people between Palestinian villages and cities, apparently don’t exist. The main thing “impeding” the Palestinian economy is, according to the plan, old roads, not the occupation stopping traffic on them.

In purposefully mis-diagnosing the infrastructural issues of living under a military occupation, its every day realities are obscured under the ruse that bad roads are truly the culprit to Palestine’s ills. 

Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza are erased; their detrimental effects on Palestine’s economy naturalized under rhetoric showing Palestine to be the object of faceless challenges and not illegal, intentional moves by Israel.

The plan ignores the reality that for every new road built, Israeli military checkpoints will doubtless clog its streets, slowing traffic and halting the seamless flow of commodities the plan seeks to streamline.

Absent too, are the illegal Israeli settlements growing rapidly inside the West Bank. 

(White House)

Language surrounding property rights saturate the entirety of the plan, but it doesn’t bother to mention who will guarantee those rights, which are currently being violated on a daily basis by expanding settlements, opaque Israeli bureaucracies and a negligent Palestinian Authority (PA)

Beyond the fact that these settlements single-handedly spoil any attempt to create a thriving Palestinian state, they also distort the face of Palestine’s infrastructure. As the West Bank’s roads fall into various states of disrepair, brand new “Israeli-only” roads linking Israeli settlements to each other spring up regularly.

The White House plan goes on to describe the “unique and exciting characteristics” that give the West Bank and Gaza to become a global tourism hub.


(White House)

“Very few places in the world are home to such remarkable historical and religious sites,” the plan says, without ever mentioning the word “Jerusalem.” 

One small problem here: the Peace to Prosperity proposal does not have any plans to make an airport in Gaza or the West Bank.

“In addition, over forty kilometers of coastline in Gaza along the Mediterranean Sea could develop into a modern metropolitan city overlooking the beach, drawing from examples like Beirut, Hong Kong, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, Singapore, and Tel Aviv.” Gaza becoming the world’s newest ‘Hong Kong’ is certainly a lofty pitch to the world.

One small problem here: the Peace to Prosperity proposal does not have any plans to make an airport in Gaza or the West Bank.

Gaza’s only airport, Yassir Arafat International, was closed and then bombed in 2000-01. As for the West Bank, there are no civilian airports, meaning some would need to be built.

On a visit to the Palestinian city of Nablus, one owner of an ancient soap factory told Al Bawaba through sobs and tears that he can't expand his business due to the Israeli export controls, and instead relies on tourists personally coming to his factory for revenue.

It’s difficult to imagine any city transforming itself into a global trade and tourism hub on par with Hong Kong without an airport from which to transport people and critical goods. Instead, the plan lays out vague details around improving airports in Jordan and Lebanon. 

Just as critical to airports is effective cross-border transport, which is currently tightly controlled. Palestinians business owners have told Al Bawaba that their businesses have been severely hindered by strict export controls imposed by Israel.

On a visit to the Palestinian city of Nablus, one owner of an ancient soap factory told Al Bawaba through sobs and tears that he can't expand his business due to the Israeli export controls, and instead relies on tourists personally coming to his factory for revenue.

 

An Incoherent Economic Approach

A Gazan man inspects destroyed buildings (AFP/FILE)

Considering the Trump Administration’s current economic approach to Palestine, the Peace to Prosperity plan looks more like an exercise in dramatic irony than an actual policy proposal.

In a section entitled “Enhance the Quality of the Education System,” the plan promises to turn the West Bank and Gaza “into a center of educational excellence,” while acknowledging “many Palestinian schools are stretched beyond their capacity, with too few teachers and classrooms to support their students.”

It even features a picture of a USAID-funded school, with smiling students walking by its walls.


(White House)

Gregg Carlstrom, a Middle East columnist for The Economist, pointed out on Twitter that Trump actually cut funding to USAID projects in Palestine. 
The Trump Administration also decided to cut the U.S.’ contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), a U.N. agency solely dedicated to providing aid for Palestinians. When the cut was announced, UNRWA struggled to scrounge up enough funding from European states to keep its schools, health care facilities and social services afloat.

For the White Houses’ Peace to Prosperity plan, there simply is not a Palestine, and there never will be.

Much of the plan’s ambitious projects were already being undertaken by UNRWA and USAID before the U.S. cut them. Either the plan is an implicit admission that these programs should not have been defunded, or it is a blind contradiction to the administration’s current agenda for Palestine.

Most damning of all, the word “Palestine” is never written.

There are only references to Palestinians and the West Bank/Gaza, without ever acknowledging the nation Palestinians derive their name from and the single feature that unites the West Bank and Gaza under the same idea. It just isn’t there.

For the White Houses’ Peace to Prosperity plan, there simply is not a Palestine, and there never will be.

Therein lies the reason why such plans will always be rejected. No matter how glossy the pitch decks are or how sleek its design may be, erasing Palestine and the Israeli military occupation weighing it down is a non-starter.

Beachfront, schools and roads can be built and rebuilt a thousand times over by projects like Peace to Prosperity. But if the plan cannot protect them from the inevitable hail of missiles and bombs, it is no plan at all.


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