The Palestinians do not like US President Donald Trump's envoys to the Middle East. Why? The answer -- which they make blindingly clear -- is because they are Jews.
In the Palestinian perspective, all three envoys -- Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, cannot be honest brokers or represent US interests because, as Jews, their loyalty to Israel surpasses, in the Palestinian view, their loyalty to the United States.
Sound like anti-Semitism? Yes, it does, and such assumptions provide further evidence of Palestinian prejudices and misconceptions. The Palestinians take for granted that any Jew serving in the US administration or other governments around the world should be treated with suspicion and mistrust.
Moreover, the Palestinians do not hesitate to broadcast this view.
Take for example, the recent Palestinian uproar over statements made by Friedman in an interview with the Israeli daily Jerusalem Post.
One phrase that Friedman said during the interview has drawn strong condemnations from the Palestinians and some other Arabs. According to the Jerusalem Post: "The Left, he explained, is portrayed as believing that only if the 'alleged occupation' ended would Israel become a better society."
Specifically, it was the use of the term "alleged occupation" that prompted the Palestinians to launch a smear campaign against Friedman -- one that includes references to his being a Jew as well as a to his being a supporter of Israel. This, as far as the Palestinians are concerned, is enough to disqualify him from serving as US Ambassador to Israel or playing any role whatsoever as an honest and fair mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
One political analyst with close ties to the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership in Ramallah called for removing Friedman from his job altogether.
Commenting on the interview with the US ambassador, Palestinian political analyst Omar Hilmi Al-Ghoul wrote: "David Friedman is known to the Palestinian people and leadership as an ugly Zionist colonial who arouses revulsion." Al-Ghoul called on President Trump to recall his ambassador to Israel and to instruct the State Department to start searching for a replacement. He said that the Palestinians are "have the right" to demand the removal of any ambassador or envoy who "trespasses diplomatic protocols."
The political analyst's opinion reflects the view of many senior officials of the Palestinian Authority. These officials, however, are either reluctant to air their views in public, out of fear that disclosing them would create a crisis with the US administration and end the money that the US pumps into the PA. In private, several Palestinian officials in Ramallah have been expressing concern and anger with President Trump's choice of Jews as his top advisors and envoys on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This time, the Palestinian Authority was not able to restrain voicing its outrage with the US ambassador's use of the phrase "alleged occupation." Departing from the official PA policy not to launch personal attacks on President Trump and his representatives, the PA Foreign Affairs Ministry blasted the US for "whitewashing the occupation and covering up [Israeli] violations and crimes against the Palestinians."
The ministry also denounced Friedman for attending a wedding in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank last May, and for participating in Israeli celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.
Israeli citizenship also appears to be a red line for the Palestinians. They earlier had also lashed out at Friedman after reports that his daughter had obtained that citizenship. For them, this was further evidence of the US ambassador's "bias" in favor of Israel, thanks to his Jewish identity.
Arab news websites and social media have also heaped scorn on Friedman for his pro-Israel position and for being a Jew. Here, for example, Friedman is dubbed a real estate broker because of his support for Jewish settlements and as someone who has influence on President Trump.
Conspiracy theory, anyone? These comments, which are common among Palestinians and Arabs, are reminiscent of the conspiracy theory that Jews control the US and the world. Friedman is depicted as a Jew who affects President Trump's decisions. In other words, according to the Palestinians and Arabs, US policies are determined on the basis of what some influential Jews whisper into the ears of the US president rather than on US or international interests.
Similar charges have been made against previous US administrations, both Republicans and Democrats. Henry Kissinger, Dennis Ross, and Martin Indyk are only a few of the Jews over the last few decades who have been accused by Palestinians and Arabs of having played a major role in the US decision-making process.
The Jews are often referred to as being part of the Zionist lobby and a pressure group in the US that works to influence Washington's policy to ensure that it is pro-Israel.
There is, of course, never any mention of the powerful Arab oil lobby.
When President Trump's envoys, Kushner and Greenblatt, visited Ramallah late last month, Palestinians staged a protest in the city against US "bias" in favor of Israel. One of the protesters held a poster featuring Kushner tied to a leash by a blond woman (apparently his wife, Ivanka) who is dressed in an Israeli flag. Translation: Kushner is a puppet in the hands of the "Jewish Lobby." Another poster carried by the protesters displayed a photo of President Trump with a Palestinian boy throwing a pair of shoes at his head. The caption: "Dirty Trump, our prisoners and martyrs are not terrorists."
When President Trump's envoys visited Ramallah last month, Palestinians staged a protest against US "bias" in favor of Israel. Pictured: A poster at the protest, featuring Jared Kushner tied to a leash by a blond woman (apparently his wife, Ivanka) who is dressed in an Israeli flag. (Image source: Wattan video screenshot)
The protest in Ramallah, which was organized by the National and Islamic Forces, an alliance of grassroots activists representing various Palestinian factions, including President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction, could not have taken place without a green light from the Palestinian Authority leadership.
Abbas is not particularly known as an advocate of free speech; anyone who dares to criticize him finds himself behind bars. Just last week, Abbas ordered the arrest of two Palestinians, a journalist and an activist, who dared to criticize him in public. Anyone who wants to hold a protest in Ramallah needs the prior permission of Abbas and his lieutenants, regardless of the subject of the protest.
Abbas's security officers were not blind to the anti-Semitic poster raised by the protesters against Kushner. In fact, Palestinian intelligence officers deployed at the scene were the best witnesses to this display of hatred against a US representative because of his religion. Such protests, however, are fine with the PA leadership so long as they are not directed against Abbas or any of his senior aides.
Each and every time Kushner and Greenblatt meet with Palestinian officials, someone in Ramallah reminds us that are Jews and that they thus cannot possibly perform as honest brokers.
Here is what Faisal Abu Khadra, another Palestinian political analyst, had to say in the semi-official Palestinian daily Al-Quds:
"The ability of Trump and his administration to exert pressure on Israel is currently limited. Trump is surrounded by a group of extremist Zionists. Even in his family, Trump has extremist Jews, which questions his ability to put pressure on Israel. It's hard to see how Kushner and Greenblatt would be able to achieve a breakthrough toward peace."
Among other accusations the Palestinians have lodged against Kushner and Greenblatt is the claim that when the envoys come to meet with Palestinian leaders, they parrot the positions of the Israeli government, and not the US. According to the Palestinians, the two US envoys seem fully to have endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's positions instead of representing the interests of the US. Why? Because they are Jews, and as such, their loyalty is to Israel before the US.
Perhaps this view is a projection of what many Muslims would do if the circumstances were reversed.
Palestinians and other Arabs therefore see and judge President Trump's emissaries according to their religion, not their positions as authentic representatives of their own country, the US.
What we are actually witnessing is the never-ending search for excuses on the part of the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, not to engage in peace talks with Israel.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.