American Herald Tribune | Miko Peled: For people who like myself were born and raised and love Jerusalem, this is a sad time. Images from Palestine since Donald Trump’s declaration that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel are worrying, but not surprising. This declaration was an enormous shift in US policy and what is even worse, it was an insult to the entire Arab and Muslim world. This declaration was no less than a desecration of what is considered by millions of people to be a holy city. This was also a gift to Prime Minister Netanyahu and a license to fanatic Jewish settlers who are engaged in a violent take over in Jerusalem to continue with the blessing of the President of the United States.
Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel means desecrating the memory of Palestinian lives lost, communities destroyed and a history erased. Countless villages and neighborhoods in and around Jerusalem were sacrificed so that the Zionist state could claim Jerusalem as its capital. Prior to the establishment of Israel and in order for it to be able to take Jerusalem, a great deal of killing and destruction had to take place. The massacre and destruction of Deir Yassin. Then Lifta, and Romema, that used to exist as one entered the city from the west were emptied of their inhabitants. The neighborhoods of Baka, Katamon, Talbiya, Musrara, Malha, Ein Karem and Ma’amila, Jerusalem neighborhoods that until 1948 used to be thriving Palestinian communities, were all emptied in of their inhabitants and taken over by armed Zionist militias.
Today, the neighborhoods where the Palestinians homes were not destroyed, are inhabited by Israeli Jews or have been turned into shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants all owned and operated by Jewish Israelis. The ancient neighborhood of the Mughrabis or Moroccans, that used to sit in the old city of Jerusalem in front of the Western Wall was bulldozed in 1967, its inhabitants forced to leave so that the new conqueror, Israel could build a massive plaza. Now this plaza is used for national Israeli ceremonies like the swearing in of Israeli army recruits. “This desecration is so severe even for us as Jews,” I was told by Rabbi Meir Hirsh of Neturei Karta in Jerusalem, “that even though it is only a few moments’ walk from our neighborhood, we refuse to visit and pray at the Western Wall.” Orthodox Jews believe that the Western Wall is a remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple and therefore sacred.
In Silwan/Wadi Hilwe, a neighborhood of fifty thousand which is just a short walk from the Old City, settlers take over Palestinian homes, and archeological digs threaten the safety of the community under whose homes Israel claims was once the city of the mythical King David.
In Sheikh Jerrah in East Jerusalem and in the Old City itself an ethnic cleansing campaign – is taking place in full swing and entire families are thrown out of their homes and replaced by Jewish settlers.
Jerusalem has been a Muslim and Arab city for close to fifteen hundred years. In 1948, when “Israel” came into existence it had no qualms about erasing that history and violating a United Nations resolution that called for Jerusalem to be independent and under its own sovereignty. They violently took over West Jerusalem and the Palestinian residents were forced to leave, but they failed to take the Old City and it remained in Arab hands until 1967. Then in June, 1967 when Israel completed the conquest of all of Palestine, it also took the rest of the city of Jerusalem. Neither the conquest of West Jerusalem nor that of East Jerusalem were ever recognized by the international community and even though Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital city in 1948, there are no embassies in the city. Most of the diplomatic missions that do exist in Jerusalem, are consulates and like that of the United States, many predate the State of Israel and represent their country’s interests in Palestine. In the case of the United States consulate it reports not to the ambassador in Tel-Aviv but directly to Washington, DC and the consul is the de-facto ambassador to Palestine.
The recognition given by Donald Trump is in fact a legitimization, a reward encouraging Israel to continue full swing with violence, destruction and ethnic cleansing not only of Jerusalem but all of Palestine. Two million Palestinians in Gaza still live without access to drinkable water, proper nutrition, work or medical care and are constantly bombed by Israeli forces. In the Naqab desert things are not much better: entire communities of Palestinians who are Israeli citizens live without electricity, water, employment or health care services while Jewish towns and farms all around them are green and prosperous. In what used to be the West Bank Jewish citizens of Israel live a life of luxury while Palestinians are choked and can barely survive, their children arrested, tortured and often killed.
But Trump and Netanyahu are happy. Like Nero watching Rome burn they feel powerful, and indeed for Netanyahu who is facing corruption charges the recognition of Jerusalem was an enormous political gift. He has done what no Israeli leader was able to do – to get the United States to legitimize an Israeli violation of international law, the conquest, destruction, ethnic cleaning of Jerusalem.
While Donald Trump may well be ignorant of all of this, and while it is clear that he is unable to grasp the magnitude of this declaration, this cannot serve as an excuse for his reckless mismanagement of foreign policy. Even with the international support for Israel being strong, Jerusalem was one issue with which no one was willing to take a risk. Now there is a United States President who is reckless and foolish enough and perhaps mad enough to throw a match into this barrel of explosives. And sure enough it blew up. Just how severe the damage will be, it is hard to predict. What we can predict with certainty is that the Israeli forces will forcibly try to stop the Palestinian expressions of rage and that many Palestinians will be killed. For those of us who care for Jerusalem, these are sad days indeed.