Moment of Reckoning by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (December 15, 2017)

News Analysis-I

Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam on the worldwide protests against America’s announcement to shift its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the extraordinary OIC session in Istanbul and what it portends for Arabs and Muslims.

A summit is the top of a mountain. In diplomacy, a summit is a meeting of the top persons of countries–presidents, kings or, at the minimum, prime ministers. At the extraordinary session of Organisations of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, on December 13 only 20 heads of state of the 57-member organisation participated.

The session was called to formulate a joint response to the US President Donald Trump’s transparently dishonest and unjust December 6 announcement to shift the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus effectively derailing all efforts made so far to establish peace by creating a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

At such a crucial juncture in Arab and Muslim world’s life, the presence of only 20 heads of state out of 57 shows the rampant disunity among Muslims. Independent observers said that many representatives at the extraordinary session seemed reluctant to take any firm position beyond a vague rhetoric of criticism of the US action.

Important players from the region showed a lackadaisical attitude by sending their foreign ministers, deputy foreign ministers and even foreign ministry official.

Shifting the US embassy means recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met European Union leaders and appealed to them to move their embassies to Jerusalem. So far the European Union, Russia, China and the UN are opposed to this idea as according to negotiations so far, the question of Jerusalem is to be settled at the end of the peace process establishing a two-state solution. East Jerusalem has to be the capital of Palestine according to the peace plan. Trump’s move is to deprive Palestinians of their last hope.

Rightly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said at the session in Istanbul that the US is not an honest broker and it will not be included in any future negotiations. OIC President Recip Tayyip Erdogan outright rejected the idea of Jerusalem as Israeli capital and announced it would break off ties with Israel if it made Jerusalem its capital. Incidentally, it is intriguing to ponder the gradual disempowerment and deprivation of Palestinians and other Arabs. The chronology of landmark events in Israeli-Arab history. The Balfour Declaration mooting a Jewish “homeland” came in 1917. In Arab-Israeli war, in 1967, Israel became four times larger than its original size by capturing Sinai from Egypt, Golan Heights and Sheba Farms from Syria, Ghaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan (it had captured West Jerusalem in the 1948 war). This happened in the 50th year after the Balfour Declaration.

And now, the Trump declaration comes on the 50th year of the 1967 war. All this cannot be mere coincidence. This seems to be a move to throw Palestinians out within a 100 years of the first step, the Belfour Declaration. Should we conclude that within the next 50 years after Trump’s announcement the three lakh Palestinians living in East Jerusalem will be thrown out. Since 2,000 several thousand Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have been expelled on one pretext or the other.

Not many people know that East Jerusalem’s Palestinians have already been stripped of their citizenship in flagrant violation of international law despite UN’s censure and international condemnation. Palestinian homes, gardens, lands and orchards are confiscated on a daily basis and every few hundred steps Jewish settlements, military installations and checkposts have been built amid Palestinian habitations destroying the geographical integrity of East Jerusalem. The situation for Palestinians has become more precarious.

PS: When President Trump announced his plan for US embassy in Jerusalem on December 6, one was struck by a sense of de ja vu. It was on the same date 25 years ago that Babri Masjid was demolished in Ayodhya to build a Ram temple on the site! Israelis have often been saying that they would build a grand temple (synagogue) over temple mount which is inside the Masjid-e-Isra under the golden dome in the Haram area. The Prophet (PBUH) had begun his ascent to God’s abode (me’raj) from the rock under the dome.

(Next: Where do we go from here?)


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