Was President Donald Trump aware of how foolish he looked when he sat in front of the cameras and proudly signed a document recognising Jerusalem as the Israeli capital? Was this a studied and deliberate strategic move made by the US administration in the context of its "paternal" relationship with the Israeli coloniser, of which Trump has become the public face? Or was it one of the many "slip-ups" he has made since becoming president?
The US administration has always, regardless of whether the president is a Republican or a Democrat, and regardless of the colour of their skin, counted on adopting the Israeli coloniser. This is due to the fact that Israel is America's arm for expansion, imperial settlement and political "realism" in the Middle East. It is also a tool used to terrorise all those who are against the imperial presence in the region and aspire to achieve justice and peace. As soon as a nation or government resists the domination and exploitation of the self-appointed global policeman, it is bombed by Israel or America (there is no difference between them) with the protection of the US veto in the UN Security Council, and to hell with international law.
Washington relies on the Arab leaders to carry out its politics on its behalf. Those leaders, who were once heroes in the period of national liberation are now, in the post-colonial period and with the increased oppression of their people, in desperate need of the coloniser's protection. The viability of Arab authority requires the wiping clean of the memory of the struggle and the turning of the people into recipients of fast-food-style slogans.
The Palestinian cause has been utilised for decades by the Arab leaders to attract popular support. However, along with many other fabrications, they made their greatest efforts, not to liberate Palestine, but to turn the daily injustice suffered by the Palestinians into a fig leaf to cover their continued service of the coloniser on one hand, and their tyranny and oppression of their own people on the other. They have failed, even though they developed and implemented, along with their masters, different methods of intimidation and terrorism in all the Arab countries.
Israel established the pattern for this in occupied Palestine, with racial discrimination, withdrawal of democratic freedoms, imprisonment with neither charge nor trial, torture and collective punishment. The Israelis expelled most of the indigenous population of the country, demolished villages, changed the names of cities, erected the "Separation" Wall and established military checkpoints, but they have also failed to quell Palestinian consciousness. They failed because the main protagonist in the subjugation equation — which, with every new concession, was called "the peace process" — always looks down on the Palestinian-Arab-Muslim people and the people of the world who believe in justice.
The fact that Washington views the Other, including the Palestinian-Arabs, as inferior is a result of deliberately confusing the people with their leaders. This is a systematic confusion which aims to portray the ordinary Arab people as being satisfied with the policy of subjugation to the coloniser. This adds another heavy burden on the people, as they are fighting two enemies at the same time: the domestic tyrant and the foreign enemy who aspires to dominate and exploit them.
The image of the ruler as being genuinely representative of the people — a deliberately ambiguous portrayal — is what encouraged Trump to give away something that he does not own and make Palestinian and Arab Jerusalem the capital of the settler-colonial state, and sign a document to that effect which violates international law. He held his foolish piece of paper up to the cameras for everyone to see what he had done, and boasted that he had achieved something about which previous US Presidents could only dream. He ignored the fact that the Palestinians have never been moulded into submission and are not content with what Washington regards as the "status quo policy".
The Palestinians took to the streets across the land of Palestine, because Jerusalem is its unifying symbol. As represented by Trump, the US relied upon the whispered protests of the Arab leaders in a scenario agreed upon in advance, and it must have counted on there being a number of Arab protests as an emotional, angry response extinguished easily by the distractions of life and the tyranny of the leaders. Washington did not, apparently, count on Trump igniting a fire in the hearts of the people working to achieve justice all across the world, as the angry protests spread from the Arab countries to Latin America, South Africa and Britain, the country that committed the greatest crime against the Palestinians, long before Trump, when it gave their land to the Zionist Movement via the Balfour Declaration.
The current Arab demonstrations may be a spontaneous response, but a quick look at the Arab people's positions since the 1948 Nakba indicates that they have not changed. The Palestinian cause remains the essence and core of the general popular struggle. This is the main reason for the successive blows to the people within and beyond Palestine. Those who think that Palestinian outrage will die down once the "days of anger" are over, are mistaken,
It is enough to count the victims of Zionist violence and its humiliating oppression of the people to realise that when we write "Jerusalem is our capital", "Our Jerusalem will remain ours" and "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine", they are not empty slogans, but the feelings and emotions of the Palestinians who continue to fight and who refuse to surrender, and will sacrifice their blood for the sake of this.
Years of resisting the coloniser have proven that this is not a spur of the moment or fleeting matter, but the path chosen by generations who insist on remaining in their land. As the poet Rose Shomali says, "We are here/ Even if we are there/ Even if you remove us from words/ Maps and memory/ We are here/ Despite the limits of time and space, we are the salt of the land/ And this land is ours/ And the coming dawn is mine." According to writer Ali Mawasy, "even if the world has recognised Israel, and gave Palestine to a group of settler immigrants without batting an eye at the expulsion of the people, and even the PLO recognised… we and the people with us have not and will not recognise, nor do they care about the recognition."
If Donald Trump has become accustomed to swallowing his slip-ups later on, he will find that Palestine cannot be swallowed easily. It will tear the throat of anyone who tries to swallow it. Any talk of the security and stability of the Arab leaders and America, without the restoration of the rights of the people, is nonsense. Foolishness has its price, as the US administration and Arab rulers know all too well.
This piece first appeared in Arabic on 12 December 2017 in Al-Quds Al-Arabi
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.