Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1383, (1 - 7 March 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1383, (1 - 7 March 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Salt in the wound

The decision by US President Donald Trump in early December to recognise occupied East Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had nearly dashed any hopes that the stalled peace process with the Palestinians could ever make a fresh start. However, the US president insisted on adding salt to the wound and provoked the feelings of the Palestinian people, Arabs, Muslims and Christians around the world by announcing this week that the US would speed up the process of moving its embassy to occupied Jerusalem to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or the catastrophe of the creation of the state of Israel in May 1948.

The message to Palestinians and their supporters worldwide from the Oval Office is clear: I don’t see you, you don’t exist, and I only care about Israel. Most bizarre is that the announcement that the US would accelerate the process of moving its embassy to East Jerusalem, which nearly the entire world recognises as occupied territory, came at the same time the US ambassador to the United Nations announced that the Trump administration was planning soon to release its “Deal of the Century” to revive peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.

This simply makes no sense. Either the United States maintains its role as an honest broker, respects international law and UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit the occupation of land by force, as is the case with East Jerusalem, and honours peace agreements it sponsored at the White House, or there is no chance to even consider any peace proposals that are reportedly expected to come out of Washington “soon”.

However, blame should not be directed at Trump, who is mainly seeking to satisfy his right-wing and pro-Zionist electoral constituency. The real blame falls on Arab and Muslim governments who offered the Palestinian people nothing but lip service and rhetorical statements that probably haven’t changed since Israel’s creation 70 years ago.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, stated that Washington was warned of dire consequences if it moved the US Embassy in Washington. However, “The sky’s still up there. It hasn’t fallen,” Haley happily repeats.

The Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and many other international organisations have all come out with strongly-worded statements warning of the consequences of Trump’s decision on East Jerusalem and disregard for Palestinian rights. However, action did not exceed words. Lucrative arms deals continued between the US and close Arab allies, and Israel has been bragging about growing ties with several Arab countries who begged Tel Aviv not to reveal the details to avoid a domestic backlash.

The only party that’s paying a heavy price is the Palestinian people, both in terms of human losses, and the frustration of any hope that they would one day enjoy equal rights to the rest of the peoples of the world. Self-determination and living free of racism and occupation are not US grants, but basic human rights.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat summed up Palestinian and Arab feelings after the US decision to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary with a slap on the face of each Arab and supporter of Palestinian rights.

“The US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and now to move its embassy on the eve of marking 70 years since the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of at least 418 Palestinian villages, and the forcible displacement of two thirds of our people, shows the determination of the US administration to violate international law, destroy the two-state solution and provoke the feelings of the Palestinian people, as well as of all Arabs, Muslims and Christians around the globe,” said Erekat in a statement.

He added that by moving the US Embassy “in direct violation of UN Security Council Resolution 478, President Trump and his team have disqualified the US from being part of the solution between Israelis and Palestinians; rather, the world now sees that they are part of the problem.”

East Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine and an integral part of the territory occupied by Israel since 1967. Those are facts that no decision by Trump can change. If force alone determined the fate of peoples, perhaps apartheid wouldn’t have come to an end in South Africa, nor would British and French occupations of Arab countries.

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