Quite a lot happened at the beginning of September, including threats by the US president against a mainstay American ally, Canada; the total cutting of US aid to Palestinians; and release of a national survey showing that 60 per cent of Americans disapprove of President Trump’s performance. The President of the United States certainly shows the world that he has influence. The trouble for Washington is that its mop-haired mover and shaker doesn’t realise the potential effects of his antics and insults.
Then the White House announced that in November Trump will go to Paris to attend a military parade like the one he enjoyed so much last year, after which he’ll travel to Buenos Aires for a global economic forum. He’s not going to bother going to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea or to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Singapore. This means he will have visited only one single Asian nation in 2018 — and that was Singapore, to meet the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The Australians are far from impressed, because it had been hoped he would visit their country, which has nailed its flag firmly to the mast of US expansionism rather than being sensible and forging closer ties with China, on which it relies so much as an export market.
Contrast Trump’s behaviour with that of his opposite number in China, President Xi, who has just finished hosting a Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing, attended by the leaders of almost every African country who, of course, were treated with appropriate civility. (Trump refers to African countries with his customary insulting vulgarity.)
African statements in Beijing were eminently practical, with, for example, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame (the rotating chair of the African Union), saying that China engaged Africa as an equal partner. He commended the two sides’ growing economic and political partnership, and observed that “Africa is not a zero-sum game. Our growing ties with China do not come at anyone’s expense. Indeed, the gains are enjoyed by everyone who does business on our continent.”
Eat your hearts out, Canada and Australia, who are somewhat annoyed with the US because of its president’s spurning of the best allies the Washington Establishment could wish for. But not content with treating friends with spiteful contempt, Trump decided to punish the Palestinians by stopping US aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency, a saintly organisation which works all the hours on the clock in order to “provide assistance and protection for some 5 million registered Palestine refugees to help them achieve their full potential in human development.”
Now : UNRWA isn’t perfect. It’s a UN body, which means that it’s under all sorts of peculiar rules, like being unable to always choose the best person for a job because of such things as “rostering” — but make no mistake, most members of such teams as UNRWA and the UN High Commission for Refugees are worth their weight in gold. And it’s gold we are talking about, because some of that lifesaving 300 million dollars that Trump cut off from the Palestinians will now go to increasing US aid to Israel by 200 million dollars next year.
This handout is in addition to the 3.8 billion dollars that the US is giving Israel in military aid for ten years. And that’s not all, because there are lots of cherries and a great deal of cream on that aid cake. Israel can use 26% of US military aid to purchase equipment from Israeli manufacturers. According to the Congressional Research Service, “no other recipient of US military assistance has been granted this benefit.” In Israel, what goes around, comes around, just as it does, in a very different fashion, in Palestine.
The effects of Trump’s vicious punishment of Palestinians, wholeheartedly endorsed by the US Congress, which is unconditional in its support of Israel, was much regretted by all those of merciful and humanitarian inclination, and especially by the Relief Agency, whose spokesperson said “this decision is likely to have a devastating impact on the lives of 526,000 children who receive a daily education from UNRWA; 3.5 million sick people who come to our clinics for medical care; 1.7 million food insecure people who receive assistance from us, and tens of thousands of vulnerable women, children and disabled refugees who come to us.”
There are going to be countless thousands of young Palestinians who will be gravely affected by this callous, vindictive and totally unnecessary ruling. And this brings us to what is probably going to be the longest-term and most hideous effect of the Trump anti-Palestinian, pro-Israel policy.
Place yourself in the body, in the mind, of a clever teenage Palestinian boy. Try to imagine what he might feel about the United States of America. Is he going to regard the US as a benevolent democracy that exercises compassionate guidance throughout the world?
Of course he’s not. He is going to loathe Trump and America and every American with a profound, unrelenting, everlasting hatred that could well find release explosively, in all meanings of the word.
There he is, a thin, malnourished, ill-clad, intelligent Palestinian young man whose ambition is limited entirely by what he sees in the world around him. He sees life stretching before him in a confined line dictated by malevolent outsiders. He sees little ahead but poverty and persecution. His people are downtrodden, and he has experienced nothing but suffering in his entire life, so far. The lure of revenge by terror must beckon with compelling attraction.
The young Palestinian has seen and will continue to see demolition of Palestinian villages by the Israeli army in order to build condo-blocks for Israeli settlers; if he lives in Gaza he will have witnessed the slaughter of 152 unarmed Palestinians by the Israeli army; he will have seen thousands of his compatriots wounded by Israeli army gunmen; and he will know well that “across the Gaza Strip, psychological trauma, poverty and environmental degradation have had a negative impact on residents’ physical and mental health; many, including children, suffer from anxiety, distress and depression.”
And many feel anger. Anger at their Israeli oppressors, and anger at the United States. What Trump and Washington do not realise is that they could win over the Palestinians and remove or at least diminish their hatred of everything that is American by behaving in a reasonable manner. Simple recognition of their right to their lands, combined with expressions of understanding and compassion, would at least initiate an approach to tranquillity, as well as benefitting millions of utterly blameless Palestinians. But of much more importance, it would remove the anger that one of these days is most probably going to result in a terrorist strike of catastrophic proportions.