The latest religious and racial slurs embodied in the Trump administration’s decision to transfer the US Embassy to Jerusalem has rubbed salt into the ever-open wound of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. This move is yet further evidence of the absence of any moral, social and lawful legitimacy of America’s political position regarding the occupation.
In the current conditions of the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic nations, Trump has found exactly what Israel needs to achieve its goals; Arab despotism is an appropriate partner for accomplishing this dangerous task.
However, Trump’s decision, shocking as it may be, should not be a surprise. In 1990, the US Congress agreed to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem; this was renewed under President Bill Clinton in 1995. The decision had three components: the unification of the city of Jerusalem; the recognition of the whole city as the capital of Israel; and the transfer “at the right time” of the embassy. The Palestinian Authority has provided “the right time”, and so it now finds itself in a highly embarrassing situation.
The Palestinian leadership is responsible for having accepted the postponed decision regarding the fate of Jerusalem when it signed the Oslo agreement. Abbas and his officials have failed to oppose Israel’s policies of solidifying the occupation through the fait accompli of a Judaised city of Jerusalem, and the expanding settlements in the West Bank generally and Jerusalem in particular.
Even at this time, after the decision to proceed according to the wishes of Congress has been made, the response of the Palestinian Authority fails to go beyond paying lip service to a rejection of Trump’s decision and inviting him to back down. No practical steps to pressure Israel or the US administration have been taken. Yet Trump’s decision is built upon falsehood and the violation of international law, and so should provide us with the opportunity to invalidate the Oslo Accords. Now is the time to stand up against the wave of Israeli normalisation of the occupation process; now is the time to resist the US/Israeli plan to remake the face of the region through their “deal of the century”.
The ever-increasing level of danger for Palestinians – especially Jerusalemites – obliges them to struggle for survival; this time, though, Palestinian leaders must not hide behind school-children to engage in a battle for Jerusalem. We need clarity of mind and the development of clear guidelines to achieve a coherent programme of national liberation. We need to set new objectives to work towards the end of the occupation, not just the abandonment of the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation authorities.
We cannot stand up to the demands of this dangerous moment without the courage to admit our past errors. To succeed in forging a new and effective pathway, we must analyse our past behaviour and learn lessons from it. Palestinians must recognise that Israel never wanted and still does not want to engage in a political agreement with them that involves any form of withdrawal from any part of occupied Palestine. We must acknowledge that the United States was never a neutral intermediary and never will be. The Palestinian Authority must admit to the failure of its approach to negotiations over the past 26 years; to admit, indeed, that these negotiations have only functioned to legitimise the occupation and to serve its purposes, leading to no national gain whatsoever, only further losses of Palestinian national rights and morale.
Palestinian leaders who have been trailblazers of this failed approach must now cancel whatever can be cancelled which stems from it; that includes security coordination with the Israelis, as well as institutions and agreements, including the Oslo Accords. These leaders should ask the Palestinian people for their forgiveness before they step down from office. At this time, the people must revive and reform the Palestine Liberation Organisation so that it can take the lead towards its proper purpose of genuine national liberation. Only then, when the Palestinian leadership takes a clear direction through considering Israel to be an occupying enemy, can we shame other Arab and Muslim countries who speak of Israel as a “neighbour” or an “ally”. Only then will we be able to stand up to all initiatives and pressures from the Arab world which would impose an unfair political deal upon us.
Ambassadors of the PLO have the responsibility to mobilise Palestinian communities in the diaspora and inspire them to recruit solidarity activists in whatever countries they live. With good leadership, this wave of solidarity will soon be supported massively by many good people in the international community.
We cannot count upon formal regimes. Our hope lies in the domain of popular will and the role of international civil society throughout the Arab, Muslim and free world to support a sustainable revolt. This revolt must begin in Palestine, but can spread internationally through the symbolism of Jerusalem to have a direct impact on the occupation and the US administration. Such international action cannot be restricted to demonstrations, rallies and protests; it must embrace all aspects of popular engagement from trade unions, professional organisations and other civil society institutions, to include effective parliamentary action on behalf of Jerusalem and Palestine. The objectives of this movement should go beyond the initial mobilisation to cancel the Trump decision about Jerusalem towards a broad agenda raising awareness and gathering political influence for the liberation of Palestine.
This is not a heroic fantasy; action arising from the people has a proven track record of changing policies and practices related to the occupation; the latest example was the decision regarding the electronic gates at Al-Aqsa Mosque, in which the Israelis retreated from their previous position by yielding to a popular revolt.
Freedom is not an issue for the oppressed alone, just as health is not an issue for the sick alone and poverty is not an issue for the poor alone. Jerusalem is not only a Palestinian issue but also an issue for all Arabs, Muslims and Christians, and for all just and liberal people around the world. The international community tends to place responsibility for Jerusalem upon the Palestinians, but all Arab, Islamic and liberation movements should continue to interact, network and mobilise for this cause. The goal is not only to prove Trump and his advisors wrong in their presumption that resistance will be temporary and transitory, but also to support the Palestinian popular revolt and to put pressure on their own governments to influence US policy.
Through its symbolic value, the issue of Jerusalem can thus isolate Israel and the United States, as we have just observed in the vote at the UN. If the occupation was established with the Balfour Declaration, let it be dismantled with Trump’s declaration.
The fervour of the Palestinians will not be altered by Trump’s decision. We have witnessed how Ibrahim Abu Thurayya, the Palestinian man who lost both legs during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in 2008, stood tall to protest against the theft of Jerusalem. Palestinians have not lost their saltiness; indeed, their salt will never lose its taste. We will not leave Jerusalem because of Trump’s decision; US-Israeli hegemony will not weaken our faith in our cause and in our legitimate rights to our homeland. Trump’s decision will only increase our determination to confront Israeli policies with our full potential. We will inspire the salt of the earth to season a worldwide revolution against the Israeli occupation and the domination of the United States until both are defeated.