Brigittegate: A Primer

Given the fact that Candace Owens has received much outrage at her suggestion (and lost her job over the kerfuffle that followed) that Brigitte Macron, the wife of President Emanuel Macron, is in fact a man who transitioned into a “woman,” it might serve our readers to understand the data behind Ms. Owens’ assertion. The facts of this case are rather startling, to say the least. The video Ms. Owens linked has also long been scrubbed. Why, if it is all fake news?

So, here is a primer of the main arguments.

The questioning of Brigitte Macron’s real sex began back in 2021, when the journal, Faites & Documents, published by Xavier Poussard, began a five-part series, entitled, “Le Mystère Brigitte Macron” [“The Mystery of Brigitte Macron”]. The investigation, which had taken three years, was done by Natacha Rey and then furthered by Mr. Poussard. By the end of 2021, there was a great buzz about all this in France.

The main arguments presented in the journal, with much documentary proof, may be summarized as follows:

1. Brigitte Macron was born a man and transitioned into a woman. There is a mysterious video from 1977, which shows a man shadowed out, calling himself “Veronique,” who had begun to live as a woman. Documented analysis shows that Veronique’s voice is remarkably like that of Mrs. Emmanuel Macron (to avoid confusion hereon in, we shall only use this designation).

2. This initial hint led to a fuller investigation into the background of Mrs. Macron, whose given name is “Brigitte,” and whose family name is Trogneux; the family hails from the city of Amiens. What investigators found next was rather unexpected. There were two Trogneux children, a brother named Jean-Michel (born in 1945) and a sister named Brigitte (born in 1953). But this sister (Brigitte) supposedly died in 1961. And the photos of the sister, the late Brigitte, look nothing like the present Mrs. Macron who actually is a dead-ringer for the brother, Jean-Michel. So, what exactly is going on here? A dead Brigitte, and a Mrs. Macron who looks like the brother?

3. This means that the three Auzière children that Mrs. Emanuel Macron has from a previous marriage are actually Jean-Michel’s before he transitioned. There is a son, Sébastien (born 1975); a daughter, Laurence (born 1977); and another daughter, Tiphaine (born 1984). The two daughters resemble Mrs. Macron; Sébastien not as much. It is said that their real, birth-mother was the woman Jean-Michel married and who has since died. After the birth of his youngest daughter (Tiphaine), Jean-Michel is said to have transitioned into a woman.

4. But where does this leave the supposed first husband of Mrs. Macron, a man named “André-Louis Auzière” (they were supposed to be married in 1974) and who is also said to be the father of the three Auzière children? This is where things become stranger still. A photo of Mr. Auzière was produced by Mrs. Macron, but it turned out to be a photo of someone else. What wife would get the picture of her husband wrong, even if he is an ex? Mr. Auzière was also supposedly a wealthy banker, but no one seems to have heard of him in any of the banking circles, nor ever seen him. He appears to be a man who never was. Plus, the signature of his wife (supposedly the future Mrs. Macron) looks nothing like any of the signatures known to exist of Mrs. Macron. There is also a wedding photo of Mr. Auzière and the future Mrs. Macron, but the image of Mr. Auzière and his bride in this photo has been debunked as being of another couple. So, what exactly is going on here?

We will leave aside the bizarre claim that at the age of 40 the future Mrs. Macron left her husband and three children to marry Mr. Emmanuel Macron, aged 15. The relationship between Emmanuel and his wife is a great bundle of the bizarre (including a very Satanic wedding cake), but perhaps another time.

5. What about the mother of the three Auzière children? Her name was Brigitte Auzière (whose signature in the marriage registry mentioned above cannot be that of Mrs. Macron). This Mrs. Auzière disappears after 1984; perhaps she died. No one is sure. Mrs. Auzière was in fact Jean-Michel’s second wife and he had two daughters by her; he was also married to another woman with whom he had two children.

Putting all this together, we get the following scenario:

When Mrs. Auzière died, her identity was assumed by her husband Jean-Michel when he transitioned into a woman. Therefore, a fictious husband was invented for her in order to turn Jean-Michel into “Brigitte Auzière.” This then led to the creation of a fictitious husband for the newly minted “Brigitte Auzière,” a banker named “Jean-André Auzière,” whose whereabouts are nowhere to be found. Thus, Jean-Michel assumed the identities of two dead Brigittes: his late sister and his late second wife.

The other strange thing—there are only two photographs of Jean-Michel’s sister, Brigitte. Other than that, she is invisible. This Brigitte is supposed to be the future Mrs. Macron. Why can no photos of her youth be found? This dearth of photos can be explained by the fact that the sister died young.

It is said also that the person who assisted Jean-Michel in all this deception was the real Mrs. Auzière uncle, a fellow by the name of Jean-Louis Auzière. He worked in the French secret service and could easily fabricate identities and hide real ones, with appropriate paper work. In this way, Jean-Michel became Mrs. Emmanuel Macron. There is a lengthy sideroad that veers into Jean-Michel’s sordid exploits in the gay community of the 1970s, in France and in the USA.

But why do the Auzière and Trogneux families themselves say nothing? There is a conspiracy of silence, fueled by embarrassment, and now greatly heightened by the fact that Mrs. Macron is now the “wife” of the French president.

As many have pointed out, this can all be cleared up by a few hard facts that Mrs. Macron can produce. But there is only silence, and a lawsuit, and much deflection. Plus, the little proof produced only vindicates what is loudly declared a “conspiracy theory.”

Is Mrs. Emmanuel Macron Jean-Michel Trogneux? Nothing official has been produced that would say otherwise. Plus, Mrs. macron has been the recipient of a lot of surgery.

And, there you have Brigittegate in a nutshell.


Jared Kushner’s Great Game

Recently, Jared Kushner, came to his alma mater (Harvard) and gave a lengthy interview to Professor Tarek Masoud, in which he laid out his views on the Middle East.

This interview has been largely derided and thus dismissed or defended. But such attitudes are deceptive. Kushner wields much power and influence and will wield a lot more should Donald Trump again become president in November 2024—he is being touted as Trump’s Secretary of State. We need only recall that Kushner put in place the Abraham Accords, which were devastating for Palestine, but great for Israel.

Therefore, his words should be seriously studied, because they form a blueprint of what a new Trump administration will seek to accomplish in the Middle East—which in a nuthell will be to ensure that Israel is the sole master of the region. To bring this about, American effort will be to destroy Iran, ravage Russia and lay waste to China. These three countries are said to support actors hostile to Israel and thus to America. This is made clear by Kushner. The expected, larger outcome is the usual one—the world run by the USA, with Israel in its habitual role of “enforcer,” and Saudi Arabia ever the loyal lackey, with the various lapdog Gulf States in tow.

Over the course of his commentary, Kushner affirms that Israel indeed has nuclear weapons. Of course, Israel is not supposed to have them, but it is also an open secret that they do.

As for the Palestinians, Kushner reasons that it is hard to tell who is a terrorist among them and who is not. Therefore, they need a strong master to manage them; they are too childish to look after themselves. (Here Kushner’s “role” as a father is key). Kushner understands perfectly what is best for the Palestinians, because “father knows best.”

As for a Palestinian state, Kushner calls it a “super bad idea”—because that would be “rewarding” “bad behavior” (something that Kushner would never do as a Dad). Irresponsible children cannot run countries; more crucially, he sees a Palestinian state as a threat to Israel. That can never be allowed. Besides, if given such a state, the Palestinians would just blow it all up anyway. Better that they stay under the sure hand of Israel and somehow make lots of money. Making lots of money is the moral compass that governs Kushner’s International Relations. Genocide? What genocide? Despite being a father, he has nothing to say about the slaughter of children now being carried out by Israel. To further the cause of “Israel über alles,” the suffering of the Palestinian people can never be acknowledged. Kushner’s best suggestion is that the whole lot of them be transported out and put into some place “bulldozed” into the Negev desert. Out of sight, out of mind.

Behind Kushner’s boyish phraseology hides a grim program, in which the cheery wheeling and dealing is meant to destroy all of Israel’s perceived enemies, no matter who has to suffer in the process (the Palestinians, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, etc.). In other words, yet more of the master-slave “paradigm” (a word much used by Kushner). The Middle East must belong to Israel, and thereby the USA. It cannot belong to the majority of the people who actually live there.

In the interview, there is no awareness at all of BRICS and multipolarity, let alone the full aspirations of peoples and of nations. There is only the drive for dominance, all packaged as breezy arrogance which demands that the world be run the American way—or else. This is Kushner’s “deal;” it will be the new Great Game of International Relations, should Trump become president.

Thus, we thought that it important to provide a transcript of this interview that it might be the more thoroughly studied, since the written word allows for deeper reflection rather than a video.

Middle East Dialogues. February 15, 2024

Tarek Masoud: All right. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a great pleasure to welcome you this evening. My name is Tarek Masoud. I am a professor of public policy here at the Kennedy School, and I’m the faculty chair of our Middle East Initiative. It’s really my great pleasure to welcome you to this first in our spring series of what we are calling “Middle East Dialogues,” which are a series of conversations that I’m having with individuals whom I believe hold varied and vital perspectives, not just on the conflict in the region, but on the paths towards a more peaceful and prosperous future for the people of that part of the world.

Our guest this evening is one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t need an introduction, and that’s Mr. Jared Kushner. He was a senior advisor to President Donald Trump from 2017 to 2021, where he handled a number of vital portfolios from prison reform to trade agreements with Canada and Mexico, to our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to the reason that we are here tonight, which is peacemaking in the Middle East.

When I put together this series, Jared Kushner’s name was the very first name on my list, and that’s because he was the architect of the Abraham Accords, which I personally believe to be one of the most significant developments in the Middle East in recent memory. And he’s just generally a deal-maker par excellence. And if there’s any part of the world that I think needs really excellent deal-makers right now, I think it’s the Middle East. So I’m honored that he accepted my invitation to return to Harvard, his old stomping grounds, to have an open and candid conversation about some of the toughest issues on the planet right now.

So, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to talk for about 45 minutes, and then we’ll take questions from my students who I will call on. Those of you who know me know that you should never put a middle-aged Egyptian male in charge of timekeeping. So, I’m going to try to keep everything on time so that we can end at the appointed hour. So, first, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Jared Kushner.

Humanitarian Toll in Gaza and Views on Immediate Ceasefire

Jared, thank you so much for being with us. So, I just want to dive right into the war on Gaza.

We all know of the gruesome terrorist attack that happened on October 7th: more than 1,200 innocent Israelis brutally murdered by Hamas terrorists, more than 200 people taken hostages. Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed a fearsome military response, which was designed or intended to make sure that this never happens again. Now, today, four months later, more than 25,000 Palestinians are dead. I can’t tell you what percentage of them are Hamas terrorists, but we know that half of them are women and children. We know that more than a million Gazans are trying to shelter in the south of the country. They’re amassing on the border with Egypt. Many reports indicate that Gazans are now enduring a famine, and Israel is poised to begin a ground operation in Rafah that we think will take many more civilian lives. We know Israel’s being accused of genocide in front of the International Court of Justice, and even President Biden says that the Israeli operation has been over the top. But I’m guessing you don’t support calls for a ceasefire, and I wanted to ask why.

Jared Kushner: Jump right into it, so it’s good. First of all, it’s really great to be here, and thank you for putting on this dialogue on the Middle East. I think it’s a topic that I spent a lot of time, I spent four years working on, when I was in the White House. It wasn’t an issue that I had a lot of experience with, so I really came into it with a blank slate. I wish I’d been in some classes like this and gone to lectures like this when I was at Harvard. Maybe it would’ve actually given me a worse outcome, but…

Tarek Masoud: Wait a minute.

Jared Kushner: But I hope today I’ll share with you some of my experience and perspectives. But I will say that, throughout my time, I was always, a lot of the things that I would say, a lot of the things I would do were fairly heavily complained about or criticized from, I would say, the consensus thinking.

So, I think that, number one, when looking at the current situation, I try to look at everything kind of first principles and I try to say, “What’s going on? What should it be? What are the right actions?” And what I find is that there’s a lot of emotion with this issue. Some of it justified, some of it unjustified for a whole host of it. What I would say is this: I think that, number one, I take a step back and say, “Why are we here?” You go back to 2021, and when I was able to go back to my normal life after leaving office
or four years in service, we basically left the Middle East where it was very calm, right? It was calm, it had momentum. You think about ISIS, they were basically, the caliphate was gone. Syria, the Civil War had mostly stabilized in the sense that you didn’t have to think 500,000 people were killed.

When we started, Yemen was destabilized, Libya was destabilized. ISIS had a caliphate the size of Ohio, and Iran was flushed with cash. They were basically using that money to fund Hamas, to fund Hezbollah, to fund the Houthis, and they run a glide path to a nuclear weapon.

So, we inherited a really, really bad hand. And then with the JCPOA agreement, which was probably one of the dumbest agreements I think ever negotiated, just as anyone who studies agreements and deals, that really left us in a bad situation. So, we worked hard. We tried to regain trust. We did a lot of work. And we could talk about that later.
But the way we left the region was basically, we had six peace deals in the last six months that we were there, less, I think in the last maybe four or five months that we were there.

So, we took a different approach to the Palestinians. We were able to make peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and then with Bahrain than Sudan, then Kosovo was able to recognize Morocco. And then finally, we resolved the GCC dispute, which put everything on a pretty good glide path. Iran was basically broke. They were out of a foreign currency reserves, which meant that no money was going to any of these terrorist organizations.

And then in addition to that, the Palestinians basically were out of money too. We’d stopped funding UNRWA. We saw that UNRWA was basically taking the money that we were giving them to the United Nations. It was taxpayer dollars that we were giving to United Nations. We thought it was going to fund terrorists, to give them energy, to give them resources.

We saw a lot of their schools, and their mosques were basically where they would hide the bombs and the missiles and their munitions. And we thought the education that they were giving was really a very, very poor education that was radicalizing the next generation. So, we said, “Okay, there we go.”

So, basically, we thought that the right thing to do basically was to stop funding that, and that was the way that we wanted to kind of advance. So, we went forward, we were able to create the peace deals.

Then you kind of move forward in the region, three years, we thought that Saudi had the ability to do a normalization deal, and we had worked with the Biden administration in order to help them get that pathway, to follow the pathway that we were in.

So, now you forward three years, you have the attack, which was awful. Through not enforcing the sanctions on Iran, they were able to get funding, which they were able to then give to all these different groups. You saw a lot more rise up in the extremism. And I think that America not standing with Israel in the way that they should be led to a lot of this occurring. So, you have a situation now where Israel has the right to defend itself, right? They’re in a position where they had a brutal attack. I mean, imagine America, somebody coming over the border, brutally raping, killing civilians, doing all these different things. I mean, that’s something that I think would be quite horrific for a lot of us. And then I think the sentiment was basically, how do we put this in a position where we attack back? So, I think that what Israel’s done is they’re saying, “How do we secure ourselves this doesn’t happen again?”

Obviously one death is too many deaths. You don’t want any deaths in Israel. You don’t want deaths of Palestinians. But I think right now, the situation is a complex one. But I do hope that with the right leadership, they’ll be able to find the right way to get it to a better place.

Ideas for Ending the Crisis

Tarek Masoud: This was great, because you definitely preempted one question that I was going to ask you, which was, President Trump has been saying that this would never have happened on his watch. But before we get to that, I just want to think about this problem for a minute. One thing I associate Jared Kushner with is creative deal-making, thinking outside the box. Do you have a proposal or an idea or a sketch for how we end this crisis?

Jared Kushner: Sure. So, I think that the dilemma that Israeli leadership has right now is, do you do a short-term deal that leaves you more vulnerable in the future? Or do you take this current situation and try to figure out a way where you can create a paradigm, where your citizens will be safe and this will not happen again? So, it’s a very, very tough dilemma to be faced with if you are the leader of a country.

So, what I would do right now if I was Israel is, I would try to say, number one, you want to get as many civilians out of Rafah as possible. I think that you want to try to clear that out. I know that with diplomacy, maybe you get them into Egypt. I know that that’s been refused. But with the right diplomacy, I think it would be possible.

But in addition to that, the thing that I would try to do if I was Israel right now is I would just bulldoze something in the Negev. I would try to move people in there. I know that won’t be the popular thing to do, but I think that that’s a better option to do so you can go in and finish the job.

I think there was one decision point they had. Do we go into Gaza? Do we not go into Gaza? They had the hostages. There really was, I think, no choice but to do that. I think that they were smart to go slowly and deliberately. Gaza is a booby trapped like crazy; they have over 400 miles of underground tunnels.

So, I think that they’ve taken some of the right steps in order to go there but you have to, again, I think Israel’s gone way more out of their way than a lot of other countries would to try to protect civilians from casualties. But I do think right now, opening up the Negev, creating a secure area there, moving the civilians out and then going in and finishing the job would be the right move.

Ideas for Sheltering Palestinians from Gaza Bombardment

Tarek Masoud: Is that something that they’re talking about in Israel? I mean, that’s the first I’ve really heard of somebody, aside from President Sisi suggesting that the Gazans who are trying to flee the fighting could take refuge in the Negev. Are people in Israel seriously talking about that possibility, about hosting Gazan refugees
in what is considered “Israel proper?”

Jared Kushner: I don’t know. I mean…

Tarek Masoud: But that would be something you would try to work on?

Jared Kushner: I’m sitting in Miami Beach right now, and I’m looking at this situation and I’m just thinking, what would I do if I was there? Again, you look at, I mean, with Israel it’s a different thing. In Syria when there’s refugees, Turkey took them, Europe took them, Jordan took them.

For whatever reason here in Gaza, there’s refugees from the fighting from an offensive attack that was staged from Gaza, Israel’s going in to do a long-term deterrence mission, and it’s unfortunate that nobody’s taking the refugees. Again, I think that the American government should probably have done a little bit of a better job to find a solution to that. As a broker, I think that there would’ve been a way, but if that’s not a viable option, I think from Israel’s perspective, it’s just something that should be strongly considered.

Fears that Netanyahu will not allow fleeing Gazans to return

Tarek Masoud: Yeah, yeah. I mean, obviously the reason they’re not, for example, the reason the Egyptians don’t want to take the refugees in addition to, of course, there being the domestic unrest that could result or the instability that could result, but also there are real fears on the part of Arabs, and I’m sure you talk to a lot of them who think once Gazans leave Gaza, Netanyahu’s never going to let them back in.

Jared Kushner: Maybe, but I’m not sure there’s much left of Gaza at this point. So, if you think about even the construct like Gaza, Gaza was not really a historical precedent. It was the result of a war. You had tribes that were in different places, but then Gaza became a thing. Egypt used to run it, and then over time you had different governments that came in different ways. So, you have another war. Usually when wars happen, borders are changed historically over time.

So, my sense is, is I would say, how do we deal with the terror threat that is there so that it cannot be a threat to Israel or to Egypt? I think that both sides are spending a fortune on military. I think neither side really wants to have a terrorist organization enclaved right between them.

Gaza’s waterfront property, it could be very valuable to, if people would focus on building up livelihoods. You think about all the money that’s gone into this tunnel network and into all the munitions. If that would’ve gone into education or innovation, what could have been done.

So, I think that it’s a little bit of an unfortunate situation there but I think from Israel’s perspective, I would do my best to move the people out and then clean it up.

But I don’t think that Israel has stated that they don’t want the people to move back there afterwards.

Should the US Recognize a Palestinian State

Tarek Masoud: Yeah, yeah. I mean, okay, there’s a lot to talk about there. The last thing I wanted to just get your reaction to on this is the… you saw Tom Friedman’s column on Tuesday about where he put forward a plan to get out of this, and it’s called, “Only MBS and Biden can Redirect the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” He says, “Biden should recognize the Palestinian authority unilaterally as a state, and MBS should go to Jerusalem like Egyptian President Anwar Sadat did in 1977. He should say, I’ll normalize with Israel. I’ll recognize West Jerusalem as your capital, and I’ll even pay to rebuild Gaza if you recognize a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.” What do you think? Good idea?

Jared Kushner: No, I don’t think that’s a good idea. I think that there’s certain elements of it that are correct. I think proactively recognizing a Palestinian state would essentially be rewarding an act of terror that was perpetrated to Israel. So, it’s a super bad idea in that regard.

The way that we did it was a little bit inverted from there. So, when we were working on the Palestinian issue, which we spent a lot of time on, and up until October 7th, the Biden administration really did not burn a lot of calories on it. They basically said, this is a lost effort, we shouldn’t spend time on it, but we spent a lot of time developing a plan.

You go online, go Google Peace to Prosperity, you’ll find the plan that we put out in the White House, about 180 pages, very detailed. We started out, I met with the Palestinian negotiators, the Israeli negotiators, and I asked them basically a form of simple questions.

First identify, what are these people actually fighting over for 70 years? It came down to a list of 11 issues, of which there were only really three of them. One was the land barrier. I looked down and I said, well, any outcome is arbitrary, to compromise between two positions. You have the religious sites where they threw in a lot of issues like sovereignty. Does sovereignty belong to God? Does it belong to this? You have basically two sites, one under the other that both religions think is very critical to them. But I said, well, what do we really want if we get all the technical people out of the room? What we want is people to have the ability to pray freely. If you think about Israel, Jerusalem was really controlled by Jordan until the 1967 war.

1967 War

Israel took over; it was a defensive war. Israel was attacked by Jordan. They basically came in, attacked by Egypt and Jordan.

Tarek Masoud: Preemptive.

Jared Kushner: Preemptive, but Egypt was amassing all of its planes on the border. Jordan had given over its military under the control of the Iraqis at the time. So, what they did is they did a preemptive attack, they knocked out the Egyptian Air Force. They sent message to the Jordanians saying, please do not attack us. The Jordanians started mortaring in.

They basically then went over; they took over Jerusalem. They were surprised they got so far, and they kept going and were able to go all the way to the sea. So, that was the history of where that was. But before then, no Jews were allowed to pray in Jerusalem.

Then you basically had a situation where a lot of the Jewish cemeteries, a lot of the religious sites were used as places to store animals. They were really desecrated in bad ways. Israel then wins the war. Israel’s a very, very poor country at the time. What did they do? The first thing they do is they pass something called the Protection of Holy Places Law, which basically took money that they really didn’t have at the time and said, we’re going to restore all of the religious sites. So, if you think about it, from 1967 until today, Israel’s been a fairly responsible steward of all these religious sites for Christians, Jews, Muslims.

Every now and then you have tussles when people try to take it. They’ve allowed King Abdullah to be the custodian of the mosque. If you think about that second issue, it’s really just about allowing people to live freely.

The third issue that I thought was critical was really just security. You think about it, I mean, we think about it with different countries, but imagine you’re the governor of New Jersey. Then there’s people in Pennsylvania who are trying to cross the border and kill your people. You have to make a deal where you’re making it less likely they’re going to be able to harm your people than more. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to win an election and it’s not a prudent thing to do. So, those are really only the three issues that mattered.

So, what we did is we basically went and we said, asked each side, if you were the other side, what would you accept?

I found we weren’t getting anywhere so I started giving them much more detailed plan to react to.

We started going back and forth. It ended up turning into a 50-page operational plan on how to run things. By the way, you’ll find most people in politics don’t want to put details out because details you get attacked, when I got attacked even for taking my job. So I, after the third day, stopped caring about being attacked.

So, I basically said, let me start putting things out and get people to react to it. So, that was the first part, which was the political part.

The second thing we put together was an economic plan because as I was progressing down that road, I said, okay, let’s say miraculously I get people to agree on borders. Let’s say I get them to agree on a security regime. Let’s say I get them to agree that we could all pray properly and respect each other. Then what happens the next day? A lot of the region, a lot of what Israel’s been used for has been a scapegoat, I believe, from leaders in the region to basically deflect from their own shortcomings at home. So, I felt like most human beings want the ability to live a better life, and if we can create an economic plan that would basically allow people to live a better life, then maybe that would give them an ability to actually start focusing on the future, how to make their kids’ lives better, instead of focusing on, how do we solve problems in the past? So, that was really what we put together, and so that was really a framework for how we thought we could make progress. So, what Tom’s talking about is basically saying, why don’t we recognize a Palestinian state?

When we were looking at a Palestinian state, the problem we saw there was basically that they didn’t have really institutions that can govern. I mean, the last person actually who did a good job governing there is actually here. It’s Salam Fayyad. He was doing such a good job, he wasn’t corrupt. People were making more money; the services were being delivered. He did such a good job that the leadership basically saw him as a threat and figured out how to run him out of town. I don’t know if I’m speaking for you, but it did.

Tarek Masoud: I think he might also say the Israelis didn’t help them either. But anyways, we’ll go.

Jared Kushner: These are also complicated. I mean, that’s true.

Tarek Masoud: That’s one word.

Jared Kushner: But what I would say here is that for a Palestinian state when we looked at it, you say, what are the prerequisites that people need to live a better life? Number one is you need a functioning judiciary. You need a business climate. You need property rights. You need reasons for people to invest capital in order to order to give people an opportunity to grow. So, those conditions really don’t exist. So, the Palestinian leadership really has not passed any of the tests over the last 30 years in order to, I think, qualify for it.

Now, I do think the notion of a Palestinian state that doesn’t have the ability to harm Israel from a security perspective is a worthy objective, but I think you need to figure out, how do you make them earn it? At least have a viable pathway towards creating the institutions that can make it thrive and viable, because if you call it a state and then people, their lives are less good in five years from now, people will be angry and that will lead to more violence and conflict.

How Did We Get to October 7th?

Tarek Masoud: Okay, so there’s a lot of threads to pull on here. So the first thread I just want to pull on is, you offered a diagnosis for how we got to October 7th, and your diagnosis is basically the Biden administration by allowing the Iranians to amass more wealth and spend it on their proxies, that’s how you get October 7th. If President Trump had been in charge, none of that would’ve happened; the Iranians would’ve continued to be starved of resources, et cetera. I’m correct on interpreting that hypothesis?

Jared Kushner: Yeah. I’ll add one more element, which is they squandered momentum. What I would say is whether it’s in business, whether it’s in politics, momentum is one of the most valuable things to try to seek. It’s funny, I was talking, I wrote about it in my book; actually, with Bibi, that I was with him after he lost an election, not a lost election, he was trying to form a coalition. Somebody put a knife in his back and he basically lost it.

I was with him the next day. We thought we were going to announce something and move forward, and he was pretty despondent. We met the next day, and he would basically, I figured, let me ask him questions about his history, his story. I mean, he’s a historic figure that’s been through so many different iterations, and he told me, “When I was a politician, I have bad patches. I would always try to get little wins because little wins lead to bigger wins and then bigger wins and momentum is a very hard thing to get.”

We left the region with momentum. Again, the last piece, so we got Bahrain to do the deal with Israel. Saudi was basically watching this all very closely. We got Saudi to allow us to put flights over Saudi Arabia between Israel and UAE.

Then in addition to that, they’ve said, we need you to solve the issue with us in Qatar. So, we went through, we got that negotiation done, which was very, very intense.

So, I finished that on January 5th and then flew back to the US, thinking I would have a very quiet last couple of weeks in office. That turned out to be the case. So, basically, everything was good. What they could have done was then said, let’s sit with Saudi. Let’s go finish the job. Let’s finish the momentum. So, they basically changed policy, and I think that led to a reversion of momentum. They waited two years to get started, and then get a stronger Iran, less trust, and I think that also contributed to it as well.

Was October 7th the Result of Neglect of the Palestinian Issue under Trump?

Tarek Masoud: Okay, so what would you say to the alternative hypothesis that says, actually, the reason we got October 7th is because the strategy that you had for peacemaking, which whose creativity I’m not going to question, it was quite creative, but by essentially neglecting the core of the issue, the Palestinians’ desire to determine their own fate, that you just created the circumstances where the rejectionists would have the upper hand. That this is basically not the result of Iran or whatever, it’s a result of the fact that the Trump administration spent four years completely ignoring, isolating, bypassing the Palestinians, handing them defeat after defeat after defeat. Then what do you expect? You’re surprised when they act out?

Jared Kushner: Right. So, what I would say to that is that whoever would say that, that we didn’t address the root cause of the situation, I don’t think truly understood what the root cause of the situation actually is. This is what was actually so intriguing to me and what made me very insecure about my job in the beginning was that I came into this with, like I said, no foreign policy experience.

Everyone who was criticizing was probably right, but I think my father-in-law, who’s the President, basically said, it can’t get any worse. He can’t do any worse than the last people who worked on it for 10 or 15 years and all failed, and then basically went and wrote books about how they didn’t fail.

It’s just that the problem was too hard, and then somehow, they move on and they are considered the experts on the situation, having had zero accomplishments on this file.

So, that’s the underlying function of what you’re talking about. I saw this very simple, and actually when I went to the United States, the UN Security Council, because always trying to condemn Israel on everything, it was very anti-Semitic, I think the way that they conduct their business there.

I basically made a PowerPoint presentation. I don’t know if anyone’s ever made them a PowerPoint presentation, but coming from the business world, I said, maybe I can try to explain to these people why this is a rational thing in a very realistic place. I actually put this slide in my book where I basically made a slide from Oslo Accords up until that day, where I showed two lines going this way. Then I had a dove for every time there was a peace talk that failed.

Then I had a tank for every time there was a war. The two lines represented the following things: One was the settlements; so, basically the land that Israel was taking. Then the other one represented money going to the Palestinians. So, what happened was, is every time a peace talk failed or a war occurred, the same two things occurred. The Palestinians got more money and the Israelis took more land. So, both sides essentially got what they wanted.

So, neither I thought had a really motivation to make the deal based on their own politics and their own interests. Then the second thing was, is I looked at it and I said, these issues actually are not that hard to solve. Which again, a lot of people laughed at me for saying that, but I basically said, we have to figure out how to just push this forward.

So, when I looked at the Palestinian leadership, I basically said it’s like… And there’s a lot of other situations of refugee groups; they just haven’t been able to internationalize their situation. The Palestinians were getting $3 or $4 billion a year in international aid. We had a meeting in Washington with Bibi Netanyahu. They have a $500 billion GDP economy; they’re a nuclear power, military superpower, a technology superpower.

He would fly in on an El-Al commercial plane with his team. We’d meet with the head of a refugee group, Mohammed Abbas, and he would fly into Washington on a $60 million Boeing business jet. I mean, the whole thing was strange. I went and I met with him one night.

We’re talking about different issues and he wants a cigarette. He puts a cigarette in his mouth. So, someone comes in and they light the cigarette for him. I’m saying to myself, is this guy run a refugee group or is he a king? So, the whole situation, I thought, was designed for them not to solve it.

Again, a lot of people were getting rich there, a lot of interests were being fed, and not a lot of people were doing it.

So, what we basically said is, we’re going to actually address the issue. We’re not going to deal with the systems of the issue, we’re going to try to address the issue. I think that was what we actually tried to do.

Why is Kushner’s Assessment of Mahmoud Abbas so Different from Trump’s?

Tarek Masoud: Okay, so there’s a lot to pull on here too, with respect to Mohammed Abbas. So, I’m going to just stipulate at the outset, some of my favorite bits of this book are your descriptions of conversations with Mohammed Abbas. I’m not on his list of fans, but let me quote somebody who is on his list of fans, your father-in-Law. So, he told Barak Ravid, “Abbas: I thought he was terrific. He was almost like a father. Couldn’t have been nicer. I thought he wanted to make a deal more than Netanyahu.”

What was your father-in-law getting wrong?

Jared Kushner: Well, I think he was saying relative.

Tarek Masoud: Okay, relative.

Jared Kushner: Relative, so.

Tarek Masoud: Okay, relative to Netanyahu though.

Jared Kushner: His view on Bibi was that Bibi was always working something. I think that he did not have faith that Bibi would come through, but I also think he was in his mind trying to challenge Bibi to say, you’re not going to come through, you’re not going to come through, to make Bibi prove to him that he was going to come through. That was the way we were setting the table. So, what we did is we did things that we wanted to do anyway.

President Trump campaigned that he was going to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. His view was, is Israel’s a sovereign nation, America’s a sovereign nation, they have the right to determine their capital and we have the right to recognize their capital. Move the embassy to Jerusalem, Golan Heights. I mean, who are you taking it from? Syria barely existed at the time and Israel had occupied it for a long time.

Recognizing Golan wasn’t that big of a deal. So, we did all these things that built a lot of trust for us with the Israeli public.

What happened was, is because of that, the Israeli public trusted President Trump, he got out of the JCPOA, he was strong on Iran. He felt that he had the ability to say this is a fair deal, and push Bibi to that place. A boss would come and in the meetings he would say, “We’re going to do a deal with you. We’re going to do a special deal. I’m going to do things for you like I’ve never done for anybody else. We’re going to make a deal.
We really want to do it.”

I’d be like, oh, that’s amazing. So, that was my first meeting. I walked away and be like, that was incredible. This guy is great.

Then I went from my second meeting, I go all the way to Ramallah. I go in, it’s, I’m thinking to myself, how is a Jewish kid from New Jersey here in Ramallah?

I got all the security guards. Then I meet with him again and I say, “Okay, well, I’m ready to talk borders. What are we going to do? What’s your proposal? I want you to tell me what would you do that you think the Israelis would accept?”

“Jared, we’re going to make a deal. We’re going to make the best deal. I’m going to make a special deal for you.”

I’m saying myself, I really want to get into the details here.

My father-in-Law’s not a very patient person. What I found was it was like a broken record. What I realized, if you go back, what I did at some point, I read actually Jimmy Carter’s book, which was interesting. I really wanted to get the full-

Tarek Masoud: Peace, not Apartheid [Palestine: Peace not Apartheid], or something like that.

Jared Kushner: Peace, not Apartheid. Yeah, I tried to get everywhere from Dory Gold to Jimmy Carter. I really tried to get the spectrum of perspectives. In the back of it, he had in the annex, the Camp David Peace Agreement.

I was reading through the agreement. I was like, I actually should go read all the different drafts of agreements and let me go read some peace agreements to see what they actually are.

Everyone’s there trying to negotiate, but I said, let me go read some.

So, then as I pulled up all of the different agreements that have been done, I saw the Arab Peace Initiative, and that’s what Abbas said, “I want to align with the Arab Peace Initiative.” So, I pulled up the Arab Peace Initiative and it was 10 lines and it had no detail, and it was a concept, and it was generated in a different place.

One of the tenets of it was, we want a capital in East Jerusalem. So, I had a guy on my team who was awesome, a guy Scott Lith, he was a military guy, and I said, he worked for John Kerry. His whole life has been working on this issue, but he was from the State Department, which was a much more, a different perspective than say a former business guy who’s more of a pragmatist would have.

East Jerusalem as Palestinian Capital

I asked him, I said, “Well, where does the Palestinian claim for East Jerusalem come from?”

Tarek Masoud: You mean East Jerusalem as a capital?

Jared Kushner: As a capital, yes.

Tarek Masoud: Not as belonging to them.

Jared Kushner: Sorry, as a capital. I said, “Where does that come from?” He says, “I actually don’t know.” I said, “Okay, well, go research and get back to me.”

Normally he’d be back in my office in two hours. He didn’t come back for two days. He basically came back and he says, “You know what, Jared? This is very interesting.” He said, “Before the Palestinians said that they were in charge of the West Bank,” which basically was the declaration, which I think was in the late ’80s?

Tarek Masoud: Yeah, late ’88.

Jared Kushner: Late ’80s, right?

Tarek Masoud: ’88, I think.

Jared Kushner: So, until then, the Palestinian lands were basically territory of Jordan. Jordan, the Palestinians were basically fighting with the Jordanians causing problems there, and the Jordanians basically said, we’ve had enough of these people, let’s get them out of here. They basically exiled Yasser Arafat to Lebanon, where he went there, caused a lot of trouble, they exiled him to Tunisia.

So, during that time when the Palestinians were in the West Bank, their capital was Amman.

So, he’s saying, actually, it was just through this declaration of the Palestinians when they said, this is how we’re forming our charter. This is what our rights are. They just said, and we’re taking East Jerusalem as our capital. So, it was just one of these things that came down.

Tarek Masoud: Declaring East Jerusalem as their capital.

Jared Kushner: Declare, yeah.

Tarek Masoud: In other words, East Jerusalem was always going to be part of what a Palestinian state was because they had never ceded it.

Jared Kushner: Yeah, part, but what I would say about that, and this is also another notion, is that, again, because a lot of, you’ll hear people throw around a lot of words like they’ll throw apartheid or East Jerusalem [inaudible]. My view is, these words are always up here.

Then again, somebody who wasn’t part of the club of foreign policy experts, I said, well, explain this to me. East Jerusalem, the boundaries of East Jerusalem have changed eight times over the course of history as well.

So, when they were saying that, I said, oh, well, there’s new, maybe we could expand East Jerusalem, give them a different part of it. So, it’s one of these things that if you’re pragmatic about it, there’s ways to solve a lot of these different issues, if you want to do it.

What we found with Abbas was that there wasn’t a great desire to engage because he was protecting the status quo, which was leading to lots of inflows of money.

Challenging Kushner’s Assessment of Abbas

Tarek Masoud: Okay, so I do not want to be the guy defending Abbas to just make this interesting. Let me-

Jared Kushner: I like him, personally.

Tarek Masoud: Let me offer you the alternative argument. First of all, there’s a really amazing negotiator who said you always let the other guy go first. Who was that? Oh, it was Jared Kushner, it’s in this book. Okay. So, you go to Abbas and you say, Hey, draw a map for me. A smart negotiator is going to say, Hey, the map is resolution 242, the entire West Bank. If you’ve got an offer you want to make, go ahead, but I’m certainly not going to negotiate against myself. Why didn’t you recognize that that’s what he was doing?

Jared Kushner: Yeah, so that’s what I saw was this kid’s situation. So, what I did was, since both parties were doing that, I just went and started drawing my own map. I basically said, okay, I don’t really care what happened before, because if you think about the Middle East, a lot of it’s just arbitrary lines drawn by foreigners anyway. You go back to Sykes-Picot, and you could argue that there’s a lot of lines.

Again, as I started unraveling this history, I was realizing that a lot of this was not as logical or as sacrosanct as everyone thought it was. So, what I basically said is I said, okay, let me come up with a 2017 version.

What I’m basically going to do is look at, say, if you go back to 2006, Israel unilaterally withdrew all of their settlers from Gaza, and it was a political disaster. What did they get for it? They left all these greenhouses; they left all this industry. It was all destroyed. They ended up with a group, with a terrorist group took over, and then since then they’ve
been firing rockets into Israel and Israel’s been less safe because of their withdrawal, and October 7th proved that.

But this was even before that. I said, there is no way Israel’s uprooting any of these settlers. So, I said, let me just say if I want to give the Palestinians a state, let me figure out how can I draw a line and just take all the places where they’re settlers and just make a new line here, and then figure out, how do you swap land here and there?

Then make whatever’s not continuous, continuous today. You got tunnels, you got bridges, all these different things. How do you make it connectable so that it could be a functioning state? Then go from there. So, I started drawing a line, and then I figured I’d let each party react to it one way or the other.

We ended up putting it out. Again, I fought a lot with Bibi and his team, through showing him the map. You can’t have this; you can’t have that.

I said, okay, let’s move the line here and there, but that was how I started. I was never able to get the Palestinians to engage off of that map to say, we want this, but.

Did Kushner make Abbas an Offer He could not Accept?

Tarek Masoud: Yeah, so this is interesting. I mean, obviously you’re a great negotiator. I’m a fat professor who’s never even negotiated his salary properly, but-

Jared Kushner: That’s usually what the people who are doing well say, by the way.

Tarek Masoud: But the way you present, I did think it was, you really deserve a lot of credit for getting Benjamin Netanyahu to put down on paper the borders of a Palestinian state that he would accept. Okay, you’re the first person to really get them to do that.

Jared Kushner: Not just him; we got the opposition during a heated election to agree to them as well.

Tarek Masoud: To agree to it, to agree to it.

Jared Kushner: A massive step forward.

Tarek Masoud: Yeah, massive step forward. One of the great things that you say in this book, by the way, which I actually think is exculpatory of the Palestinians, is you say, everybody says, Camp David 2000, the Palestinians walked away from a really detailed agreement. There wasn’t a detailed agreement. So, that’s actually a little bit exculpatory for the Palestinians, but in any case, you finally get Benjamin Netanyahu to put down on paper, what he will accept.

Jared Kushner: Just from my research, I was not able to find any text of a deal that was anywhere near close to a negotiation. I also thought the power dynamics were different, where is what I was told is that Arafat was basically not being supported by the Arabs. The Arabs wanted to keep this thing alive and they didn’t want him to make a deal.

Whereas today, when we got in, I recognized the different dynamic, where the Arabs I felt wanted him to finish this, which gave me a lot more ability to lean into things.

Tarek Masoud: Yeah, that’s interesting, but the point is, so you’ve got now Benjamin Netanyahu’s drawn the map. Why do you not take this to Abbas or why do you not announce this as the American plan to which the Israelis have signed on? You are the American; you’ve got this position as the broker between these two parties. Why didn’t you go back to Abbas and say, okay, here’s what the Israeli position? Then let Abbas say, okay, no, I don’t like this border, I don’t like that. Then why didn’t you do it that way?
Why did you present it in such a way where it looked like what you were trying to do was to give him an offer he couldn’t accept, so that you could then say to the other Arabs, ah, this guy’s a rejectionist, I did my best. Can we now conclude some peace deals directly between you and the Israelis and leave these Palestinians on the side?

Jared Kushner: I’ll try to do this answer as short as possible, but it’s going to be a little one. So, number one, what I tried to do is set up the situation. So, when we moved the embassy to Jerusalem, Abbas and his team said, we’re not talking to you guys anymore. After a couple months, they came back. We kept the security cooperation going, but he broke ties with us diplomatically. I remember at the time, Rex Tillerson, who was the Secretary of State, said, “We’ve got to go do something. Let’s give East Jerusalem. Let’s do this because these guys are going to run away and we’re not going to hear from them again for another decade.”

I said, “Rex, we’re not doing it.” He said, “Why?” I said, “They’ve trained American negotiators over time to say, jump, and we say, how high?”

When have American negotiators bowed to Palestinian demands?

Tarek Masoud: I read that in the book, and I thought that was an extraordinary. Give me an example of where we said to the Palestinians, you told us jump and we did it.

Jared Kushner: Everything with me was a threat. “We’re going to withdraw from the negotiation.” I said, “Who cares? We give you guys $700 million a year. I don’t care.” My view is, if you’re going to come and do it, great. If not, we’re going to stop funding you guys. But that’s how we’re going to set the dynamic. So, then the second thing I did was I said, “We’re not going to allow you to control whether we can negotiate this or not.” So, because they withdrew, I said, “Okay, I could stop.” Now, the good news is I had other files to work on.

I wasn’t a sole person, but the reason why the U.S were trained to chase them is usually it was an envoy whose sole job it was to deal with the Israelis and the Palestinians. And the Palestinians said, “We’re not negotiating.” He had nothing to do. For me, I said, “Okay, I’ll work on other things. That’s okay. I have other jobs here.”

And so, what we basically did was we went and we started pushing forward with the plan.

And my thinking was, as I was speaking to the Arabs, they said, “Get an honest plan on paper from Israel and we will try to push the Palestinians to take it.”

Because they basically said, we want this thing resolved. So, they said, if you can put a credible offer, and they did not believe that we can get Bibi or United Israel to put forward a credible plan, I said, “Good, let’s do it.” Again, I was always willing to chase the crazy things and I kind of liked it.

And again, I felt like this was very important. So going after and trying to settle things I thought was critical.

So, we worked hard with Israel. We kept negotiating with them to get them more and more. I didn’t take them all the way to where I thought we could have gone. Security wise, I was in full agreement with everything we put in our plan. Again, I really was very sympathetic to Israel.

You can’t make a peace deal and then be less safe the next day. You do a deal so that you’re more safe. So that was number one.

The borders, I felt like we should just be super pragmatic about it. And there was a couple of things in there that I knew we could swap around. So, I left some meat on the bone for Abbas. I’m going to get to the answer to your question. So, I kind of left some meat on the bone.

Then when we announced the plan; so first of all, we surprised everyone by getting Israel to put out a very detailed plan.

We had a unified Israeli government supporting it. We got very positive statements from the Arab country saying, we encourage both sides to negotiate on the base of this plan, which diplomatically, was actually a very big step forward in the diplomatic world.

Then what I did is I had the CIA deliver to Abbas a copy of the plan with a note from us right beforehand, basically saying, this is the plan we’re putting out. We have built a lot of goodwill with Israel. We are willing to use that goodwill to try to make a fair deal that we think can resolve this.

Tarek Masoud: That’s the question I’m asking. So, why that framing? Why didn’t you say, here’s what the Israelis are offering. Give me your counteroffer. Why didn’t you do that?

Jared Kushner: That’s essentially what the letter said, right? The letter basically from the president said, we’re happy to chat. And basically we said, look, we’re happy to chat. We’re moving forward with this. We had to set the dynamic where the train was moving forward with or without him, and this is what I do believe, too. They were very isolated. They were basically running out of cash. Iran was running out of cash, and we had the only thing on the table. The Abraham Accords were now starting to collapse the pocket around them.

And so basically what we were doing is we were trying to eliminate all of his escape paths and build him a golden bridge. And then basically, at some point we figured he’d go over the bridge.

Did Kushner Prove Hamas and Others Right?

Tarek Masoud: I feel like the natural response to that is very clever deal making. I certainly would not want to be on the opposite side of a real estate transaction with you. But what you weren’t recognizing is that Abbas has people to his right, he’s got Hamas that he’s got to contend with, and you were just making it absolutely impossible for him to make a deal with you. And all you were doing here is just proving the rejectionist point and making the average Palestinian think, yeah, absolutely. America has no intention of actually being an honest broker or getting us a good deal.
Look what they’re doing to Abbas, who is their ally. So then, maybe the only path is the path of this violent resistance.

Jared Kushner: So, I hope you’re saying that in the context of being provocative or devil’s advocate-

Tarek Masoud: Yes, yes.

Jared Kushner: Because my sense is that’s the total conventional way of thinking about this. And again, I’m saying this openly. I was criticized by all of the conventional players on this because I did not approach this-

Tarek Masoud: But October 7th happened.

Jared Kushner: Right. But let me go back to that point. So, the point there is that the other version of what was said is that if you move the MC to Jerusalem, the Middle East is going to have a war. That was the US intelligence assessment. That was what Abbas said. That’s what every leader in the region said. If you get out of the JCPOA, the world’s going to end. If you move the embassy, the world’s going to end.

Well, every time we did one of those things, we worked to mitigate the risk. And what happened the next day? The sun rose in the morning and it set in the evening, and nothing happened. We had little things, we managed them. It was no big deal. So, our thinking was is that if you’re going to say that Abbas can’t engage with us and try to make a compromise because Hamas is to his other side, we thought the best way to empower him over Hamas was to make him the guy who delivered investment, upside, compromise, better life for the people. And that’s how we read the situation back in 2019, 2020.

And I still believe at that moment our assessment was correct.

Why did Kushner not Try to Build Capital with the Palestinians?

Tarek Masoud: Yeah. I want to move on to other issues, but I just want to, when I look at the way you negotiated with Bibi, okay, so you mentioned, for example, to move the embassy to Jerusalem, for example. Every time you made one of these decisions and President Trump would say, Hey, what am I getting for this? You want me to move the embassy to Jerusalem, what’s Bibi going to give me? Oh, you want me to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan? I’ve already done enough for Bibi. Why am I going to do this? And every time you would say to the president, Hey, hey, hey, we’re building capital with the Israelis. We’re building capital with Bibi. Why weren’t you trying to build capital with the Palestinians?

Jared Kushner: First of all, Israel was the much stronger party. And so, at the end of the day, we felt like getting the right pragmatic compromises out of them would take the capital and we would have to convince them that the compromises we were going to ask them to take, we genuinely believed were in their interests.

Keep in mind, all of the things we did for Bibi were things that we thought were the right things to do. So, he was a political beneficiary of them. He would tout them for his domestic and international popularity. But the reality is, we were doing things that we thought were the right things to do.

Why didn’t Kushner get Netanyahu to Freeze Settlements?

Tarek Masoud: Why didn’t you at least get him to freeze settlements? Say like, Hey, I’m going to give you Jerusalem. I’m going to recognize the Golan.

Jared Kushner: If you notice with us, the settlements were basically contained to areas. He did pro forma stuff, but nothing that was that radical. He didn’t go too crazy with us in the settlements.

Tarek Masoud: Okay.

Jared Kushner: But again, our strategy was basically have the tough conversations quietly, figure out how to mitigate. Again, you could have disagreement, but let’s focus on the big things. I remember I got a call from David Friedman, who’s our ambassador to Israel and said, “Oh, Jared, we have to deal with this. Two Israelis were [inaudible].” I said, “David, stop chasing rabbits.” I said, “Our job is not to solve every single domestic Israeli issue. Our job is to focus on the elephants. The elephants are slower, they’re bigger. Let’s focus on the root cause of this. If we solve the root causes of the disease, the symptoms all go away. If you spend all of your time chasing the symptoms, you’re going to wear yourself out, you’re not going to get anywhere.” And that’s what a lot of people did before us. So, we stayed very laser-focused on how do we make both sides uncomfortable to try and create an outcome.

And I’ll just say this too, Middle East peace is like a butt of jokes for many years. We actually did get some peace agreements done, which is pretty incredible. But you’re basically saying, Jared, go work on probably one of the most impossible, complex, emotionally charged problem sets in the history of the world. And so my view was, it wasn’t like you could look at it on one of your homework sets.

Okay, this is the right answer, the wrong answer. You have a million different wrong answers and maybe one or two potential answers that could work out well. And so like I said, we inherited the hand we got and we just played the cards as hard as we could. And I do think by the time we left, we left it in a very, very strong place. And we had more time, again, I don’t want to sound like one of these guys who leaves government saying this, but I did have a lot of track, my track record of success in the Middle East I do think is second to none over the last many years.

And so I do firmly believe that we put the situation in a paradigm where it was much closer to being solved than it had ever been before.

Why Does Kushner not See Netanyahu as an Obstacle to Peace?

Tarek Masoud: I’m going to just do one last question on Bibi because I started this by saying you and your father-in-law disagree about Abbas. You also disagree about Bibi. And I guess what I’m trying to understand, because I read your book, I don’t know why you still have a soft spot for Bibi. Like this is a guy who, Trump says, I don’t think he ever wanted to make peace.

You tell a story where Netanyahu acts incredibly dishonorably, where when you’re rolling out the peace plan, he gets up and just starts thanking the United States for agreeing to Israeli annexation of these bits of the West Bank that Israel, in your plan, would only get after the deal is agreed to by the other side.

And you even say, when you first started talking to Netanyahu about a deal, he says, no, thanks.

And you even note, he says to you, look, I’ve survived as Prime Minister for 11 years by opposing a Palestinian state. So, this, to me, he’s a guy who just purely, in your book, seems pretty sneaky, kind of like an obstructionist, a rejectionist. And yet, you talk about him in the book, towards the end you say he could be a powerful catalyst for change. And I’m thinking to myself, yeah, it seems to me he was more an obstacle to the kind of change that you wanted and the U.S wanted, which was to see a solution to the Palestinian issue. So, what am I and your father-in-law getting wrong about this guy?

Jared Kushner: So first of all, I think that there definitely is brilliance to him, and I think he’s definitely committed himself to Israel for a very long time.

Some would argue maybe now too long, but I think he’s done a lot of good in his time. And my general view is, I was able to find ways to work things through with him. He didn’t always make my life easy, but that wasn’t his job.

My job wasn’t to make his life easy either. So again, I understood his complications, I understood his flaws, and I understood his brilliance, and I was able, and I just found it, and again, maybe I’m more malleable. I’m able to work with complicated people very well, that’s maybe one of the things throughout all my different careers I’ve been good at. But I found that I was able to get the best out of him in order to accomplish the things that I thought were in the best interests of America and the region.

Tarek Masoud: So, in other words, just bottom line on this, you are not one of the people who sees Benjamin Netanyahu as an obstacle to peace?

Jared Kushner: I think that anyone who is a leader in the region can be both part of the problem and part of the solution. And I think that the job of those involved is to try to pull the best out of everyone to create the best possible outcome possible.

Tarek Masoud: I definitely…

Jared Kushner: I know I’m being a little evasive with that, but I think it really can depend on the day, and I think it depends on how you work with him to get the best out of him.

Tarek Masoud: No, I love that.

Jared Kushner: It’s in there. It’s in there. That is what I’m saying.

Tarek Masoud: I love that. I love that. It’s clear from the book you did that with Netanyahu, but you gave up on Abbas really quickly.

Jared Kushner: I didn’t give up. I was just taking a posture of, we’re not going to chase you. But I think, for him, I set a very delicious table where if he would’ve come and engaged, I had a couple goodies in my pocket that I could have done, and I think I set the table for him to make a deal, have some big victories in negotiation, have $50 billion of investment, create a million new jobs, double the GDP, reduce the poverty rate, create a real country. You know what I mean? So, I think I set him up to be a hero.

Look, there’s one book I read about him, which actually I had a different assessment of him than the CIA. And I actually bought this book and gave it to the CIA after I read it, which was called The Last Palestinian, which was really incredible. And throughout his life, again, this is my assessment as just somebody who ended up in this job, was that throughout his life, he actually was for peace. He was for nonviolence. He hung around a lot of bad characters and was always on that side. But I do think that after they lost Gaza to Hamas in 2006, you basically had two non-states with two non-governments. And I think after that, he just went inward and his whole focus moved to survival and staying in power and keeping the kleptocracy running. I think after that, it was more about how do I set this up to just survive. And he became afraid of making peace and taking the risks necessary. That was kind of my assessment, which made him a little bit of a harder character to deal with.

Why was Recognizing Israel’s Annexation of Golan the “Right Thing to Do?”

Tarek Masoud: We could probably talk about him for much longer, but we shouldn’t. You saw the Vanity Fair story that talks about you as a potential future Secretary of State. I don’t know if people saw the New York Sun story from January that proposed your name for president of Harvard. But so what I want to do is I kind of want to, I want to understand how you think about international relations. And the Golan story gives us a nice entry point into that.

So, March, 2019, you encouraged President Trump to recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. And basically you say, acknowledging the reality that the Golan Heights belonged to Israel was the right thing to do. And I remember I read that thing and I thought, wow, Jared Kushner is talking about the right thing to do. I’m a realist in international relations. I would’ve guessed that you were as well. It’s like there’s no right or wrong. It’s like interests. So, what was the moral principle that was being satisfied by recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan?

Jared Kushner: Sure. So even with all these jobs, my number one job that I’m focused on right now is being dad to my kids. That’s something after four years of very intense time in government. That’s the most important job I have now.

Tarek Masoud: That’s your way of saying you don’t want to be Secretary of State?

Jared Kushner: That’s my job. That’s my way of saying I’m really liking the job I have right now. It’s really important.

So, what I would say is that the way that I kind of approach foreign policy, and again, this came from not really having any experience in foreign policy, was basically saying every problem set I got almost, I think my disadvantage was that I didn’t have any context, and my advantage was that I didn’t have any context. So, I would always try to take a first principles result-oriented approach with the goal of being, how do you maximize human potential? And in order to maximize human potential, you need to figure out how you can reduce conflict, most of the time. And I always looked at everything and I say through that lens, what are the interests of different parties?

One thing I was also very good at, I think because I didn’t come in lecturing people. There’s a story I tell in the book where I went to meet with Mohammed bin Zayed, who’s now the president of the United Arab Emirates and the ruler. And I spent the first two hours basically asking him different forms of a question, which is, “The US has so much power, again, we are a massive global superpower. If you were me, what would you do?”

And it took him about an hour to basically understand the question I was doing because he was so not programmed to actually meet with somebody from the US who wanted his opinion.

And after an amazing conversation, because he’s a very, very wise and brilliant person, he basically said to me, “Jared, I think you’re going to make peace here in the region.”

And I said to him, I said, “Well, why do you say that?” He says, “Well, the US usually sends one of three kinds of people to see us. The first are somebody who comes and they fall asleep in meetings.” He says, “The second type of person they send is somebody who comes and they read me notes or a message and has no authority or power to interact and have a dialogue.” He said, “The third person they send are people with real authority, but they only really send them to come and try to convince me to do things that are not in my interests.” He says, “You’re the first person from the US at a senior level that’s ever come here and actually asked questions and listened.”

And I said to him, “Well, that’s because I really don’t know how to do this, and this is a really hard problem.” And so I said, “I appreciate all of the wisdom you can give me.”

So, it’s kind of a long way of saying that every problem I kind of looked at fresh. I was able to build trust with people, build real personal relationships. I always answered the phone. People had issues. I always believed successful people answer their phone and so I was always available. I didn’t always tell them, yes.

And I wasn’t keeping a score saying, I’m going to do this for you, but you have to do this for me. My general view was, I’m going to do all the things you need and you’re going to do all the things I need, and hopefully at the end of this relationship, we both feel like we’re way ahead. And so I was able to build a lot of trust.

I was able to kind of see things from another side’s perspective. I worked very hard to understand both side’s interests and say, where can we find common interests? And then the areas where we disagreed, instead of condemning people publicly, you’ll notice I didn’t do a lot of public talking. I didn’t think it was that helpful. I’m not very big on being negative towards people or being critical.

And so what I basically did was we would find ways when we disagreed to disagree respectfully and quietly, and then find ways to move forward.

Tarek Masoud: So, sorry, recognizing Golan’s annexation was the right thing to do because…

Jared Kushner: Well, it’s just obvious. I mean, number one, Israel had had it now for how many years? I guess they got in the ’73 War.

Tarek Masoud: Yes.

Jared Kushner: I believe so.

Tarek Masoud: [inaudible] I don’t remember it.

Jared Kushner: They had it for a long time. The ’67 War.

Tarek Masoud: Yeah.

Jared Kushner: The ’67 War. So, they basically had it since the ’67 War. Clearly, strategically, it was a big military, important. They had it, they weren’t giving … And then they’re saying, okay, who does it belong to? Syria. Syria, at the time, barely existed.

So, it was a big thing where it said, A, they’re never giving it up. B, Syria doesn’t exist. Let’s just recognize it. It moves things forward. And my view is the more of these what I would call stupid conflicts that we allowed to exist, the more it would be there. What I would say too is the Middle East has a lot of natural negative inertia to it. It’s been created over so many years. Maybe it’s the mixture of so many customs and traditions.

But I would say in 2017, what was new to the situation was really two things. One was President Trump and myself as a proxy and then MBS. And so with those two dynamics, we were able to disrupt the inertia and then really change the paradigm of what was there.

Tarek Masoud: You have this other line in the book where you say, “Recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan was a powerful opportunity for America to stand for the truth.” But that felt like very moral language. For example, I don’t imagine you would say, oh, let’s also stand for the truth of the fact that the One China policy doesn’t make any sense, and there actually should be an independent country called Taiwan. You wouldn’t stand for that truth.

Jared Kushner: Well, I think that that was a truth that didn’t conflict with one of our strategic interests.

Tarek Masoud: Okay, fair enough. Okay, fair enough, fair enough.

Jared Kushner: But I’ll tell you where we did do that. We did that in the Western Sahara. We recognized the Western Sahara as being part of Morocco because, again, we thought that was in our interests and it was true. And so it was just like one of these, and again, that has not been undone, too.

One thing I’m proud of with a lot of the work I did in government, people talk about how it was a divided time. Abraham Accords have been bipartisan praised, and now the Biden administration has followed our policy.

After two years, they’ve reversed course; they’re embracing Saudi Arabia. All the things we are doing, they’re now trying to do, which is I think a great affirmation of the policy. And it’s good. The prison reform, we did; 87 votes in the Senate. You look at the USMCA trade deal, [inaudible]. So, my view is if you pursue the things in the right way and you build consensus, you actually can move forward big things. So, Western Sahara, we did the right thing and we were able to then work hard to convince everyone to come on board.

Kushner’s Relationship with MBS

Tarek Masoud: We’re coming to the time where I have to take questions from the students, otherwise I will not make it out of here alive. But I wanted to ask you, just one last issue I wanted to describe. You talk about yourself as trying to move big things forward. Another person trying to move big things forward, who is a friend of yours is Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and I think you and I are in agreement that he’s probably one of the most consequential people in the world right now in terms of the magnitude of what he’s trying to do and in terms of how important it is for the world that he succeed.

But I think when I look at him and what he’s trying to do, there are some things that just kind of give me pause. And I’m asking you as a friend of his to help me understand why these things shouldn’t give me pause. So, I’m totally going to overlook the Jamal Khashoggi thing or the detention of the Lebanese Prime Minister or the Ritz-Carlton. Just looking at some of the developmental plans like The Line, which is this a hundred-mile-long linear city. And you are a real estate guy, does The Line make sense to you?
I look at this and I think this seems to me like a guy who’s got a lot of testosterone, and nobody who wants to tell him, no. What am I getting wrong?

Jared Kushner: Got it. So, he definitely has very high RPMs from the first time I met him. So, I’ll give a little bit of context. So, Mohammed bin Salman is now the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

When we were in the campaign in 2016, Trump was very tough on Saudi.
And then, I write in my book, if you want to go through and read, I was very, very rough with them when they came in trying to speak. And I said, look, we want nothing to do with you guys. You guys fund terrorism, you treat women terribly. You’re not ascribing to Western values. You got to pay for your own defense. You got to recognize Israel. We’re done. This is going to be a very rough, rough go. And they did not get along with Obama because Obama basically went to Persia and did the deal with Iran, which made all of our allies feel very alienated. So, they basically came back and said, no, no, no, we really, really value the U.S relationship. It’s been our strongest relationship forever. And we have this young Deputy Crown Prince who really wants to go forward and make a difference here, and he wants to change things.

And so then basically, we had a big debate internally, and he sent me a whole proposal through his guys, [inaudible] and Dr. Mosaad Al-Aiban. And they basically brought a proposal that basically said, we’re going to do all these modernizations. We’re going to get rid of the custodianship laws. We’re going to start allowing women to drive. And by the way, we’re not doing this for you. We’re doing this because we want to do it. We’re going to be eliminating the role of the religious police. At the time we had the Pulse nightclub shooting, we had the San Bernardino shooting. The biggest problem in 2016, a big issue in the campaign was really radicalization. ISIS had a caliphate the size of Ohio.

And the whole talking point was we needed to defeat the territorial caliphate of ISIS, and then we need to win the long-term battle against extremism. There was a real fear that these extremists were basically using online mechanisms to radicalize people all over the world. We needed to stop the flow of funds to terrorists. So, they came with a proposal saying, Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the two holy mosques is going to lean into this and help you create a whole center where we’re going to now single-handedly lead the fight with you, to fight online extremism and radicalization. And by the way, they never called it modernizing Islam. He would always say, I want to restore Islam. He says, these people who were the terrorists, the ISIS, they don’t represent Islam. They are basically doing awful things in the name of Islam, and they are giving us Muslims a bad name, and we are just as aligned with you.

Again, we don’t think Trump is against Muslims. We think he’s against Islamic extremists who pervert our religion. So, they came with this whole proposal; look, we’re going to do hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in the US. We’re going to start paying for a lot more of our defense.

And it was like a dream come true from everything I thought Trump would like. They bring the proposal. Again, me knowing absolutely nothing about Saudi Arabia, nothing about foreign policy. I bring it to the national security team and I say, well, this is a proposal we got from Saudi. Is this interesting? This is, Jared. One of these things would be revolutionary. I say, well, they’re saying they’re going to do all of it if we kind of lean into the relationship.

So, then we go into the situation room to kind of assess what do we do with this? And I’m sitting with Secretary of Defense Mattis, Tillerson, John Kelly, Homeland Security. And, and Tillerson’s saying, “I’ve dealt with the Saudis all my life. I ran ExxonMobil. I know the Saudis. They never keep their word and they never come through. Jared, it’s a nice thing, but you’re a young, naive guy and it’s not going to go anywhere.”

I said, “Look, they’re putting it all in writing.” I said, “Why should we predetermine them to a future where nothing happens? If they’re saying they want to make these changes, let’s give them a little bit of rope.” So, we take it to the president and he’s doing a call with King Salman, and before the call, we’re having this debate. They say, “You’re going to deal with King Salman. We deal with his brother Mohammed bin Nayef, who’s the intelligence chief, and he’s a great ally for the U.S.”

And I said, “Well, if he’s such a good ally to the U.S, why do we have all these terrorist concerns with Saudi that you guys keep complaining about?”

And I said, “Look, I just want you to know I have a proposal from another guy there who’s the deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and he’s saying he wants to do all these things to really change, really big things, that will really make a difference.”

The call gets on the line. President Trump takes the call, speaks to King Salman. It was a pretty rough call because Trump, as you know, it can be very blunt. He basically says, “We want to see changes and we want to see them fast.”

And what King Salman basically says to him is, “We’re ready to lean in. We want to really strengthen the relationship with America. We did not like how it went before and we’re ready to do it.”

And so President Trump says, “Who should my team deal with?” And he says, “Deal with my son, the Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman.”

So, then he says, “Let him deal with Jared.” And the reason why he chose me for is because he knew the other guys weren’t believers, and they’d probably sabotage.

So, I get back to my desk and I have a note from him. We worked basically for 90 days straight to set up this trip. He sent his top guys to Washington. I got every single thing in writing. I couldn’t get people in the White House to come to the meetings to plan on the trip because they basically said, “This is going to be a disaster. We are all going to be embarrassed, and we want Jared to take the blame.”

We’re taking off for the trip. And I’m thinking to myself, why do I always do this to myself? We could have just gone to Mexico and cut a ribbon. What do I have to do this for? So, we go there, and I actually would encourage you to read or watch President Trump’s speech from Riyadh because he basically said, you’ll excuse my French. He says, “Look, I’m not going there to kiss ass.” He says, “I’m going there to kind of lay down markers and say, this is what needs to change and this is what we need to do.” He went there with a very tough, realistic speech, and he basically said, “This is not your problem. This is not our problem. This is all of our problems. We want to get these terrorists out of our homes. Get them out of our mosques. Let’s get them out of this world.” And it was very, very rough. And the king of Saudi Arabia gets up there and says, “There is no glory in death”, which also was a big statement.

So, I’m giving a long lead up to say, this is where we are. Over that visit, I had dinner with the Crown Prince, then the Deputy Crown Prince. I remember he said something to me, which was amazing, which he said, “My father’s generation, they were kind of in the desert. They really didn’t have a lot. And they look at the city of Riyadh today with airports and military, and they got so much further than they ever dreamed they could.” Or it’s in military and they got so much further than they ever dreamed they could. He says, “My generation, we look at all of the potential that our country has that’s not being sought after, and we see it as a big wasted opportunity. We want go to much, much higher heights. We believe in Saudi. I always say, there’s a reason why Saudi is such a big territory. They were amazing warriors back in the day. So, it’s an incredible people that have been very repressed through bad leadership for a long time. So, again, people were very surprised, the first reform, the second reform.

And keep in mind you had the religious police. People thought if he tried this stuff, they would kill him. And he was able to move so quickly on so many reforms that he’s freed that next generation.

When we did our conference in Bahrain in 2019, one of the challenges we had was finding role models for young Middle Eastern kids, young Palestinian kids, say, who are the new tech entrepreneurs? Who’s the Mark Zuckerberg or the Elon Musk that these kids should look up to? Now, I was in Saudi Arabia probably five months ago and I had a meeting with 30 tech entrepreneurs and this guy’s building the X of Saudi, the Y of Saudi, they’re building all these great startups and he’s unleashed a whole new generation of that.

He once said to me as well, something which was amazing where he said, because I was saying to him, “You’ve got all these ambitious projects.” I said, “Are you sure it’s a good thing to be doing all this?” Again, we’re friends and we’re able to have honest discussions with each other. We’ve had some tough discussions; we’ve had some fun discussions. But he basically looked at me and he said, “Jared,” he said, “Look, the way I view this is we have a country with amazing potential. As a leader, most leaders will say, let me do two or three things, and then you set low expectations and you achieve it and you declare success.” And he says, “That’s not my approach.” He says, “My approach is I want to take on a hundred things, and if I fail at 50 things, instead of looking back in five years and saying I accomplished three things, I’ll say I accomplished 50 things.”

And so I think he’s going forward in that way. So, if you want to look at the significance of him, and I’ll say this, the Khashoggi thing was an absolutely terrible situation, but I think the American media got very fixated on it. And it’s funny, I had a journalist, somebody who’s an editor of a magazine calls me because she was moderating a panel with some Saudi ministers and said, “Can you give me some advice on what I should ask him about?” And I said, “Well, let’s go away from the conventional stuff. Why don’t you talk about what it’s like to run a KPI driven government?” I said, “That would be a very interesting conversation.” It was a business conference.

Tarek Masoud: Key performance indicator [KPI].

Jared Kushner: Yeah. So, I said, “Look, you should go there and see what’s happening. It is one of the most exciting places now in the world.” And she says, “Oh, I can’t go there. My colleagues will kill me.” And so I’m saying to myself, well, that’s not curiosity and journalism. So, one of the biggest misperceptions I believe right now in America is the American journalists are not paying attention to what’s happening there, and it’s one of the most exciting transformations in the world.

And if you think about why I am a believer that in Gaza or in the West Bank, there’s hope to transform those societies and take the people who right now, people say, oh, they’re all radicalized. How can we transform them? Look what’s happened in Saudi Arabia over five years.

So, if you think about him in the context of the 21st century and how we’ll look at it, I think that I put half of it in the context of the amount of extremism and radicalization that we are not having to deal with because of the way that he’s taken Saudi Arabia in a different direction.

It’s funny, in politics, again, I look at some of the things we’re talking about saying, oh, well we’re going in and we’re solving a problem. We’re going and solving the border crisis that we basically created, right? Here, he’s spending a lot of time and effort and risk to have avoided what I think are massive potentially unovercomeable problems.

The other side of it is the contributions, and so there we’re kind of in the middle phase. I think he’s already accomplished, to be honest with you, from when I met him the first time and he told me about a lot of these dreams, I think he’s accomplished way more than I think anyone could have expected. And I think the cool thing is he’s just getting warmed up. And so now you think about these projects, he’s a very out of the box thinker. I see that he’s getting better and better. The ministers around him, again, they all sit around. It’s like sitting with the leadership team of a startup. They’re getting better and better. They’re competitive with each other, but in a friendly way. And I think that there’s a real ambition and an appetite for risk there that you don’t see in a lot of countries, and they have the resources and you think about the location. They have access to, in the Gulf right now, one of the reasons I’m so bullish there is you have access to the European market and to the US market, but then you have access to the Asian market where there’s massive, massive growth.

So, you look at the circumference around them, you have like 4 billion people and you have established markets, emerging markets, they have net surpluses because of their oil trade. They’re making massive investments in renewables. They’re being a true leader in a lot of fronts, and I think that’s very exciting.

So, again, I was very… Without him, I don’t think we would’ve been able to turn the tide in the region. I’m still very optimistic. I think now, it’s funny, they’re talking about with Israel; it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when and how and for what. Right? And so those negotiations are ongoing. I think they could conclude a week from now, they could conclude a year from now. But they’re going to happen, and that’s all because of the effort that he’s bringing. And I think that you’re going to see a different Middle East, a different world because of the work he’s done. So, I think it’s very exciting.

Tarek Masoud: You’re definitely clearly bullish on MBS and on Saudi. Are you so bullish on them that you’d invest there?

Jared Kushner: Yeah.

Tarek Masoud: Okay.

Jared Kushner: Yeah. Look, one of the challenges of investing there is that they’re doing so much investment internally. I’ve looked at several things.

We made one great investment in the UAE in an online classified business, which is basically correlated to the growth in real estate. But UAE in this last conflict really said, we want to take the role of Switzerland. And so, they basically said, we’re not getting involved, we’ve been in the middle of too many things. And so, they’ve had an explosion in their market and that’s been a massively successful investment for us. That business is going into Saudi as well. And we have another couple of businesses we’re looking in Saudi and I definitely would invest in the right way. Again, you have to get comfortable; it’s like every market has its insiders and its local customs; so we’ve gone slowly, but I am very bullish there.

Tarek Masoud: All right, so when we started here, I told you, you should never count on a middle-aged Egyptian man to keep time, particularly when you’re talking to somebody as interesting as Jared Kushner. So, can we take maybe two questions?

Jared Kushner: Yeah, of course.

Tarek Masoud: Is that cool?

Jared Kushner: Of course.

Tarek Masoud: So, I want to call on students in my class, IJ655, and the first person I have is Zantana Efrem, who’s right over here? Yep.

Zantana Efrem: Hi Jared. Thank you for being here with us today. So, the question I had submitted to Professor Masoud is this. As you’re undoubtedly aware, there have been numerous significant discussions across the country surrounding the campus culture in higher education, particularly in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These conversations often touch upon anti-Palestinian sentiments, Islamophobia and antisemitism. I assume your presence here today suggests that you recognize the necessity of what the Harvard Kennedy School calls candid conversations, particularly within institutions of higher education. In light of this, could you share your perspective on areas where you believe Harvard University, its donors, or students, may have faltered or faced missteps in addressing the complexities of the conflict on our campus?

Jared Kushner: Sure. So, I’ll be honest. When I got reached out from Tarek, it was at a time where a lot of my friends were getting very, very negative on Harvard. And I’ve always been somebody, I’m not big into condemnation, I’m big in engagement. Every now and then you got to do condemnation. But they say you don’t make peace with your friends, you have to go out there and go into places that are uncomfortable. I will say that… and by the way, I’ll say one of the pretexts, which is I got here about an hour before this and I was walking around campus and you guys are all so lucky to be here. This place is absolutely amazing. It is so special. It survived for a long time and it’s always been a beacon of excellence, and like all great institutions perhaps maybe it lost it’s way a little bit. I’m sure that’s happened in the past. I have not studied the history of Harvard as much as I have some of these other topics, but…

Tarek Masoud: It’s much harder, the history of Harvard.

Jared Kushner: But what I would say is this, is that I’m more interested in tomorrow and the future. I think that what we’ve been through has been a very interesting time for the country. I think it’s been an interesting time in the world. I think there’s been a lot of emotions. I think I would just encourage people, no matter what your persuasion is, to figure out how to engage. I saw this when I was in New York, before I went into the political world, I only had one friend who was a Republican. I remember sitting here at Harvard and the things that we would say about George Bush and how certain and how arrogant we were about his policies. And by the way, I’m not a fan of him as a president. I don’t think he was a good president. But it was such a self-righteousness about the thought that now I look back on reflection and I see.

I saw the same thing in New York where the echo chamber I was in, which I thought was a very worldly echo chamber, I was with the heads of the banks, the heads of the hedge funds, the heads of the fashion companies, the heads of the technology companies. We’d be at our house, we’d have artists over, I’d have journalists. I thought I was just with this very eclectic, worldly diverse group. It turned out I was just in a massive echo chamber. And what I would say for all of you is, I would say try to pursue independent thought. When people are screaming, I’m not sure that that’s necessarily the most productive way. I would try to do your research. I would try to meet with people on both sides and I would try to engage.

This place has a very special history; it has a lot of that’s special to it. And I think that if each of you say, how can we try to contribute to make this a comfortable place for everyone, let’s learn, let’s continue to grow and evolve, I think that it’s possible that this place can hopefully come back to where it has the potential to be.

Tarek Masoud: Great. Okay. We’ll take one more. I have Barak Sella over here.

Barak Sella: Hi, my name is Barak Sella. I’m a student in Tarek’s class. So, let’s pretend that in a year from now you are a Secretary of State. And looking at sort of the situation of foreign policy in the US, a lot of dissatisfaction on the right and the left and post-October 7th, knowing that we can’t go back, you’re always talking about going forward. How should America’s foreign policy in the Middle East change regarding the challenges that are now facing the Middle East, Israel, the Arab world after October 7th? What has changed? How has it changed fundamentally, how the United States needs to approach this foreign policy?

Jared Kushner: So first of all, I’m just going to say all this is as a hypothetical, which is always dangerous to do. But what I would say is that if you go back for, I think… look, when President Clinton left office, America was an [inaudible] superpower in the world, and it was mostly peaceful. You think about through both the Bush and Obama administrations, I think the foreign policy of both administrations did not achieve great results and made the world a lot less safe, allowed China to rise, got us into war in Iraq, war in Afghanistan, led to a big instability in the region, which again, when President Trump got in 2017, we had to deal with literally a decade and a half of massive mismanagement. Again, I think we spent the whole time trying to fix a lot of problems that we inherited, and I think at the end we left it with a lot of good momentum. How do you go back to where we had it and then build upon it in that regard?

I think there’s a couple things, and I wish everything was black and white, but I found in foreign policy, like in most things in life, there’s always a thousand shades of gray and you need to figure out how everything connects to everything else. So, number one is that you need to impose a penalty on Iran and you need them to feel like there is a risk to keep the trouble they’re making, right?

So, what President Trump used to say about Iran is that they’ve never won a war, but they’ve never lost a negotiation. So, they’re always going around feeling, trying. In 2016, Iran, after the JCPOA, when Obama left office, was selling about 2.7 million barrels a day of oil. By the end of the Trump administration, they were selling 100,000 barrels of oil a day on the illicit market. So, basically we totally dissected their economy; they were out of foreign currency reserves and they were dead broke. I mean, they’re pretty good with ballistic missiles, but they’re air force is from the 1970s. So, they had no capabilities. Wars are expensive; they had no capabilities to withstand war, and we had the world pretty united in enforcing the sanctions against them. And that was a very tough battle with Europe and with China and with Russia and a lot of others; but we were able to create enough issues everywhere else. We were able to really kind of put them in a box and make them fear us.

So, I would say number one is you have to focus on Iran and they have to feel, first of all, start cramping down on their resources.

And number two, you need to create some kind of fear that this behavior is not going to be treated lightly. I also think there’s an issue where you need to figure out how to reset the relationship with China, and I think you need to figure out an end to the Russia/ Ukraine war. I don’t think there’s much there that’s happening. I think that Russia wants to see us now more distracted, so I do think that they’re incentivized to be against whatever position the US is in the Middle East. So, let’s say the US came out tomorrow and said, we’re against Israel, Russia would then go back Israel. I think that there’s a dynamic there where they want to see us distracted so that we focus less on them. And so I think that that conflict strategically is not good for us. I think you need a resolution there.

So, I think number one is contain Iran.

Number two is we took a little bit of a different approach than the administrations before us and after us with Hamas.

So, if you go back with Hamas, they had the same business plan from basically 2006 up until 2017. They would fire rockets into Israel. Israel would overreact. The world would then reflexively condemn Israel because every one of their military targets is underneath a school or a residential area. Israel sends out leaflets saying, “Please, civilians move, we’re about to bomb,” which really eliminates the element of surprise. But they basically would fire rockets into Israel. Israel would overreact. The world would condemn Israel. Then there’d be a conference; they’d raise money, Hamas would get cash. They’d be good for a couple of years. They’d run out of money. They’d say, what should we do? Oh, I’ve got an idea. Let’s fire rockets into Israel. Israel will overreact. The world would condemn Israel. They’ll hold the conference, we’ll get some more money, we’ll be good for a couple of years. When Hamas did that the first time with us, what the State department was saying is we urge both sides to show restraint.

We basically did something different. We said, Israel has the right to defend itself. We support that. Israel went in, bombed the crowd. We said, no more money. We’re not putting more money in until they stop bombing. We’re not putting good money after bad, if you guys actually show us a paradigm.

The thing with Gaza that was different from the West Bank is there was no religious sites. So, there’s no border disputes and there’s no religious sites. So, it was kind of like a very simple concept of like, you guys stop being terrorists and we’ll figure out how to rebuild the place. And so, the notion there was, show them that there’s going to be a real… they’re not going to be rewarded for their bad actions. Now, giving them a Palestinian state is basically a reinforcement of we are going to reward you for bad actions, right?

Tarek Masoud: We’re not giving Hamas a Palestinian state. You’re giving Palestinians a Palestinian state.

Jared Kushner: What do you think that will do for the popularity of Hamas and for people? If you’re a young person and you have two people trying to influence you, and you have Muhammad Abbas saying, my way of being peaceful has what brought us a state. By the way, they all think he’s corrupt. They don’t like when you criticize their government. But he says, my way of being peaceful, or you have Hamas saying, the only way we ever got anything was by going in and killing and raping and murdering, and we showed them that we can be tough and they feared us and the world rewarded us for it.

So, my sense is it’s an unbelievably awful precedent to do. You have to show terrorists that they will not be tolerated and that we’ll take strong action.

So, number one, you’ve got to put some cramps on Iran. Number two, you have to be very tough at going after the terrorists.

Number three, you have to work with everyone. There was a lot of trust eroded in the region since we left. UAE was shot from the Houthis. By the way… Anyway, it doesn’t matter. But bottom line is then I would focus on how do you get the deal with Saudi done. And those talks continued to evolve.

And I did an interview with Lex Friedman basically two days after. And he asked me, “Is the Saudi deal dead with Israel?” I said, “No, no, no. The industrial logic is still strong there. It’s just now Israel’s going to have to do what they’re going to do, and then when it’s done, it’s in the interest of all sides.”

So, Israel still wants that deal, the Biden administration still wants that deal and Saudi still wants that deal. So that deal is still very much alive. And it’s interesting too, the dynamics. The Biden guys initially said they’re going to make Saudi a pariah, and now they’re basically running over there begging them for help to try to figure out how to get this resolved.

So, the long answer is, I think that’s really how you have to do it. You have to stand with Israel. I think it’s very, very important. We deterred a lot of threats because we stood with Israel.

I think the north right now is combustible. I am nervous. I think the US did the right move sending the carriers over initially. But think about it like a woods with a lot of dry leaves. It just takes a little spark and that thing can conflate. There, it’s a pretty tough situation. You need a long-term plan to try to diffuse that situation, but you have to figure out how to hope.

But it’s about being strong, being strong with Israel, containing Iran, showing the terrorists they’re not going to be rewarded for their actions, and working closely with your partners in Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf to try to figure out how to continue the economic project that we started.

Isn’t the Most Important Arab-Israeli Peace Deal the one with the Palestinians?

Tarek Masoud: But Jared, you’ve got to agree with me and then we’ll have to end, you’ve got to agree with me that ultimately, at the end of the day, the real deal with Arabs that matters for Israel is with Palestinians.

Jared Kushner: So, I’ll just say this, as I think that for Israel, and actually for the Jewish people, having a proper resolution to that is very important, right? Because I do think that that’s been an excuse for a lot of global antisemitism to hide behind this conflict. And I think that that’s been… It’s definitely within the interest of Israel and the Jewish people to find a resolution to the issue. But, and this is the most important, but, it has to be a solution that’s sustainable.

And when you ask me what’s my biggest fear? My biggest fear is that you have a lot of people who are chasing a deal for the sake of a deal and not looking to make a deal that will really leave this in a position where it makes future conflict less likely.

And the way you do that is by creating a paradigm where you don’t reward bad behavior. You need the right institutions to allow the Palestinian people to live a better life. You said something to me when we were talking, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, or I could just say, I heard this from a friend.

And I actually thought it was really smart, it had me thinking, and it’s absolutely true, that Oslo has been a total failure. And again, we’ve all worked in the constructs of that. But if you think about it, for all these years in the Middle East, again, before you had all these countries and all these arbitrary lines that we spoke about with Sykes-Picot, you basically had a situation where you had the tribal system, and there’s still form of governance in the different cities and towns in the tribal system. Oslo, I went before about how Arafat was in Jordan, he tried to assassinate the king. They had black Saturday…

Tarek Masoud: Black September.

Jared Kushner: Black September. They got these guys out. They went up to Lebanon, they caused some problems in Lebanon, they kicked them out of Lebanon. They went to your favorite place, Tunisia, they’re in Tunisia, sitting in villas on the beach, basically broke and there. And then the US and Israel had this great idea of say, we’re going to take this former terrorist who’s sitting in a villa in Tunisia and we’re going to put him in charge of the Palestinians. And then all of a sudden, you’ve got this tribal system that’s been working there for a long time. They’re like, why the hell is this guy in charge of us?

And then for 30 years, we’ve had nothing but failure; the people’s lives have not gotten better and that hasn’t worked. So again, my fear is that I’m seeing a lot of conventional thinking with the same people who have failed. Again, you go to Abas, he’s like a broken record. He said the same thing, and his record of non-achieving is not good.

And my fear is really for the people because I think that they’ve been pawns in this situation. And the one thing I’ll say strongly, people who are pro… I always say this. There’s four categories in this conflict. You have pro-Israel, that’s acceptable. You have indifferent, that’s acceptable. You have pro-Palestinian, that’s acceptable. You have pro-Hamas, that is not acceptable.

You think about if you want to be pro-Palestinian. The best thing you can do is, say the people who have been holding these people back is their leadership. When we held a conference in Bahrain… Sorry, I’ll do this part very quickly, then we’ll wrap.

We held a conference in Bahrain. Again, go to my Peace to Prosperity, Google it. You’ll go through, I have a full business plan that I built. It’s 100, and I think, 83-page document that goes through all the different changes you need and every investment that we would make in order to build a functioning society.

We had every businessman from around the world, Steve Schwartzman came, [inaudible] AT&T; had all the leading Arab businessmen. And they all said, we want to do things to make the lives of the Palestinian people better, and we will invest there.

But the reason we’re not going to invest there, again, you can’t have jobs in prosperity without investment. They still teach capitalism at Harvard, I think.

Tarek Masoud: Secretly.

Jared Kushner: Secretly, right? And capitalism is a very powerful force towards improving people’s lives. And that’s been proven time and time again. And so, what they all said is, the reason we’re not investing has nothing to do with Israel, it has to do with there’s no rule of law. We don’t want to go build a factory or a power plant, then have it blown up by terrorism. There’s no property rights. How are we going to go do something, then it’s expropriated by these thugs.

And so what I would say is that without the proper Palestinian leadership, and again, you can’t just say, oh, we’re going to do a reinvigorated Palestinian authority. It’s not going to work. It’s not going to work. You need a new idea that’s actually going to work. Because if you’re Israel, yes, I think, and a lot of Israelis at their core, they want the Palestinians to live a better life. They want a Palestinians… The state right now, the state means a lot of things.

So, it’s a very controversial word, even though it shouldn’t be, because it means different things to different people. But the fundamental underlying part of it that’s essential is, is there a governing structure in this area for the Palestinian people that will not threaten Israel security wise, and that will give the Palestinian people the opportunity to live a better life. Without those two things, nothing is acceptable. You can call it whatever the hell you want.

How can Palestinians Build their Institutions while under Bombardment?

Tarek Masoud: Yeah. So, I think this is a really important note to end on though, because I think anybody who leaves here would think, well, the tune that Jared Kushner really wants us to hum is that the number one most important thing that we’ve got to do is invest in the building of Palestinian institutions. And I don’t know how you do that while a big chunk of Palestine is under this massive bombing campaign.

Jared Kushner: So, what I would say this… that’s one of the cool things…

Tarek Masoud: I’ll give you the last word.

Jared Kushner: Okay, cool. Yeah. So, one of the things I learned also in government is that especially in the Middle East, the number one rule you should follow when doing it is that if they’re not screaming at you, you’re not on the right path because all of…

Tarek Masoud: That must mean I’m always on the right path.

Jared Kushner: Exactly. Yeah. So, the conventional thinking in that region has just the track record of everyone who’s going to be talking is just wrong. So, think about it, again; we go back to, how do I look at it, first principles, results-oriented, results outcome, and how do you advance human prosperity? How do you advance human potential? How do you give people the chance to live safe, have better life? If it doesn’t fit in those criteria and you put patchwork on it, then you’re doing what politicians do, which again, Trump coming from the business world, myself coming from the business world, a problem’s either solved or it’s not.

You can’t put a band-aid on something and call it solved because it’s going to go back. I think the psychology right now of Israel is very much, we can never let this happen again. And so, I think what they’re doing is they’re hoping that a solution will develop. And again, I think this is the burden now that the Biden administration carries.

I think the Arab countries want to see this happen as well. But I do think there’s a very big desire to come up with a solution that will make everyone more prosperous and more safe in the long-term. And that’s what it’s about, right?

Again, I have friends now who are Muslims, who are Christians, who are Jews. When I would go sit with people, they knew I was Jewish; I was an envoy from America. We’re all the same people. We have the same blood in our veins. And when we recognize that, we all kind of want to make things better, whether you’re a Democrat, you’re a Republican, Israeli, Palestinian; and if you kind of come with that framing, then there’s a lot of progress that you can make. But you can’t do stupid things short term that you’ll pay the price for long term.

Conclusion

Tarek Masoud: Okay. This is a good note to end on. First of all, I want to thank you, Jared, for coming to Harvard. I know it’s your old stomping grounds, but one could be forgiven for thinking it’s like going to enemy territory. Hopefully you feel that this was a welcoming environment, and we can get you to come back so we can argue some more with a bunch of things that you said that I still want to argue with, but we don’t have time for. And I want to thank all of you for coming and just being an exemplary Harvard audience. And so please join me in thanking Jared Kushner. Jared Kushner: Thank you. Thank you very much.


Prayer to Our Lady of Palestine

During these times of great cruetly that has been unleashed upon the people of Palestine, let us pray to our Lady that peace may at last break out in the Holy Land.

O Mary Immaculate, gracious Queen of Heaven and of Earth, behold us prostrate before thy exalted throne. Full of confidence in thy goodness and in thy boundless power, we beseech thee to turn a pitying glance upon Palestine, which, more than any other country, belongs to thee, since thou hast graced it with thy birth, thy virtues and thy sorrows, and from there hast given the Redeemer to the world.

Remember that there especially thou wast constituted our tender Mother, the dispenser of graces. Watch, therefore, with special protection over thy native country, dispel from it the shades of error, for it was there that the Son of Eternal Justice shone. Bring about the speedy fulfillment of the promise, which issued from the lips of thy Divine Son, that there should be one fold and one Shepherd.

Obtain for us all that we may serve the Lord in sanctity and justice during all the days of our life, so that, by the merits of Jesus and with thy motherly aid, we may pass at last from this earthly Jerusalem to the splendors of the heavenly one. Amen.


Mainstream Journalism: A Morality Tale in Four Acts

The story of Patrik Baab is, supposedly, an open book: The experienced investigative reporter, who worked as a Northern German Broadcasting (NDR) editor for many years, and who refuses to be silenced, let alone canceled. He is taking action against the attacks and is suing the Christian Albrechts University in Kiel. After denunciatory “reporting” by one of the spokesmen in German attitude journalism (Haltungsjournalismus—reporting, which frames opinion from the point of view of the power elite), the university immediately revoked his teaching position. He is now taking legal action against this. In what follows, we tell the true story of a real journalist in the year 2022, in four acts: A textbook on research; the scandal of politically biased reporting at the NDR state broadcasting agency in Kiel; Mr. Baab’s research trips to Russia and Ukraine; and a lawsuit against the revocation of his teaching assignment, which was filed with the Schleswig Administrative Court, shortly before Christmas.

[To view a selection of Mr. Baab’s documentary films, please follow this link.]

We have received the lawsuit and other documents relating to the revocation of the teaching position at Kiel University. In addition, we rely on a statement by Mr. Baab as part of the attempted clarification of the NDR scandal, which was published a few days ago on the website of the MEP of the Pirate Party. Of course, we also looked at Mr. Baab’s book, Recherchieren (Research), which is highly recommended to critical journalists as a textbook, but it can also be read as a critique of contemporary (political) journalism.

Act One: The Book

For Patrik Baab, research is the core activity of every journalist. It is the basis of criticism of prevailing opinion. Against this background, he published his book at the beginning of the year. In it, he not only writes about the tools of the trade of the investigative reporter, but also criticizes in detail the current conditions in mass media. A concise quotation will serve to clarify his position:

“In a very eloquent way, neoliberal minded journalism is becoming a silence cartel. The press apparently no longer demands anything from politics. Instead, it continually proclaims to people that they are living ‘without alternative’ in the best of all possible worlds. In this way, they themselves have contributed to narrowing the space for public debate to the continuation of the existing situation, with all its ills, without any alternatives. Political measures now focus only on a few system-immanent excesses; the fundamental questions are relegated to the realm of conspiracy theories.”

Anyone who writes something like this should no longer be allowed to train budding journalists, as Mr. Baab did at two universities until the middle of this year. This opinion is held at least relatively blatantly by Volker Lilienthal, who holds the chair of the “Rudolf Augstein Foundation Professorship for the Practice of Quality Journalism” at the University of Hamburg. His review of Mr. Baab’s book predetermined what would happen later: Mr. Baab was stripped of his lectureship. Professor Lilienthal was disturbed by Mr. Baab’s politically entrenched point of view, which does not give a very good impression of the German media landscape. Mr. Lilienthal is part of a conservative media network based in Hamburg, linked via the “Netzwerk Recherche.” Its task, in theory, is to promote investigative journalism, but in practice, it is a coterie.

Hotel in East Ukraine, where Mr. Baab was staying, right after a 155-mm-shell hit the parking lot; fired by a Ukrainian self-propelled gun of NATO-origin. The windows were all shattered, but no one was hurt. Photo Credit: Sergey Filbert.

Act Two: The Scandal of the Kiel State Broadcasting Center

First RBB (Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcasting), then NDR. In the fall, things did not go well for Germany’s public broadcasters. While the scandal at RBB was primarily about accusations of taking advantage, the NDR got down to the nitty-gritty. Journalism itself became an issue. The editor-in-chief of the Kiel state broadcasting center, Norbert Lorentzen, the head of politics there, Julia Stein, and the director of the state broadcasting agency, Volker Thormählen, were accused of influencing research in the interests of the ruling CDU (The Christian Democratic Union of Germany), which runs the government in the federal region of Schleswig-Holstein. Initially, it was about another journalist who was allegedly obstructed in his reporting on a police scandal. But those journalists who investigated the events soon came across Patrik Baab, who had also voiced accusations against the management level of the state broadcasting house.

Mr. Baab himself said nothing more about it, after labor court proceedings; the parties concerned had agreed on that at the time. Nevertheless, details of the accusations to light in the reports. Mr. Baab, who had co-authored several films for NDR about the still mysterious death of former Schleswig-Holstein premier Uwe Barschel, sharply criticized the state broadcaster’s top management. In his report for the auditing firm Deloitte, which was supposed to review the scandal, he wrote, among other things, in retrospect of the direct criticism of his research by state broadcasting agency director Thormählen:

“It was clear to me that the aim was to steer the coverage in the sense of a CDU rope team. My memo about this meeting, which later became part of the labor court dispute, was not contradicted by NDR in court.”

Pirate Party member Patrick Breyer published the link to Mr. Baab’s statement that was leaked and showed up on the internet.. Breyer definitely saw—unlike most commentators in their articles about the Deloitte report—the appearance of political consideration of the NDR in Kiel.

Mr. Baab had also reported “interrogations” in the radio station’s political editorial department:

“This seemed to me to be intended as a journalistic disciplinary tool. In my opinion, it was about forcing pre-emptive obedience by creating fear. The goal of the interrogations was to break any future resistance to political intervention in the program from the outset.”

Mr. Baab refused to be broken, but agreed before the labor court not to repeat the accusations made in 2019 in an editorial conference. According to his own statement to Deloitte, the fact that he was now once again the focus of media coverage came as a surprise to him.

Interviewing a soldier in a shopping street in Donetsk, where some hours earlier 14 people, including children, were killed, when an Ukrainian 155-mm-shell hit a supermarket. Photo Credit: Sergey Filbert.

While Mr. Baab said nothing, or was not allowed to say anything because of his duty to keep confidentiality according to his working contract, NDR reported on him in its media magazine Zapp as a “controversial critic” of the broadcaster. By then, much more had happened than a trip to the East. Mr. Baab saw the Zapp report, as he wrote to Deloitte, as an “act of revenge on behalf of the executives in question, carried out by freelancers who act according to instructions and are economically dependent.”

Act Three: A Trip East and the Consequences

Since the middle of this year, Patrik Baab had been in the “passive phase” of his long-term contract” at NDR, as it is called in administrative German. He is no longer working at the station, will soon retire and now has time for his own projects. One of them is a book, for which he traveled to Ukraine several times, as he says himself when asked. On the trip, he shot some films together with Russian-born video blogger Sergey Filbert. He was in eastern Ukraine during the referendums that were to decide whether Donetsk and Luhansk would join the Russian Federation. In terms of timing, the trip was not coordinated with all this; had nothing to do with it, Mr. Baab told journalist Georg Altrogge a little later. He had been preparing for the research since May, in order to report on the Russian Federation’s “war of aggression on Ukraine in violation of international law,” Mr. Baab said. He had also made a public appearance there, for public media. Mr. Baab was in eastern Ukraine as an election observer, some Russian media reported, and the major news portal T-Online picked up the thread, though having been informed that this is wrong. It all started with the report by Lars Wienand on September 26, followed a little later by Altrogge’s article in Die Welt. A week later, Zapp picked up the story.

Interview with a resident whose housing block, in the suburbs of Mariupol, was completely destroyed during heavy fighting between Russian and Ukrainian military forces. Photo Credit: Sergey Filbert.

Reactions from the universities Mr. Baab works for were not long in coming. The first to take action was the Berlin University of Media, Communication and Business (HMKW). Here will just quote repeat a paragraph from our article from the end of September:

Presumably, it went as follows: The T-Online journalist learned of Mr. Baab’s presence on site, researched his background and made a press inquiry to the Berlin University of Media, Communication and Business (HMKW). “Do you know what your lecturer is doing there? At the mock referendums? He’s legitimizing them! Do you think that’s good?” That’s how it might have been. It doesn’t matter how exactly, because according to its own statement, the university was on the phone with the delinquent, who was made one by his mere presence in the wrong place at the wrong time. And then a statement was hastily published on the homepage. The gist: We condemn and distance ourselves (HMKW, 26.9.22). Meanwhile, the article appeared on the net. Author Wienand could now add the accomplishment of his mission right away; online many things can be changed and enhanced quickly.

Kiel University followed suit a little later. On October 3, Mr. Baab was notified of the revocation of his teaching assignment on the subject of research. He was thus “canceled” for what he is supposed to teach the students. Research in the field seems undesirable, it can shake the already established opinion.

Mr. Baab’s appearance as an “observer” lent “the appearance of legitimacy to Russia’s occupation and annexation of Ukrainian territories in violation of international law,” three professors from the Institute of Social Science at Kiel University wrote to Mr. Baab. (The letter is available to our editors.) The letter went on to say that the university, and in particular the Department of Political Science, would be threatened with an immense loss of reputation if the impression should arise that lecturers “endorse Russia’s behavior, which is contrary to international law.” Heavy guns were then brought out—only by revoking the teaching assignment could the reputation, order and functioning of the university be preserved. A hearing would be dispensable “due to the imminent danger, and in the public interest.” Mr. Baab’s lawyer reacted to the latter statement with bewilderment, and in his objection filed a few days later, he referred to the need for a procedure based on the rule of law. The objection was rejected, and Mr. Baab is now suing the university.

Before we come to this last act of the story, a short detour to Albrecht, the Kiel student newspaper. There, an author who had attended a seminar with Mr. Baab shortly before took up the topic and let Mr. Baab speak at length. This article had no clear slant, even though it became clear that the author opposed “well-known narratives” of the Russian side and accused Mr. Baab of being too close to those who represent precisely these narratives. Nonetheless, a little of the principles of journalism that Mr. Baab may have taught in the seminar stuck with the author. He asked Mr. Baab, i.e. “the other side,” and let him have his say, but could also have asked the university why it refers to the reports of “Russian state media,” according to which Mr. Baab was an election observer. Normally, after all, this media is accused of propaganda. Hintergrund recently asked the university a question along these lines, but the university did not provide any information, citing the ongoing legal proceedings.

Act Four: The Lament

And so we arrive at the fourth act of the story. Mr. Baab is suing Kiel University with the aim of having the revocation of his teaching contract rescinded. This should not have been revoked. The plaintiff is a committed journalist and was neither an election observer nor could he be perceived as such, writes Mr. Baab’s lawyer in the grounds for the lawsuit, which is available to our editors.

“The plaintiff, as a journalist committed to reporting on location—and not from afar like other media observers—undertook highly risky research on location in order to actually perceive and report on the situation on location with his journalistic experience.”

This statement says it all. It contains—in addition to the concise justification of why an experienced journalist should not be thrown out just like that—a clear assessment of most of today’s reporters: They observe from a distance. One could add to the lawyer’s words in spirit that they do not allow their preconceived image in the sense of the prevailing opinion to be destroyed by on-the-spot checks.

An Azov Battalion tank destroyed in the Azov steel mill. Notice the “Wolfsangel” (a Nazi emblem) on the side of the tank. Photo Credit: Sergey Filbert.

The fact that mainstream journalism has largely gone to the dogs is due precisely to this attitude—the attitude toward war and the attitude toward the profession. Because journalists have to observe on location, they have to go everywhere. And they must be allowed to do so.

Because it is precisely about denying a journalist this basis for work and this right, that we will continue to keep an eye on the Patrik Baab case. In its many facets, it represents a moral portrait that shows us the reality of today’s mainstream journalism in one example, in one person. It shows how journalism could and should be—and how it is instead.

By focusing on Patrik Baab, we have brought into focus the great decline of western journalism—the double standards, attitude journalism, the partisan stance when it comes to the war in Ukraine and issues relating to the Corona Virus. We have looked at mainstream denunciationism, the fake news stories that the leading media disseminate and admit, if at all, only coyly. And Mr. Baab’s story is about Cancel Culture, as well as the close connection between politics and public broadcasting.


This article appears through the kind courtesy of Hintergrund.