How to get a Nobel prize nomination: cosy up to Russian oligarchs and normalise Israel
This year’s nomination was presented by Lee Zeldin, one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress. He also nominated Kushner’s deputy, 33-year-old Avi Berkowitz.
Kushner said he was “humbled” to be up for the prize, claiming that the Abraham Accords are deepening and as a result, prosperity is increasing in the Middle East.
Each year, hundreds of individuals are nominated for the prize, with parliamentarians and influential figures putting forward their favourite candidates. The nomination mechanism, as such, is believed to have been plagued with “intergroup biases”. In Kushner’s case, there seems to be the added controversy of rooted prejudices, staunch ideology, and questionable personal relationships between the nominators and the nominees.
''Kushner’s approach to bringing peace in the Middle East is primarily hinged on the notion of further dispossession of Palestinians, which aligns perfectly with their ideological world-views.''
Consider that Congressman Zeldin has been one of Trump’s strong supporters and had repeatedly expressed racist views against Arabs and Muslims. Now running to be the next governor of New York, Zeldin may bank on the fact that whilst the age of success for riding the Trump wave is over, his legacy, Jared Kushner, can live on.
Last year the nomination came from zealous Trump supporter, Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz’s ties with far-right organisations are well established, and like Zeldin, he has previously sympathised with notorious white supremacist and former Trump advisor, Stephen Bannon. And, of course, there is his known support of Israel.
It is unsurprising then that the two nominators hailed Kushner’s "peace efforts” and went as far as putting him forward for the Nobel Peace Prize. After all, Kushner’s approach to bringing peace in the Middle East is primarily hinged on the notion of further dispossession of Palestinians, which aligns perfectly with their ideological world-views.
In his ultimate hubris, Kushner imagined that he could waltz into Middle Eastern politics despite knowing significantly less than veteran US diplomats. Unsurprisingly, the 25 books he read on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and which he cited as a source for his 181-page peace proposal, yielded very little results.
Having failed to bend the Palestinians to his will, and therefore Israel’s, Kushner set out to orchestrate the normalisation deals with several Arab countries to maximise Israel’s regional posture.
In reality, however, this has always been the goal of US administration. The so-called “new Middle East” which was envisioned by the Bush administration entailed the substantiation of Israeli supremacy as a geo-strategic tool to obstruct the emergence of other influential regional powers.
What Kushner did differently was reutilise that doctrine to help disappear the Palestinian issue from the international community’s agenda, or at least take some heat off Israel.
Given his background, naturally Jared Kushner thought the key to peace in the Middle East was making Israel the slumlord of Palestine, terrorizing the tenants in the hope they'll move out.— Victor Laszlo (@Impolitics) May 15, 2021
And now we see how well that went.
Dubbed as “peace agreements,” among countries that were not actually at war with each other, the Abraham Accords ultimately materialised, above all else, as business deals with weapons as the main commodity. Just hours after normalisation, Haaretz reported, sources in Israel’s defence industry were talking about the UAE’s potential to offset the loss of arms sales regionally. Nearly one and a half years since, the Israeli arms sales to the UAE and, later, Morocco, exceeded the expectations of most.
Because the Middle East is a diverse, and highly polarised region, the normalisation deals were (and are increasingly) a zero-sum game, where one benefits at the loss of others. This has unsurprisingly led to increased regional instability and tension. It also certainly widened the gap between the Gulf states and Iran and; as such, set into a higher gear the region’s geopolitical anxieties and arms race.
The deals only empowered Israel and put the Palestinians at an unprecedented impasse. They did not address the two-state solution nor did they allude to the complex territorial disputes that are the main source of instability in the region. Contrary to the UAE’s claims at the time of signing in August 2020, they did not even remove the future possibility of full annexation of the West Bank.
What transpired, instead, was more Israeli aggression and settlement expansions, heightened Palestinian frustration and a potential return to widespread violence. Normalisation also paved the way for opportunistic powers in the region to fill the gap and steer the Palestinian cause for their own agendas.
In this cynical Kushnerian world, nothing screams “peace” like arms deals, instability, and political opportunism. This, it seems, is the qualification one requires to be nominated as a Nobel peace laureate, never mind Kushner’s appalling mishandling of Trumps’ Coronavirus task force, and his suspicious ties with Russian oligarchs, allegedly in a non-diplomatic capacity, even with the knowledge that Russia tried to meddle in the US elections. Kushner’s Father-in-law and boss’ infatuation with totalitarian leaders like Vladimir Putin does not matter either.
Part of the problem, of course, is the political bias of the Nobel Organisation itself. There are a number of problematic figures who have been awarded in the past. For example, many questioned why President Obama was awarded the prize before he had even completed a year in office. It made even less sense once he’d increased US troop presence in Afghanistan and intensified drone attacks against individuals who were deemed enemies.
Less than two years after he bagged the Nobel Prize for Peace for ending the 20-year stalemate with Eritrea, Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, launched a devastating civil war in the country’s Tigray region. It was so reversed a role that the Noble Committee issued a rare statement rebuking his actions.
Many were especially angered by fellow laureate and former head of Myanmar’s civilian government, Aung San Suu Kyi, for her complicity in the genocide of the country’s Rohingya ethnic minority.
There was also Israel’s Shimon Peres, the veteran politician who would become personally responsible for the Lebanon 1996 Qana massacre, that killed 106 refugees.
And who can forget Henry Kissinger? He was awarded for negotiating a ceasefire in the Vietnam war. Kissinger’s simultaneous carpet-bombing of Cambodia did not seem to a change a thing.
Even if we accept the argument that the prize should not be seen as an endorsement of everything the recipient says or does, but rather what they inspire, it is difficult to understand how this would apply to Kushner. The only inspiration he can impart is that competence and experience are irrelevant; nepotism and toxic ideology are the only qualifications required for Middle Eastern peace.
If the Nobel Peace Prize is to have any credibility, Kushner’s nomination should be ignored, if not thrown in the bin along with the Abraham accords.
Dr Emad Moussa is a researcher and writer who specialises in the politics and political psychology of Palestine/Israel.
Follow him on Twitter: @emadmoussa
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