A day before the car-ramming attack in Charlottesville, Virginia -- which left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and 19 others wounded -- the White House announced that it would be dispatching President Donald Trump's son-in-law and special adviser, Jared Kushner, Special Adviser on International Affairs Jason Greenblatt, and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell to the Middle East for the second time since June.
The stated purpose of their trip, the scheduled date of which has yet to be disclosed, is to revive the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Justifiably, the Trump administration's declaration that it would resume efforts to broker negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah was drowned out by the events in Charlottesville.
The act of domestic terrorism, committed by 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio, mimicked a choice method employed by Palestinian organizations Hamas and Fatah in Israel, and ISIS in Europe. The car-ramming so horrified the American public that it instantly became the key issue of the day, with candlelight vigils and memorials held across the country -- indicating mass consensus that such abhorrent behavior is anathema to American values and will not be tolerated.
James Alex Fields rams his car into a crowd of "antifa" marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12. (Image source: Al Jazeera video screenshot)
The otherwise universal condemnation of the Charlottesville clashes between the "Alt-Right" and extreme "Antifa" (short for anti-Fascist) movements -- sparked by the city's decision to remove a statue of Civil War Confederate General Robert. E. Lee from Emancipation Park -- has, however, been clouded in two points of controversy.
One involves the fact that, while dubbed "Unite the Right," the protest was actually a gathering of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other racists, xenophobes and anti-Semites -- most, it turned out, imported from out-of-state.
Although the sight of their angry faces and banners was reminiscent of the Old South, it was being attributed to the current climate, ostensibly created by the Republican Party, conservatives in general, and Trump in particular.
The other controversy surrounds the wording of Trump's denunciation of the "many sides" of the violence.
Conservatives promptly dissociated themselves from the Charlottesville bullies, but simultaneously took Trump to task for not exhibiting the same moral outrage towards the white supremacists that he expresses against "radical Islamic terrorism."
On the Left, columnists went even further, blaming not only Trump but the United States itself for the climate that led to the events in Virginia.
In Politico, for example, Joshua Zeitz argued that "What Happened in Charlottesville Is All Too American."
To put things in perspective, however, conservative (and Jewish) political commentator Ben Shapiro -- whose own criticism of Trump has turned him into a target of anti-Semitic vilification on the web -- explained that the "Alt-Right" is neither "conservative" nor particularly widespread in America, in spite of its trying to create the impression that it is growing exponentially.
"They fill up comments sections at sites like Breitbart, and they email spam, and they prank call people, and they live on 4chan boards, but the vast majority of alt-right anti-Semitic tweets came from just 1,600 accounts," Shapiro wrote, citing Anti-Defamation League (ADL) statistics.
In a separate report, the ADL listed examples of events held by white supremacists to mobilize and spread a culture of hatred, yet referred to them as a "fringe movement."
This is not simply due to their relatively infinitesimal numbers in the United States, but to American culture as a whole, which is overwhelmingly liberal.
Well before college, children in the U.S. are treated to heavy doses of progressive ideas in their schools and on television. It is not racism and xenophobia with which they have been bombarded, particularly in the last decade, but rather with "identity politics." American kids are taught to respect people of different ethnic backgrounds, religious affinities, gender identities and sexual preferences -- as long as those meet "victimhood" criteria.
They are told that "white privilege" is an evil to be eradicated. In this context, "white" is a misnomer, of course, because Jews and Asians who excel in school are included in the derogatory category. Still, the principle is understood, and it both emanates from and is disseminated by left-wing groups.
It therefore beggars belief that the most vocal supporters of the Palestinian Authority -- an entity whose leadership purposely fosters a culture of hatred, racism, gender-abuse and anti-Semitism – hail from those same groups.
On August 13, a day after the Charlottesville travesty, convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh was honored in Chicago. Odeh, who in 1969 placed a bomb in a Jerusalem supermarket, killing two innocent people and wounding nine, and days later carried out an attack on the British Consulate, was released from Israeli prison as part of a prisoner swap in 1980. In March 2017, she was convicted in the United States of immigration fraud, for lying about her past to U.S. authorities. A plea deal, however, is enabling her to travel to Jordan, without serving any time behind bars.
She is also celebrated in the Palestinian Authority, an entity whose leadership fosters a culture of hate against Jews, Christians and the West in general. As has been extensively documented by Palestinian Media Watch, PA schools and summer camps educate children to believe not only that that murdering on behalf of the "liberation of Palestine" -- and in the name of Allah -- is honorable, but worthy of glorification. PA imams preach jihad. PA sports arenas and tournaments are named after "martyred" terrorists, all of whose families receive a monthly salary of more than $3,000 per month for life, courtesy of the American taxpayer -- a beneficence that led this month to the Taylor Force Act, approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to stop incentivizing PA murder by stopping the payments for it.
Although Hamas, the terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip, is shunned by U.S. negotiators, Fatah, the party headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, is considered a potential partner for peace with Israel.
Official Fatah social media pages, however, openly laud and encourage "lone wolves" to arm themselves with knives and vehicles with which to slaughter Israelis whenever and wherever possible.
Trump has expressed "confidence" that a deal can be reached, and is sending his team to the region again for yet another try at bringing both sides of the conflict to the table.
Kushner, however, told a group of congressional interns that "there may be no solution" to the conflict. Short of wiping Israel off the map, which the PA does in every cartographic depiction of the "state of Palestine," there certainly will be no solution in the foreseeable future.
Nevertheless, many Americans continue to repeat what Abbas regularly feeds the international community: that the "Israeli occupation" is at the root of Palestinian terrorism. For internal consumption, however, Abbas has made it clear, in word and deed, that Israel's very establishment in 1948 is what all Arabs should consider the real "catastrophe." This is why he laughably announced that he would sue the UK for the Balfour Declaration, a letter sent 100 years ago to the head of the Jewish community in Britain expressing support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
The majority of the Arab citizens of the Jewish state, who make up one-fifth of its population, not only know that Abbas totally distorts history to keep a stranglehold on his people and maintain status at the United Nations, but enjoy full rights as equal members of Israeli society. They have political parties and seats in the Knesset, hold seats on the Supreme Court, and are among the country's prominent academics, doctors, lawyers and other professionals. Israel is a liberal democracy, after all.
In America, two liberal organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Rutherford Institute, defended the "constitutional and civil right" of the neo-Nazis and white supremacists to hold their rally in Charlottesville. When the free speech turned into illegal riots, however, the ACLU of Virginia stated:
"What happened... had nothing to do with free speech. It devolved into conduct against individuals motivated by hate that was initially thuggish, and ultimately, deliberately murderous. There will be a time to investigate, assign responsibility, and seek accountability, and we will be a voice in that process. For now, we decry white nationalism, reject hatred, and weep."
Abbas and his henchmen in the PA, in contrast, do not allow freedom of expression. They do not "weep" over the "thuggish" and "deliberately murderous" conduct of their populace; instead, they champion and fund it. A Palestinian who uses his car as a deadly weapon is viewed by his peers and rulers as a hero. Physical violence is officially sanctioned and rewarded. An American who commits violence is demonized by everyone other than a handful of hard-core bigots.
Still, many in the U.S. consider America to be a racist country and the Palestinians worthy of stalwart support. This is the true meaning of what George Orwell called "doublethink" -- the "power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them."
On the eve of team Trump's imminent visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, let us hope that Washington is not becoming similarly afflicted.
Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"