Opinion

Boycott Mike Pence and His Fellow Israeli Apartheid Enthusiasts

It's now obvious that the sole concern of Trump's three right-wing Mideast musketeers, and his Christian Zionist vice president, is to accommodate Israel and its anti-peace, pro-occupation policies

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence watches as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before signing a proclamation to honor Martin Luther King Jr. in the White House in Washington, U.S. January 12, 2018
\ JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS

When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced his visit to the Middle East a few months ago, it was intended to boost two main ideas: advancing the peace process and supporting Christians in the Middle East.

But now he's here, his agenda doesn’t include either Palestinians or Christian leaders. This is a direct consequence of the anti-peace policies pushed by the Trump administration. As Mr. Pence will be visiting the Knesset, the Joint List, representing the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, has announced its boycott of his visit. So should anyone who believes in a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Despite the fact that the Palestinian leadership had decided to give a chance to President Donald Trump, the vast majority in our region were skeptical. That skepticism began with the formation of Trump’s team of Mideast advisers, which included three committed right-wing officials whose positions, in some cases, would mean redefining even Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman as "moderate" politicians.

Men walk past welcoming billboards in Jerusalem ahead of the visit of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to Israel. January 21, 2018
MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

And as dozens of meetings took place between Palestinian and American officials, it became clear that the U.S. would never address issues of substance.

For this team of right-wing Bibi supporters it has all been about accommodating the vision of the occupiers to negate Palestinian rights. That view of what an 'ultimate deal" could be might be good for negotiation between Likud and the Yisrael Beiteinu parties of the right, but it's useless in terms of achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Trump team has consistently omitted any talk about the political rights of the Palestinian people, any condemnation of Israeli settlements, or any of the systematic Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.

On the contrary, the Trump administration, with its three right-wing musketeers, and particularly with Mr. Pence, as a Christian Zionist himself, decided to attempt to "take off" the negotiating table several key issues in order to accommodate the Israeli position.

First of all, it was Jerusalem: President Trump himself said that it was an attempt to take off Jerusalem from the negotiating table. It has been followed by UNRWA, with U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley leading an ugly campaign against the rights of millions of Palestinian civilians served by this UN organization. The goal here is also clear: To take the refugee issue, too, out of the negotiations. Then it will be the further annexation of other Israeli settlements.

What could be the next step? Requesting a declaration that Palestinians consent to living under an apartheid regime - and not to forget to say thank you?

It is just a matter of looking at social media. Mr. Greenblatt and Mr. Friedman have made public comments about every Israeli casualty, while ignoring Palestinians killed, injured and arrested by Israel, including children. They also ignore, and even have justified, Israeli settlement expansion. They are partners with the Israeli government and have encouraged the systematic denial of Palestinian rights.

For over 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, the situation hasn’t been much better. The appointment of Mr. Friedman as U.S. ambassador has sent a direct message to our community: The U.S. only cares about Israeli-Jewish citizens. It is clear that he supports the current situation whereby his daughter can serve in the Israeli army and fulfill her "Zionist dream" while over 50 laws in the Israeli Knesset continue to discriminate against the non-Jewish citizens of the state.

Trump and his team have contributed to the further destabilization of the Middle East. They have disqualified the U.S. from playing any constructive role when they have made clear that they don’t see Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, as equals to Israeli Jewish citizens.

US Vice President Mike Pence waves after leaving Air Force Two upon his arrival in the Jordanian capital Amman, late on January 20, 2018
KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP

Today, as the U.S. is more isolated than ever, Washington continues to reward extremists as well as encouraging bigotry, apartheid and every value that contradicts dignity, equality, justice and freedom for all.

As Mr. Pence visits PM Netanyahu, his friend, let him have his dream apartheid party. Let him encourage those who want to turn a political conflict into a religious war.

We, though, resist that 'vision'. We are inspired by the hundreds of thousands of people, mainly women, who have been taking over the streets of America against Trump and his racist policies. One and a half million Palestinian citizens of Israel reject the steps taken by Mr. Trump. And as such we are boycotting his vice president's visit.

Instead, we will continue working for a just and lasting peace that ends the occupation and allows for Israelis, Palestinians and the rest of the region to live in peace and security.

Dr. Ahmad Tibi is the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. He represents the Joint List