At a time when Israel is escalating its attacks against the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority would do better to address its failures rather than pontificate about Jerusalem. Any defence of Jerusalem will come from the Palestinian people, for the simple reason that the PA has surrendered all Palestinian territory to Israeli colonisation.
Yesterday, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas told the Arab Parliament, the legislative body of the toothless Arab League: "Jerusalem is our capital, and we will never accept any substitute for it. Without it, there would be neither peace, nor security, nor stability, nor agreement in our region and the world."
This is empty rhetoric, given that the PA is doing nothing to claim Jerusalem as Palestine's capital, other than "engaging in a serious political process based on clear international terms of reference that would ensure ending the Israeli occupation of the territories of the State of Palestine, including East Jerusalem."
It is, indeed, an insult to Palestinians for the PA to claim a role in protecting Jerusalem, when it is incapable of protecting its own people from daily colonial aggression. At the start of Israel's latest bout of violence, the PA attempted its usual tactic of promoting its relevance in terms of the Palestinian resistance, only to abandon Palestinians once again by turning to the international community for futile dialogue. While the PA talks, Israel bombs, and the results, devastating as they are, are seen in terms of might and military power, which is the only language that Israel understands and in which it excels.
Jerusalem does not belong to Israel, but nor is it a commodity for the PA to use in order to cling to the shards of power it has left. After depriving Palestinians of their right to vote in democratic elections, Abbas may well discover that he has even less power than he thinks. The elections, he reiterated, will be held "once the reasons behind their postponement are eliminated." Ostensibly this was due to Israel's refusal to allow Jerusalemites to participate in the vote.
Yet neither Abbas nor the international community, which lauded the notion of elections, are exerting any effort to halt Israel's colonisation of Jerusalem. The latest aggression in this regard serves the PA well. A lengthy, possibly permanent, suspension of elections means that the PA remains politically unchallenged as long as international donors continue to fund its corruption. Meanwhile, Jerusalem can be exploited in PA and Arab rhetoric, all professing unity over a territory that no Arab government has sought to protect.
Only the Palestinian people can claim ownership of occupied Jerusalem. The international community's hyperbole about the city being subject to "final status" issues is merely a way to buy Israel more time to colonise Palestine. If nothing is done to enable Palestinians to continue protecting Jerusalem, the city will suffer the same fate of other towns and villages depopulated and colonised by the settler-colonial state. Palestinians understand this, which is why the new awareness among the younger generation across all of colonised Palestine is making inroads in terms of unity and resistance. Meanwhile, the PA ensures that from its end, Jerusalem is prioritised over Gaza, because it is easier to deal with compromised international parameters than involve itself in the Palestinian struggle for liberation and justice.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.