Jerusalem is first of all a symbol, and a potent one; the American recognition of Jewish sovereignty over the Holy City is a sign of the final Jewish victory over Christianity, and it is to be deeply regretted. Richard Coeur de Lion and Tancred would not understand this surrender of the city they fought for, but the times have changed. The Christians of yesteryear did not refer to Jews as their “elder brothers”. What began with Americans saying “Season greetings” instead of ‘Merry Christmas,’ ended with this shameful act of Christ denial.
The Palestinians won’t be able to save the city. The Third Intifada is not coming yet, despite the annoying in-your-face Trump declaration, and despite the Hamas call for a rising, and it is not likely to come anytime soon, unless Israelis will provoke it. Thousands of men and women protested during the week that passed; a few were shot by Israeli soldiers, among others, a double amputee in his wheel chair. However, Palestine did not explode in anger. For a regular reader of my articles, the muted Palestinian response to the American provocation does not come as a surprise. I wrote recently that it has never been so good, Palestine has now a run of modest prosperity, a building boom, a tourist boom, restaurants’ boom, and they are not likely to go and die for a statement, even for an annoying statement.
The Palestinians of East Jerusalem have it better than other Palestinians: they have no citizenship, but they can move more-or-less freely about the whole of Palestine, including the “old Israel”. They are pragmatic and patriotic. They consider themselves the guardians of their legacy, including the great shrines of al Aqsa and of the Holy Sepulchre. If and when the Jews touch the shrines, they respond in force, as it happened last August when Israel tried to limit the access to the Mosque.
But President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state did not ignite them. Nobody in his right mind has had any doubts about American feelings. Americans are for Israel, it is a national obsession. So now they declared Jerusalem – a Jewish capital. And before, when they had sent their ambassadors, all Jews, all devout Zionists, all “Israel Firsters” – was it any different?
Trump is not different from his predecessors. All American Presidents declared Jerusalem – the eternal united and indivisible capital of the Jewish state. Obama did it, and so did Bush. True, they said it while running for the office, and they avoided repeating the mantra while in the White House, but they never repudiated it, either.
Ninety out of a hundred US Senators approved of Trump’s statement. Ten abstained, probably being unable to support Trump for any reason at all. Still, it was a most-approved step of the President. The American political establishment is thoroughly pro-Israel, both liberal and fundamentalist, Republican and Democrat, from Sanders to Bannon; we knew it, and now Trump allowed the people to read it loud and clear. He did what the people want. That is why you elected him: so he will do what you want, not what somebody else who claims to know better, tells you.
Why do you Americans want it? America is working out its Gestalt as the Shining City on the Hill, the New Israel of Manifest Destiny. This great country does not yet want to become just another great country, it wants to lead mankind and to re-form the world after its own shape and image. America had been messianic for a long time, and this habit is hard to kick.
Under the shell of a hard-nosed Yank, there is a fanatic Dispensationalist with The Scofield Reference Bible under his arm waiting for the Gog and Magog war against Israel. You can look at this site, just one of plethora of sites predicting the war between Israel on one side, Iran and Russia on the other side, with the US siding with Israel but staying away until being Raptured into Second Coming. This is insane, but such Gestalts run deep, and they explain insane behaviour (seeking war with Iran, bombing Babylon and supporting Israel) better than a calculation of profit and loss.
Love, or rather obsession with Israel is a part of this Gestalt. Though Southern Baptists and Eastern Liberals appear different, they have the same original imprint cast by the Founding Fathers, by Puritans and Pilgrims. This Gestalt breaks out unexpectedly. The present fight against harassment is just another break-out of Puritan zeal, though the Fundamentalists will quote the Bible, and the Liberals will appeal to Woman whose rights should not be violated.
This is the only plausible explanation to such complaints in the New York Times: “Samantha Holvey, a former contestant in the Miss USA pageant, said that Mr Trump ogled her and other women in the pageant’s hair and makeup room.”
For a sane person, it is apparent that a participant in the Miss USA pageant came there to be ogled and desired by multitudes of men. For a Puritan fanatic, “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully etc”, just looking lustfully (=ogling) is a sin. A Boston zealot circa 1650 would approve of the very modern persecution of lusting and ogling men.
The difference between enlightened de-Christianised American Democrats for Clinton in Vermont and a Fundamentalist Christian Republican for Trump in Mississippi is minor, in rationalisation of their feelings and actions. Both find ogling or flirting or courting – wrong, though they explain it differently. That is why so many American politicians commit suicide while being accused of some non-actionable non-offence, like lusting after a 17 year old girl some years ago.
It is the same in foreign relations. The Eastern Liberal descendants of the Puritans want to go and kill people abroad to save black women from being ravished by black men in Afghanistan, the Fundamentalists want to crush Babylon; in both cases they are motivated by messianic zeal and desire to transform the world.
It would be the best for the Americans to forget for a while about the Middle East, about Babylon, Israel and Gog and Magog. Perhaps Trump will achieve even that, by fully accepting the people’s will. After all, he has some real reasons to do what he did. He is the Destroyer of Falsitude in his struggle against the Congress. The Congress forced the US President to certify Iran’s good behaviour every six months; Trump refused to do it, and the world did not come down. The Congress forced the US President to postpone the Tel Aviv Embassy move every six months; Trump refused that, and the world did not come down. Just another falsity of the Political Establishment had been destroyed.
By his deed, he probably gained some time and postponed his impeachment. The Jews are not famous for their gratitude, as they accept every good deed as something they anyway deserved, but still, there is a chance they won’t dump him right away.
Paradoxically, the Trump declaration has had many good effects. The US President can say, after Mephistopheles, “I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.” The President refused to sustain the old mischievous pretence of the US being a neutral broker. He revealed the true feelings of the US establishment towards the Middle East, their Muslims and their Christians, the feeling of total disdain. He undermined the beastly MBS of Arabia. He brought Palestine back into the world agenda after long abeyance. He gave Europe a chance to regain its independence. He did another step in undoing the unsustainable American Empire, and this is also to be welcomed.
Trump resurrected the dying reconciliation agreement between the Fatah and Hamas. The agreement had been on the rocks: Fatah asked for more and more, and Hamas began to lose its patience. The biggest obstacle was the US aid: the Americans didn’t want to subsidise Hamas. As the aid is not coming anyway, this stopped being a hindrance. Trump’s declaration encouraged the sides to move their negotiations onto the fast track.
Trump allowed the Europeans to say what they really feel about him, and with good reason. His declaration mobilised President Erdogan of Turkey and he called for a summit of Muslim states. Istanbul had been the seat of the Caliphate for six hundred years, from 1362 to 1924, and now Erdogan has a valid claim for this grand title. By denouncing the Israelis and their American stooges, the President of Turkey has gained a lot of authority and influence.
One needs an Arab to betray Arabs, and this job has been taken by the Brat of Riyadh. MBS, when he does not torture his kin in a shake-down, has been involved in denying Palestine and Jerusalem. It is he who proposed and agreed with Jared Kushner to surrender Jerusalem in the so-called “the deal of the century”. MBS tried to force the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to accept the deal or resign. Abbas flatly refused.
The best Middle East journalist David Hearst (his book The Gun and the Olive Branch is an excellent primer for Palestine modern history) noted that in the heavily censored KSA, where a wrong tweet can send you to jail for years, denial of Palestine and Jerusalem had been encouraged.
The Saudi novelist and writer Turki al-Hamad tweeted, ‘Palestine should no longer be regarded as the prime Arab cause. I have my own country’s cause of development, freedom and emancipation from the past. As for Palestine, the house (Palestine) has a Lord (God) who would protect it if abandoned by its inhabitants (Palestinians).” Hamzah Muhammad al-Salim, the writer and economic analyst, tweeted: “Once peace is concluded with Israel, it will become Saudi Arabia’s first tourist destination.” The former director of al-Arabiyah TV channel, Abd al-Rahman al-Rashid, wrote: “It is about time to reconsider the concept of dealing with Palestine and Israel.” Muhammad al-Sheikh said: “The issue of Palestine is not ours…”
These sentiments have been promoted by MBS, and based on them, he proposed to Trump his “deal”. Now, I think, the deal is dead, and MBS is likely to follow Anwar as-Sadat, the Egyptian president who made a deal with Israel and was assassinated. Already Saudi princes have begun a litany of speeches for Jerusalem and for Palestine.
Trump’s declaration was a great gift to Iran. After the Saudis, the greatest enemies of Iran, have revealed their duplicity, the Arabs will have a new and positive view of Iran. Shia or Sunni, Iran proved its steadfast devotion to the cause of Jerusalem and Palestine, and it will be rewarded.
President Putin has good reason to thank Trump for his declaration. Russia is an important player in the Middle East, and after the American betrayal of Palestine, it is likely to become a sought-after mediator in intra-Arab affairs. We may expect that future negotiations between Israel and Palestinians will be managed by the Russians, with UN assistance.
It is possible, though it is not certain that Trump provided the coup de grâce to the Two-State paradigm, to the very idea of partition. Saeb Erekat, the leading Palestinian negotiator, said that now is the time to turn to One-State Solution, which is to be greatly preferred.
The One State won’t be “Jewish”, and this is fine with me. There is no French state for pure ethnic French, but France is the state for all its inhabitants; there is no Islamic State anymore, but Syria for all Syrians, whether Muslims, Christians or adherents of other faiths. There is no reason to have a Jewish state, either. Let it be Israel/Palestine for all its dwellers.
If it will cure American fascination with Zion, and fantasies of Rapture, that would be the best contribution of President Trump to mankind.
East or West?
If the efforts to partition Palestine continue, however, what could be the future of Jerusalem?
The Jews say all Jerusalem is theirs.
The Americans agree with the Jews, as they always do.
The Europeans disagree with the Americans and the Jews, and reserve their judgment.
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) says East Jerusalem should be Palestinian, while West Jerusalem may be Jewish.
In April this year, the Russian Foreign Office declared that West Jerusalem is to be the capital of Israel, while East Jerusalem should be the capital of Palestine.
This week, the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) met in Istanbul, the last seat of the Caliphate and declared East Jerusalem the Capital of Palestine. The declaration had been approved by 54 nations comprising billions of Muslims.
It sounds fair: West Jerusalem to the Jews, East Jerusalem to the Arabs. Or is it?
I lived for a few years in Jerusalem, in a well-proportioned and solid two-store-high Arab mansion built of white Jerusalem stone sitting in a green garden. The masons of 1920s knew how to dress the stone: we did not need air condition even in the hottest summer days; the houses keep warmth in chilly mountain winters. The ceilings were high, the windows opened into the gardens with leafy loquat and lemon trees, the floors were tiled by Armenian multi-coloured ceramics and marble stubs.
This area of Jerusalem has been created and populated by Palestinian Christians of Arab, Armenian, Greek, German origin. It is the prime real estate of the city declared by the US administration to be the eternal capital of 70-year old Jewish state. The area I described above is not East Jerusalem; it is West, the best part of the West. The residence of Israeli President is just around the corner.
Nobody argues against its belonging to Israel. West Jerusalem is out of discussion, only East Jerusalem has been argued about. This is the greatest achievement of Israeli Jews and their American supporters, and as it is often true, the greatest achievements are unreported or under-reported because they appear so obviously trivial.
But we may go beyond what you can read in the New York Times and learn the obfuscated truth. By right, Jerusalem should be internationalised.
The whole of Jerusalem had been declared a corpus separatum, a separate body under international jurisdiction, by the same UN resolution (181 (II) 1/ of 29 November 1947) that called for creation of a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine. The Jews did not care and took over West Jerusalem in 1948 and expelled its Christian and Muslim population. The UN refused to recognise the Jewish rule over West Jerusalem (303 (IV) of 9 December 1949). The city should be placed under a permanent international regime, ruled the UN.
In 1967, the Jews took over East Jerusalem. This time, they did not expel its Christian and Muslim population, but they weren’t given Israeli citizenship. Since then, the people of East Jerusalem live as guests in their own city. They have residency rights, but if they travel abroad to study or work, they lose their residency and can’t come back.
East and the West Jerusalem have one thing in common: both parts of Jerusalem are illegally occupied by the Jewish state. They differ in the fact that the original population of the West had been expelled, while the population of the East had been stripped of their rights. This difference does not turn West Jerusalem into a legitimate Israeli possession. Mass expulsion and ethnic cleansing should not be rewarded with international recognition. Trump actually took a good step by uniting the two illegally occupied parts of Jerusalem in one sentence.
The Jews (with American support) have made us forget that West Jerusalem is also illegally occupied. (Noam Chomsky wrote about this feat at length. He described Israel and the US as the real “Rejection Front”. They rejected the original UN resolutions dealing with 1948 conquest and expulsion, and tried to limit discussion to the 1967 conquest. They succeeded: even friends of Palestine discuss 1967 territories, while leaving 1948 as an old stuff.)
But the Palestinians do know and do remember, how they were thrown out of their homes, and how the Jews moved in. Whatever is the political future of Jerusalem, this dispossession should be reversed. The Gentiles have returned to the Jews the properties they had lost during the turmoil in Europe; now it is the right time to return the stolen Gentile property to Arabs, Germans and Greeks of West Jerusalem.
Israel Shamir can be reached at [email protected]
This article was first published at The Unz Review.