Lichfield Cathedral stands strong in the face of bullying by the pro-Israel Lobby

This article was first published by the Middle East Monitor on 15/10/2016

Looking east in the choir of Lichfield Cathedral, Staffordshire, England.

Looking east in the choir of Lichfield Cathedral, Staffordshire, England.

A few months ago I was invited to speak at a conference organised by an ecumenical planning group, to be hosted by Lichfield Cathedral on 7-9 October. The title of the conference was interesting: “Holding Palestine in the light: the context of the conflict”. My talk was titled, “Can a just peace be reached in the Holy Land? Reflections of a diaspora Palestinian”.

In the intervening weeks, I had contact about the administrative practicalities and then theprogramme appeared on the Cathedral’s website. I thought it looked impressive as it brought together Israelis, Palestinians, a former British Diplomat, Jews, Christians and Muslims, ecumenical accompaniers, a representative of Christian Aid and someone from the Council of Christians and Jews. All this would take place in the amazing setting of Lichfield Cathedral, which I had visited on a previous occasion and which offered a wonderful environment for contemplation, reflection and thought for those involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict thousands of miles away. I knew that I would not agree with everything being said, but would present my view as a Palestinian and not representing any particular organisation or political entity.

Just a day before the event, I received an email from a member of the planning group explaining that the organisers, the Cathedral and the Council for Christians and Jews (CCJ), had come under a great deal of pressure from Jewish groups. The Dean of Lichfield, Adrian Dorber, confirmed that “there has been much vocal protesting from Jewish groups about the alleged one-sided and biased nature of the Conference. CCJ has been under a great deal of pressure and they have done their very best to mediate.” The Dean agreed to two measures in order for the conference to proceed without disruption. First, Dr Irene Lancaster would join the closing panel and would speak from a pro-Israel perspective. Second, that an observer from the UK Zionist Federation would attend on Sunday and display a poster which sets out its position regarding Israel and the role it has played in the peace process.

I was not surprised that pro-Israel groups had intervened and bullied in this way, as they have a long track record of such intimidation. However, I was saddened that a group of independent people of faith who had decided to embark on this event because they care about Palestinians and Israelis who are suffering as a result of the conflict were on the receiving end of this bullying. Nevertheless, the changes agreed to by the Dean did not change my view about participating in the conference.

I arrived on Saturday 8 October excited and really looking forward to a positive weekend. I attended all the sessions on that day, except one by an ecumenical accompanier which ran in parallel with my own slot. It is not possible to provide a review of all the speeches here. However, I provide a summary of each to provide context.

The Dean opened with a reflection that a number of those involved in the conference “had been to the land of the holy one. Have seen suffering on all sides. We have seen the insecurity of the Israeli state and the defensives and the fear that seems to be becoming part of the Israeli national identity. We have also seen the suffering of the displaced Palestinian people and the way in which many of the Palestinians now seem to live.” He then welcomed the attendees in a spirit of prayer, hospitality and mutual discovery. “For 1,300 years this place has been a centre of sanctuary and holiness where we can listen and search for truth. We offer this conference in that spirit of prayer and hospitality and hope. And whatever our faith tradition we come here today to learn, to question and to be inspired.”

The first speaker was an Israeli citizen, the Very Reverend Hosam Naoum, Dean of Jerusalem. He was in conversation with Dr Jane Clements. He articulated the situation for Christians in the Holy Land and was clear that the he did not lay the blame for the dwindling numbers of Christians on either Palestinian Muslim or Jewish Israeli persecution. He said that people should ask the Christian Palestinians themselves and suggested it was because “in the place where we belong we don’t find a happy home any more.” He emphasised that “most Christians would love to see both nations living side by side.”

Up next was Israeli academic Professor Yossi Mekelberg of Chatham House, who described the past 23 years of the (failed) peace process. The most important thing, he said, is to present “what can be done and what should be done to bring peace.” He warned that “the current situation is not sustainable.” I am afraid that what he presented was a continuation of a peace process that has failed.

I tried to present a view from a Palestinian. I reminded the audience that as a people we did not invite the occupation and that if our dispossession and ongoing occupation had happened to another people, they too would surely have objected and resisted in a similar manner. An acknowledgement and an apology from Israel for our Nakba (Catastrophe) was the first important step towards real peace. The question and answer session included an incident when a member of the audience was not called to ask a question. She objected but then asked me a question, which I answered.

Israeli historian Professor Ilan Pappé reminded the audience of the asymmetry of the situation and of the origins of the conflict. The final speaker was Sir Vincent Fean, the former British Consul General in Jerusalem. He is a well-known proponent of the two-state solution and he set out his reasons for this.

I left the conference feeling positive about its first day and my conversations with delegates reinforced my feelings about it. The following morning I returned to participate in the closing panel, which was chaired by the Dean and included Rabbi David Goldberg and Dr Jane Clements. The Dean closed the conference to a loud round of applause and appreciation by those who had given up the weekend to engage with the conflict.

A couple of days later, I was shocked to discover that the Lichfield Cathedral Facebook page had been filled with outrageous and nasty comments, including many from people who were not even at the event. A blog by a well-known pro-Israel activist, David Collier described a conference that I did not recognise at all; it was certainly not the one that I attended. He claimed that it was an “[anti-]Jewish hate fest” and that almost everyone involved was anti-Semitic. There were particularly nasty and threatening posts from a well-known anti-Palestinian Zionist called Jonathan Hoffman. The Dean posted a statement in which he said, “There were some passionate exchanges and contributions from the floor representing very diverse views. It takes courage to make peace and the first step is to listen. That is a proper requirement for everyone who is concerned with the long term future and flourishing of all the Israeli and Palestinian people.”

I was truly shocked to see the local paper in Lichfield publish a one-sided account quoting mostly from Collier’s outrageous blog. It made no attempt to contact any of the speakers. I am confident than none of us would have participated in a conference that demonstrated any sign of racism.

The intimidation and bullying that Lichfield Cathedral faced follows a similar attack on Hinde Street Methodist Church in Marylebone, which recently ran a “You cannot pass today” exhibition which was part of World Week for Peace. Under intimidation from the pro-Israel Lobby and criticism from former Archbishop George Carey the church agreed to “display Israel’s justification for security checks in the West Bank alongside its replica checkpoint, after criticism from the former Archbishop of Canterbury.”

It is outrageous that well-meaning people, especially people of faith, can be intimidated in this way by pro-Israel groups who enjoy the ability to act with apparently complete impunity, as does the state they support, which continues to breach international law and conventions. The British government does not help with its biased policies towards Israel. When called upon to do so it duly supports Israel where it matters in the UN Security Council and in the EU. This is also exemplified by its efforts to ban local councils and pension fund managers from implementing their own policies on ethical procurement.

Additionally, if the implication is that anyone thinking of holding an event related to Palestine and Israel needs to pass it by the pro-Israel Lobby for approval first then our democratic rights are under threat. As a Palestinian, I ask supporters of justice to stand up to the pro-Israel bullies; already, I am pleased to note that they are. The more that the Lobby engages in bullying, the stronger the resilience of supporters of justice will be and the greater will be the support for our cause.

Thank you Lichfield Cathedral for standing strong against the bullies. Both Israelis and Palestinians need your support and understanding.

Update 24/10/2016

Excellent letters in the Lichfield Mercury


TV Interview: Israel Suspends UNESCO Ties

I contributed to the Press TV programme ‘On the news line’ about the UNESCO resolution confirming that East Jerusalem including the religious sites is illegally occupied. This was broadcast on 20/10/2016.


Redefining anti-Semitism will not silence Palestinians’ struggle for justice

First published in the Middle East Eye on 19/10/2016

The UK home affairs select committee has fallen for the Israeli lobby’s attempt to conflate criticising Israel with anti-Semitism

I would not be writing this column in this way if the UK Parliament’s home affairs select committee had not dragged my homeland, Palestine, into the controversy surrounding anti-Semitism in this country through its decision this month to redefine the term.

Britain, which made the Balfour Declaration to the Zionists in 1917, has through the findings of this report, given the right to Zionists to silence Palestinians and their supporters in 2016.

It may surprise some people to read this, but that is exactly what happened when the select committee decided to bring Israel, which exists in historic Palestine, into its proposed revised definition of anti-Semitism.

The very fact that the committee brought the state of Israel into the discussion on anti-Semitism was in my view misguided and a disservice to the Jewish community in this country.

The committee decided that it should “aim to establish a definition which achieves an appropriate balance between condemning anti-Semitism vehemently, in all its forms, and maintaining freedom of speech – particularly in relation to legitimate criticism of the government of Israel”.

However, once criticism of Israel is linked to hatred of Jews in the UK, a line was crossed which implicitly makes the Jewish community somehow responsible for the actions of a foreign state. Previously established definitions of anti-Semitism did not make such a connection.

Just like in 1917, our voice as British Palestinians has neither been sought nor heard, while the voice of the Jewish community was sought and heard by members of Parliament. If anyone had asked, we would have told them that we have a clear view on racism and anti-Semitism which, unlike the views of some contributors who offered evidence, is not marred by support for a foreign state.

This includes representatives of Friends of Israel groups in the main political parties and several groups which claim to speak on behalf of the Jewish community, but are part of the pro-Israel lobby, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council.

It is telling that the chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, Eric Pickles, a former Conservative Party chairman, is listed as UK special envoy for post-Holocaust issues. Pickles told the committee: “The old stereotype of Jews owning everything, how they look and how they dress, that is completely unacceptable, but a kind of new anti-Semitism has crept in through this back-door, through anti-Zionism. Things that people say about Israelis or Zionists if they said about Jews would be clearly seen as being anti-Semitic”.

The Chief Rabbi himself suggested that “Zionism has been an integral part of Judaism from the dawn of our faith” when in fact it was developed in the 19th century.

Palestinians oppose anti-Semitism

As I wrote earlier this year, when the controversy surrounding alleged anti-Semitism in the British Labour party broke, we British Palestinians said we wanted to see anti-Semitism eradicated and also want sanctions imposed on Israel for its crimes against us. We stand with our fellow Jewish British citizens in their fight to eradicate the specific form of racism that affects them, which targets them, and we stand with fellow Palestinians in our homeland as they seek a just solution to our collective predicament.

I have always understood what is meant by racism and the specific form that targets Jews which is anti-Semitism. The definition of anti-Semitism which I grew up knowing is “the hatred of Jews because they are Jews”. This can and does apply to whichever country one lives in, including the Arab world, and should apply in a future independent Palestine.

If Jews are targeted because they are Jews then that is anti-Semitism. There is no need to qualify this or to renew it every few years for political motives. I can already hear cries that I have no right to define anti-Semitism for Jews. However, the cries will come from those who had no right to take or support the taking of my homeland.

In recent years, there has been a move to qualify and even redefine the term in light of the creation of Israel as a result of the development of a political ideology, Zionism, in the 19th century.

Various definitions of Zionism exist, but as far as Palestinians are concerned, the ideology revolved around the creation of a political entity for Jews in our homeland, historic Palestine, without our permission because they thought it would solve their problem. The fact that it was and continues to be a catastrophe for us is a minor inconvenience.

Bizarrely, Zionists claim that they have an eternal right to exclusively populate a specific plot of land and the world must accept this claim without question, they are simply “returning”. I say bizarrely because Christians do not argue that they have an eternal right to the birthplace of their religion, Palestine, nor do all Muslims claim an eternal right to the birthplace of their religion, Mecca and Medina.

Even more bizarrely, the claimants to my homeland were not living in it when they made their claim; my people, the Palestinians were. And, just as Jews, Christians and Muslims inhabited Palestine as a people, they also did so in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Yemen, to name but a few Arab countries where Jews lived alongside Muslims. Palestine was not an empty land as Zionists claimed.

Had Israel not been forced onto Palestine, an independent Palestine would have probably emerged in which Christians, Jews and Muslims became citizens of that new Palestinian nation as would have been the case in Syria and Iraq, for example. It was the forced creation of Israel that created a catastrophe for Palestinians (the Nakba) and turmoil in the Middle East, which resulted in most Jews leaving their Arab homelands for the newly established Israel.

‘Model occupied people’

We Palestinians are told that we must accept Israel as a reality, that we must not question its right to exist. But those who ask this of us would not have accepted the creation of a Zionist entity in their homeland. As I argued in a letter I wrote back in May, the Welsh people would not have accepted the creation of Israel in their homeland if Balfour had promised Wales to the Zionists.

Not only are Palestinians asked to accept Israel, we are expected to behave as a “model occupied people” while it decides what to do with us. The so-called “international community” has thus far failed to pressure Israel to agree to the most painful concession a people could give, to accept the existence of a foreign state on nearly 80 percent of our historic homeland. Israel wants more.

Israel’s education minister has recently made an explicit call for the annexation of the West Bank, to get even closer to achieving the dream of Zionism: Israel from the “river to the sea”. As Western governments have failed us, we Palestinians have turned to ordinary citizens to support us and they have.

Our call for a campaign to pressure Israel through Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), a peaceful campaign, has been gathering momentum. It is hurting Israel which has decided to fight it rather than come to its senses and meet its legitimate demands.

Israel has dedicated significant resource to this fight but has also called on its supporters in other countries to fight it too. The UK government has regularly expressed opposition to BDS and the current foreign secretary was caught in a controversy about it when he visited Palestine and Israel as London’s mayor last November.

Redefining anti-Semitism

In addition, some supporters of Zionism and apologists for Israel’s illegal practices have in recent years been attempting to qualify the established definition of anti-Semitism with the explicit intention of establishing a significant linkage between being a Jew and Israel. They have tried tirelessly to conflate Judaism, Zionism and Israel. If you are anti any of them, you should be labelled an anti-Semite.

They attempted to steer the recent debate on anti-Semitism in the UK’s Labour Party in this direction. When the inquiry into Baroness Chakrabarti did not find in their favour, they rubbished her report and turned their attention to the Home Affairs Select Committee on anti-Semitism.

Instead of rejecting the pro-Israel camp’s desire to redefine anti-Semitism, the select committee took a discredited European Union definition, and then amended it to now include criticism of Israel as part of the term, but not always, resulting in a dog’s breakfast.  The committee fell for the pro-Israel lobby’s desire for the conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism hook, line and sinker. Anti-Semitism was redefined and the supporters of Israel are cheering.

Criminalising dissent

We Palestinians are not cheering. We are entitled to be extremely concerned that our ability and that of our supporters to educate and campaign has been compromised through the deliberate attempt by supporters of Israel to abuse anti-Semitism for the purpose of taking the heat off the rogue state they support.

They not only want us to think twice about speaking out and criticising Israel, but they also want the government to move to criminalise us if we do and when they (whoever they are) judge that we have overstepped the mark.

It seems that from Balfour to anti-Semitism, Britain is determined to complete the Zionist colonisation of our homeland, Palestine.

Our message to British politicians is this: as long as Israel continues to occupy Palestine, to oppress and murder, to lay siege to two million people, to steal our land and resources, to restrict our movement, to refuse to allow the refugees to return, to attack our religious sites, to illegally settle our land and to leave our people with no hope of freedom, dignity or independence, we and our supporters will continue to speak out, to educate and to demand that the British government changes its shameful, but deliberate policies which place trade with Israel above human rights.

We will not allow Zionists who support a state that does all of the above to silence us under the disguise of the “new anti-Semitism” but we will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Jews in their fight against the real anti-Semitism that some still undoubtedly face.

As Palestinians, we demand the British government reject the select committee’s call to adopt its proposed definition of anti-Semitism.

Rolls Royce, pants and sand: What Boris Johnson said to the Arab ambassadors

First published by the Middle East Eye on 13/10/2016

The foreign secretary’s candid speech reveals an opportunity to influence UK policy in the Middle East – Arab ambassadors should seize it

Away from the endless discussions on Brexit at this year’s Conservative party conference in Birmingham, there were the usual fringe meetings and receptions that complement such an occasion.

One such event was the Arab ambassadors’ regular reception to which the Foreign Office normally invite the foreign secretary. I was grateful for an invitation. On previous occasions, the person who ended up attending to speak on behalf of the party and government was a junior minister rather than their boss.

However, on this occasion the rumour was that it would be the man himself, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. There was notable excitement among the attendees, including ambassadors representing countries from across the world.

We knew that the main speaker was about to arrive when the Kuwait TV camera and the ambassadors were summoned to the entrance led by his excellency, the doyen of the London diplomatic corps, Khaled al-Duwaisan, Ambassador of Kuwait.

It took some 10 minutes for Boris to complete the round of handshakes and small talk before he could be welcomed formally.

Balfour’s legacy

The doyen welcomed Boris as a “star” of Britain and praised him not only as current secretary of state but also for his previous role as mayor of London. He told him that “our relations as Arab countries are very strong’ and Britain has with them a “historic relation”.

He then invited the head of the diplomatic mission of Palestine, Professor Manuel Hassassian, to address the foreign secretary. It was not clear whether this had been agreed in advance, but the foreign secretary was happy for this to happen.

Professor Hassassian made good use of this opportunity to remind Boris of why 2017 would be a “remarkable year” for Palestinians. “We will be commemorating the hundred years of the Balfour declaration and 70 years of the Nakba and 50 years of the occupation and 10 years of the Gaza siege,” he explained.

He thanked the UK for the “nice words” of support and the money it donates to support the Palestinian Authority. This brought a smile to Boris’s face. Then the ambassador hit hard: “But Sir, we don’t need the money, we need you to be more involved in the political process.”

Hassassian suggested that “crisis management” had been a dismal failure and that what is needed is “conflict resolution”. He did not think it was enough for Britain to consider not importing goods from Israeli settlements or to simply say that it is for the two-state solution or the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. “Those are nice words to be said, but we need to see them concretised on the ground,” he challenged.

He also reminded the foreign secretary of Britain’s role. The Balfour Declaration, he said, “was the starting point in the destruction of Palestine. Great Britain should shoulder its historic, legal and moral responsibility.” He laid a challenge at Boris’s door to “add one sentence to the Declaration: ‘the recognition of the independence of Palestine'”.

Rolls Royces, pants – and sand?

Anyone thinking that Boris would rise to the challenge was quickly disappointed.

“I hope you will forgive me if I don’t venture to solve the problems of the Middle East peace process tonight off the cuff,” he told the crowd. In his typical light-hearted style, Boris acknowledged the doyen’s important role in leading the ambassadors in “paying the London congestion charge”.

Returning to more important matters, Boris acknowledged the importance of solving the Palestinian problem, but that “it was not the only problem in the region”. He seemed surprised at the lack of reaction to his statement. He then significantly stated that he did not believe that that region should be “defined by those problems”.

READ MORE: Human rights advocates weigh in on Boris Johnson’s comments and the UK export push to the Middle East


“It is absolutely vital that we do not allow the Middle East, the Arab world in the eyes of the British public to be defined by these problems,” he said, arguing that the region should be seen as providing a great opportunity, particularly following Brexit.

Reflecting on his time as mayor of London, Boris Johnson said that people used to accuse him of being the mayor of the “eighth Emirate”. He acknowledged the massive investment London has received, which changed its skyline. He described the Shard as “poking through like a gigantic cocktail stick through a super colossal pickled onion”.

Boris then talked of the opportunities in the other direction as “we also get the ball back over the net. This is the fastest-growing economic partnership that Britain has”. He then stunned the audience when he proclaimed that “the growth in exports to the Arab world outstrips any other part of the planet including the EU”. The exports include Rolls Royce cars, pants and “sand to Saudi Arabia”.

He finished with an acknowledgment of cultural synergy between Britain and the Arab world as the 400th anniversary of its greatest author is celebrated “who was himself a Sheikh,” he said with a dramatic pause. “Shakespeare!” This brought the house down.

Seize the opportunity

This was Boris Johnson at his best, connecting with the audience brilliantly and they loved him.

However, it is clear where Britain’s and his current priorities lie. The impact of Brexit, which was being debated in the serious sessions taking part in Birmingham’s magnificent Symphony Hall, clearly comes ahead of solving the problems of the Middle East.

The foreign secretary directed approaches to him on these issues to his junior minister, Tobias Ellwood, who was also in attendance. I doubt if he would have done that with such ease to the Israeli ambassador.

The most important message I took away from the evening was the statement about the growth of exports to the Middle East far exceeding any other part of the planet. I would see this as an open opportunity for the Arab world to influence British foreign policy in its favour as Britain seeks to develop its economic ties with markets outside the EU.

I would urge the Arab ambassadors who attended the reception to see this significant opportunity and formulate policy accordingly. This would be power not only for the various troubled countries in the region but also for the Palestinian problem. Their collective voice could and should be used to influence the kind of approach Britain takes to 2017 and, in particular, the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.

My only regret was that, had I known Boris was to speak at the reception, I might have turned up in a corduroy jacket but I do not own one. During a visit to Israel last year, the then London mayor accused supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement of being “completely crazy” and being promoted by a “few lefty academics” in corduroy jackets pursuing a cause.

I did manage to shake Boris’s hand at the reception wearing a suit and he may remember me as not “completely crazy”. He needs to realise that those working for justice for Palestinians are neither crazy, nor anti-Semitic, as Israel and some of its supporters claim.

– Kamel Hawwash is a British-Palestinian engineering professor based at the University of Birmingham and a longstanding campaigner for justice, especially for the Palestinian people. He is vice chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and appears regularly in the media as commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at He writes here in a personal capacity.

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

Photo: London mayor Boris Johnson salutes photographers as rides a bicycle in front of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, during his visit to Dubai, on 16 April 2013 (AFP)

Read more:

Israel trumps Arab and Muslim world’s influence on US presidential candidates

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 10 October 2016

Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton greet one another as they take the stage for their first debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, US September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

image from the Middle East Monitor showing Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, the two US presidential candidates.

As the United States’ presidential race enters its final stage, with elections due on 8 November, the two candidates have been making their final pitches to woo the voters in their direction. There is general agreement that the two candidates, US businessman and billionaire Donald Trump for the Republicans and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton for the Democrats, are two of the least popular candidates ever to stand for this great office. A focus on personal rather than policy issues characterised the first two debates, leaving US voters and observers around the world perplexed at the prospect of either candidate becoming the next president.

Donald Trump

Trump, a candidate with no political experience, astonishingly won the GOP nomination on a platform of wanting to “make America great again”. His policies include building a wall along the border with Mexico and a promise that Mexico would pay for it, bringing jobs back to the US, particularly from Mexico and China and renegotiating trade deals that he thinks do not favour American workers. His appeal to African American voters was simply that there situation is so terrible “what do you have to lose” by voting for him.

When it comes to the Arab world, Trump is for crushing Daesh claiming he would “bomb the hell out of ISIS”, using another acronym for Daesh, and enhancing security through “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”.  He recently revised this to “extreme vetting” for migrants to ensure the US only accept immigrants who “share our values and respect our people”. Trump’s proposal for stemming the tide of refugees from Syria is to keep them in Syria stating “what I like is build a safe zone, it’s here, build a big beautiful safe zone and you have whatever it is so people can live, and they’ll be happier”. He would expect the Gulf states to pay for this even though he is “not a big fan” of Saudi Arabia, and that America had paid too much to “back them up”.

His stance on Iraq has been that he opposed the war on Iraq but thinks the US should have seized Iraq’s oil.

On Libya, Trump reversed his stance on US military intervention from: “We would be so much better off if Gaddafi would be in charge right now,” to “I didn’t mind surgical. And I said surgical. You do a surgical shot and you take him out.” Trump has been vocal in his criticism of his Democratic rival’s policy in Libya while she was secretary of state.

Under his administration, Trump promised Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi that “the United States of America will be a loyal friend, not simply an ally, that Egypt can count on in the days and years ahead.”

Hilary Clinton

Unlike her Republican counterpart, Hilary Clinton’s stance on the Middle East is well known to the regional players from her days as secretary of state under the first Obama administration. Her deep knowledge of the region and generally warm relations with key regional players could help deliver greater American influence than has occurred under President Obama since she left office. However, strictly on policy issues there is unlikely to be a major shift to either a more hawkish or softer position on the key challenges.

Palestine and Israel

Support for and commitment to Israel, and particularly its security, have featured prominently in all recent US presidential elections and the current one has been no exception. The now mandatory “pilgrimage” to the main lobby group AIPAC’s conference to praise Israel and to reaffirm the US’ “unshakeable” commitment to it again featured in candidates’ campaign. Of all the candidates still standing at the time, only Democratic candidate Bernie Saunders missed the opportunity to state his position in person. The candidates effectively competed, at least in rhetoric to demonstrate their commitment to Israel, never once robustly criticising anything it does. Anyone listening would have thought Israel was not illegally occupying another people or in breach of countless UN Security Council resolutions or imposing an inhumane siege on Gaza.

Clinton sought to sway AIPAC’s audience by criticising Trump’s prior stance insisting “we need steady hands”, referring to the business mogul but not naming him. “Not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday because everything is negotiable.” She nailed her colours to the mast insisting: “Well, my friends, Israel’s security is non-negotiable!”

Trump, who initially committed to being “neutral” on negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, causing a stir with Israel’s supporters at the time, changed his tune at AIPAC, unusually reading form a teleprompter. He said that he was “very pro-Israel”, touting the “many awards” he’s won, even claiming “there’s nobody more pro-Israel than I am”. Going on to emphasise America’s need to protect it. He reserved his criticisms for the Palestinians insisting they would have to end terror. “They have to stop with the terror because what they’re doing with the missiles and with the stabbings and with all of the other things that they do, it’s horrible and it’s gotta end.”

It is notable that Trump’s most recent “policy” related to the conflict is to “recognise Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel”. This he stated at an hour long meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Trump Tower during his visit to the US to make his annual speech to the UN General Assembly. This would have been music to Netanyahu’s ears, since the longstanding policy of successive US administrations has been to avoid this recognition, leaving it for the negotiations to determine the future of the holy city.

Both the Democratic and Republican party platforms saw a move in favour of Israel this year. TheRepublican platform reinstated a reference to Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital, and removed a reference to Palestine, while the Democratic party rejected an amendment to its platform “rebuking Israel”.

Trump’s dangerous promise to Netanyahu on Jerusalem suggests a wider problem for Arab and Muslim nations. While Israel works tirelessly to influence policy in its favour, Arab and Muslim nations sit on their hands and simply complain and occasionally express their disappointment at the lack of sympathy for their issues, particularly from the US. Their judgement has perhaps been that Trump will not win the race and therefore efforts to influence him were not productive. Well, there is still a slim chance that he may win and they will be left at the back of the queue when arguing for a more favourable approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. If Hilary Clinton wins, why would she be more sympathetic than she has been to Arab and Muslim issues when there has not been an attempt to move her thinking during the election campaign?

The Palestinians may be too weak to influence either Trump or Clinton on their own, but how can the collective economic power of the Arab and Muslim world not only fail to make gains in their favour but to even lose ground?

It seems Israel has “trumped” the Arab and Muslim world through tireless and effective work and the next president of the US will be kinder to it than his or her predecessors.