Jerusalem move affirms US’ pro-Israeli bias | Sunday Observer

Jerusalem move affirms US’ pro-Israeli bias

President Donald Trump gave a historic speech to announce that the US would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.                                          Source: CNN
President Donald Trump gave a historic speech to announce that the US would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Source: CNN

The world’s instability got worse last week after the United States formally announced that it was officially recognising the divided city of Jerusalem as being the capital of the state of Israel. The announcement, much heralded in recent weeks, was made by President Donald Trump himself from the White House. Making the announcement, President Trump declared that “…it was time …” that Jerusalem was recognised as if this was long overdue – a complete distortion of recent history and current United Nations law.

Within hours of the Washington announcement, the Palestinian government in Ramallah, West Bank, urged Palestinians to desist from violence and armed struggle and called for ‘non-violent’ resistance, along the lines of Mahatma Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King’s philosophy of peaceful struggle. However, by the next day, Palestinian civilian protests in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem itself had resulted in at least two deaths.

Retrogressive act

And claiming that rockets had been fired from Gaza – none of which reportedly hit any target – the Israeli government sent jets to bomb alleged Hamas military sites in Gaza resulting in at least three persons killed. Protests are continuing worldwide as Muslims across the globe expressed their anger and frustration over this arbitrary and potentially retrogressive act by the world’s most powerful nation.

A special session of the United Nations Security Council called for by Sweden resulted in the entirety of the Council criticising the American move except for US ambassador Nikki Haley, who defended her country’s move and claimed that the UN was biased against Israel.

The issues around Jerusalem are part of the complicated situation and history of Palestine and cannot be explained in detail in a single column. Readers are urged to survey the Internet for the immense and detailed corpus of data and analysis about the Palestine-Israeli conflict and the confused politics of some Western powers in the first half of the 20th century as they supported the imposition of a new colony and state of Europeans of Jewish religious origin in the land of Palestine.

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, in welcoming the US move, repeated the hacked claim (just as ethno-nationalists make similar hollow historical claims in our country) that “Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for three thousand years!”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In the first place, a Jewish state, that is, a state whose officially defining identity was of the religion of Judaism, existed across a few hundred square miles of territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean coast for several hundred years only in the last millennium Before Common Era (BCE) until conquest by the Roman Empire in the final century BCE. In fact, according to strict Judaic definition, the ‘nation’ of Israel – that is, the collective tribes of Israel – lived as a society around the great Temple of Yahweh in ancient Jerusalem.

The Temple, reputedly containing the sacred ‘Ark of the Covenant’ which contained the Ten Commandments ostensibly written by Moses, a great leader and hero of the early Jewish people, was the key ritual centre of religious life. In fact the existence of Judaism at that time in the last few centuries BCE was dependent on the functioning of that ritual centre and its controlling priesthood. Ritually, Judaism could not exist without the central locus of the ‘holy of holies’ in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was destroyed once by the Babylonian empire around 600 BCE but, somehow, the Temple was subsequently restored. What happened to the sacred Ark of the Covenent is lost in time.

Vassal king of Rome

The Temple was re-built in Jerusalem in the final centuries BCE. Already, by the last century BCE (at the approximate time of the birth Jesus Christ), the Roman Empire had conquered Palestine and the king of Israel of the time became a vassal king of Rome, controlled by a Roman Governor. Despite numerous revolts by Jews (alongside other local peoples also revolting against the empire), the Roman empire prevailed, albeit brutally. Hence, no independent state of Israel existed since then.

Indeed, the oppression of the Romans resulted in large numbers of Jews fleeing their homeland and settling elsewhere, spreading across West Asia, northern Africa (as far as Ethiopia), Turkey and Eastern and Western Europe.

Their departure from their homeland was spurred by the final destruction of the Temple in 60 CE by the Roman army that very brutally crushed that last Jewish rebellion. Josephus, the historian, recorded that the Temple and its contents was totally destroyed. The destruction of the Temple and the disappearance of the Ark of the Covenent, broke the ritual connection between the Jews and their protector God Yahweh (‘Jehovah’ in old English). Thus, Jewish theology had to evolve to compensate for that loss of the Temple and Ark-based ritual legitimacy as a distinct ‘nation’ in the first century Common Era.

What subsequently evolved was a religious community that was based on allegiance to a vast collection of ‘books’ of Prophets, namely, the Torah – comprising the entirety of the ‘Old Testament’ part of the Christian Bible and additional ancient writings.

Islamic Caliphate

Jerusalem, in the subsequent centuries, was first just another major local city and administrative centre for the Romans. The population in the land of Palestine comprised the remaining Palestinian Jews as well as Palestinians of other local language groups and religions (Roman gods, Manicheans, etc).

The slow collapse of the Roman Empire saw the Romans make way for invading Islamic Arab tribes from the Arabian Peninsula to the south.

The first Islamic Caliphate extended as far as Palestine and Jerusalem became the site of a mosque that commemorated Prophet Mohamed. The Al Aqsa Mosque was built on the same site where the Jewish Temple existed nearly a thousand years previously.

The early caliphate gave way to local Islamic rulers and it was in this period that medieval Christian European powers of the time invaded Palestine for geo-political reasons although their successive military ventures into Palestine were cloaked with the Christian theological justification of ‘crusades’ to rescue the land of Jesus from the Arabs.

The crusades were a failure in that the Europeans at the time could not establish an outpost strong enough to remain independent of the Arab-Islamic kingdoms surrounding it.

By the 15th century CE, Turkey’s Ottoman Empire had expanded across West Asia and Jerusalem remained under Ottoman sway until the end of World War 1.

This quick outline of history is enough to show that ‘Israel’ and a ‘Jewish state’ disappeared nearly two thousand years ago. This historical evolution (or, non-evolution) is even acknowledged by many Israeli archaeologists.

Protectorates

When the newly powerful modern European colonial empires began expanding, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire created a vacuum which the Europeans used to fill first with their own, created, ‘protectorates’ of vassal local Arab chieftains (who, in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, later became ‘kings’). The immense suffering of the European Jewish minority across Europe due to Nazi German rule provided the European powers that defeated Germany with the opportunity to transfer that victimised Jewish population as ‘refugees’ and ‘migrants’ into Palestine.

Inspired by their own, early medieval religio-nationalist ideology of a ‘lost’ homeland, and supported by the military might of Britain and France, these European Jews flocked to Palestine and with military force captured enough territory to set up a state of Israel. Initially, by 1948, the invading European Jewish armed groups only held the western part of Jerusalem while the Palestinian resistance held the eastern part.

In 1967, however, supported by massive military aid from the US and other western powers, Israel defeated the armies of Syria, Jordan and Egypt and forcibly expanded its territory to capture the entirety of Palestine although under ceasefire agreements and the UN law, the new territory is not considered as part of Israeli but is designated as ‘Occupied Territory’.

The Occupied Territory comprises the West Bank valley of Jordan River, East Jerusalem and the tiny Gaza Strip. That is all that is left for the original Palestinian Arab people who comprise of Arab Muslims, Christians, Jews, Druze and other minor religions (e.g. Samaritans).

The Occupied Territory, under the UN agreements that ended the 1967 war, is to be the basis of an independent state of Palestine.

East Jerusalem, still regarded as their old capital by the original Palestinians, Thus, East Jerusalem remains classified as officially separate from Israel by the UN and the entire world community. The US is now the only country to recognised Jerusalem and the Isreali capital.

This move has been condemned by the entire world community including America’s principal allies.

Most significantly, this formal bias toward Israel has only served to undermine Washington’s past status as a kind of ‘honest broker’ or mediator between Israel and Palestine. Clearly, Donald Trump, the author of ‘The Art of the Deal’, does not know how to make deals anymore (given his dotage) or, was never really the true author of that book! 

 

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