Trump's Embassy Move Sets off Decades of Anger for Muslims, Christians, and the Palestinian Peace Process

Published December 6th, 2017 - 12:43 GMT
Palestinian protesters prepare to burn a picture of US President Donald Trump in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on December 6, 2017. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Palestinian protesters prepare to burn a picture of US President Donald Trump in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on December 6, 2017. (Said Khatib/AFP)

U.S. President Donald Trump has sparked three days of rage among Palestinians and possibly the region with his plan to announce the US embassy move to Jerusalem.

 

While some have claimed in response that Palestinians for always being angry, in fact such attitudes reflect a lack of understanding about the injustice at the heart of this issue.

Numerous Middle Eastern and Western leaders and commentators had warned of the unrest the long-anticipated change could cause.

Even as Trump rang regional heads of state on Tuesday to inform them of his decision, Jordan’s King Abdullah emphasized its “dangerous repercussions” for regional stability.

But what are those repercussions and how will they play out in practice?

According to a joint statement from the Palestinian "national and Islamic forces,” Wednesday to Friday are to be “days of rage” in all of Palestine and around the world, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Marches and demonstrations are reportedly planned, including at Israeli and U.S. embassies in other nations.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement has called for daily demonstrations.

In the West Bank, a procession has been called in Ramallah for midday on Thursday, and another march is expected to take place on Wednesday in Jenin, Haaretz said.

Protests have already begun in some areas. Overnight, Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem burned images of the U.S. president, demanding “move the embassy to your country, not ours.”

“Palestine's heart is not up for negotiation,” read another banner. There were similar sights in Rafah in Gaza on Wednesday morning.

 

 

Some tweets have attempted to frame Palestinians as irrationally angry by implying that every day was a “day of rage” for them. There comments fail to recognize the legitimate reasons for their anger, whether today or over the last century.

Jerusalem is a city that is disputed, and whose status was supposed to be decided in future peace talks, under a 1993 accord. Trump’s unilateral action violates the status quo and the international consensus, effectively tearing up any remaining prospect of a two-state solution.

While in peace negotiations Palestinian leaders have sought East Jerusalem as their capital, for many the whole city is Palestinian. For Palestinians who live in the city, or hope one day to return to their homes there, declaring it as Israeli runs counter to reality.

Online, “Jerusalem is Palestine’s eternal capital” has been trending as Palestinians and those in solidarity with them change their profile and cover photos to declare “Jerusalem the capital of Palestine.”

Added to that, Jerusalem is a city of considerable significance for the world’s three major monotheistic religions, not just Judaism. The precedent of tensions around the key holy sites there might give some insight into what may happen going beyond the coming three days.

In 2000, it was then opposition leader Ariel Sharon entering the Al-Aqsa complex that sparked the Second Intifada. It only took a matter of days for violence to spread across the West Bank. Then, too, Hamas initially declared a “day of rage.”

In the present, Hamas in the West Bank has already called on Twitter for an “intifada to make next Friday a day of rage, in rejection of the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.”

Speaking to the BBC, the Palestinian General delegate to the U.K., Manuel Hassassian warned “this could be the beginning of another compulsive violence that all parties need to avoid.”

“He is declaring war in the Middle East against 1.5 billion Muslims,” he added.

“The Palestinians will go down to the streets and complain, and the whole of the Middle East will be on its feet.”

“Jerusalem is the heart of the Palestinian state,” he said, continuing by questioning what is left of a two-state solution following Trump’s decision.

Hassassian also recalled last summer when restrictions on entrance to Al-Aqsa brought Palestinians once again to the brink of “intifada.”

This is a much more considerable challenge and it is not unlikely that its reverberations could be felt for months if not longer.


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