The road to Jerusalem

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THE US decision to ‘recognize’ Jerusalem as Israel’s capital comes exactly a century (Nov. 2, 1917) after Arthur Balfour, the British foreign secretary and later the prime minister, announced the creation of a Jewish homeland on the Palestinian land. A century separates the American and British perfidy but the underlying sentiment remains the same, giving away something that is not theirs to give away in the first place.

The sheer unjustness and brazenness of this whole business is breathtaking! And you thought colonialism is long dead and buried!

Who are the Americans and the British to give away the Palestinian homeland, homes, holy cities and the very national identity to people born in Europe, Russia and America?

As if the long repression and dispossession of Palestinians in their own land with the blessings of the world powers wasn’t enough, now they must suffer the indignity of being divested of Al-Quds.

Jerusalem is not just another city. Sacred to the followers of all three Abrahamic faiths — Islam, Christianity and Judaism — the ancient city has been at the heart of the Palestinian existence and Islamic identity.

This is why notwithstanding all that has happened over the years as part of the Zionist project to steal Palestine, making Palestinians strangers in their own land, no one, including successive US administrations, ever dared to endorse its designs and aggression against the holy city of Jerusalem.

As the OIC asserted this past week, Jerusalem is the ultimate redline for the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims and no one can cross it.

This is why notwithstanding Israel’s growing claims and antics to Judaize Jerusalem and project the holy city as its ‘capital’, the rest of the world continues to respect the special status of the city, maintaining their diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv.

But then an irrepressible Trump goes, eyes wide shut, where angels fear to tread and says and does things considered unthinkable by his predecessors and much of the West.

Given the chaos and strife reigning in Muslim lands, especially the disunity in Arab-Muslim ranks, Trump and his Israeli friends and allies wouldn’t have been wrong to conclude that there couldn’t be a better time to steal Jerusalem.

Indeed, things wouldn’t have come to such a pass if the Arab and Islamic world had not silently endured the atrocities and humiliation repeatedly inflicted by Israel and its patrons all these years.

Over the past few years, thanks to the efforts of Israel and its allies and the Arab and Islamic world’s increasing preoccupation with conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen and more pressing domestic concerns, the question of Palestine has receded further and further into the background.

Above all, it was the international pressure on the Palestinians to give up “violence” and embrace peace and the so-called two-state solution that brought the Palestinians here — a political wilderness.

More than anything, it was the US, the principal architect of the two-state solution, and its allies that persuaded the Palestinians to end their struggle for the chimera of their own state.

And look where it has got them. Today, Palestinians have no homeland, no freedom and no rights whatsoever. Why they have even been deprived of the very struggle that offered them their self-respect and identity as the Palestinians, keeping Israelis perpetually on the edge!

Having long promised the Palestinians and Arabs a “viable and peaceful Palestinian state, side by side with Israel,” the US has quietly and shamelessly gone back on its decades of commitments.

In doing so, it has violated the historic United Nations resolution of 1980, backed by 14 members of UN Security Council except the US of course, that recognizes the special status of Jerusalem and demands Israel to withdraw from the holy city.

The international community, including America’s European allies, also regards the old city of East Jerusalem as occupied territory and says Jerusalem’s final status must be negotiated, not unilaterally declared

In rejecting all this with casual insouciance, the US has also shown us what it thinks of its historical relations and alliances with the Arab and Muslim nations.

But I guess it is futile to cry over the spilt milk now. After all, there are no permanent friends and foes in the world of international relations, only permanent interests.

The question is, what can the Islamic world do in response?

Not surprisingly, the majority of Muslim nations have been swift in denouncing Trump’s decision. However, the Muslim masses around the world are not likely to be propitiated by these perfunctory statements and resolutions anymore.

The outpouring of popular anger and outrage from Morocco to Malaysia over the past few days calls for credible and effective response. The time for business as usual is past. That is the message from the streets, from Egypt to Indonesia. And the Muslim nations attending the emergency summit in Istanbul seem to have heard it.

The Istanbul communique declaring East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine is historic in this sense. The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation has emphasize that it considers Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “null and void legally” and as an attack on the rights of the Palestinian people.

However, the Istanbul declaration, symbolically significant as it is, is hardly enough to alter the geopolitical realities of the occupied Palestine or the greater Middle East. The Palestinians will remain occupied and powerless as ever. The Islamic world would need to go beyond eloquent speeches resolutions to challenge the status quo and confront the Israeli occupation.

In a way, we all ought to be grateful to President Trump for putting an end to this whole circus of “peace process” and talk of “two-state solution”. As Israeli writer Gideon Levy argues, Trump has exposed the grand masquerade that has been going on in the Middle East for the past half a century.

On the other hand, the US action serves as a rude reminder to the Palestinians of the stark reality of their predicament. Long lulled into apathy and inaction by international assurances of peace and justice, the Palestinians have once again been reminded that there is no alternative to their united struggle for freedom and fundamental rights.

The US move should serve as a rallying point for the Palestinian unity and relentless, concerted action until their objective is achieved. The OIC call for action and solidarity with the Palestinians is welcome. However, it must translate into credible action such as the total economic and political boycott of Israel and credible efforts to get Palestinians their due.

Clearly, the two-state solution is dead. Perhaps, it is perhaps time for one state with equal rights for the Palestinians and Israelis.

All said and done, no one can help the Palestinians until and unless they decide to help themselves. They have waited long enough and in vain for international help and action. It is clearly time to take charge of their own destiny.

— Aijaz Zaka Syed is an award-winning journalist and former newspaper editor. Email: Aijaz.syed@hotmail.com


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