In a previous column, I discussed Stephen Miller’s Machiavellian success at weaponizing U.S. State Department policies and procedures to block the immigration of non-white immigrants from Central and South America and Muslim majority countries. Miller, who has had more experience in Washington, DC politicking than Kushner, was the mastermind of this summer’s horror show of forcefully separating families at the U.S. border and warehousing infants and children in appalling conditions. Miller garnered more media attention than he bargained for while doing his part for White supremacy: his uncle penned a damning Op Ed that quickly went viral, letting the world know that Miller’s views were an inexplicable anathema to his wider family of highly successful, progressive professionals who have long supported the Democratic party.
Jared Kushner also comes from a family of Democratic party funders. Unlike Miller, however, Kushner’s family cannot be described as upstanding. His father, real estate developer Charles Kushner, served a two-year sentence in federal prison for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering. Although Kushner pere et fils have law degrees, they seem to view themselves as being above the law. Jared Kushner lied on his paperwork for a security clearance and also skirted the truth about his meetings with Russian officials during the transition period between the Obama and Trump Administrations. Recently, the family real estate business was fined a quarter of a million U.S. dollars for filing documents with the City of New York falsely claiming that none of the tenants in their properties received rent regulation benefits. In addition, the city’s Buildings Department also fined Jared Kushner for filing dozens of false applications for construction work in the years before he became a Trump Administration official.
As Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Kushner wields a degree of power all out of proportion to his limited skills and experiences. In addition to the Middle East Peace portfolio, he is also in charge of managing the country’s opioid addiction crisis, advancing technological innovations, overseeing criminal justice reform, acting as the Trump Administration’s official liaison with China and Mexico, as well as liaising with America’s Muslim community. This is a very ambitious and daunting to-do list for a guy who got into Harvard only because his father made a huge donation to the university. Kushner does not have the knowledge, maturity, skills, or training to undertake any of his portfolios, but that does not worry him. Back in 2006, he got into the media business by purchasing the New York Observer, a weekly New York City paper, for $10 million. Having no background in journalism at all, it was inevitable that Kushner’s ideas would exasperate the paper’s long-time editor-in-chief, Peter W. Kaplan, who succinctly observed that “Kushner doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know.”
While most of Kushner’s portfolios can be characterized as “window dressing,” the Middle East Peace portfolio is a very serious matter; it gives Kushner the power of life or death over millions of Palestinian refugees whose lives and concerns mean nothing at all to him or Donald Trump. As the administration’s point person for Middle East Peace, Kushner oversees cruelty beyond America’s borders. Outrage at Kushner’s wicked policies, however, will not be forthcoming in the U.S. because it will not garner the kind of mainstream media attention that Miller’s malice toward Central American immigrant families did throughout the summer. The vast majority of Americans have minimal understanding of the historical, political, and legal realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thanks to the institutionalization of biased mainstream news reporting and the guaranteed punishment of any journalist, editor, politician, policymaker, or scholar who endeavors to inform Americans fully about the background, contexts, and implications of U.S. Middle East policies over the last 70 years. Even well-educated Americans cannot be expected to know that, as the first and largest of what would be many refugee crises in the post-World War II era, Palestinians are exceptional in having special UN resolutions and agencies created just for them. The establishment of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in 1949 is a case in point. UNRWA effectively placed Palestinians outside the legal classifications of, and responses to, humanitarian crises resulting in mass displacements. Hence, the Trump Administration’s attempts to smear UNRWA as ineffective, corrupt, outdated, and politically dangerous won’t receive critical, informed questioning or effective protests.
Kushner’s push to remove all U.S. funding for UNRWA will deprive millions of Palestinian refugees of health care, working infrastructure, education, and food; it is an act of malice that will exacerbate already horrible humanitarian conditions in Gaza and Syria, in particular, while inevitably placing new and distressing pressures on refugee host governments in Jordan and Lebanon. There are no benefits to U.S. national interests in seeking to defund and dismantle UNRWA. Even a child should be able to grasp this, but most Americans do not. Kushner is not undertaking U.S. policy in attacking UNRWA, instead, he is helping the Israeli extreme right and their American supporters to achieve a long-held goal: making Palestinian refugees disappear, one way or another. This is not a rational foreign policy; it is genocide on the installment plan.