The much feared Middle Eastern Armageddon appears closer than ever, with a maverick property tycoon as President of the United States and a rightwing hardliner as prime minister of Israel coming together. The combination could be like a nuclear explosion.
The newly inaugurated US President Donald Trump is already on course to turn the world upside down. In the first week of his presidency, he has taken steps to scrap his predecessor’s medicare programme, popularly known as Obamacare, banned state funds for abortion, signed an executive order to immediately start the building of a 1,900 mile wall along the Mexico-US border, placed travel restrictions on people from seven Islamic countries and endorsed torture and secret prisons. In addition, he has authorised the resumption of the Dakota and Keystone XL oil pipeline projects in utter disregard to environmental concerns and the Native Americans’ right to land. Rejecting nepotism charges, he has appointed his son-in-law as a presidential advisor.
He seems to be no respecter of the ‘conflict of interest’ principle, a key ingredient of good governance. He has invested some of his wealth in the Dakota pipeline project and his decision to resume it is a clear conflict of interest. This week senior ethics lawyers and constitutional scholars filed a lawsuit against Trump, accusing him of violating the constitution. They charged he has allowed his businesses to accept payments from foreign governments. They also point out that Trump has handed over his businesses to his two adult sons instead of placing them in a blind trust, as has been done by the presidents before him.
Trump’s actions apparently show he is vindictive, anti-climate and without principles. He is quarrelsome and petty-minded. His officials were seen this week arguing with the media over the size of the crowd that attended his inauguration on January 20. What is more disturbing is that the ‘alternative fact’ doctrine, perhaps for the first time since George Orwell spoke about it in his famous book ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’, has become a reality under Trump. The two words ‘Alternative facts’, which Orwell described as Newspeak, were uttered by Trump’s Counsellor Kellyanne Conway when she, appearing in a TV show, defended Trump’s claims about the crowd size.
With facts assuming alternative forms, we are heading for a fully-fledged post-truth world – fully fledged because the foundation for such deception has long been laid by successive US administrations, especially that of war-mongering George W. Bush. To demonise the communists during the Cold War era, to justify the US participation in World War II and later in the Vietnam War, to invade Iraq and to oust Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi, deception a.k.a. Newspeak and alternative fact was resorted to.
It was heartening to watch on CNN on Wednesday a New York Time journalist speak about the need to fact check whatever the Trump team dishes out. We wish the media had done so during the presidency of Bush. Award winning war correspondent John Pilger once asked the distinguished American investigative journalist Charles Lewis: “What if the freest media in the world had seriously challenged George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and investigated their claims (about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction), instead of channeling what turned out to be crude propaganda?” Lewis replied: “If we journalists had done our job there is a very, very good chance we would have not gone to war in Iraq.”
Well on one score, we may have to grudgingly agree with the new US president -- that the US media are dishonest – or at least a section of the media. Through the adoption of its version of Newspeak, the mainstream US media, controlled by six Zionist-friendly media giants, presented lies as facts and portrayed the Iraq war as a war against terror, although they knew Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 terror attacks. The US media rarely speak the truth with regard to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Lacking balance and fair reporting, they portray Palestinian freedom fighters as terrorists, Palestinian victims as oppressors and the aggression of Israel as a security need, and the apartheid Zionist state as the only truly democratic state in the Middle East.
We will leave the dishonesty of the US media for another day and focus our attention on Trump and the Middle Eastern crisis. When Trump began his campaign for the White House, he vowed to maintain equidistance with regard to Israel and Palestine. But his speech at the America-Israeli Public Affairs Committee or the so-called Israeli lobby, brought out his ultra loyalty to the Zionist state which keeps robbing the land of the Palestinian people. Trump has said he would shift the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the eastern part of which the Palestinians want to make the capital of their future state. He has picked as the US ambassador to Israel David Friedman who is a staunch supporter of Israel’s policy of building Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.
True, almost all US presidents maintained a pro-Israeli bias, but under Trump, the US Middle Eastern policy appears outrageously lopsided. Making a mockery of the peace process, he has entrusted the task of making peace between Israel and Palestine to his son-in-law Jared Kushner, an avowed Zionist who is said to have shaped Trump’s speech to the Israeli lobby.
Emboldened by the Trump administration’s Zionist bias, Israel’s hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week announced plans to build 2,500 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem for the Jews. The announcement came barely a month after the then President Barack Obama facilitated a United Nations resolution condemning Israel’s settlement building policy and ten days after an international conference was held in Paris to bring peace to Palestine. It was only after the UN Security Council resolution was passed that Trump notoriously tweeted asking Israel to be strong and declaring that the UN would be different from January 20.
Justifying his selection of his passionately pro-Zionist son-in-law as peacemaker, Trump on the eve of his inauguration declared that if Kushner could not produce the Middle East peace, nobody could.
But do Trump, Kushner and Netanyahu realise that peace comes with justice – and that peace without justice is like a piece from the graveyard? Or will they endorse the Israeli right wing’s peace plan which calls for the annexation of Jerusalem and the remaining areas of the West Bank and the eviction of the Palestinian people at gunpoint to force them to find refuge in neighbouring states? The latter proposition is more likely under the Trump presidency.