When reporters are telling the public about a prominent person’s background and positions on current issues, it is important that they not editorialize. Yet the New York Times has published an article on Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, that implies he holds a certain, extreme position.
The article, “For Kushner, Israeli Policy May Be Shaped by the Personal,” paints an important picture about the life of Jared Kushner, who is now overseeing aspects of Mideast policy. Especially since Kushner’s beliefs about Israel seem significantly different from past U.S. policy, it is important that the public understand how he came to these beliefs. So the fact that he grew up in a Modern Orthodox household and went to a strongly pro-Israel school are key to understanding why his positions may represent a change.
Yet in a subtle jab, the Times says this about a specific viewpoint .
Some teachers told students that “Palestinian” was a made-up identity, a label adopted for political reasons.
First, there is no reason why the position of “some” teachers at his school should be included in such an article, unless there is evidence that Kushner holds this position. Careful reading shows that this view was not taught at the school or espoused by most of the teachers. Just that “some” teachers “told” students about it. Was Kushner one of them? One can’t tell from the article.
The only reason to bring up what appears to be a minority position of a few of his teachers is to imply that Kushner holds extreme views when it comes to Palestinians.
But the position itself is actually not so extreme when the appropriate context is provided.
It is a fact that before the 1920s, the term “Palestinian” did not apply to Arabs living in the area. It was the term used to describe Jews and Christians. Any implication that the “Palestinians” are a specific identity with a deep history is wrong. There is no evidence of an Arab people calling themselves Palestinians before the 1920s.
So why is the term used today?
As prominent Middle East analyst Daniel Pipes points out in “The Origins of the Palestinian Arabs”:
Moslems west of the Jordan directed their allegiance to Damascus, where the great-great-uncle of Jordan’s King Abdullah II was then ruling; they identified themselves as Southern Syrians. In July 1920, however, the French overthrew this Hashemite king, in the process killing the notion of a Southern Syria.
Isolated by the events of April and July, the Moslems of Palestine made the best of a bad situation. One prominent Jerusalemite commented, just days following the fall of the Hashemite kingdom: “after the recent events in Damascus, we have to effect a complete change in our plans here. Southern Syria no longer exists. We must defend Palestine.”
The idea that Palestinian identity is based on modern politics is not an extremist view held by a handful of teachers. It is a sound, academically-based claim that carries the weight of historical evidence.
Yet the Times belittle’s the position and by tenuously linking it to Jared Kushner, presents a picture of a man and a position out of step with reality.
Readers should be given facts and allowed the draw their own conclusions. If the facts of a person’s background are presented in an accurate and objective manner, most people will be able to draw the right conclusions.
The article is important and contains a wealth of background and history showing what has shaped Kushner’s views on Israel. It’s a shame that such a profile is marred by an attempt to editorialize and bias readers against the man.
Read more at The CAMCI Report.
Featured image of Jared Kushner CC BY Lori Berkowitz Photography.