Let’s be clear: Trump has no intention of actually addressing the refugee situation
, and Israel has no intention of treating any Palestinian justly. The criticism of UNRWA is simply a ruse for once again sticking it to the Palestinians. Why? Because Trump, like the rest of America’s ruling elite, favors Israel for geopolitical, domestic political, and cultural and ethnic reasons having nothing to do with justice, and he’s miffed that the Palestinians have rejected his “deal of the century,” which proposes to bribe them with Saudi economic aid to drop their grievances against Israel and abandon their longing for independence from the self-styled Jewish State. (See my “The Trump-Kushner Delusion on Palestine.”)
Trump’s die-hard supporters like to say his extreme measures and tweets are merely opening moves in his art of deal-making. So let’s go with that: he’s holding five million desperate people hostage in order to convince the corrupt Palestinian Authority to take his deal. That’s reassuring.
The “peace process” is and long has been a sham, and the United States has never been an “honest broker.” An authentic and promising peace-through-justice process would begin, quite literally, with an Israeli apology to all the victims who once lived in Palestine. Then all concerned may go about the business of establishing the terms for coexistence.
To bring this back to Trump (and Netanyahu, among others, I venture to say) and to end on a philosophical note, lately I have been reading Benedict Spinoza and some of his modern commentators. The 17th-century Portuguese-Dutch radical liberal rationalist wrote in the Ethics that persons for whom reason is not fully in the driver’s seat are to some extent passively driven by feelings and are therefore slaves rather than masters: “Human infirmity in moderating and checking the emotions I name bondage: for, when a man is prey to his emotions, he is not his own master, but lies at the mercy of fortune.” (Douglas Den Uyl [see reference below] points out that this statement does not fully capture Spinoza’s position because in his view, to the extent a person is guided by reason, he has no self-sabotaging emotions that need checking; rather, his emotions propel him in a virtuously rewarding direction. Perfection, of course, is never achieved, but only striven for.)
Reason and understanding thus constitute a person’s path to freedom: We shall readily see the difference between the man who is guided only by emotion or belief and the man who is guided by reason. The former, whether he will or not, performs actions of which he is completely ignorant. The latter does no one’s will but his own, and does only what he knows to be of greatest importance in life, which he therefore desires above all. So I call the former a slave and the latter a free man….
Spinoza further observed of the rational person, “His prime endeavor is to conceive things as they are in themselves and to remove obstacles to true knowledge [and hence to freedom, virtue, and “blessedness”], such as hatred, anger, envy, derision, pride, and similar emotions….”
Also, “Therefore he who aims solely from love of freedom to control his emotions and appetites will strive his best to familiarize himself with virtues and their causes and to fill his mind with the joy that arises from the true knowledge of them, while refraining from dwelling on men’s faults and abusing mankind and deriving pleasure from a false show of freedom.”
Completely ignorant … hatred … anger … envy … derision … pride … dwelling on men’s faults … abusing mankind … deriving pleasure from a false show of freedom. Remind you of anyone?
Douglas Den Uyl, in his God, Man, & Well-Being: Spinoza’s Modern Humanism, writes, “The spiteful, the envious, the small-minded, and the jealous are particularly grievous under Spinoza’s philosophy. These negative emotions or patterns of conduct retard both the individual as well as the society around her.”
Have we a better description of Donald Trump? Indeed, the man who occupies the White House is the personification of Spinoza’s passive, weak, and hence self-enslaved man. Modified from S. Richman