Trump’s calculated provocation

December 11, 2017

Amid protests breaking out around the world, Sumaya Awad explains the background to Trump's decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

THIS MONTH marks the 30th anniversary of the first Palestinian Intifada, when Palestinians rose up against four decades of occupation and oppression since the 1948 "Nakba"--the Palestinian word for "catastrophe," used to describe the campaign of expulsion that led to the formation of Israel.

Today, we see the beginning of what may become the third Intifada as Palestinians and their supporters, from the West Bank and Gaza to cities around the globe, rise up in protest against Donald Trump's declaration that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of an illegal apartheid state.

Within hours of Trump's announcement, thousands of people filled the streets in the West Bank and Gaza, waving Palestinian flags and chanting, "Jerusalem is our eternal capital." Even more came out in the days that followed

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fired tear gas and bullets at the crowds, injuring more than 1,000 people, and arresting dozens more. In Gaza, 30-year-old Mohammad Al-Masri and 54-year-old Maher Attallah were fatally shot amid a constant barrage of gunfire, followed by Israeli air raids, which left a 6-month-old baby struggling for life.

Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian protesters during mass demonstrations in Jerusalem
Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian protesters during mass demonstrations in Jerusalem

Elsewhere in the Middle East, U.S. embassies shut down as people rallied in the streets. In Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Pakistan, thousands marched in support of the Palestinian struggle for liberation.

Across the U.S., too, Palestine solidarity groups called for people to protest Trump's decision. In New York City's Times Square, thousands flooded the streets, chanting "Free, free Palestine." Earlier in the day, organizers rented a moving truck and parked it in the middle of Times Square to later use as a stage.

The protests will continue to grow and spread, with dozens more planned for this week. Trump's declaration may yet trigger a new Intifada.

AS THE upsurge goes on, it is imperative to point out that Jerusalem belongs to Palestine, but so do Jaffa, Haifa and all the other villages, towns and cities from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea that were demolished and replaced by Israeli towns.

The Israeli colonizers and their imperial allies have spent close to the last 70 years waging a propaganda offensive and military war on Palestine and its Indigenous population--and still the project hasn't been completed.

Instead, Israel faces the continued resistance of the Palestinian people, whether in Palestine or the diaspora--and of the millions of people who see the colonization of Palestine as rooted in racism, Zionism, Islamophobia and imperialism.

In the last two decades, under the Oslo Accords that were supposed to establish "peace," Palestinians have had to endure increasingly unbearable conditions.

The number of illegal Israeli settlements has doubled, and house demolitions carried out by Israeli forces have skyrocketed. Thousands of Palestinians have been murdered, many more have been incarcerated, and the everyday lives of all Palestinians have become wretched and unbearable.

The main reasons that Israel continues to dominate are the ethno-nationalist myths it systematically propagates--and the overwhelming support it garners from imperial powers.

Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel proves once and for all that the idea of a two-state solution--with Israel and an independent, self-sufficient Palestine co-existing--is a falsehood meant to temporarily pacify those disturbed by the injustices committed by the Israeli state.

This was never more than a flimsy illusion at best--and, at worst, a means to legitimize apartheid.

The "peace talks" of the last two decades focused attention on the negotiating table, instead of social struggle. What's more, they gave Israel the power to freeze negotiations at any point when the talks threatened to require Israel to make actual compromises.

In contrast to the Oslo Accords, the "boycott, divestment and sanctions [movement] is the real peace process," Ali Abunimah, founder of Electronic Intifada, stated after news of Trump's declaration.

Trump's decision is yet another example of the two-party consensus when it comes to the question of Palestine.

While the Senate was split on the Republican tax bill last week, it is in firm agreement on supporting Israel's settler-colonial apartheid regime. In fact, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was one of the leading senators pushing Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and declare it the "undivided capital of Israel."

CHOOSING JERUSALEM as the focal point of this most recent attack on Palestinian self-determination is a deliberate provocation by Trump.

Just this summer, the IDF shut down the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem--one of the most holy sites in Islam--in order to install metal detectors and other security measures, with the aim of intimidating and provoking Palestinians in the West Bank.

After weeks of protest, which resulted in the murder of three Palestinians by the IDF, the Palestinians succeeded in forcing the removal of the metal detectors. It was a much-needed victory amid years of a sustained onslaught.

Trump's declaration is not just an attack on Palestinians and their aspirations, but a conscious act intended to stir elements of resistance that the U.S. can then blame for "violent clashes." Beyond all else, Trump's action is a clear sign of collusion between Israel, the U.S. and autocratic Arab states.

Many Arab states issued warnings against transferring the capital to Jerusalem, but Jordan, with a population of more than 3 million Palestinians, and Saudi Arabia--which has many times proclaimed itself steward of the Haram al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem (which includes the Al-Aqsa Mosque)--have both tacitly condoned this attack on Palestine.

For decades, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have worked with Israel as it continues to enforce its apartheid regime on the Palestinian people.

Also to blame is the so-called Palestine Liberation Organization, which has spent the last two decades implementing neoliberal policies, squashing popular resistance and collaborating with the Israeli military occupation as rulers of the hamstrung Palestinian Authority.

Arab governments, with the help of global imperial powers, have spent the half a decade waging a counterrevolutionary war on activists, workers and youth. From Syria to Yemen, the suppression and violent murder of revolutionary movements has created obstacles and challenges for Arab workers to rise up and defend Palestine.

As Palestinians say, "Samidoun," which means "steadfast in our resistance." And "Samidoun," we must remain until Palestine and all others fighting for self-determination are liberated and free.

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