The (ahem) Deal of the Century

Let me be very clear. For Palestinians the so-called Deal of the Century is a complete non-starter. To begin with, at least five of the key demands it puts forth are ludicrous from Palestine’s standpoint. Netanyahu knows that. Jared Kushner knows that. Who knows what Donald John Trump knows? The point is, Israel’s leaders and the White House are counting on our elected representatives in D.C. mindlessly repeating the mantra “Israel is our best friend in the Middle East” and that they will continue to scrupulously avoid even marginal support for Palestine because that would be political suicide.

Last month I visited, with nine other patriots, the US Embassy in Jerusalem. We sat at a 22 feet long by 8 feet wide board-room type table. The ten of us were lined up on one side. Our four embassy hosts sat 8 feet away from us on the opposite side of the table.

I cannot ignore the stark contrast between this encounter and what I experienced in 1997 in a similarly configured room in Managua, Nicaragua. Back then a group of seminary classmates and I were being hosted by Daniel Ortega in his Presidential enclave. Here’s the very big difference … in Managua President Ortega asked us all to gather closely in around him at one end of a large table similar in size to the one where we met with the Embassy staffers in Jerusalem. Here we were, in 1997, having a warm, comfortable, and nourishing conversation with a sworn enemy of the United States of America! And I will never ever forget him saying to us, a group of theology students: “I didn’t see Jesus in the Cathedral. (His uncle was then the Archbishop of Nicaragua) I see Jesus in the streets, with the people.”

Fast forward to 2020, just weeks ago in our Embassy compound located in West Jerusalem, on the Israeli side of the Green Line, in the fortified stronghold of our so-called “best friend in the  Middle East.” Interesting don’t you think? In Managua we were comfortably cocooned with a very welcoming Daniel Ortega, in the cool and fragrant meeting room of our sworn enemy. In stark contrast, in Jerusalem it was cold both in temperature and temperament on a dark day in what is today a decidedly not holy land.  

One of our hosts, a nervous and narrow-eyed apologist for Trump’s “Deal of the Century” was doing most of the talking. Close at his right shoulder was another embassy staffer whose obvious role was to nod with the best look of gravitas she could muster, at each of the weakest points being made by her compatriot. The other two embassy staff were, for the most part, avoiding a nervous twitching at the most ridiculous comments made by the aforementioned central figure, presumably their boss.

Oh how I wish I could relay to you some of the more inane responses this guy gave for our questions. But I cannot, simply because, as the leader of the meeting he made it very clear that anything and everything that happened during our time there was strictly “off the record.” What an interesting phrase don’t you think? Sure it blocks me from relating any detail of my time there but that merely delays the inevitable. Fact is, as Jeremy Ben Ami says: “The Occupation of Palestine by Israel is simply not sustainable.”

After the meeting I said to one of the embassy staffers as we walked out together: “I dream of a world where people will risk losing their job in order to do the right thing and tell the truth.” She just looked at me blankly, the willfully ignorant deer-in-the-headlights stare. But I’ve been on this planet long enough to know the only hope caring humans have for living to a ripe old age is to remember Bishop Tutu’s: “When we look squarely at injustice and get involved, we actually feel less pain, not more, because we overcome the gnawing guilt and despair that festers under our numbness.  We clean the wound – our own and others – and it can finally heal.”

That’s true you know. Even if you have no more than a smattering of empathic leanings, your only hope of living to a healthy and happy age 100 is to stop screening out America’s role in perpetuating some of history’s most egregious human rights failures, this one for sure. We humans are pretty good at rationalizing.  We play a sick game called “taking the higher middle ground.” We try to ignore and sweep under the rug any tendency to fight injustice. One of my mentors many years ago taught me that living a lie is fatal folly. He said it clearly and without reservation, “That kills you.”

In previous years I’ve said on this blog that one of my biggest fears is that I might introduce the wrong person to the depth of abuses and atrocities we Americans are responsible for in Israel and Palestine. Most of us are terribly overburdened at learning the truth. In that regard I am deeply concerned for the Embassy staff who hosted us, two of them at least. Most of us have to physically experience it to understand how it is that the survivors of the holocaust, those who suffered horrible atrocities, have now become the abusers. Go back to the textbook from your Psych 101 course. It explains in painful detail, how this happens. 

Now this. I need you to know I ache for any American who experiences the depths of the hell that is now Palestine. Anyone who sees it for the first time now has to return home as strangers in a strange land, surrounded by family, friends, and associates that only have a vague idea of what’s really going on over there. But they’ve now seen first hand the reality that nothing is going to change regarding the ugly Occupation of Palestine by Israel until and unless our elected officials stand up and say enough is enough. Any one exposed to a week or 10 days viscerally living the evil truths has to now travel a veritable mine-field of learning how to relay what they now know.

I look forward to any questions, comments, or concerns you may have.


  1. Jean Vercouteren says

    I think far too many people do not want to know what is happening. They (we) are nervous about the election year shenanigans and now the coronavirus threat. How do you spark interest in more horrible events happening “over there”?

    • John Hickox says

      Thank you for this Jean. It’s the question that few are willing to ask. But I think it’s implied in all the variations of “why don’t you spend as much energy on things that personally affect us John?!”

      I get it. Yes, right now we’re dealing with, for example, Covid-19. So true, so true.

      However, the painfully hard reality is this. While we certainly need to deal with the pandemic threat in front of us, here’s the thing. We’re not responsible for the corona virus. Apparently that was someone who didn’t take the proper precautions when working with bats, in China. Very sadly though, we ARE responsible for the Occupation of Palestine by Israel. Your and my federal income taxes paid for it. And they continue to fund it. The instant the United States stops sending $6 billion a year to Israel to do with as they will, the wall stops being built, the settlements stop growing. And when those two things happen, in time the wall will come down and the settlements will be abandoned. And when that happens, the Apartheid Occupation ends.

      One more extremely important thing … AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful lobby in America today, began its work in 1963. Over the years many other interests watched while the influence of big money in D.C. grew and grew. Think Wall Street, the War Industry, the banking and insurance industry, the fossil fuel industry, these and others culminated in Citizens United. all of them had their genesis in AIPAC. Need I say more?

      PS: Well, I will say more. I hereby promise to deal with what is probably the most important election in our history in my next blog post. Started working on it yesterday.

  2. Richard A Manhire says

    Don’t count on Trump or Jared Kushner to step up and say “Enough is Enough.” As someone said, what with the Covid-19 epidemic, a very concerned economy, coupled with everyday political tensions which will get more intense as we march on to the November elections, I suspect most Americans will retreat into their own dilemmas and have not much time to contemplate, let alone, interact with Palestine’s pressing problems. I’m sorry to say that but the truth is that without top leadership from our government don’t expect changes to come about. If changes do come for the Palestinians, they will come slowly and may be far less than the situation warrants.

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