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What is the PA doing for Jerusalem?

Israeli security forces hurt Palestinians protesters with plastic bullets, stun grenades and tear gas in Jerusalem on 25 July, 2017 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]
Israeli occupation forces hurt Palestinians protesters with plastic bullets, stun grenades and tear gas in Jerusalem on 25 July, 2017 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

In a speech last Saturday evening, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas evoked narratives of belonging with regard to Jerusalem, departing from the collective Palestinian mobilisation against Israeli oppression over Al-Aqsa Mosque. His spurious words, ostensibly celebrating Palestinian resistance, portray a political faction which navigates between two extremes. As the rhetoric expands in nostalgia, the PA's political power dwindles further.

Belatedly, Abbas lauded Palestinian resistance at the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa, attempting to project the PA as an entity that "listens to the people". It is only through symbolism that Abbas has been able to make the claim of representation. After months of Israeli aggression over Jerusalem since the commencement of Trump's presidency, the PA leader has identified a victory and jumped on board to claim some participation.

"We should preserve the victory achieved in Jerusalem to achieve another victory or to take another step forward," said Abbas in a report by Ma'an news agency. He also hailed Jerusalem as "the eternal capital of the state of Palestine and nothing else."

Read: If Al-Aqsa is to be protected long-term, Israel's occupation must end

Both statements imply a non-existent political unity between the leadership and the people. The resistance embodied by Palestinians at Al-Aqsa is a chapter in Palestinian history that has enough merit to stand on its own, particularly after the difficulties in organised struggle when the so-called Jerusalem Intifada erupted. For Abbas to claim even a share in this victory goes beyond the definition of opportunism. It was only through the suspended security coordination with Israel, which still generated different reports regarding the extent of this suspension, that Abbas could claim PA participation and attempt to leverage the rhetoric over that of other Palestinian political factions. The truth is that the obligation of security coordination is one which the PA bears and the decision to halt the agreement temporarily does not reflect Abbas's claim that the leadership "listened to Jerusalemites' appeals and would continue to do so."


Listening is not contrary to PA politics; on the contrary, it is imbued with a lot of input generating passive stances. From Sa'eb Erekat giving Israel "the greatest Jerusalem" in history, to Abbas's lauding of Trump after numerous statements regarding a possible relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the only narratives that the PA is able to evoke are symbolic, convenient and void of belonging, despite attempts to project otherwise. Halting security coordination over Al-Aqsa should evoke remembrance of the times when security coordination should have been halted, yet the PA preferred its implementation to cleanse Palestinian society of resistance to Israel's military occupation.

Continuing in the same vein, there is a difference between articulating Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Palestinian state and working towards this realisation. Failing to prioritise Palestinian liberation from colonialism is also a failure in securing Jerusalem. The PA is founded upon concessions and collaboration. Indeed, the independent and viable Palestinians state as dictated by the international community and endorsed by Abbas is a manifestation of the PA's existence; it survives only as part of the colonial project. The PA has done nothing to safeguard Jerusalem, no matter what Abbas attempts to misconstrue; it is the Palestinian people who should be credited and valued.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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