THE contrast could not be starker. On Monday in occupied East Jerusalem, there were smiles, applause and gushing praise all around as the US shifted its embassy — as promised by American President Donald Trump — from Tel Aviv to a city that practically the whole world recognises as disputed territory. Almost 100 kilometres away, in the open-air prison of Gaza, the scene was quite different, as the Israeli war machine was indulging in the butchery of Palestinians protesting for the return of their land. By the time the Israeli guns had fallen silent, thousands were wounded and over 60 Palestinians lay dead, including children. Among the victims was an eight-month-old infant girl, along with other minors. These appear to be the ‘terrorists’ the Israeli military has said it was confronting, while Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law and point man for the Middle East, who was present at the Jerusalem embassy shifting, has blamed the Palestinians for their own deaths. Even by Israeli standards, the level of brutality unleashed on Monday was almost unprecedented, as snipers took shots at Palestinian protesters. As for the American response, it is devoid of all compassion and humanity, and reflects that under Mr Trump’s watch, Arab lives don’t matter, while the appeasement of Israel is paramount.
Meanwhile, the reaction of the Muslim states has largely been without substance. Even in this country, local political developments were the lead story in the media; the carnage in Gaza received only scant coverage. Unfortunately, where the Muslim world is concerned, we appear to be big on slogans only. Kuwait did try to raise the matter in the UN Security Council, but its efforts were blocked by the US. However, South Africa deserves praise for its moral courage: the country pulled its ambassador out of Israel in reaction to the massacre. If Muslim states, especially the Arab bloc, are serious about letting Israel and the US know that they will not stand silent in the face of anti-Palestinian violence, they need to take a leaf out of South Africa’s book.
On the foreign front, Mr Trump has been playing a destabilising role, particularly where the Middle East is concerned. Recently, he tore up a landmark deal (the JCPOA) signed with Iran, much to the displeasure of the international community, and managed to ‘legitimise’ Israel’s illegal occupation of Jerusalem by shifting his embassy there. With these moves, it appears that the Arab-Israeli peace process is dead and buried. Jerusalem, or Al Quds, lies at the heart of Palestine’s religious, cultural and national identity. Handing the holy city over to Israel will further inflame the region, and no Palestinian body — Fatah, Hamas or any other — will be able to convince their people to give it up. Therefore, Palestinian disquiet, and Israel’s vicious response, seems to be the pattern for the foreseeable future in the occupied territories.
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2018