False history and lip service
Far from aiding the ‘peace process’, writes Yassamine Mather, Trump’s Jerusalem announcement will act as an encouragement to Israeli expansionism
Proud of his handwriting: Pence approves
The only positive thing to note about Donald Trump’s public recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is the fact that the US president succeeds in uniting everyone against him on a regular basis.
In the last few weeks alone we have seen his unilateral opposition to the Iran nuclear deal (a proposition that provoked opposition from the European Union, from pro-Brexiteers and ‘remainers’ in the UK, from Russia, China …). Then there were the videos he retweeted from the far-right Britain First group, which united liberals, conservatives, the media and everyone else against him, and now we have not only the recognition of Jerusalem but the announcement of plans to move the US embassy there. The UN general assembly voted overwhelmingly against all this as part of six anti-Israel resolutions it approved on December 7. The vote was 151 in favour and six against, with nine abstentions - rarely has the UN been so united!
However, no-one should rejoice at this latest in a series of ineffective UN resolutions against Israeli expansionism - they are not worth the paper they are printed on. From 1967 to 1989 the security council adopted 131 resolutions directly addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict1 - to no effect - and Israel has been condemned in 45 resolutions by the UN Human Rights Council. In fact since its creation the council had adopted almost as many resolutions condemning Israel as all other countries combined. Despite all this, not only is the world hegemon power still backing Israel, but the Trump presidency has given new impetus to the Washington-Tel Aviv axis.
The response from Trump’s UN representative was predictable. Nikki Haley told the world:
Over many years the United Nations has outrageously been one of the world’s foremost centres of hostility towards Israel. The UN has done much more damage to the prospects of Middle East peace than to advance them. We will not be a party to that.
So the world is wrong and Trump is right.
Before Israel and its allies get too excited about the US president’s declaration, let us remind them that this particular move has supporters amongst the worst enemies of the Jewish people. Those who know about the views of extreme rightwing Christians on Jerusalem have written about this aspect of Trump’s decision. Amongst them is Diana Butler Bass, writing on the CNN website. She summarised the Bible-bashing, conservative Christian view by recounting her own upbringing in such circles:
For us, the Bible was not just a guide to piety. It also revealed god’s plan for history. Through it, we learned how god had worked in the past and what god would do in the future.
Central to that plan was Jerusalem, the city of peace, and the dwelling place of god. It was special to the Jews because it was the home of Abraham and David. It was special to us because it was where Jesus had died and risen. We believed that ultimately Christ would return to Jerusalem to rule as its king. We longed for this outcome ... Whenever Israel gained more political territory, whenever Israel extended its boundaries, it was god’s will, the end-times unfolding on the evening news.
Diana and her classmates were taught that
the Jews would experience a great religious rebirth and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. This would spark a series of cataclysmic events that would culminate in the Battle of Armageddon - the last war of humanity. But it would also cause the Jews to finally accept Jesus as their saviour. After all this occurred, Jesus would return in glory ... And it would begin in Jerusalem.
These ludicrous ideas are, of course, more Pence than Trump, but for Iranians like myself the whole saga has echoes of the views of Shia clerics on the end of the world and the promised return of the 12th Imam. Under president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, there was talk of building a motorway to “facilitate the Imam’s landing”! After which the world as we know it would end. When they came out with such nonsense, they were labelled mad, ignorant and stupid, while Islam was dismissed as a backward religion. Yet, when Pence and then by extension Trump and Nicky Haley support similar ideas, we are told they want “world peace” and a guarantee of Israel’s security.
The reaction to Trump’s announcement from Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was ecstatic:
Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. ... So it’s rare to be able to speak of new and genuine milestones in the glorious history of this city, yet today’s pronouncement by president Trump is such an occasion.2
Dismissing this false history, professor Hamid Dabbashi of Columbia University, responded on the Al Jazeera website:
The fanatical Zionists’ delusional orotundity begins with the proposal that ‘there was a temple on that site for nearly 1,000 years before the Roman destruction. That would mean that for about 3,000 years Jerusalem has been the centre of the Jewish people.’ That is the oldest and silliest trick in the Zionist bag: take a truism - a mere fragment of the whole truth - and flip it to your advantage. Not so fast, mister!
The deliberate dilettantism of the Zionists into Middle East history is threadbare folly. Christians and Muslims too trace their archaeological history to thousands of years ago in the self-same Palestine. That does not entitle them to declare a Christian or Islamic republic in Palestine.
The idea of a ‘Jewish state’ in Palestine is as fraudulent as the proposition of a Christian empire or an Islamic republic in Palestine. Palestine was also ruled by Persian and Roman empires, but that does not entitle Italy or Iran to come and lay a claim on Palestine. We might as well send Berlusconi and Ahmadinejad to a ring to fight their claims over Palestine - the winner will take on Netanyahu. The problem with these Zionists is how utterly indifferent to their own stupidity they seem to be.3
The conspiracy theorists in the Middle East believe the declaration signals the adoption of a much more radical pro-Zionist position by the Trump administration. They refer to comments made by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who claimed that it marked the beginning of something big and implied that Netanyahu has some “far-reaching plans” for the Middle East. According to Al Monitor website, however, others doubt such claims and believe that, when it comes to Trump’s policies, “every time there is a choice between sophisticated conspiracy and unprofessional populism, it’s best to pick the latter option”.4
One thing is for sure, though: anyone who thinks that moving Israel’s capital to Jerusalem will help the ‘peace process’ between Israelis and Palestinians is living in cloud cuckoo land. After decades of injustice and occupation the Palestinians face a truly bleak 2018 and it should be said that this is not just the fault of the west, Trump or the Israeli premier. Arab rulers, as well as successive Palestinian leaders in Fatah and Hamas, share the blame for the disastrous situation we face. They have been preoccupied with their own careers at the expense of the continued plight of the Palestinian people. As for Arab dictators, fearful of their own position, they have done no more than pay lip service to the Palestinian cause and have often been involved in secret or even open deals with the Zionist state.
Iran’s Islamic republic - for all its public statements on the Palestinian cause and claims to be the main defender of the Palestinian people - has not done much better. The rhetoric has not matched the reality. Although we are led to believe that Iran supports Hamas, in fact in recent years the two have fallen out over Iran’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and Hamas’s backing for elements in the Syrian opposition. As for Fatah, its open association with Saudi policies and support for the loony Iranian group, Mojahedin-e Khalq, has led to a good deal of animosity.
The smaller Palestinian groups supported by Tehran, such as Islamic Jihad, are too small and insignificant to make much difference - and, of course, when it comes to secret Iranian deals with Israel, we will probably only know if they exist many years down the line.
1. Listed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_Nations_resolutions_concerning_Israel.