by Rosie Alfatlawi
“Dangerous,” “volatile” and “an absolute explosion” are some of the ways commentators have referred to the anticipated U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem.
These words and their accompanying rhetoric are serving to mask the real issue with with the expected move: that it would give legitimacy to Israeli violations of international law, and shows immoral disregard for Palestinian concerns and aspirations.
Instead, it implies the irrationality of those opposed to the decision.
Can we stop calling the U.S. plan to recognise Jerusalem "dangerous".— Sakhr Al-Makhadhi (@syrianews) December 4, 2017
It's an illegal and immoral decision. Don't play on fears that Palestinians are savages.
Western media coverage of reports that U.S. President Donald Trump will announce the change - or possibly call Jerusalem Israel's "undivided capital" - on Wednesday have focused on its consequences for regional instability.
Writing for CNN, for instance, Middle East analyst Aaron David Miller wrote in CNN that “recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital is a dangerous gambit.”
His piece placed the accent on the “sensitive and volatile” nature of the issue and the fact that it would “complicate the very peace process Trump wants to promote.”
It made no mention, however, of the fact that Israel’s 1967 annexation, and its ongoing occupation, of East Jerusalem is considered illegal by the United Nations.
Or that Israel's 1980 Basic Law making "Jerusalem, complete and united…the capital of Israel" is considered a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention by multiple international bodies, including the U.N.
In fact, he made “clear” that the U.S. embassy “should be” in Jerusalem. His argument, though, was that Trump should bide his time to avoid “provoking violence” and upsetting the peace process.
That argument reflects longstanding U.S. policy on the issue. Since 1995, U.S. presidents have been “delaying” the move every six months.
“They have cited national security concerns and the potential for an embassy move to upset a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians,” says the Washington Post.
In this vein, the White House has described reports that Trump could make the call "premature." Similarly, shortly before leaving the job, former Secretary of State John Kerry warned of the “absolute explosion” it could cause in the region.
Under this understanding, Jerusalem is implicitly considered by the U.S. as Israel’s capital, but it is not seen as worth it to anger what are framed as the irrationally “explosive” Palestinians and their Arab allies by moving the embassy.
The fact that Israel has no legal claim to East Jerusalem, and that the concerns of its majority Palestinian occupants are legitimate, is swept under the carpet.
Across social media and the press, the way many people talk about the issue is very similar:
Trump may B about 2 pull his most dangerous distraction yet. Possibly as early as this week, he plans on moving the embassy in Israel 2 Jerusalem. Arab league & others R warning that this move will damage peace process & fuel extremism & violence. He’s becoming more reckless.— Gary Parillo (@ParilloGary) December 4, 2017
Writing for HuffPost, Antonia Blumberg suggested it was “a decision that may have dramatic repercussions,” warning of “a furious response from Palestinians.”
Yet the reasons for that fury should be at the heart of warnings against it, not simply emphasis on pragmatism.
One has to look to Palestinian leaders to find the case against the embassy move set out in terms of why it is wrong, rather than simply of the problems it could cause.
Palestinian Legislative Council member Qais Abdul Karim spoke to the Washington Post on the matter.
“It would mean that the U.S. is the only international power that took a position contrary to international law and consensus, which is that Israel has no right to declare Jerusalem as a capital,” he said.
“It’s a violation of the status quo.”
Speaking on Sunday meanwhile, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary General Saeb Erekat said “international law and UN Security Council resolutions that clearly state that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.”
They confirm, he continued, “that its illegal annexation of the city, as well as the measures taken to implement such an illegal move, are null and void."
Having made the “painful” compromise “to recognize the 1967 border as those of the State of Palestine,” the PLO is determined to have its own capital in East Jerusalem, he said.
@realDonaldTrump Israel is occupying Eastern Jerusalem, a clear violation of international law. The US is apart of these laws, so why are they not being enforced? Moving the embassy to Jerusalem only serves to support an illegal occupation and make a resolution more difficult.— Omar Andres Mejía (@oamejia15) December 4, 2017
While if Trump does go ahead with the controversial move it will of course spark outrage among Palestinians and their allies, derailing peace efforts and sparking regional tensions. But that anger is justified by the fact that it would be a unilateral violation of the status quo as supported by international law and agreements.
In this context, it should not just be Palestinians who are appalled by Trump's reported plans, but also global leaders, the international media and anyone with respect for the functioning of international institutions.
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