On February 6, 2019, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies welcomed a lecture from Elia Zureik as part of the weekly seminar series. The visiting researcher at the Arab Center and emeritus professor at Queen's University, Ontario, presented a paper entitled "Donald Trump’s Punitive Politics and the Palestine Question: A Gaze into his Psychological Makeup and Business Ethics".
Zureik presented his research, focusing on the relationship between Trump policy and his psychological disposition. This involved a reading of his rhetoric and behavior and his tendency to exaggerate his achievements and skills. Zureik pointed out Trump’s lack of emotional intelligence and inability to empathize with others. Trump’s aggressive decisions and statements on the Palestinians demonstrate that his mental disposition is business orientated as well as his relationship with Israel and Zionist values.
Zureik chose two international public opinion polls from which to conduct his research. The first poll was undertaken by the Pew Research Center, while the second was the ACRPS executed 2107 Arab Opinion Index. He pointed out the clear similarities between the surveys with regard to the negative perceptions about Trump, and the positive response about the United States. He believed that the figures in the two surveys were no surprise to those who follow Trump's foreign policy. In presenting the results of the two surveys, Zureik drew particular attention to the image of President Trump and the majority low opinion of him; specifically that he is intolerant, egotistical and dangerous.
Zureik explained that the behavior of President Trump has become a fertile ground for the attention of mental health professionals, academics, and the general public. He added that Trump’s imbalanced temperament attracts many studies to criticize his style of leadership and decision-making, especially since the root of the problem is his behavior. He does not hold himself to concrete principles that guide his decision-making and his leadership style is reckless, hostile and ineffective.
Zureik invoked concepts borrowed from postmodernist thought as a means to understand how culture and individual experience explains contradictory perceptions of reality. He believed that it was power, not culture, that prevails in the so-called "post-truth" world of Donald Trump, where alternative facts are marketed and "everything goes" in political life as a remedy for what Trump regards as the elitist control over frameworks for debates on public affairs.
He went on to discuss the president’s son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner. He explained how Kushner’s father paid for his acceptance into Harvard University with a donation of around 2.5 million dollars. His father again donated 3 million dollars to New York University, where Kushner undertook his post-graduate studies. He played a crucial role in persuading the president to cease the US funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, two long-standing demands of Israel.
Zureik concluded the lecture by noting the expected further decline of the US administration during the presidency of deal-focused Trump. He ruled out any improved prospects for peace in the Middle East, because of the mixing of politics with the business world and the consequent sacrifice of the former for the latter. In this context, he highlighted Trump's reaction to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, at the hands of Saudi officials. He noted that the incident had little impact on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was implicated in the operation in the official CIA report. Indeed Trump is more concerned with his personal deals with Saudi Arabia.
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