On December 6th President Trump announced, to much global ire, that he would be moving the United States embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
A comical side-note: Trump makes a dramatic and superficial announcement which raises global opposition at the same time as his Muslim ban is solidified in the Supreme Court, and his tax cuts are working through Congress.
Oh Trump, you sneaky guy.
The reason for the much of the uproar around the move is its symbolism. Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital, a position rejected by the international community, including the UN Security Council. In venturing to move the US embassy to the disputed city, Trump seems to be making a symbolic statement on peace in the Middle East, positioning the United States not as impartial observers, or mediators, but as actors in the conflict.
Of course, those paying attention do not need any more symbolism to understand the relationship between the US and Israel. For decades, the US has provided Israel with a sort of global reverse-veto, an impregnable pardon for their countless violations of human rights and international laws, for their seemingly never-ending crimes against humanity.
Trump supporters are presenting the announcement as an example of a ‘straight talking’ President doing what he said he would. They are pointing to the fact that each of the past three Presidents failed to move the embassy to Jerusalem after promising they would.
But for me, it is not as much about Trump doing what he said, as Trump saying what he does.
Like I said, for those paying attention, more symbolism surrounding Israel is functionally irrelevant. But who has time to pay attention to everything these days?
For Americans with a more surface level knowledge of Israel, one formulated through mainstream media, perhaps symbolism is required to move towards understanding the atrocities their government, by extension, is committing.
The Trump administration has proclaimed that moving the embassy will have a positive impact on peace talks in the region. Ignore for a moment that this is pure fantasy. Instead, focus on historical context.
South African apartheid was also presented for decades as an uncrackable nut. As essentially the entire world gradually condemned then openly opposed the South African government, the United States remained unequivocally behind apartheid. For South Africa, it was: If America says it’s ok, then it’s ok.
Only once this impregnable support was removed did apartheid quickly collapse.
With Israel, every American President speaks of a mysterious ‘peace process’ without ever suggesting the US revoke Israel’s ‘get out of jail free’ card. The US is the only country on earth with the power to provide a nation with this type of pardon and, as they did for many years with South Africa, every modern President has provided it to Israel, no matter how terrible their actions.
This is what is unusual about Trump. He is not merely doing it. By moving the embassy to Jerusalem, he is saying he is doing it while he does.
Similarly, as Trump ruminates on his Muslim ban, his border wall, his treatment of Dreamers, he is belligerently disclosing how the US approaches immigration. Remember that it was President Obama who deported millions of “undocumented” immigrants, more than any President in history, and turned away refugees fleeing the ravages of war and persecution to “send a message.”
Or, as Trump moves forward with his tax cuts so flamboyantly beneficial to the 1 percent, he loudly articulates how the American system of quasi-fascist hyper-capitalism works. Every President for the past 35 years at least, over 10 administrations, has cut taxes and regulation on the 1 percent.
What about Roy Moore? In continuing to support a documented racist and pedophile in the Alabama Senate race, the Trump administration merely exposes a system which, thanks to gerrymandering, voter disenfranchisement, and a host of other reasons, is plenty racist and patriarchal with or without the cartoon character that is Roy Moore.
Here is my point: Contrary to what his supporters would tell you, coming through on a promise once in a while does not make Trump unique as a President.
Yea, he occasionally does what he says. I mean … he says a lot of sh*t.
More importantly though, he says what he does, and in that Trump is unique.