The Israel-Palestine Conflict, and Why Western Moralism and its Ruling Class Do Not Help

1.

The present slaughter by the IDF in Gaza, as with the Hamas-led murders on October 7 have been the occasion of much moral commentary. One way of looking at moral commentary is that the commentary is a means for bonding together to bring a peaceful solution, by drawing attention to the shocking nature of a situation. It is also a means by which people appraise a situation to identify who is responsible, who is guilty, who should be stopped, and who should be punished. Many people I agree with, and even admire, in their appraisal of geopolitical conflicts have expressed their moral outrage at what the Israeli government claims is a military act designed to eliminate Hamas, and what they and critics of Israel identify as an act of genocide. Many of those same people also insist that they in no way wish to justify the actions of Hamas or the other Palestinians who broke out of Gaza and murdered civilians. Frequently the moral claims are bolstered by an appeal to principles of international law such as the principle of proportionality or the rights of non-combatants in a conflict zone.

At some point, though, all this kind of reasoning is a variant of the kind of thinking in which one answers the question. “If it were up to me.” And this is the problem—for who the “me” is matters. That moral philosophy has taken hold of the Western imagination is most evident in how ubiquitous rights talk is and how commonplace it is for people to be asked by others to denounce or condemn something to demonstrate that they are good citizens of some moral commonwealth which exists in their imagination. Just as moral philosophy is an essential component of every Philosophy Department, corporations now present themselves as not just dealing in products, but as harbingers of global moral values. Not surprisingly a commonplace belief is that moral values can create a more peaceful world, and that moral values—and hence our moral reasons—are our bulwark against evil. I think this is delusional, even if the delusion is extremely widespread. What fuels the delusion is the belief that “we”—whoever that “we” are—know what is wrong with the world and how to fix it with our moral reasons. The insurmountable problem with our moral reasoning is not just the reasoning but the “us.” The “us” is a figment of our imagination—where we have a shared moral imagination we can indeed talk of an “us,” but this “us,” however it is constituted, is not universal, and believing that it should be universal is simply elevating one’s own self and other like-minded selves to a position of authority that does not exist at a global level. The desire to find universally rational moral truths does not mean that they are there—and even if we can identify truths that apply to what becomes of us by observing the longer term consequences of our actions, that does not help us in dealing with others who refuse to accept those truths; and thinking that it is simply a matter of persuasion, is something that even Plato had to concede (in the Gorgias) was not plausible, because the character of people is every bit as important as the reasons they hold. Shared reasons along with shared stories and commitments are intrinsic to communities; but communities in conflict are in conflict because their interests are in collision and their interests are in collision, because they no longer share or trust each other’s reasons and priorities.

When all reasons run out and one is only left with suffering and hatred on both sides, war is inevitable. Not all wars require hatred of the enemy, but when two peoples cannot coexist because they each harbour resentment against the other, because they are terrified of each other, because they each have their traumatic experiences, their memories, their wounds, and their reasons to hate, the idea that either people can simply take stock of what they are doing by being more reasonable, and act according to some view of justice that all right-thinking people could or should hold, is delusional. But it is just this kind of delusion that is widespread amongst people who, without having any skin in the conflict, other than their sense of justice, who not only take a side, but insist that all must take their side, for it is the only reasonable and just side. It may well be reasonable for those who not only appraise the same facts in the same way, but the problem is the weight that different facts take on in the larger communal consensuses and detestation is intrinsic to why certain groups are inimical in the first place. This is why facts rarely resolve anything, even if people think they will.

2.

The West has bred a class of moralising pedagogical professionals (academics, teachers, journalists, politicians, human resource people, DEI officers, etc.) who exist to take us into a better world. The West claims to know who is good and evil, and hence who we must be at war with, and what it is we must accept as the right account of any event. That reality is entangled and contradictory, that circumstances have an infinite array of aspects to them, that our knowledge is partial, that our interests are our interests, and that we are frequently incapable of discerning what benefits or harms us in the long run is rarely acknowledged by our professional moral arbiters. Not surprisingly what passes for moral reflection is frequently little more than sanctimony: “Do you denounce this?” And where genuine complexities of the sort involving life and death matters is required, we have a ruling class that is driven by what it wants, rather than by the possible, or what may minimize damage, or what compromises may be required to achieve certain ends. In a culture where everything is politicized, politics has been reduced to morals, and morals to abstractions which promise everything because the sacrificial component that is intrinsic to any genuine moral issue is dispensed with.

That what purport to be the premier institutions—the elite training ground—of the ostensibly most developed and progressive nations on earth, proclaim their commitment to providing safe spaces, is but one more example of the failure of Western universities to take thought seriously. Serious thinking involves being party to serious consequences—and serious decisions implicate those undertaking them: they are risky; they must be risky because when we think and when we act, we cannot be sure of what the outcome will be. If we speak but are saved from the consequences of our speech, if we criticize but can cling to our own safety in the very moment that we seek to dismantle institutional practices that we disagree with, we are claiming a special status for ourselves—the right, so to speak, to be always in the right.

This is the kind of thinking that now rules in the West, that is the typical thinking of its ruling class and is transmitted to the generation being inducted into its rule. It is as self-serving as it is delusional. That it is loathsome to so many is indicated by the fact that the Western ruling class now must legislate against ideas and “speech” it deems hateful lest it lose its authority; it must censor and penalise any who do not accept the line of thinking that it deems as safe and progressive; and emancipatory; it must not allow erroneous information to be circulated; it must deem free speech dangerous. And with such a sense of the superiority of its reasons, this class must also lay claim to knowing what is just about any given conflict. This is a ruling class whose rule is grounded in its sense of self-righteousness.

Now, though, it finds itself in something of a turmoil, with pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian “supporters,” each laying claim to the higher moral ground, each trying to silence and shame the other by hurling epithets of abuse invariably involving the word “genocide,” each making accusations about who is responsible for all the bloodshed. What is discursively taking place out of Palestine, at least by those who have no s/kin there is reminiscent of what the French philosopher/sociologist Jean Baudrillard said about the Gulf War: it “did not take place.”

The various protests, and the multitude of analyses in which blame is morally apportioned are but the continuation of a way of being that, at least for a substantial number of those protesting, has nothing to do with the slaughter of innocents in Gaza, even when that appears to be the occasion. It is the same institutions, the same participants, the same processes, the same appeals to what is right, the same condemnations—the same performative and recruitment strategies of the ruling class that revolves around out-radicalising competitors for future held positions and promotions on a global scale. The event is secondary, as if it had no meaning in and of itself. But every real event demands a new response: an event—and this is especially true of the most violent and convulsive events—require that we reconfigure how we think by naming and seeing things differently: if we simply retort to the same tropes—the “Nazi” one now being all encompassing—we reveal that the event has not really impacted upon us at all, that we have not experienced what is unique about it, that we have not seriously thought about it: it is as if it did not exist. But that is precisely the problem with the Western ruling class, manufactured as if from some 3D plastic printer, formed from institutions where managers have visions, missions, plans that are as indistinguishable as the causes that accumulate for the ruling class to make its pronouncements about social justice—from fat shaming to Gaza.

Yes, there are critics of the Western ruling class and what Israel is doing in Gaza who are serious people and who make salient critical points. But while they may hold Israel to account by appealing to moral and legal arguments—they find themselves on the side of those who oversimplify and confuse their hysteria with seriousness. That is not their fault, but that remains the case, as does the fact that they cannot offer a solution that is any more than moral condemnation, or an active or tacit call to armed intervention by some other party, that would ultimately require the UN to intervene and thereby further push us into a world government that Western elites see themselves as leading.

The Western ruling class when it is not enabling disasters takes possession of them so that it can display not only its authoritative understanding of the event but that it may intervene, that it may decide and preside over who is to be judged and who to be recruited into its own world-making ambitions. That its record of achieving peace is so threadbare might make some of its members ask whether what it is doing has any other purpose than what Foucault, the most widely read spokesman of the 68ers for the new aspirant recruits of the ruling class, identified as the ethics of the self in which speaking truth to power, the post-Foucault formulation of parrhesia, is what we should strive for—which is but code for the self as ruler over the world it deems to be free. That is why and how the Israel-Palestine conflict is playing itself out in North American and British campuses.

Although these protests have no impact whatever on the actual event of the war of extermination that is transpiring in Gaza, it is the case that the pro-Israeli Jewish component of the Western ruling class has now been out manoeuvred by an alliance in which even the rainbow coalition including the trans lobby can identity their emancipatory demands with the people dying in Gaza. Up until but yesterday accusing an opponent of being an anti-Semite sufficed to close any oppositional voices to the ruling class—that no longer works today. And the ADL—an organization that has played a major role in setting the template for the very behaviours that are now being turned against North American pro-Israeli Jews, and which has done far more to inflame anti-Semitism than to cauterize it—now looks like it might have to reinvent itself as an outpost of Arab rights.

This war undoubtedly signals a partial changing of the priorities within the Western ruling class, away from Jews supporting Israel toward Arabs, Muslims, and non-Israeli Jews. I say partial because the Western ruling class, through various political decisions, has long since not only welcomed Muslims into its lands and institutions, but has also sought to allay itself with Muslims in its continuance of the eradication of all Christian institutional influence. The Western ruling class has long since happily used the term “Islamophobia” to denounce those who question the wisdom of large-scale immigration of Muslims into once Christian lands. This term sat neatly in the arsenal alongside “homophobia” and “transphobia” and “anti-Semite,” “racist,” “sexist,” and the other weaponized terms that are deployed to protect its policies.

The contradictions that hold the liberal progressive order are bursting at the seam due to the Hamas led attack in October and the subsequent Israeli mass slaughter in Gaza. That the ruling class purports to be the bearer of what is true and just is the conceit that alienates it as much from Muslims, at least those of whom who do not have to shape their narratives to receive their salaries from the institutions that employ them, as it does from Israelis who now find themselves being stridently denounced by students and professors from elite universities within the West. In any case, irrespective of the Western ruling class which neatly folds its own survival with justice into such a neat fit that its members can no longer tell the difference between the two, in the world outside of the brains of our Western ideo-crats, survival always trumps justice, and justice only makes sense within communities.

No reasons will convince supporters of Hamas that they are not freedom fighters, no reasons will convince the IDF they are not defending the existence of their people. What is happening in Gaza is an accelerated version of the dispossession and murder that is the basis of nations and empires. The Israelis are no better and no worse than other colonisers—though that is meaningless for those who are the victims of dispossession. It is the case that everyone living in North America is a beneficiary, albeit unwitting, of the blood spilled in the past, most notably the blood of native Americans. Not all Americans owned slaves, and the argument that the American economy was primarily dependent upon slavery is astonishingly silly, but it was dependent upon the great expansion, the great land seizures, the great expulsion, and wars against the native indigenous people, whose disunity assisted their terrible fate in the 19th century. Western Europe, and Australasia have their respective histories about conquest and dispossession, but they are not so different from ̛Israel.

In sum, in the Western world for Israelis to be singled out for their mass murders by people who themselves stand on stolen lands is ridiculous—any concept or principle which defies your own existence is ridiculous, but the volume of moral clamouring is often in inverse relationship to the moral character of the persona doing the clamouring. This is not to deny that what is transpiring in Gaza is mass murder. People who they think their existence is not part of the great human tale and trail of blood, that they are morally pure are amongst the most dangerous and deluded, for they have thought themselves out of reality and set themselves up as self-appointed divine judges. Jews, Christians, Muslims are as easily deluded as everyone else, but their respective traditions and chronicles all make mass slaughter part of their history.

The tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has much to do with the desire—which each sees as the right—to return home.

A commonplace among Jews, albeit not one held by all Jews, is the belief that Israel has been the land given to them by God and thus it is their right to return to their homeland. Having a real belief does not make that belief true—for it is the belief itself that is dictating the reality, rather than the belief being drawn from the reality. Although the what of the belief differs among Muslims and Jews, and even allowing for the great divide between ideological Zionists and anti-Zionist Jews who live in Israel or elsewhere, the fact is that faith is faith, and what primarily cements it, is what it does, what lives it makes and what communities it builds, in spite of the questionableness of the foundational “historical events” from which peoples take their respective orientations.

In this respect, though, the facticity of what is being claimed can be contested in all manner of ways. Again, that is true of all religions which appeal to historical events. In the case of the faith about the Jewish homeland being thousands of years old, one can object that this is preposterous, that there is shared DNA of Semitic peoples, that the matrilineal roots of Ashkenazi Jews are European in origin, and so forth. Such reasons do not shake the faith of those who are committed, committed in flesh and blood, committed to kill and be killed for this belief. Likewise pointing out that Muslim sacred sites in Israel only go back to a more recent date than sites that can be biblically referenced is not going to change any Muslim’s mind, who thinks that the majority of Israelis are alien colonial occupiers and land thieves.

Reason does not exist sui generis. It is a fragile component of human beings—it comes and goes; reason is not with us from our birth, it takes time to develop and be cultivated; it can be vanquished by disease and infirmity; it is rarely used well, and practice only “perfects” it, if what is being practiced is real; it is astonishingly inventive and just as astonishingly destructive; it can go wildly wrong, and it can simply run out. In spite of ancient philosophers who wanted to see the cosmos as reason writ large, even if we grant that if laws exist this suggests mind is as intrinsic to reality as its matter, this does not change the fact there is precious little of it amongst human beings, and what little there is, is driven by interest, by feelings and selective facts that are woven into trajective (heritages) and prejective (future-orientated) communal propulsions and pulls.

Moreover, our reasoning is primarily activated by what we feel—which might, as the philosopher Leibniz claimed, even indicate that all the components of an organism have their own perspicacious-ness—and this in turn dictates what we choose to reason about. And for the most part, the beginning of our reasoning comes from the traditions and institutional pressures, openings, and general circumstances that are part of a social complex.

The hysterical moralising know-it-all from an elite Western university is itself (sic.) the result of countless acts and decisions of ancestors and contemporaries that have created an environment in which it is cultivated to behave a certain way and be rewarded for it. Its success is part of what Nietzsche called a will to power; it is predicated upon all manner of other social types being censored, punished, extinguished. This is no different than what happens in Israel or amongst the Palestinians or any other people—each communal group is an organism of selectivity, cultivation, and breeding. Cultures breed/cultivate people who adopt positions and participate in world-making so that they may get their way—that way may be death, especially if the priorities of type cultivation are sterile, and/or the ruling class is delusional enough to engage in alliances which are inimical to its long-term survival. Delusions most commonly are shored up by moral talk—morals now are the idolatrous replacement for God; they are no less grounded in faith. Kant said morals were based in rational faith, but while morals are composed of reasons they are not grounded in reasons: nothing is grounded in reason alone; reason is dependent upon “hardware,” even if it performs a very different function to the hardware.

Moral talk is often simply delusional talk—large claims laid out against the sky of reason’s own conjuring. It should not be surprising that in a political culture such as has emerged in the Western world where anything imaginable, anything desired may be considered a moral imperative, a right, that a ruling class that excels primarily in talking, in reasoning on any given topic that takes its interest, that the understanding of some of the most basic aspects of reality, such as the dictates of war, or even its own character, are smothered by pseudo-moral abstractions, or proclamations about what is really just. That it can breed people who write large tomes on the nature of justice, which suffer from the grandest of philosophical conceits, that justice is a philosophical creation, is in part why this group deludes itself into thinking it can create the narratives which in turn will create the institutions that will bring not only world peace, but emancipation for all. All that is needed to stop the IDF massacre in Gaza, or Hamas scheming more incursions and retaliations/acts of terror (take your pick) are more Diversity officers. Of course, there are the more conservative types who realize DEI is intellectual excrement, but their appeal to a philosophical solution, even if more intellectually refined, comes out of the same conceit in which chains of conceptual claims take precedence over the intransigence of the real. The most philosophical of Shakespeare’s plays is The Tempest, and his most philosophical character, Prospero, resorts to magic. Good old Shakespeare, that great Renaissance man, like that other great Renaissance philosopher Ficino, he understood that philosophy and magic are but variations of the same desire to make the world submit to our words, to our incantations.

3.

Most of reality including the contingency of a birthplace, one’s existential placement in life, has nothing to do with morals, or justice. That is also true for refugees seeking new lives in new lands because they want to survive or have a better life. Likewise, nations which want to survive cannot simply have open borders—but that has nothing to do with justice in any absolute moral sense being deduced by reason alone. Laws may be dressed up morally, but they express interests and decisions, contingencies and circumstances that provide the kinds of content that peoples and/or rulers (who may or may not be acting in concert with most or few of the rest of the nation) deploy in their pronouncements and exhortations; but for those seeking survival it is not generally the result of any moral deliberation (I leave aside certain situations quandaries involving sacrifice for others, family members, the nation, one’s comrades, excepted, which are sacrificial institutions and orders by their very nature).

That Israelis wish to preserve their nation for their citizens is nothing exceptional; though there are no shortage of pro-Israeli North Americans who happily defend Israel’s right to choose who can be its citizens but happily push for de facto open borders in the US; just as there are Israelis who think that lands elsewhere, such as Egypt, should take in outcast Palestinians, thus ignoring the political connections between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and the political instability within Egypt and the enmity between the government and the Brotherhood.

Just as the United States and Great Britain and Switzerland have been condemned for not allowing open entry for European Jewry in the Nazi years, Israelis condemn other Arabs for not taking in their Arab brothers and sisters. But Arabs are not just brothers and sisters, any more than the Jews are, any more than the Muslims are, any more than Christians are, and any more than secularists are. Indeed, in the case of the Jews, the schism between North American anti-Zionist progressives and Israelis is as serious as the internal hostilities in Israel which may well have prompted the Hamas decision to take advantage of the internal strife occurring in Israel and attack. The Israelis response in any case to that incursion was as predictable as it was typical of a nation tearing itself apart—it momentarily unified in its response to the enemy, and thus bought itself more time (though even now the mass demonstrations against Netanyahu are re-occuring). The cost though was mass murder, justified at least to itself and its external supporters as “self-defence.” That this justification would not convince anyone who did not already have an unwavering commitment to the right of Israel to exist is irrelevant. That this mass murder would be called “genocide” by those who have identified the multifarious acts of war perpetrated by Israel since its existence was also not surprising.

Calling mass murder “genocide” had been a way in which the specialness of the holocaust had initially been undertaken—it was also a contributing factor in forming a narrative that makes of Nazism a unique evil (and it is almost expected amongst philosophers and college students and journalists that when discussing evil, the paradigm to be invoked is Nazism). Evil flourishes in such rhetorical distractions that draw attention away from the fact that evil is typical not exceptional, that states are built on violence, that modernity is just a mass produced, highly industrialised version of typical large group behaviour competing for resources and their own future. Justifications and moral allotments are then trotted out by people with their own interests to try and make some sense of how some kind of order might reign—the best of the moralists are trying to minimize murder, unfortunately, though, none knows what will transpire in the future, or whether the peace that is brokered today may not be just a moment that enables even far greater violence.

Order only reigns where people can find some common life-purpose—that is the only type of reason that really means anything, when people, swept along by their heritages, competing visions of the future, collide. Ultimately only they can sort it out—all the side-taking from the side-lines is completely meaningless, at best, and all too frequently, the means for drawing more and more lives into the maw of a larger vortex of evil: war on a global scale.

Generally, there is no justification that matters to anyone who is a belligerent that the enemy could give to make him change his mind, though occasionally people are so revolted by the evil they are participating in that they also see the perspective of their enemy and may even be convinced that the enemy is doing less evil than their own side. There are a number of Israelis, including former IDF members, and Palestinians, most famously Mosab Hassan Yousef (the “Son of Hamas”), in this situation. They are among the voices that I find the most powerful, for they acknowledge the evil they are implicated in, though they invariably end up being hated by their own as traitors. I myself am generally moved by the stories of those people who, not out profit or cowardice, become traitors because they have the courage to look starkly at the horror that their families, loved ones, and neighbours are engaging in, and take a stand to try and prevent that evil. To be sure, taking that step may simply be seen by their own people/ group as being but pawns of the enemy who are also purveyors of horror and death. And, indeed, the attempt to escape evil by acting upon one’s conscience and affirming the reasons of one’s former enemies may well make one too willing to embrace the justifications of the evil of the former enemy. War itself generally occurs today when peace between peoples has broken down because all good will has broken down. That is why it is understandable seeking the good look for the origin of a war. And while there are cases of innocents simply being attacked by predators, who have come out of nowhere like demons from the darkness, this, at least in the modern industrialised world, is an extremely rare occasion. Though, as is the case with the Palestine-Israel war, our rhetorical justifications for the battles we engage in, or the sides we take if we are simply outsiders/bystanders tend to be based upon this ‘model’ of conflict.

But when conflict has spiralled over decades, untangling the unmitigated good from the evil becomes increasingly impossible because the acts of war are all undertaken on the basis of some justification based upon injury that require violent retaliation. Appealing to the origin itself, as a means of decisively identifying who is innocent and who is guilty, no longer helps us establish peace, because the origin is to an event like seeds to a forest. Hegel once famously identified the source of tragedy as the conflict of two rights. And although what inevitably transpires in the allocation of moral blame in war involves the location of the origin from whence the violence was set in train, the fact is that the originators of what will lead to mass violence frequently have no idea that they are contributing to conditions which will belatedly explode. That is another aspect of the tragic, i.e., that the act that has devastating consequences is generally not even noticed for what it is when it is carried out. Had Oedipus known that King Laius was his father he encountered on the way to Thebes, so much evil would have been prevented; but the meaning of an action is all too frequently hidden from the actor, at the time of its undertaking. And that was true of the Jewish refugees fleeing Russia in the late 19th century, as it was of the Zionists who thought that they could placate local animosities as they were buying up land, as it was for the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who moved into Mandatory Palestine for better work opportunities provided by the British prior to the Arab revolt of 1936-9, only to find themselves amongst the hundreds of thousands of displaced Arabs who had existed there for centuries, as it was for the hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern Jews who found themselves fleeing lands they too had lived in for centuries as retaliation for the establishment of the state of Israel.

A consequence of all the mass population movement and displacement is that there is nowhere for the Palestinians within the occupied territories to go. Likewise, Israelis who have been living in Israel for more than a generation or two also have nowhere else to go, something generally ignored by political activists in the West, who are secure in being citizens of their own country.

The Israeli journalist Haviv Rettig Gur has rightly said the Palestinian paradigm for their circumstance is based on Algeria—but the pied-noir had not lost their French citizenship. Gur also points out correctly that far too many commentators, not to mention protesting students who are barely adults and have read almost nothing on anything, mistakenly think that Israel is full of ideological Zionists, and ignore the fact that the biggest source of Israel’s population is simply refugees who want to live with other Jews because they feel they may live more safely with their own kind, commencing with Russian refugees from the Pogroms (Gurr repeats the myth of anti-Jewishness being a spontaneous and self-generating ideological paranoiac figment divorced from any class animosities). Then there is the fact just mentioned above that the original refugee migrants/colonisers (take your pick) purchased land from absent Arab landlords. That too is true—and it is remiss of anyone weighing in on the rights and wrongs of the war not to mention that it is thus internal class divisions with the Arabs of Palestine that also enabled their own dispossession. Again, anyone who can see that this kind of dispossession is exactly what has been occurring in Western Europe and North America by the combination of large immigration waves often of refugees, and the influx of foreign capital primarily benefitting other owners of capital and property would be jeered at by the very people who see Israel as purely evil and the Palestinians as purely good.

This has no bearing on the fact that women and children and male civilians who simply want peace are being slaughtered in Gaza. Those who delight in it are swept up in the tornado of evil, as are those who cheered the initial incursion. But that is what war is: the triumph of death. War is based on countless reasons/justification though it itself breaks out because the desired end cannot be reached through reasonable speech. This is not an argument for pacifism—for in all manner of situations pacificism is not an option. It is simply to point out that evil is an existential not even a moral condition, and when reasons are used to justify murdering people, it is evil that has triumphed. Evil is the accumulation of acts which congeal and then explode, lacerating all in its wake. Bombs and bullets are instantiations of evil. “Preserve us from evil” is a mighty formulation, for it identifies the fact that most evil in the world is not merely consciously made by our own hands, not the result of deliberation, but is as a wave that sweeps us into channels of decision and modes of action that have been prepared over generations and which foreclose other less terrifying and savage options.

The horror that is going on Gaza has been over a century in the making—and this present phase of the war has involved miscalculation and ostensible self-interest on both sides: it has suited Netanyahu to favour Hamas over the Palestinian Authority because Hamas eschews a two-state solution, while I think Hamas wildly underestimated the scale of the Israeli response to their incursions of October 7. Miscalculation, like evil itself, is the inevitable accompaniment of human action. Evil is a contagion which is as ferocious in devouring the good as the bad—to think our moral ideas are genuine bulwarks is just ridiculous; at best they are the decor put in place after all the surveying, engineering and architecture are done.

By acting as it has, Israel has destroyed much sympathy and good will; but in fighting for survival people always do the most terrible things. I have been struck by the irony of how both sides all justify the terrible things done for their cause. War ultimately sorts out which peoples and pathways continue. This war is over a century old—it did not start in October, and both sides will not stop until the other is destroyed. Though the sides now exist on a global scale. One other false notion identified by Gur is that Israel is an outpost of US imperialism—as was the case with the British empire, the Israelis will use whatever empire they can to get support, even if that means extortion and blackmail (Epstein) to get that support. The tide is turning in the US—Arab money and demographical transformation will eventually replicate what is going on in Western Europe—and it will be Israel’s undoing. The Jewish population is too small and too divided in its interests to shore up Western Europe and eventually the USA as bulwarks of support.

All the ink spilled and all words spoken on the war by us outsiders, which call for either the destruction of the Palestinians or the destruction of Israel (and there is no solution that is being presently put forward that is not just a duplicitous way of ensuring one or the other) does not help anything. Whenever I read or listen to an argument, even very good ones, by those defending/ condemning one side or the other in toto they all identify some salient facts, but neglect others—and that is the point: the facts that matter are weighed differently by the belligerents, and trying to adopt the position of a referee only illustrates how used we are to confounding things of peace—notably games and courtrooms with matters of war.

In the long run I think the Israelis will suffer a terrible defeat; and by that I mean the death of millions. Though existing as we do within the penumbra of another global war, it may well be that this war is just a vortex drawing all into it, and that Western Europe and the United States plagued as they are by their own internal divisions may also only be a decade or two away from their demise.

I do not welcome that. I do not think the university people screaming against the Israelis think that that will happen. I do not say this to justify what Israel is doing—but they are doing it to try and “buy” more life. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are suffering intolerably, and this will only harden their resolve to kill every Israeli. Every position one takes on this issue only illustrates that we are immersed in sin, and it is intrinsic to our origins; and that is why I think only prayers and miracles may really help—and if one does not believe in prayer or miracle, then even hope itself is preferable to reason ever circling around the same elements and formulae of facts that do not lead out of but take more and more people ever further into war. That will sound facile to the modern intellectual who is philosophically self-assured, as were the intellectual well-meaning Zionists and refugees seeking a homeland in Israel, as are the pan-Arabists/pan-Islamists, Cold War warriors, and all the others who have contributed to this hell now occurring.

I take no solace in what I think. Indeed, on every important topic, I wish I could find a position that was the “right” one held by the good, true, and beautiful, but I inevitably am drawn by what I see, not what I want to see. Our tears for all who are devoured by evil, as well as the charitable actions undertaken towards those who suffer make the world a more hospitable place than all the clamouring in which evil is simply what our enemy does.


Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen booksHe also doubles up as a singer songwriter. His latest album can be found here.


Featured: Palestinae, by Jodocus Hondius, 1570; printed by Abraham Ortelius, ca. 1595.


October 7: What Really Happened?

“When the Israelis and their supporters are called on to justify the ferocity of their response, which has killed far, far more people than the Hamas incursion… again and again and again, they will talk about babies and they will talk about rapes” (Richard Sanders).

Watch, October 7, Richard Sanders film that blows apart the claims commonly used to “explain” the slaughter of the innocent by Israel. It is an appeal to “logic” which readily equates thousands of dead children with “terrorists,” and which also portrays this wholesale murder as “self-defense.”

Richard Sanders investigates and finds thatthe truth of that fateful day to be far different than what is commonly believed and asserted by the supporters of Israel.

Here is Sander’s film, October 7, which may be viewed at Rumble:

If Rumble does not work for you, you may also view this documentary film at this stable link.

Also, watch this excellent interview with Sanders:


The First Documentary Film about the Palestinian Tragedy

In 1950, the documentary Sands of Sorrow was produced to show the plight of the Palestinians, right after the infamous Nakba (the Catastrophe), inflicted upon them in 1948, in which Israel violently took possession of property that had once belonged to Palestinian Arabs (both Christian and Muslim). This was Israel’s first largescale effort to ethnically cleanse the land, in order to facilitate mass Jewish settlement…

Sands of Sorrow is also unique in that it is the very first film which closely documents the difficulty faced by Palestinians transformed into refugees—unwanted inhabitants who must be “managed” and “dealt with” as a problem—an approach that continues to this day, with tragic consequences.

The film was made for a Protestant American audience, which largely supported Israel in 1950, a backing which continues unabated to this day. The “message” of the film was to not only advocate for humanitarian aid, but also to ask the audience to think about why such aid becomes necessary—in that humanitarian crises are all too often the result of the failure of diplomacy. Again, this approach is prescient and remains crucial today.

The film is introduced and concluded by Dorothy Thompson (1893—1961), one of the most famous American woman journalists of her time. She was an early supporter of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, but after understanding the brutalities being committed by Zionists to establish such a homeland, she wrote openly and was immediately accused of anti-Semitism and lost many who claimed to be her friends and was “canceled” from many of the magazines she wrote for. But this intimidation did not deter her. She continued to write and expose the suffering inflicted upon Palestinians by the Zionists. In a letter she wrote (March 8, 1949) about the Deir Yassin Massacre (April 9, 1948), about which she had first-hand accounts, Thompson compared what took place with the atrocities committed by the Nazis (a comparison that would be made again and again by many others afterward):

“The Irgun-Sternists [Zionist militia] chose to make an example of that village [Deir Yassin]. They took the women and children who were spared into Jerusalem, removed their headdresses and paraded them among hoots and jeers. As a result of this performance one child fainted away and died of fright. The result was to start a wholesale exodus in the face of possible Jewish occupation. The leader of one of these groups—Menachem Begin—was afterward given a great reception in NY attended by the Mayor. He would not have been, had the facts been known. I do not think I exaggerated in calling Deir Yassin a Lidice. Nor is it, according to reports I received, the only one. But I will stick to what I can presently prove.” [Quoted in Lyndsey Stonebridge, “Humanitarianism Was Never Enough: Dorothy Thompson, Sands of Sorrow, and the Arabs of Palestine”]

The tragedy begun in 1948 in Palestine continues to unfold today, because:

“If governments get the idea that they can expropriate their citizens and turn them loose on the kindness of the rest of the world, the business will never end. A precedent will be created; a formula will have been found” (Dorothy Thompson, “Escape in a Frozen World,” Survey Graphic, 1939).

In 1951, Thompson, a devoted Christian, founded the American Friends of the Middle East, an organization whose purpose was to undo the harm caused by American Zionism in that part of the world.


The Rape of Palestine, A Review

Very few phenomena are as misrepresented in Western mainstream discourse and as poorly understood by Westerners as the conflict between the Zionist entity of Israel and the Palestinian People. While this issue has grown into perhaps the great dividing line that separates the morally aware and responsible from the callous, the indifferent, and the wicked, a fog lies over the minds and hearts of too many Westerners, none more so than the residents of the faltering United States. Some are excusable in their ignorance for one reason or another. Others are less so. And yet others, a rather large group, willfully side with their own luciferian elite leadership and the ruling Anglo-Zionist ideologues and looters.

America’s political class never ceases to amaze and confound, releasing one idiotic, bloodthirsty statement after another about the subject in general, and, specifically, with their nearly-uniform reaction to the late genocide, the Gazacaust. Even Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., whom I otherwise respected for his book about US bioweapons programs, said Palestinians were the “most pampered people in the world.” In his world, “pampered” must be synonymous with “bombed” and “starved.” The Clown Prince of Gomorrah, Lindsey Graham, coldly said of Gaza, “Level the place.” Andy Ogles (ogles what, we wonder), said of the Gazans, “Kill them all.” False Witness and delusional moron Tim Walberg suggested repeating the war crimes of Nagasaki and Hiroshima against Gaza to “Get it over quick.” Joe “I am the AI” Biden mumbles one thing and then another, though he, a self-proclaimed Zionist, ever arms and supports the occupiers and their genocide. Carnival barker Donald Trump said, “Only a crazy or an idiot wouldn’t respond like Israel did to October 7.” Trump might be in an ideal position to know the inclinations of crazies and idiots. But neither he nor any of the others knows or cares to understand the totality of the situation, including the timeline of so many pitiful events.

The American selling point for this particular atrocity is that Israel was attacked by terrorists on October 7, 2023, and that it has every right to defend itself. Intelligent men, like China’s Ma Xinmin, know that occupation forces have no claim to self-defense when attacked by the people they oppress and that the oppressed have every right to resist their occupation and oppression. And regardless of lies, distortions, woeful American attention spans, and lack of education, this conflict was brewing well over a century before October 2023.

I recently read, reviewed, and fell in love with The Stone House by Dr. Yara Hawari, a narrative telling of Palestinian life, suffering, and triumph from the early Twentieth Century through 1968. Within Hawari’s combined stories and experiences, including those during and before the Nakba, the reader catches glimpses of repeated betrayals of Palestine. Through the eyes of her characters, members of her own family, she masterfully touches on the impact of a continuous sequence of terrible events. With a fascinating and inspiring human touch, she reveals the “what” of the shared Palestinian experience. Now, I have found a work that fills in many of the (early) gaps, providing the “hows” and “whys” behind the assorted deceptions and barbarities.

Dr. Blake Alcott has assembled an expansive two-volume collection of original documents that provide a roadmap that leads from the end of the Nineteenth Century until the formation of political nation-state Israel after World War Two. His work is profoundly important from a historical perspective and because the experiences of the mapped territory stretch on until the present. His title is apropos.

Dr. Alcott is an ecological economist, Palestinian activist, and upon-a-time carpenter residing and working in Switzerland. His excellent work and interests may be found on his website. After reading Hawari’s book, as if it was ordained, I discovered Alcott and his books via Jeremy Salt’s sterling review of The Rape of Palestine at the Palestinian Chronicle.

Of Alcott’s efforts, Salt wrote: “There are few works on Palestine of such scope. All the standard documents are here and analyzed anew but there are innumerable gems dug up by the author that the researcher will not have known about or has forgotten.” And the scope is vast. Salt referred to “the researcher” perhaps due to the nature of the material presented. It is not a work to be casually read. Well, in many ways it is, at intervals becoming a real page-turner. But there is a refined historicity and academic quality within the pages which, along with their Outlaws of the Marsh count, could be mildly off-putting to the cursory reader. None of this should bar anyone from obtaining and studying the copious history as assembled. Most fortunately, Alcott begins with a helpful section, “How to use this book.”

This book gives a chronology of the dialogue, such as it was, between Palestinians and their British ‘Mandatory’ rulers from the World War I years up until May 1948. It consists of 490 entries arranged by date. Nerds or insomniacs might read it straight through even though, taken in long doses, it induces not only tedium but also sadness and outrage. But most will use it as a reference book (The Rape of Palestine, Vol. 1, p. 14, Kindle edition).

Alcott’s cheerful humor aside (and appreciated), he is correct. Think of it as an encyclopedia wherein specific facts await inspection based on the reader’s particular need or fancy. The 490(!) entries are sequentially set forth in the table of contents of each volume. All of these records are important, though the more criticall among them are helpfully marked with an asterisk. Alcott also provides his methodology concerning the materials, his commentary, context, and appended matters. He is also correct, be forewarned, that there is sadness and shame residing within the documentation. However, for most readers, especially any guilt-deserving Westerners, I would hope the shock of the truth serves to change minds and, then, stir indignant protest.

And now, I will slowly walk through a brief summary of all 490 transcripts. Or not. I slept well last night and I appear to have misplaced my pocket protector. No. Instead, I will merely present a short sampling.

Even before the first official entry, Alcott provides a glimpse of a nascent Zionist movement that started no later than 1798, and continued into the Nineteenth Century, as recounted in 1919 by British anti-Zionist Jew Lucien Wolf: “… In 1840, when Mehemet Ali was driven out of Palestine and Syria by the Powers, the future of Palestine was open for discussion. … [U]ntil the time of Herzl all the most prominent protagonists of Zionism were Christians” (Id., 21).

The latter words in Wolf’s note might open a separate discussion regarding the links between Zionism and Christianity, especially certain of its Protestant elements, and American variants, along with other assorted strange fruits of the Enlightenment. However, Wolf also noted that the earnest modern Zionist movement had begun twenty years earlier in 1899. And in that year, where Alcott’s true count begins, Jerusalem’s mayor, Yusuf al-Khalidi, sent a letter to Rabbi Zadoc Kahn of France:

In theory, Zionism is an absolutely natural and just idea on how to solve the Jewish question. Yet it is impossible to overlook the actual reality, which must be taken into account. Palestine is an integral part of the Ottoman Empire and today it is inhabited by non-Jews… By what right do the Jews want it for themselves? …The only way to take it is by force using cannons and warships… Even if Herzl obtained the approval of the Sultan Abdülhamit II for the Zionist plan, he should not think that a day will come when Zionists will become masters of this country. It is therefore necessary, to ensure the safety of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire, that the Zionist Movement, in the geographic sense of the word, stops… Good Lord, the world is vast enough, there are still uninhabited countries where one could settle millions of poor Jews who may perhaps become happy there and one day constitute a nation… But in the name of God, let Palestine be left in peace (Id., 25; emphasis mine).

If one isn’t an American politician, a newly-arrived space alien, or a complete recluse, one knows that, the good intentions of God and man notwithstanding, since 1899, Palestine has had anything except peace.

An aside: One of the many lies told repeatedly about Palestine is that it does not exist, it never existed, or that it didn’t exist until recently. The same goes for Palestinians themselves, a lie told far and wide by such degenerates as Newt Gingrich and Bezalel Smotrich. As one may see from the foregoing quotes, such a ridiculous assertion would have come as a surprise to al-Khalidi and Wolf, along with the Ottomans, the Crusaders, maybe the Mongols even, certainly the Imperial Romans (what else was meant by “Syria Palaestina?”), and, of course, the people of the Middle East. Furthermore, as to Zionists of both the Jewish and Judeo-”Christian” Evangelical kinds, the land of Israel they constantly proclaim rightly exists in place of Palestine doesn’t even match the boundaries of the wholly unrelated Biblical territory of a similar name prescribed in Joshua—to say nothing of the fantastical, ever-shifting idea of Greater Israel. Then again, some of the Zionists frequently ignore inconvenient or, shall we say, “undeciphered” parts of the Hebrew Bible and the Evangelicals have evidently read very little if any of the New Testament. This note may point towards that other discussion, and I digress.

Perhaps the most famous, or infamous document in Alcott’s litany is the Balfour Declaration of 1917, a note from Lord Balfour to Lord Rothschild (yes, of that family) concerning property and lives neither had any claim to.

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to and approved by the Cabinet: His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation (Id., 92).

There’s another pesky reference to a place and a people that allegedly didn’t exist. But regardless of the intentions and sympathies of Balfour and George V, the following century would see existing non-Jewish communities deprived of virtually all civil and religious rights, a people cornered, hounded, and hunted towards extinction. I will now skip forward three decades into that process and engage a smidgen of literary comparison.

By way of that comparison, and shifting gears, I’m going to try to demonstrate how useful Alcott’s book is in digging deeper into certain affairs. The following is just one example from a potential multitude. In Hawari’s story about her father Mahmoud, she writes briefly about the post-Ottoman British Mandate period. This span was supposedly temporary and transitional before control of Palestine was fully handed over to the Palestinians. Of course, all the while, London was scheming and blundering towards delivering Palestine from one form of colonization to another. Hawari follows up in subsequent sections via the eyes and experiences of her grandmother and great-grandmother. Regarding the establishment of Zionist occupation on May 14, 1948, she writes, “According to the mandate, the British were to hand over authority and assets to a governing local entity. But they didn’t. Their exit, while officially ending British rule in Palestine, was also an open invitation for the Zionists to take over the whole country” (“Dheeba’s Story,” in The Stone House, e-book ed., 27).

Many of Alcott’s entries deal directly with the policies and deceptions behind this British treachery in allowing, even facilitating Zionist usurpation despite all contrary promises to the Palestinians. That includes the final item, number 490. As Palestinians tried to actively resist their pending disposition, their efforts were blocked by the British military. Confronted with English interdiction against a last-ditch effort to save Qatamon, and so losing the town, Ibrahim Abu-Dayeh pleaded with Izzat Tannous for diplomatic assistance with His Majesty’s forces. Tannous sadly replied, “‘No, my dear Ibrahim,’ I said, quoting an Arab proverb, ‘When the judge is your enemy, it is useless to appeal’” (The Rape of Palestine, Vol. 2, 1, 144).

Here is an example of Alcott’s astute commentary, his words summarizing the feckless, biased British actions:

There was harmony between Britain’s withdrawal and yishuv military moves in Tiberias and Haifa as well. ‘Great’ Britain had set itself up as a judge over normal Palestinians in the country of their grandmothers and grandfathers, living their lives like you and me. HMG had always claimed to be neutral against ‘the two sides’ in carrying out its ‘dual obligation’. In fact, even the Balfour Declaration at the very beginning of Britain’s colonial rule was biased, and led logically to actions such as that just described in the last days of the Zionist Mandate: the more powerful “English”, self-styled arbiters, threatened 300 Palestinians with death should they, in self-defense, also use non-verbal weapons (Id., 1, 144-1, 145).

“Grandmothers and grandfathers, living their lives like you and me.” My suspicion upon reading Salt’s review was that Alcott would provide heavy factual backup for some of the emotional human stories Hawari related in stirring if necessarily concise form. He did and then some. I did not expect it, but was delighted to discover that he too possesses a keen ability to connect the reader’s mind and soul to even listless, heartless administrative functionary activities. There is a kind of brilliance in the book that slowly asserts itself via Alcott’s ability to both display an orderly chronology but to also link all the parts together in a nearly narrative fashion.

He displayed his talent with the second-to-last asterisked entry, number 486, and the final words concerning the failed Mandate in Parliament on March 10, 1948. Creech Jones, de facto handler of the Palestinian “problem”, made stunning admissions about the end of English occupation in Palestine, the Mandate, betrayals, and all.

The question of our attitude to the Mandate, which proved in practice both self-contradictory and unworkable, and of the reference of the Palestine question to the United Nations, has been debated in the House. … I do not believe, after our bitter and tragic experience, that the British public would tolerate any new commitments in Palestine (Id., 1119).

Alcott bridges and builds, adding, “The self-pity aside, Britain’s experience was indeed “tragic” in the literary sense that the seeds of devastation were present at the beginning – a sort of character flaw which made Britain dedicate itself to a ‘self-contradictory and unworkable’ experiment.” Id. He then goes on to show and dissect how Britain had always taken a side despite its supposed neutrality. And he shines a light on the fledgling United Nations’ fence-sitting, a position the body has essentially retained since 1948.

And since that year, as the British bowed out, other nations bowed in. While Britain and France would go on to provide some assistance to the Zionists, it was Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union who were the first to recognize newly appropriated political Israel. But no country has done more or worse in slavish, virtually religious service, support, and allegiance to Israel than the United States.

Alcott devotes Section XXV, in the Second Volume, to “U.S. Power,” with seventeen entries in all. Among them, the reader will discover Harry “S” Truman’s zeal for the Zionists’ expanded entry into Palestine. The man who acceded to dropping an atomic bomb on a Catholic Church in Japan had no problem doing something of a similar nature, if by other means, in the Levant. Given the total degeneration of America since then it is little wonder why some filth like Tim Walberg calls for treating Gaza like Nagasaki. As with the blood stains on Zionist hands, from the Stern Gang to King Bibi’s rampage against hospitals, schools, Mosques, Churches, and aid workers, so too does America drip with the blood of innocents slaughtered in perpetual conflict. The English, base progenitors of the insanely poor idea behind the Zionist occupation, stand as guilty as any. At the moment, the only British leader I can think of who acquits himself is George Galloway, and he still admits a deep shame concerning these deeply shameful matters. Many parties are guilty, for their actions and complicity. And still others bear eternal abashment, admitted or not, for their inaction and silence.

Not among the shamed are South Africa, Yemen, and a few other groups worldwide. One of the few groups is composed of anti-Zionist Jews, some of whom are now being arrested in “free” and “democratic” Western countries like Germany for standing up and speaking out for Palestinian justice. It’s hard evidence of a mad world when Germans attack Jews, for the false crime of possibly offending other Jews, doing so using anti-Nazi laws as their paper-thin justification. More to the point, indisputable proof of collective insanity and tolerance of sheer wickedness abounds. En route to doing something, anything to help, decent people want and need to make sense of the sad circumstances. And making sense of any complex system, circumstance, or problem requires a base of information.

That is what Blake Alcott had delivered. His extreme dedication, utter competence, and artful presentation will reveal to the reader an open window to history, policy, drama, tragedy, and the human condition. Let the light shine in, we need it. I heartily endorse and recommend The Rape Of Palestine for anyone, regardless of position or location, interested in the injustice visited upon the Palestinian People. Really, this battle is for universal actuality and human dignity. Buy the book, read it, and understand it, a commanding and fascinating compilation.


Perrin Lovett, a Christian American Russophile, is a novelist, essayist, and commentary writer. He writes about a wide variety of subjects and holds some of those degreed credentials people like. Versions of this review have appeared in Geopolitika and Recknonin’. Deo vindice!


Featured: Tantura explusion, June 1948; photograph by Benno Rothenberg.


A Once Lost Film about Palestine

It was Golda Meir (1898-1978), Prime Minister of Israel from 1969-1974, who famously remarked, “There was no such thing as Palestinians.” By this she meant that Palestinians simply do not exist. They Do not Exist is the Palestinian response to this widely-repeated assertion.

The film was made, in 1974, by Mustafa Abu Ali (1940-2009) who worked closely with Jean-Luc Godard and who went on to found the Palestine Film Unit (PFU) of the PLO, and thus he is considered the founder of Palestinian cinema. He studied at the University of California-Berkeley in the 1960s before pursuing his passion for cinema in London, from where he graduated in 1967.

The Palestine Film Unit came into existence in 1968, in Jordan, under the direction of Mustafa Abu Ali, Hani Jawharieh, and Sulafa Jadallah. The work of the PFU entailed film as a method of educating the Palestinian people, and thus the films the Unit produced were shown in all refugee camps, to ensure that the entirety of the population understood the problems that needed to be overcome and to enable them to persevere in maintaining the culture and way of life of the nation. In other words, the people were given resolve and assurance , despite the hardships of their suffering.

The films also sought to engage the larger worldwide audience, which was often overly saturated by Israeli propaganda; the PFU hoped to break the strangehold on information and to get the Palestinian message out.

The films made by the PFU were 16mm documentaries and they are the earliest examples of an engaged Palestinian cinema.

The PFU’s archive was once the largest and most comprehensive collection of Palestinian films. However, it was put into storage in the Red Crescent Hospital in Beirut in 1982, and its whereabouts remain unclear. Recently, some of the films were found located in the Israel Defense Forces Archive in Tel HaShomer, and there are calls for their release and declassification.

They Do Not Exist is an unflinching chronicle of the suffering brought on by Israeli bombardments and the bleak life of Palestinian refugees in Jordanian camps. There are also those men and women struggling against the Israelis whose hopes and aspirations the film explores.

The film disappeared in 1982, after the Israeli invasion of Beirut (in the Lebanon War) and only resurfaced in 2003, and through the hard work of filmmaker Annemarie Jacir was shown in Jerusalem, a screening to which Mustafa Abu Ali was furtively brought.

The subject of the film is the people of Nabatia camp, as they carry on with their daily lives; and in the ordinarness of their lives is found all the pain and injustice that they must deal with as a people who keep getting in the way of the great plans of the Israeli government.

In the early summer of 1974, Nabatia was bombed by the Israelis and the various inhabitants shown in the film were either killed or driven away to another refugee camp. The film captures the relentless violence meted to civilians, as the constant reality of Palestinian lives, and we watch as witnesses to their humanity, which refuses to succumb to the iron fist of oppression.

The film also serves as a reminder that the Palestinian people have long been seen as the unwanted Other by Israel, and therefore their very presence is the “problem” that Israel continually seeks to overcome by stark “solutions.”

They Do Not Exist is also a moving representation of rootedness, in that Palestine is not simply real estate but it is home to a people who have lived there for many long centuries. The land as home veers away from an easy sort of nationalism which is a political construct; rather, homeland means the solidity of traditions, of history, and of a deep sense of belonging. In short, homeland is that which houses a people’s dreams, thoughts, aspirations and endeavors, so that life acquires meaning. There is a deep bond between geography and humanity. Thus, homeland is endurance, continuity and assurance. And it is this essential quality that Mustafa Abu Ali fully captures so poignantly.

This aspect of the homeland is further heightened in the film when the Palestinian struggle is placed within the wider context of anti-imperialism of the later 20th century, namely, South Africa, Mozambique, Vietnam, and the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Since this documentary follows the life itself of Palestine, tragedy is never far: the other filmmakers involved in making this film were killed not long after its completion, either in a bombardment or were shot by Israeli soldiers.

The film finally shows that the soul of a nation is impervious to bombs and bullets.


Israeli Genocide?

The latest critique of Israel is that it is now either committing genocide in Gaza, or very soon will be guilty of such a war crime, as the number of deaths as a result of its bombing continues to climb. Thus, Israel should forthwith cease its present IDF operations, and not pause, nor engage in a truce but cease altogether its attempt to root out Hamas.

How many Palestinian Arabs must die in collateral damage in order to constitute genocide? In the view of some commentators, while to be sure there is a continuum involved here, a specific number must be determined, and Israel duly charged with this crime against humanity when surpassed. The IDF is dangerously approaching such a statistic even now, as they see matters.

An alternative hypothesis might be that genocide is an all or nothing phenomenon, not a variable. No, that is not quite right. Killing one Jew or one Palestinian does not constitute genocide. How about a million or 10 million? Is it a matter of absolute numbers or relative ones? Here, it all depends upon the “context,” a concept very popular at Harvard, MIT and UPenn.

Stipulate then, arguendo, that Israel is entirely justified in eliminating Hamas. Not just reducing their power, but totally conquering them. No more merely “mowing the lawn.” Justice would consist at the very least of compelling them to release all hostages, surrender, and all of them be placed in Israeli prison cells, for their crimes of October 7, 2023. So far, the number of deaths of Palestinian Arabs, let us posit, has been in the tens of thousands. Let us also assume that this carnage does not yet constitute genocide. When will that point be reached? At 50,000? At 100,000? At one million, which would be almost half of the Gazan population before that date of infamy in 2023? This sort of speculation is the methodology employed by some genocide “experts” who really should know better.

For example, consider the views of Omer Bartov, an Israeli-born professor of history at Brown University who has been characterized as “one of the world’s leading authorities on genocide.” In his view, “… while Israel’s military actions in Gaza did not yet constitute a genocide, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had demonstrated ‘genocidal intent, which can easily tip into genocidal action.’” This scholar urges all men of good will to “stand up and raise our voices, before Israel’s leadership plunges it and its neighbors into the (genocidal) abyss.” This Brown professor maintains: “As a historian of genocide, I believe that there is no proof that genocide is currently taking place in Gaza, although it is very likely that war crimes, and even crimes against humanity, are happening.” However, he further avers: “In justifying the(ir) assault, Israeli leaders and generals have made terrifying pronouncements that indicate a genocidal intent.”

How such experts on genocide can determine the exact point at which this charge of genocide has been reached is not the interest of the present column. Rather, we maintain that the entire enterprise is misbegotten. We will not quibble about any specific numbers.

Hamas could surrender tomorrow, and face the imprisonment they so richly deserve for their brutal murders and rapes. If they did so, the supposed “genocide” that Israel is now or soon will be imposing upon the Gazans would cease within minutes. But this terrorist organization refuses to be justly punished. In effect, they are holding as hostages not only some 100 Israelis they have so far captured (they are still a going concern, there might be more in the future), but, also, the entire remaining population of Gaza. According to the marginal or gradual or continuum thesis we are now criticizing, once the number of deaths in this territory reaches a certain point, then and only then will the statistical requirements of “genocide” have been reached. At that point, if Israel does not wish to be guilty of this crime against humanity, it must cease and desist from all military attempts to eradicate Hamas.

Let us try this thesis on for size with regard to Nazi Germany. Suppose the Nazis were as uncaring about the German population as is Hamas about Gazans. The goal of the Allies was to eliminate the Nazis, root and branch. Their aim was to not allow a single one of them escape the justice they so richly deserved. We now also assume that the only way to accomplish this goal was to bomb Germany. And, as with all such situations, innocent people would die as a result of collateral damage. According to the marginal “analysis” of genocide as articulated by Professor Bartov and his ilk, enough would eventually be enough. Once a certain number of Germans were killed, the Allies would have to stop their bombing, lest they become guilty of genocide. They would have to allow the remaining Nazis to roam free, enable them to lick their wounds and, in due course, continue their depredations.

Does this sound judicious? To many people, to all too many people, this is entirely reasonable when it comes to the IDF’s attempt to make sure that “never again” will Hamas be able to do to Israelis what they did on that day of infamy a scant few weeks ago. Hopefully, these professors and others will come to their senses when they contemplate what this would have implied in the Nazi case.

Let us now look at this matter from yet another perspective. Suppose turtles, all of them without exception, suddenly became vicious. They would continually attack human beings. Every last one of them from newborn turtles to elderly turtles and all ages in between. They just would not stop; we could not reason with them, any more than we can now. This murderous behavior of theirs continued, no matter how many of them we killed. Finally, we killed them all. Would this be “turtle-cide.” Well, yes and no. On the one hand, this genetic pool would have been entirely wiped out. Perhaps that counts as genocide for turtles, or turtle-cide. On the other hand, it also counts as a paradigm case of self-defense.


Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans. Read more of his work on his Substack.


Shooting Children: The Other IDF Specialty

Israeli soldiers enjoy killing Palestinian children. This is not hyperbole. This is a tragic fact.

The endless cruelty that we are witnessing in Gaza and the West Bank raises a crucial question—what is the point of remembering the Holocaust of the early 1940s when the people on whom it was committed have now became perpetrators of a Holocaust upon the Palestinian people, whom they see as non-human? All the intimidation that the Holocaust Industry has carried out through the years, all the name-calling of anti-Semitic this and anti-Semitic that, all the laws to protect the Jews—was it all a ploy to hide what has been and is going on in Israel since 1948?

Is the current Palestinian genocide the bitter fruit of this Holocaust Industry, because it has made us blind to Israel’s cruelty, because we are forever lost in the cruelty of yesteryears?

It would appear that the world is emerging from the “hold” that the earlier Holocaust has had upon the modern mind because it is seeing atrocities unimaginable today, carried out by the very hands that we imagined would be less cruel because of the memory of that earlier Holocaust. But no. We see the same dehumnaization, followed by the same gleeful mass murder.

The fact remains, Israeli soldiers enjoy killing Palestinians, especially children. No doubt there is the deep-seated Israeli logic of annihilating future “terrorists.”

More questions come to the fore.

What kind of martial culture exists in the Israeli army which encourages the shooting of little children?

What kind of spirit inhabits an Israeli soldier who aims carefully and sprays a 4-year-old girl on the road with machine gun fire, and then goes off to relax, having done a good day’s work?

How cold must the blood be to shoot a little boy sitting in his father’s car, and then go about with other duties?

Or is it that these Israeli soldiers do not see children, only the hated, non-human “Palestinians” who must utterly be destroyed, no matter what their age or sex?

And all the while, America sends more bombs, more bullets, as if to say, “Keep up the good work.”

“Israeli forces have installed Israeli military infrastructure, like checkpoints, all throughout the occupied West Bank. Palestinian children are at risk every time they are forced to interact with Israeli soldiers,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “Israeli forces opened fire with no regard for Ruqaya’s life. This is just one example of the impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces emboldened in an environment where the international community refuses to hold them accountable” (Defense for Children International-Palestine).

“You guys are saying that this is a twelve-year old boy. Stop it. This is a twelve-year old terrorist” (Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israeli National Security Minister).

We are now sadly familiar with what the bombs have wrought in Gaza— 32,552 Palestinians killed, including 13,000 children, and 74,980 wounded. And counting…

What about the bullets dutifully supplied by the cargo-plane load? Since October 7, the US has sent 100 shipments of munitions to Israel.
Leaving aside what these bullets hit when fired at Hamas, this ammo is also used to kill children (not to mention unarmed men and women).

For example, on March 28, 2024, Israeli soldiers shot dead and then bulldozed into a pit full of garbage two Palestinian men who were stopped on a road and then shot. One of them was waving a white piece of fabric. They were just trying to go home on foot.

Here is a very brief and sad list of some of the many children killed by Israeli soldiers, brief because it is so very difficult to catalogue the slaughter of such beautiful little lives, as you are quickly overwhelmed by utter horror.

January 8, 2024, Ramallah, West Bank
Ruqaya Ahmad Odeh Jahalin, aged 4.
Her crime: She was sitting in the backseat of a taxi when she was shot. The IDF confiscated her body, for full investigation.

January 24, 2024. Al-Amal, west of Khan Younis
Nahedh Barbakh, aged 13.
His crime: He stepped outside his house, waving a white flag in order to evacuate as ordered by the IDF. He was shot three times and killed. His older brother, Ramez, aged 20, tried to rescue him but was also shot dead. The family could not recover their bodies because of intense gunfire. The family escaped by breaking through the rear wall of their home in order to avoid going out into the street. The bodies of their two sons were never recovered.

February 22, 2024, West Bank
Nihal Abu Ayash, aged 16.
His crime: He was heading off to play soccer. He was shot first in the leg and then when he got up, he was shot in the head.

December 5, 2023, Gaza City
Salma Jaber, aged 4.
Her crime: She and nher family were trying to escape. She and her nine-year old sister were sprayed with bullets from a tank. Though shot, little Salma bravely tried to run away. When her father picked her up, he too was shot in the arm. Her sister, though shot at, miraculously survived. Little Salma did not.

March 4, 2024. Burin, south of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank
Amr Mohamed Ghaleb Najjar, aged 10.
His crime: Sitting in his father’s car. Shot in the head by the IDF Israeli forces.

March 14, 2024. Shuafat Refugee Camp, Jerusalem
Rami Hamdan Al-Halhouli, aged 12.
His crime: He held up a lit piece of fireworks. Shot through the heart and his body was confiscated.


Will any of theese murderers in uniform ever be known, let alone brought to justice? Don’t hold your breath. The leaders of the world have long accepted the shooting of kids as Israel’s “right of defense.” Therefore, the slaughter will continue. America is happy to supply the bullets and the bombs to kill many, many more children, just like the few noted above. It’s good business, after all. This is “civilization” against “terrorism.”

Few remember this, but the Israeli soldiers have been shooting children for a very long time.

For example, twenty years ago, in May of 2004, in Rafah, little Rawan Abu Zeid, just 3 years old, was shot in the neck by a nameless IDF sniper. A further 22 children were also shot that day.

Palestinian children have been killed since 1948 in Israel.

What kind of a monstrous country is this place they call Israel? And why is it untouchable? Why are its crimes tolerated? Why can no one stop this cruel barbarity? Is killing Palestinian children not a big deal in this world? Whatever happened to the UN, the ICC, even the ICJ? What justifies their salaries, their existence as organized bodies when they have zero power to stop a little girl or boy being shot? How do these people justify what they do?

Israel, along with the entire Western political class, are now the real terrorists, who will kill without any qualms, who sleep very well at night, because they know that no one will stop them.

But we must also not despair, for that is defeat. We can start by not voting for war-pigs, no matter what party they belong to. Stop enabling these cowardly politicians who will do anything to line their pockets, especially start wars and kill innocents, because for them war is the really big business.

We must learn to emerge from the enchantment that party-politics and party-rivalry puts us all in. Stop being loyal to a party name. It is all a ruse to keep us common folk divided, while those we empower look after all their own “special interests.” Find your own way to defeat this political diabolism that has killed off so much of humanity and continues to do so, because we blindly keep voting.

Here is a report of the endless slaughter of children in Israel by their army of criminals. Next time you hear politicians trying to appeal to some “morality” of theirs, just shove this report in their face. They all have the blood of children on their hands. Stop empowering them, and all their ilk.


C.B. Forde writes from rural Canada.


How Donald Trump brought Misery to the Palestinians

Robert Inlakesh is a well-known documentary filmmaker, journalist and Middle East expert, who knows Palestine well, especially the endless crimes Israel is committing there.

In 2020, he filmed, Steal of the Century, a two-part documentary, which chronicled the devasting effects of Donald Trump’s Abraham Accords, a supposed “peace deal,” aka, “the deal of the century,” in which Israel was given everything it needed to destroy more. The supposed author of the deal, Jared Kushner, simply put down everything that Benjamin Netanyahu dictated.

For various reasons, the documentary was banned from Youtube. Given the current, systematic genocide of the Palestinian people by Israel, we thought that it important to allow for this documentary to be seen in its entirety.

Please consider supporting the work of Robert Inlakesh.

Steal of the Century (2020), Part 1.

Steal of the Century (2020), Part 2.

And, here is a backup copy of Parts 1 and 2, just in case:


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.