Journalist Hafsa Kara-Mustapha argues that Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel could unite the Palestinian factions in their liberation struggle.
So Buffoon-in-Chief has finally done what he promised to do. American President Donald Trump just agreed to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and in one swift move offend much of the world’s 1.6bn Muslims and all 400m Arabs along with it.
The US president, currently embroiled in a sinister story of collusion with the big Russian “enemy,” is in need of a distraction and what better way to obtain it than by setting the Middle East alight?
It’s a go-to card many of his predecessors used in times of personal trouble. Think Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, then remember operation Desert Fox when a string of Iraqis were bumped off for the sake of Bill’s political career. Think of America’s most unpopular and uncharismatic president and his abysmal approval rating; remember the 2003 invasion of Iraq by George Bush Jr; think of fumbling dumb Ronald Reagan and the bombing of Tripoli in 1986.
In fact for every presidential blunder there’s an Arab solution.
This time Trump has decided to up the ante and do what no other president, however subservient to Israeli interests and their powerful Washington lobbies, have done in the past: recognise the holy city of Jerusalem as holy to Zionist Jews only.
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Although the father-in-law of Jewish settlement fundraiser Jared Kushner had promised to do that as soon as he was elected, it has taken him over a year to sign on the dotted line.
The reason is that the move from Tel Aviv is more symbolic than pragmatic and in pragmatic terms the physical change from modern city to ancient city is problematic for both US and Israeli administrations. Where to build it and how to protect it would prove to be a major challenge so Trump kept the option open while never insisting much on the move.
Note that even his Israeli friends were reluctant to press that button. But desperate times call for desperate measures and the man who tweets compulsively every other hour, offending friends and foes alike, has decided that the time had come to trigger something “big” in the Middle East that will keep the media focused on something other than his “Russian connection.”
The US embassy, we are told, will not be ready before three years at the very least. Perfect. It just gives time for everybody to get riled up without anything in particular happening.
But while everyone is waiting for the reactions, the question is what now? What will be the reaction in the Arab world?
Let’s be honest, that ship has sailed. The Arab leaderships will not react other than with some mealy-mouthed condemnation that makes them look sillier than they already do. So we should expect a pantomime-esque “defiant statement” followed by a hollow condemnation that accompanies no action whatsoever.
Nothing new there.
Of course Arab states could decide to close their American embassies and withdraw their diplomatic staff; they could withdraw their teams as well as their valuable funds from the invaluable UN; they could decide to close down the oil and gas pipelines warming European homes this winter. But none of that will happen and both Trump and the Israeli premier know that.
Instead let’s look at the opportunities.
Jerusalem capital of Israel, the greatest thing for Palestine?
Palestinians and Arabs alike have grown accustomed to constantly asking “where are the Arabs?” A recurrent question that is as passé as it is unnecessary. Every Arab state is now engulfed in its own crisis and the reality is that the sentiment across much of the region is to deal with their own crisis first. Harsh no doubt but true.
However, this umpteenth humiliation should be seen as a an opportunity for Palestinians who are the first victims of US-Zionist policies.
It is time for all political factions in Palestine to unite. There will be plenty of time later to bicker over religion, tribes and all the rest, but for now what is weakening the Palestinian hand is this ongoing feud between Hamas and Fatah.
No party is perfect and both sides have clocked up some serious mistakes but the time is for unity. Furthermore, when both sides are divided it becomes difficult for Palestine’s friends to engage. Who do you engage with? If an Arab country engages with Hamas they are dismissed as “pro-Islamists” and when they engage with Fatah they are basically on the side of the most sold-out Palestinian administration since the creation of the Israel on Arab lands.
This division is proving problematic for all parties involved.
While Arab and African culture views elder statesmen as patriarchal figures and doesn’t dismiss leaders on the base of their advanced years, Mahmoud Abbass is past his prime. He has delivered nothing for the Palestinians and has failed to stand up to Western powers on even the most insignificant matters. He had for instance the possibility to refuse Tony Blair’s appointment as “peace envoy” but he failed to even do that.
He continuously runs to every freshly-elected Western leader to listen to the same platitudes returning with nothing in his case to justify the trip: Just endless rounds of fruitless talks that make him look like an eternally scolded child.
Enough. If the Palestinian cause is to regain some traction, efforts have to be made on the Palestinian side first.
It’s easy for Diaspora Palestinians and Arabs in general to blame their leaders but what are Arabs on an individual level doing? Are the affluent Arab families living in the West withdrawing their monies from American banks? Are they engaging in concerted efforts to boycott as many American goods as they can? Are they preparing to fund the political careers of Arab or pro-Arab politicians the way AIPAC so blatantly does in favour of Israel?
The reality for much of the woes of the Arab world is that blame-shifting and self-flagellation are the order of the day for many Arabs claiming to have Palestine or the region’s best interest at heart.
It’s easy to pin the blame on the others and while the subservience of the Saudi monarchy is unquestionable (remember the $100m donation to Ivanka Trump’s foundation) there are actions that can be done independently of the Aal Saud. Today any plans involving the Arab or wider Muslim world should exclude a regime that donates the equivalent of the state budget of a small country to a Zionist woman.
There are other Arab countries and other Arab peoples.
In the UK, sadly, the Palestinian cause has taken a serious hit. Overtaken by Britons more concerned with made-up claims of anti-Semitism, many Palestine solidarity organisations have almost completely abandoned very basic demands for Palestinians. British Palestinians for their part appear simply grateful to have their cause addressed by Westerners and have abandoned any pretention to actually put their side of the debate forward, remaining instead spectators in their own struggle.
The failure of Arab politicians is unquestionable but today is an opportunity for all those claiming to support Palestine to step up.
Trump’s shameless decision should be viewed as a turning point. Friends of Palestine need to act and act decisively or else this will be just another round of rants on social media while brick by brick Jerusalem is taken away.