Gifts In Ugly Wrapping Paper Are Still Gifts
When I used to subscribe to printed newspapers, I would store the old papers in my garage so that when Chanukah rolled around, I could save a few trees and wrap presents for my kids. I’m not gonna lie, the stack of gifts didn’t look as nice as when I used the expensive colorful paper Target sells each year. The stock market listings, weather forecasts, and latest political spats just didn’t charm my kids’ liking for red, blue, silver, and green patterns.
Local interest stories had nothing on snowman, nutcracker, and dreidel art. I think a part of me was trying to subliminally teach my kids about intelligently reusing our resources, but for six-, eight-, and ten-year-olds, nothing beat the beautiful designs, bows and sparkles.
Still, when my kids finally opened their gifts, which I allowed them to do one at a time for each night of Chanukah, they weren’t disappointed with what was inside. Their eyes returned to gleam, and smiles filled their thankful faces. Hugs and kisses always ensued, and still do even in their teen years now. A newspaper-wrapped Xbox was, it turns out, still an Xbox. A business section–enshrined watch was still a watch. An article on global warming encasing a pair of Nikes didn’t change the coolness of the shoes.
When Trump and Jared Kushner achieved normalization deals between Israel and UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco, and Bhutan, the main news outlets, left-wing politicians, and peace organizations largely remained quiet. The Morocco deal didn’t even appear in my Apple news feed.
That’s because the wrapping paper these deals came in weren’t just old newspapers. They came in a misogynistic, narcissistic, race-baiting, mean-spirited, insulting, unhinged Trump-branded paper. The kind that makes you not want to even open the so-called gift. Had the more likable Obama achieved these agreements, Nobel Prize aroma would have permeated the air. Not so with Trump.
The problem, though, is this particular Trump wrapping paper understandably made you look away from the gift inside.
Take a step back. I think most well-meaning people can agree that bringing people closer together is a good thing. That cultural exchange and interpersonal relationships are the key to a more peaceful world. It’s common sense that nastiness, conflict and wars generally don’t occur when we know each other’s families. When we are friends.
It’s not that the five Trump-arranged Middle East deals and counting are perfect or without criticism. Some of them involved arms deals. Some of them involved pressure or bribes on matters having nothing to do with Israel. Plus, except Sudan, none of these countries were ever technically at war with Israel anyway.
But on a fundamental level, the idea that Jews, Arabs, and other Muslims would get to know each other better, have direct flights, engage in commerce, become friends, learn about each other more, and see the goodness each of us has, remains a noble cause of the highest degree. In my End Racial Distancing Journal and my diversity training with organizations, I consistently emphasize that one key to eradicating unconscious bias is to welcome people who are different into our after-five o’clock personal life.
These peace agreements are at their core bringing millions of Jews and Arabs into each other’s homes and lives. Not behind closed doors. Not in secret anymore.
Like you, I’m not thrilled that Trump was the catalyst or messenger. He’s so bad on so many levels that it’s hard to stomach giving him credit for more than stoking the flames of racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of xenophobia.
And none of these agreements mean that we don’t need to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One where Israelis acknowledge and respect the Palestinian love and longing for their home, and one where the Palestinians acknowledge and respect the deep Jewish connection and love of the home from where they were exiled and massacred too many times.
Indeed, it’s quite possible these new agreements will show Israel that it can have real friends in the neighborhood and that it’s safe to step to the plate and finalize a peace deal with the Palestinians. It’s quite possible that it will show the Palestinians that they can no longer hold the rest of the Arab world hostage as they refuse every deal Israel offers that doesn’t give them everything they want. These new normalization deals actually can bring about a wider, more just peace.
In the meantime, let’s not forget to celebrate peace in all its forms. Let’s celebrate Jews and Arabs coming together. Let’s celebrate the hope these agreements can have in bringing about a just and secure peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
So what if you didn’t like the wrapping paper? Your new iWatch is still an iWatch.
And speaking of watches, remember, a clock is right twice a day so ignore the wrapping paper and enjoy the peace.
Jeffrey Kass is an award-winning author and thought leader on race and society. His newest book, The Rona Diaries. One World. Two Pandemics. journals through these COVID and racism times. Jeffrey can be reached at jeffreykassglobal.com.