Language discrimination, another blow at Jewish- Arab equality in Israel

First published by the Arab Weekly on 6/8/2017

Israel has been replacing Arabic road names with the Hebrew names.

 

The Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislation recently approved a draft bill that would end Arabic’s status as an official language of the country, despite an Arabic-speaking population that includes 20% of the state’s citizens.

This would have significant practical and moral implica­tions for Israel’s Palestinian Arab citizens and Palestinians in Je­rusalem who are not citizens but whom Israel labels “residents.”

It would be a further blow to their fight for equality and to remain in their homeland regard­less of what state exists on it. It will add to their insecurity as citizens who may be transferred to a future Palestinian state either politically or physically or stripped of their citizenship to fulfil extremist Israeli politicians’ desire to make the country a purely Jewish state.

Arabic is used when certain services are provided and when Palestinians are required to com­plete official forms applying for official documents or services.

Israel has been replacing Arabic road names, particularly in East Jerusalem, with the Hebrew names that appear on signs in both Hebrew and Arabic, includ­ing “Al Quds” being listed as “Yerushalayim” in Arabic.

This, Israel hopes, will be im­planted in the minds of Palestin­ians and visitors who will become accustomed to the Hebrew names rendering the Arabic version as part of some distant history.

It is worth remembering that Is­raeli Arabs are a minority only be­cause of the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians from the area when Israel was created in 1948. The discrimination and insecurity felt by Palestinian citizens of Israel is palpable.

The Centre for Arab Minor­ity Rights in Israel (Adalah) said Israel has enacted more than 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of the state. They include a “citizenship law” that bars Palestinian citizens from marrying Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian terri­tories and taking them to live in Israel.

Israeli society itself discrimi­nates against them through “admissions committees,” which Jewish communities can use to bar Palestinian citizens from liv­ing among them.

As for Bedouin citizens of Israel, the situation is dire. Israel has not recognised 45 villages they inhabit, depriving the areas of es­sential services. It has embarked on a plan to transfer them to a smaller number of locations and, in some cases, to build settle­ments for Jews only on sites they inhabited.

Even the Muslim call for prayer has been under attack and the government moved to silence its projection outside mosques be­cause it “disturbs” illegal settlers who moved into predominantly Muslim areas.

Contrast this with Canada where French is the mother tongue of 22% of the population but when Canadian Prime Minis­ter Justin Trudeau addresses news conferences abroad, he repeats his remarks in French, recognising the minority speaking part of his fellow Canadians.

Israel, on the other hand, is moving ahead with a “nation-state bill” that gives primacy to Jewish citizens. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claims that “there is no contradiction at all between this bill and equal rights for all citizens of Israel.”

Any rational and fair-minded observer would reject that as­sertion and see this bill and the stripping of Arabic of its status as an official language as further proof, if any was needed, of Israeli policies that discriminate against a sizeable minority of its citizens and one that erodes visible signs of the historic Palestine’s Arab heritage.

A famous Arab song says: “The land speaks Arabic,” which people in historic Palestine still do but Israel wants them to only speak Hebrew. Rather than enrich Israel, it would be the poorer for the ac­tions of an extremist exclusionary government.

As printed

Jerusalem’s Palestinian youth face bleak future

First published by the Arab Weekly on 30/7/2017

London – The results of the tawjihi — General Secondary Education Certificate Examination — were re­cently announced across the Palestinian territories to great cheers and celebration in some households and deep disappoint­ment in others.


The future isn’t what it used to be. Palestinian children chat outside a school in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabel Mukhaber. (Reuters)

Palestinians see education as a vital asset to their development both as individuals and as a society under occupation.

The next step for those who ex­celled in the tawjihi is to find a place at university. Medicine and engineering continue to be the most sought-after studies for those with a score of 90% or higher.

However, hope that a university education will help Palestinians se­cure a job and go on to build a fam­ily is a pipe dream for most. “Hope” is the operative word here, and is a commodity that is in short supply for Palestinians, particularly the young.

The number of unemployed Pal­estinians totalled 361,000 in 2016, the Palestinian Central Bureau for Statistics said, rising from 21.7% in 2007 to 26.9% in 2016.

The International Labour Organi­sation (ILO) said the unemploy­ment rate for Palestinian youth has reached 40%. The unemployment rate in Gaza is more than 40% and youth unemployment is more than 60% and 85% among young wom­en. Gaza, of course, has suffered from a 10-year siege that has exac­erbated the situation. The unem­ployment rate among men in East Jerusalem is reported to be 12.3% and 26.8% among women.

Palestinians recently marked Is­rael’s 50-year occupation of East Jerusalem, which means anyone born after 1967 has grown up un­der Israeli military rule. The occu­pation has not been a static affair. Israel annexed East Jerusalem shortly after its occupation, claim­ing it as its united eternal capital. It has also actively pursued the con­struction of illegal settlements in the Palestinian areas, for Jews only, in a deliberate attempt to change its demographic makeup or, as the Pal­estinians see it, to Judaise it.

Some 300,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem. Their official status is “resident.” They are nei­ther Israeli citizens nor holders of a Palestinian Authority passport. In 2014, the Israeli Ministry of Interior revoked the permanent residency status of 107 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, including 56 women and 12 minors. Since 1967, the resi­dency status of 14,416 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem has been revoked. In practice, this prevents them from returning to live in their place of birth.

In 2012, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) reported that 78% of Palestinians, including 84% of children, in the district of Jeru­salem live below the poverty line. There are no official statistics col­lected by Israel as to the rate of un­employment among Palestinians. However, the Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem, put out by the Jerusa­lem Institute for Israel Studies, said 40% of males and 85% of females do not participate in the workforce.

Only 41% of Palestinian children are enrolled in municipal schools. There is a shortage of 1,000 class­rooms in the official municipal education system; 194 classrooms were added in these schools from 2009-14 and an additional 211 are planned. More than 40% of class­rooms in the official municipal sys­tem are considered inadequate.

A particularly important statistic is that of school dropout rate. This stands at 26% in 11th grade and 33% in 12th grade; the national average stands at just a few percent. Those who drop out face a bleak future in terms of employment. Opportuni­ties for employment are extremely limited. The jobs that do exist are low-pay and in many cases short-term.

Where youngsters hope to join a family business, particularly in the old city, they see a short, strained attempt by Israel to force them out of business through excessive taxa­tion and other demands.

Many end up working part-time for low wages inside Israel with little hope of saving for a house, rent or to start a family. This forces many to continue living with their parents, resulting in overcrowded conditions.

Even if Palestinian families own land and have the means to ex­tend their homes to accommodate offspring, Israel generally denies building permits. Such permits are not denied for their Jewish neigh­bours. As a result, some Palestin­ians end up working in the West Bank, putting their residency status in Jerusalem at risk.

The occupation also affects their lives by subjecting young Palestin­ians to regular arrests, sometimes for being suspected of throwing stones or being involved in car­rying out what they see as acts of resistance. Cases of young Palestin­ians being mistreated in custody, such as being asked to sign confes­sions in Hebrew, which they do not speak, are well documented.

Young Palestinians have ex­pressed a general sense of humilia­tion and do not see their status quo changing for years to come.

برنامج وراء الحدث: جمعة الغضب نصرة للأقصى

مشاركتي يوم ٢١/٧/٢٠١٧ ببرنامج وراء الحدث على قناة الغد

https://youtu.be/0v7TbpBmGRE

Attaque d’al-Aqsa : les Palestiniens quasiment abandonnés

18/7/2017 Middle East Eye FR

La défense de la mosquée al-Aqsa, chérie par 1,6 milliard de musulmans de par le monde, a été laissée aux 300 000 Palestiniens de Jérusalem, qui font face à un occupant particulièrement brutal et impitoyable

 

Les implications de l’incident mortel de vendredi dernier à Al-Aqsa vont bien au-delà du droit à la prière.

Cinq citoyens israéliens ont été tués lors de cette attaque perpétrée à la porte des Lions qui donne accès au complexe d’al-Aqsa, le troisième site le plus sacré de l’islam et également le site le plus sacré du judaïsme, connu sous le nom de mont du Temple.

Les assaillants, trois cousins ​​de la famille Jabareen, étaient originaires de la ville arabe israélienne d’Um al-Fahm, qui se trouve juste à l’intérieur de la Ligne verte. Ils étaient dans le collimateur des forces de sécurité israéliennes qui les considéraient comme des menaces potentielles.

Les deux policiers israéliens tués lors de l’incident provenaient de la communauté druze minoritaire d’Israël. L’un venait de la ville essentiellement druze mais aussi arabe de Maghar et l’autre du village druze de Hurfeish.

Les corps des policiers ont été remis rapidement à leurs familles et ont été enterrés le jour même, alors que ceux des assaillants sont encore détenus par les autorités israéliennes.

La famille Jabareen a monté trois tentes consacrées au deuil à Um al-Fahm, lesquelles ont été rapidement démantelées suite aux ordres du Premier ministre israélien, Benyamin Netanyahou. Lundi, le ministre israélien de la Sécurité publique, Gilad Erdan, a suggéré que les maisons des attaquants étaient susceptibles d’être démolies.

En raison de cette attaque, on pourrait observer dans les jours à venir une augmentation des tensions entre les communautés palestinienne et druze d’Israël. L’enrôlement des druzes dans l’armée israélienne n’est pas apprécié par les citoyens palestiniens d’Israël et par les résidents de Jérusalem, et des confrontations ont souvent lieu aux entrées d’al-Aqsa.

La première fois depuis 1969

Immédiatement après l’attaque, les autorités israéliennes ont évacué le lieu saint, expulsant toutes les personnes qui étaient venues y prier, ainsi que les responsables religieux et les employés du Waqf, l’entité qui administre le site, avant de le fermer. Les prières du vendredi ont été annulées et l’appel à la prière n’a plus été entendu.

Cela ne s’était pas produit depuis qu’un Australien avait mis le feu à la mosquée en août 1969, deux ans après l’occupation de Jérusalem-Est par Israël durant la guerre des Six jours.

Les forces israéliennes surveillent une rue menant à l’entrée principale d’al-Aqsa ce lundi. Les rues et les magasins de la vieille ville étaient vides alors que les Palestiniens protestaient contre les nouvelles mesures de sécurité imposées par Israël (M

Le président de l’Autorité palestinienne, Mahmoud Abbas, a téléphoné à Netanyahou et « a exprimé sa forte condamnation de la fusillade mortelle de Jérusalem et de la fermeture du lieu saint musulman de la mosquée al-Aqsa par Israël », selon l’agence de presse palestinienne WAFA.

Abbas a exprimé son « rejet de tout incident violent de toute part, en particulier dans les lieux de culte », et appelé Netanyahou à « mettre fin à la fermeture imposée du site sacré, mettant en garde contre les conséquences de ces mesures ».

Netanyahou a assuré à Abbas que le « statu quo » en vigueur dans le complexe ne changerait pas et a appelé toutes les parties au calme. Les Palestiniens n’ont pas apprécié la condamnation d’Abbas et sa cote de popularité est susceptible de baisser davantage, faisant de lui un partenaire pour la paix encore plus faible.

Comment en sommes-nous arrivés là ?

Selon le « statu quo » établi suite à l’occupation par Israël de Jérusalem-Est, y compris de la vieille ville, le Waqf jordanien administre le sanctuaire, les musulmans ont le droit d’y prier et les non-musulmans, y compris les juifs, peuvent le visiter mais ne peuvent y prier ou y pratiquer tout autre rituel religieux.

Le rôle spécial de la Jordanie à Jérusalem a été reconnu dans le traité de paix de 1994 entre Israël et la Jordanie, qui stipule qu’Israël « respecte le rôle spécial du royaume hachémite de Jordanie dans les sanctuaires musulmans à Jérusalem ».

Mais le traité ne va pas jusqu’à donner à la Jordanie une autorité juridique, politique ou religieuse sur les sanctuaires islamiques de Jérusalem.

À maintes reprises, Israël a poussé les limites du « statu quo », en particulier en permettant des visites plus fréquentes et nombreuses de colons, de responsables religieux et d’hommes politiques juifs sur le site, ce que les Palestiniens et le Waqf considèrent comme des incursions dans la mesure où elles ne sont pas coordonnées avec ce dernier. Cela a provoqué de fréquentes tensions entre Israël et la Jordanie et fait craindre aux Palestiniens qu’Israël ne cherche à imposer sa souveraineté sur le site.

En 2003, craignant qu’Israël change le statu quo à Jérusalem, Abbas a signé un accord avec le roi Abdallah de Jordanie pour solidifier la responsabilité de ce dernier vis-à-vis des lieux saints musulmans et chrétiens de Jérusalem.

Dans un communiqué, le palais royal jordanien avait alors déclaré : « Dans cet accord historique, Mahmoud Abbas a réitéré que le roi est le gardien des lieux saints à Jérusalem et qu’il a le droit de déployer tous les efforts juridiques nécessaires pour les préserver, en particulier la mosquée al-Aqsa ».

L’accord a également souligné « les principes historiques convenus par la Jordanie et la Palestine en vue d’exercer des efforts conjoints visant à protéger la ville et les lieux saints des tentatives israéliennes de judaïsation ».

Une réaction régionale mitigée

Alors qu’en 2014, la Jordanie a rappelé son ambassadeur pour protester contre les pratiques israéliennes sur le site, sa réaction à l’incident de vendredi dernier et à la fermeture de la mosquée a été plutôt discrète.

Le roi Abdallah a condamné l’attaque lors d’une conversation téléphonique avec Netanyahou et a vivement critiqué la fermeture de la mosquée décidée par Israël, exigeant sa réouverture.

Samedi soir, avant de partir pour sa visite d’État en France, Netanyahu a déclaré : « J’ai demandé à ce que des détecteurs de métaux soient placés aux portes d’entrée du mont du Temple. Nous installerons également des caméras de sécurité sur des poteaux situés en dehors du mont du Temple, mais qui donnent un contrôle presque total sur ce qu’il s’y passe.

« J’ai décidé que dès dimanche, dans le cadre de notre politique de maintien du statu quo, nous ouvrirons progressivement le mont du Temple, mais avec des mesures de sécurité renforcées. »

La déclaration de Netanyahou est contradictoire en soi car les mesures qu’il évoque ne font pas partie du statu quo. La Jordanie, pour sa part, n’a émis aucune autre réaction, ce qui est préoccupant pour les Palestiniens, qui s’attendaient à une action plus forte du roi.

Les Palestiniens sont également consternés par ce qu’ils considèrent comme une réaction discrète du monde arabe et musulman dans son ensemble à la fermeture de la mosquée – à l’exception du Qatar, dont le ministre des Affaires étrangères a déclaré que la fermeture d’al-Aqsa constituait « une grave violation des sites sacrés islamiques et une provocation pour des millions de musulmans à travers le monde ».

La Ligue arabe a demandé qu’al-Aqsa soit rouvert immédiatement et que cesse tout changement du statu quo. L’Égypte et la Turquie ont émis des déclarations plutôt clémentes. La Turquie a exprimé son regret pour l’incident, insisté sur la nécessité que le site reste ouvert et que sa fermeture par Israël soit immédiatement annulée.

Les inquiétudes concernant le troisième site le plus saint de l’islam déclenchent généralement des manifestations dans de nombreux pays arabes et musulmans, durant lesquelles l’on peut entendre les manifestants scander : « Nous sacrifierions notre vie et notre sang pour toi, al-Aqsa ». Ce slogan a été entendu à Jérusalem et en Jordanie, mais nulle part ailleurs.

En fait, la réponse globale du monde arabe et musulman est parmi les plus faibles jamais observées. Cela peut résulter de l’évolution du paysage politique au Moyen-Orient, qui a été provoquée par la récente visite du président américain Donald Trump dans la région et l’accent mis sur le terrorisme durant cette visite.

Après Riyad

Alors que les Palestiniens pourraient faire valoir que pour un peuple subissant une occupation illégale depuis 50 ans, les attaques contre « les forces d’occupation » constituent une forme légitime de résistance et non du terrorisme, le climat qui règne après la conférence de Riyad est moins favorable à cette idée.

La question du terrorisme, bien qu’aucune définition claire n’en ait émergé, est au cœur de l’impasse sans précédent entre le Qatar et quatre autres États arabes, y compris l’Égypte et l’Arabie saoudite.

L’ingérence d’Israël dans le droit des Palestiniens à bénéficier d’un accès sans entrave à al-Aqsa, accès qu’Israël pourrait rétablir progressivement, quoique selon des conditions sécuritaires plus strictes, a suscité leur colère, mais la situation ne retournera pas à ce qu’elle était avant l’attaque sans une action décisive de la Jordanie.

Alors que le monde arabe privilégie l’approche israélienne et américaine d’une paix régionale axée sur la normalisation, les autorités jordaniennes ont peut-être le sentiment qu’elles ne disposent pas du soutien de leurs frères arabes pour assurer le retour au statu quo.

La conclusion, pour le peuple palestinien, et en particulier pour les habitants de Jérusalem, est qu’ils ont été abandonnés.

Non seulement ils ont perdu le soutien de leurs frères et sœurs arabes et musulmans dans leur quête pour la libération, l’indépendance et la liberté, mais la défense d’al-Aqsa, chérie par 1,6 milliard de musulmans de par le monde, a été laissée aux 300 000 Palestiniens de Jérusalem, qui font face à un occupant particulièrement brutal et impitoyable.

Les ministres israéliens pourront se faciliter d’avoir su tirer profit de l’occasion de prendre le contrôle de ce site islamique vénéré, mais l’histoire montre qu’humilier les Palestiniens et écraser leurs espérances ne mènent qu’à davantage de violences.

 

Al-Aqsa attack: Palestinians all but abandoned

First published by the Middle East Eye on 17/7/2017

With a weak response from Arab and Muslim countries to unprecedented restrictions at the Al-Aqsa mosque, Palestinians are left alone to defend the holy site from Israel’s incursions


The implications of the deadly incident last Friday at Al-Aqsa go way beyond the right to prayer.

Five Israeli citizens were killed during the attack at the Lion’s Gate entrance to the Al-Aqsa compound, Islam’s third holiest site, which is the most sacred site in Judaism and is known as the Temple Mount. 

The three attackers, cousins from the Jabareen family, hail from the Arab Israeli city of Um Al-Fahm, which sits just inside the Green Line, and were on the security forces’ radar as a potential threat.

The two Israeli police officers killed in the incident were from Israel’s minority Druze community. One came from the mostly Druze but also Arab town of Maghar and the other from the Druze village of Hurfeish.

The bodies of the police officers were handed over quickly to the families and were buried on the same day, while Israeli officials are still holding those of the attackers.

The Jabareen family established three mourning tents in Um Al-Fahm which were quickly taken down on the orders of Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. On Monday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan suggested the attackers homes may be demolished.

The coming days may see a rise in tensions between the Palestinian and Druze communities in Israel following the attack. Druze participation in the Israeli security forces is resented by Palestinian citizens of Israel and by Jerusalem residents who often face them at Al-Aqsa’s entrances. 

Not since 1969

Immediately after the attack, the Israeli authorities cleared the Holy Sanctuary of all who had come to pray, religious leaders and the employees of the Waqf, the body which administers the site, and then closed it. The Friday prayers scheduled to take place were cancelled and the call for prayers were silenced.

That had not happened since an Australian set the mosque on fire in August 1969, two years after Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the Six Day War.


Israeli forces guard a road leading to the main entrance of Al-Aqsa on Monday. Streets and shops were empty as Palestinians protested the new security measures (MEE)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas phoned Netanyahu and “expressed his strong condemnation over the fatal Jerusalem shootout and the Israeli closure of the holy Islamic site of al-Aqsa mosque,” according to the Palestinian press agency WAFA.

Abbas stated his “rejection of any violent incidents from any side, especially in places of worship” and called on Netanyahu to “end the closure imposed on the holy site, warning of the consequences of such measures”. 

Netanyahu assured Abbas that the “status quo” would not change at the compound, calling for all sides to stay calm. Palestinians did not appreciate Abbas’ condemnation and his standing is likely to reduce further, making him an ever weaker partner for peace.

How we got to here

The “status quo” which was established after Israel occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City, was that the Jordanian Waqf would administer the Holy Sanctuary, Muslims had a right to pray while non-Muslims, including Jews, could visit the site but not pray or perform other religious rituals there.

Jordan’s special role in Jerusalem was acknowledged in the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan which stated that Israel “respects the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem”.

But the treaty stops short of giving Jordan any legal, political or religious authority over Islamic holy shrines in Jerusalem.

Israel has repeatedly pushed the limits of the “status quo”, particularly through larger and more frequent visits by Jewish settlers, religious leaders and politicians to the sites which Palestinians and the Waqf see as incursions, because they are not coordinated with the Waqf. This has caused repeated tensions between Israel and Jordan, leading to concerns among Palestinians that Israel is working to impose its sovereignty over the site.

In 2003, fearing that Israel was changing the status quo in Jerusalem, Abbas signed an agreement with Jordan’s King Abdullah which solidified Jordan’s custodianship of Muslim and Christian places in the holy city.

A statement from the Jordanian palace said: “In this historic agreement, Abbas reiterated that the king is the custodian of holy sites in Jerusalem and that he has the right to exert all legal efforts to preserve them, especially Al-Aqsa mosque.”

The agreement also emphasised “the historical principles agreed by Jordan and Palestine to exert joint efforts to protect the city and holy sites from Israeli Judaisation attempts.”

Lukewarm regional reaction

While Jordan recalled its ambassador in 2014 in protest of Israeli practices at the site, its reaction to last Friday’s incident and the closure of the mosque has been rather low key.

King Abdullah condemned the attack in a telephone conversation with Netanyahu, but slammed Israel’s two-day closure of the mosque and demanded it be reopened.

On Saturday evening, before he left for his state visit to France, Netanyahu said: “I instructed that metal detectors be placed at the entrance gates to the Temple Mount. We will also install security cameras on poles outside the Temple Mount but which give almost complete control over what goes on there.

“I decided that as of Sunday in the framework of our policy of maintaining the status quo, we will gradually open the Temple Mount, but with increased security measures.”

Netanyahu’s statement, in itself, is contradictory because the measures he detailed are not part of the status quo. However, there has been no further reaction from Jordan, which is of concern to Palestinians who had expected stronger action from the king.

However, Palestinians are also dismayed at what they see as a broader, low key reaction to the closure of the mosque from the Arab and Muslim world with the exception of Qatar whose minister of foreign affairs said the closure was “a severe violation of holy Islamic sites and a provocation to millions of Muslims around the world”.

The Arab League called for Al-Aqsa to be opened immediately and for any change in the status quo to be stopped. Egypt and Turkey put out rather mild statements. Turkey expressed its regret over the incident, insisted the site must stay open and Israel’s closure immediately cancelled.

Concern for the third holiest site to Muslims usually triggers demonstrations in many Arab and Muslim countries in which protestors chant, “We would sacrifice our lives and our blood for you Al-Aqsa”. That chant was heard in Jerusalem and Jordan, but nowhere else.

In fact, the overall response from the Arab and Muslim world ranks amongst the weakest ever recorded. This may be an outcome of the changing political landscape in the Middle East, which was brought about by US President Donald Trump’s recent visit to the region and the focus during that visit on terror. 

After Riyadh

While Palestinians will argue that for a people under a 50-year illegal occupation, attacks against “the occupation forces” are legitimate forms of resistance and therefore not terror, the prevailing climate following the Riyadh conference is less supportive.

The issue of terror, though no clear definition has emerged of what it is, is at the heart of the unprecedented standoff between Qatar and four other Arab states including Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

While the Palestinians are angered by Israel’s interference in their right to unimpeded access to Al-Aqsa, which Israel may gradually reinstate, albeit under stricter security arrangements, the situation will not return to what it was prior to the attack unless Jordan acts decisively.

With an the Arab world which favours Israel and America’s normalisation-led approach to regional peace, Jordan may feel it lacks the support of its Arab brothers to secure a return to the status quo.

The conclusion for the Palestinian people, especially the residents of Jerusalem, is that they have been abandoned.

Not only have they lost the backing of their Arab and Muslim brothers and sisters in their pursuit of liberation, independence and freedom, the defence of Al-Aqsa, cherished by 1.6 billion Muslims all over the world, has been left to the 300,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem who face a most brutal and merciless occupier.

Israeli ministers will be exchanging high fives for making the most of an opportunity to take over the revered site, but history shows that humiliating Palestinians and leaving them with little hope will lead to more violence.
Photo: Israeli border guards detain a Palestinian youth during a demonstration outside the Lions Gate, a main entrance to Al-Aqsa mosque compound, due to newly-implemented security measures by Israeli authorities which include metal detectors and cameras, in Jerusalem’s Old City on 17 July 2017 (AFP)

When Congress celebrates the illegal occupation of Jerusalem, it defiles and redefines US values

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 13/6/2017

US Congress in session [File photo]

The American people missed a major incident in the US Congress last week which should have worried them immensely. Their elected representatives celebrated an illegal act on their behalf. Yes, the US Congress celebrated the 50th anniversary of the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem by Israel, and its illegal annexation in 1968. On 7 June, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, joined Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, the Speaker of Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a simultaneous celebration of the “unification” of the city that is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Addressing the participants on Capitol Hill and the Knesset, Netanyahu declared that, “Jerusalem will never be divided again.” He contrasted the city before 1967 – when his mother told him “You can’t go right, you can only go left,” due to Jordanian snipers – and visiting the Western Wall immediately after the Six-Day War.

Formally, the international community does not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over East Jerusalem, which Israel took by armed force from Jordan in 1967. It further considers Israel’s building of settlements for Jews in the occupied Palestinian areas as illegal. Even the United States itself considers the settlements to be illegitimate. The ICJ advisory opinion on Israel’s separation wall reaffirmed the “applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”

In a recent resolution, UNESCO confirmed that East Jerusalem is “occupied” and that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.” Only ten countries, including Israel and the US, voted against this resolution.

An international consensus exists which does not recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. On the ground, this is enacted through the location of all embassies in Tel Aviv, some 70 kilometres away on the coast. This includes the US Embassy. However, in 1995 the US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act which recognises the city as Israel’s “capital”; the Act further called for the embassy to be relocated to Jerusalem by May 1999, at the latest.

The fact that the US Embassy has not moved to Jerusalem is down to successive US presidents who realised the ramifications of this move and chose to sign twice yearly waivers keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv, even though Clinton, George W Bush and Trump made unambiguous promises to move it during their election campaigns. In Trump’s case, the promises were so recent that there was an expectation around the world, and hope in Israel, that he would do it early in his term. However, he too baulked at the move once in office and, having just returned from the Middle East, decided to sign a waiver on 1 June to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv, much to the disappointment not only of Israel but also his own newly installed pro-Israel Ambassador, David Friedman. However, Trump and future presidents will continue to come under pressure from the pro-Israel Lobby through its stooges in Congress to push for the implementation of the Embassy Act.

#USEmbassy

It can therefore be argued that for Congress to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “reunification” of Jerusalem is in keeping with a long tradition of supporting Israel, right or wrong. However, illegal acts are surely not something that Americans should sanction or celebrate.

Consider this, for example: if Saddam Hussain’s 1990 occupation of Kuwait — like the occupation of Jerusalem, it was also deemed illegal at the time — was still in place, would Congress this year be celebrating the 27th anniversary of its “reunification” with Iraq? I understand the difference between Israel, a US ally, and Iraq. However, from the perspective of international law, the occupations of Iraq and Jerusalem (and the other areas captured by Israel in 1967) are illegal and therefore celebrating either is to celebrate illegal acts. In fact, while the US assembled a coalition of states to eject Iraq from Kuwait by force, it has acquiesced to Israel’s illegal occupation of Arab lands by not even placing any pressure on successive Israeli governments to end it. The US has further provided Israel with half of its international aid budget for the foreseeable future to ensure its “security”, and continues to protect it politically and diplomatically through the wielding of its veto in the UN Security Council.

In an astonishing move to shield Israel from criticism, all 100 US Senators signed a letter to the UN Secretary General in April demanding that it is “treated neither better nor worse than any other UN member in good standing.” The implication is that Israel’s defiance of dozens of UN Security Council resolutions, its 50-year occupation and repeated military offensives — and alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity — against Gaza puts it in “good standing”.

America’s continued and unconditional military aid to Israel was heavily criticised by religious leaders in 2012. The signatories urged “an immediate investigation” into possible violations by Israel of the US Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act, which respectively prohibit assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations and limit the use of US weapons to “internal security” or “legitimate self-defence”. However, Congress has never investigated whether Israel violates US law or not.

America’s much-vaunted democratic values include liberty, justice and equality. When it comes to Palestinians, though, the US — through its elected representatives — acts regularly to deny them these same values. America does not seek equality for all Israeli citizens, 20 per cent of whom are Palestinians against whom state-sanctioned discrimination is rife. Nor has the US acted to deliver liberty for Palestinians in the same way that it did for the Kuwaitis; instead, America denies the illegal occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land. Moreover, when it comes to the Jerusalem Act and the celebration of its illegal occupation, the US Congress certainly does not deliver justice to the Palestinians. In all of this, Congress defiles and redefines the values it claims to uphold for its own citizens. This is total hypocrisy.

Debate: Why the status of Jerusalem is not the crux of the matter

First published by the Arab Weekly on 5/2/2017

Since his inauguration, Trump seems to have rolled back on his embassy com­mitment, much to the surprise of many.


Road signs are seen in front of the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the occupied West Bank, on January 17th. (Reuters)

The question of whether the Trump administra­tion would quickly honour the pledge to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has exercised the minds of Palestinians, Israelis and the wider world.

In 1995, the US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which recognised Jerusalem as the capi­tal of Israel and required a change in the embassy’s location by May 1999.

However, this was effectively re­sisted by every US president since then despite occasionally promises to carry it out as the United States continued to seek a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians.

During his election campaign, Donald Trump was explicit in his promise to move the embassy when he addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in March 2016 and said: “We will move the US embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”

Trump’s choice for US ambas­sador to Israel, David Friedman, seemed to be a means of facilitat­ing this move. Friedman vowed to “strengthen the bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region and look forward to doing this from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem”.

Friedman also let it be known that he would live in a private apartment in Jerusalem and would work out of Jerusalem rather than Tel Aviv.

Since his inauguration, however, Trump seems to have rolled back on his embassy com­mitment, much to the surprise of many. His spokesman, Sean Spicer, said recently: “We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject.”

Spicer dodged a question from a Sky News corre­spondent who asked: “What is the strategic interest for the US in the embassy move?”

The reality is that there is no strategic benefit for the United States in moving its embassy. The mere speculation that the move could happen raised alarms across the world.

The Palestinians warned of dire consequences with Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) officials threatening to revoke rec­ognition of Israel. The Palestinian president and the king of Jordan met in Amman in late January and agreed to “take steps” if the move happened.

Undoubtedly Trump knows that the United States’ strategic interest would be in securing a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians rather than unleash a backlash that he cannot predict or control by moving the US embassy.

The status of Jerusalem would be part of what would be a historic peace deal that he said he wanted to negotiate. Trump’s own experi­ence of negotiating should tell him to avoid measures that antagonise either party to a negotiation.

Some have argued that the em­bassy move would be so damag­ing to US strategic interests that a peace deal would be pushed well beyond Trump’s term in office.

In moving its embassy to West Jerusalem, the United States would be recognising Israel’s sovereignty over West and East Jerusalem, which no other country does. It would further be violat­ing international law. UN Security Council Resolution 478 rejected Israel’s declaration that Jerusalem (East and West) “complete and united” is its capital.

An embassy move could com­plicate matters if other countries followed suit. British support for a move of the US embassy came from former secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove. He wrote in the Times of London that “Israel is the only state where we don’t locate our embassy in the nation’s capital and the only ally the For­eign Office has refused to let the queen visit”.

He added: “So let’s celebrate the centenary of the Balfour declara­tion by moving our embassy to Jerusalem next year and inviting [Queen Elizabeth II] to open it. What are we afraid of?”

A Foreign Office spokesman quickly dismissed the idea, stat­ing: “The UK has an embassy in Tel Aviv and a consulate-general in Jerusalem. We have no plans to change the location of our diplo­matic presence in either Israel or the occupied Palestinian territo­ries.”

Observers note, however, that although a possible embassy move seems to have stirred the Pales­tinian leadership into action, the continuation of the status quo is more damaging to the prospects of signing a peace agreement. Palestinians point to the contin­ued judaisation of Jerusalem, the expansion of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land, which may be annexed by Israel at a later stage.

Critics argue that unless a major effort is put into combating the settlement project, there will be no Jerusalem left for the Palestin­ians to claim as their capital or a contiguous plot of land in the West Bank to claim as their free inde­pendent state.

They say that the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem is highly sensitive but is not the crux of the matter: The end of the occupation without annexing Palestinian ter­ritories and the right of return are.

To see article on the Arab Weekly website click here