May 15, 2018 Abdul Haqq

A Symbol of Oppression: Rubbing Salt in the wounds

They’re trying to take away our culture. They’re trying to take away our history…These things have been there for 150 years, for a hundred years. You go back to a university and it’s gone. Weak, weak people.”[1]

President Donald Trump’s words, a little under a year ago, echoed white nationalist and neo-Nazi sentiment against the removal of Confederate statues from public spaces due to their symbolism of America’s ‘great’ history. However in contrast, many regarded them as being representative of a racist, white supremacist past. Subsequent protests in support of and against their public display proved divisive – even fatal.[2]

Fast-forward to 14th May 2018 – the inauguration of the new US embassy in Jerusalem and 70th anniversary commemorating the establishment of the state of Israel – to witness Trump’s continuing trend to endorse not only racist, but pro-Zionist policies that serve to further denigrate Palestinians:

Almost immediately after declaring statehood in 1948, Israel designated the city of Jerusalem as its capital. The capital the Jewish people established in ancient times. So important.

Today, Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s government. It is the home of the Israeli legislature and the Israeli Supreme Court and Israel’s prime minister and president. Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital…

This city and its entire nation is a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people. The United States will always be a great friend of Israel and a partner in the cause of freedom and peace.[3]

These comments illustrate the type of dogmatism that fuels his bigotry inasmuch as it relates to minorities (in the US) and the marginalised (Palestinians). While recognising the ‘[re]birth’ of a Jewish state, he failed to acknowledge anything relating to the Palestinian plight or their heritage. This was undoubtedly deliberate and confirmation of his flagrant disregard for the Palestinian cause. Lamenting – as he did – over Confederate statue symbolism is duplicitous in light of his failure to recognise the far graver historical injustice against Palestinians. His failure to acknowledge and address such issues while effusively endorsing the embassy relocation illustrates an intrinsic bias against them.

Heaven and Hell on earth? Rather, it’s what occupation looks like

As the world witnessed surreal images of serenity, celebration and jubilation with the opening of the new embassy on the one hand, scenes reminiscent of a war zone – billowing black smoke, fires and injured Palestinians – were also apparent among what can only be described as carnage. Trump was under no illusion about the likely unrest that would ensue following this inflammatory move.[4] However, we have become accustomed to his narcissistic and truculent leadership style that courts controversy.  He should not therefore be surprised about Al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman Zawahiri, calling for an emphatic response to the US/Israeli collaboration in this regard:

US President Donald Trump “…was clear and explicit, and he revealed the true face of the modern Crusade, where standing down and appeasement does not work with them, but only resistance through the call and jihad,” Zawahiri said, according to a transcript provided by the Site monitoring agency.

He added that Bin Laden had declared the US “…the first enemy of the Muslims, and swore that it will not dream of security until it is lived in reality in Palestine…[5]

While Al Qaeda’s capacity for terrorist attacks may have diminished, the organisation still poses a threat. The relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem is likely to have galvanised a new cohort of angry young men who are now even more susceptible to violent radicalisation. As has been long established, extremist propaganda seeks to utilise legitimate grievances – and make no mistake – the embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem is a legitimate grievance. Extremists capitalise upon these with devastating and often murderous effect through acts of terrorism. But we already know this. We also know that ISIS/Daesh, while down, are certainly not out. The recent attacks in Indonesia and France are attestation of this.[6][7]

Delusions of Grandeur?

The warming of relations between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un after their previous bellicose exchanges have been lauded internationally. Unsurprisingly, Trump – as he is wont – attributed this success to US sanctions and his ‘maximum pressure’ approach.[8] North Korea rebutted this claim suggesting it was their leader who actually instigated change between the two countries.[9]

Regardless of which egotistic leader should be credited for the breakthrough and thawing of relations, Trump’s opportunism appears to be verging on delusions of grandeur as he issues one ultimatum (regarding consequences for Iran,)[10] after the other (imposing sanctions on European companies that do business with Iran following US withdrawal from the accord).[11] Kim Jong Un may have blinked when Trump boasted about the size of his red (nuclear) button; however, he should be under no illusion that the Palestinian issue is such that universal focus is unflinching.

Anger over what occurred on 14th May is palpable. Turkey’s immediate action – in solidarity with the Palestinians – was commendable:

Turkey is recalling its ambassadors to the US and Israel in an official protest of the Trump administration’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”[12]

The country’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was also emphatic when commenting on the US/Israeli collaboration:

In recent days, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been harshly critical of the US decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Erdogan said Monday that the United States’ decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv shows that the US prefers “to become part of the problem rather than the solution.” 

“With this last step [the embassy move] the United States has lost its role has mediator in the Middle East peace process…”During his remarks in London, Erdogan was also quoted by Anadolu as saying “Israel is a terrorist state” and “what Israel is doing is a genocide.”[13]

His final observations come as no surprise in light of the reported casualties so far; at least 58 dead and more than 2,700 injured – (while Ivanka Trump, her husband, Jared Kushner and their host Netanyahu celebrated this historic occasion). Indeed, this was the deadliest day in Gaza since the 2014 war.[14]

Displaced Voices

Palestinian voices – particularly at grassroots – continue to resonate in spite of various efforts to mute or minimise their significance. It is important that they continue to be amplified:

The Nakba – which in Arabic means “the catastrophe” – is not a mere date to be commemorated every 15 May; it is far more encompassing than a single event, however tragic. It represents the life that millions of Palestinians were unfairly denied; every day since has been a life of destitution, exile and want.

The Nakba, in some way, has thus become part of the collective identity for all Palestinians. It is now so ingrained into the consciousness of all Palestinians that it would be impossible to imagine a truly peaceful future without justly and carefully addressing that original crime.

It is critical that we relate the present to the past. The settler colonial mentality of the past continues to control Israel’s actions today, as it will govern its future behaviour if apartheid is not demolished, the occupation is allowed to perpetuate and the Nakba is not reversed.

For the millions of refugees, and for the thousands of protesters at the Gaza border, Palestine is no longer just a piece of earth but a perpetual fight for justice – in the name of those who died along the dusty trails of exile and of those who are yet to be born.[15]

 Conclusion

The displacement of their narrative as victims is sinister – particularly when taking into account the unforgettable plight of their aggressors. It is therefore almost unfathomable to witness the routine treatment of Palestinians. The old adage ‘hurt people, hurt people,’ should be changed to encapsulate the Israeli/Palestinian issue: ‘Scarred nations, scar nations.’ At the same time it is important to separate, identify and empathise with legitimate grievances. In order to emphasise the importance of this final point, it is necessary to briefly move tangentially to another topic and refer to an article that addresses the following:

The legitimate grievances of brown and black women are no match for the accusations of a white damsel in distress…it is the trauma caused by the tactic many white women employ to muster sympathy and avoid accountability, by turning the tables and accusing their accuser.[16]

If the phrase ‘white women’ was replaced with the word ‘Israeli’ and ‘brown/black women’ with ‘Palestinian’, the emphasis becomes clearer. A more nuanced approach is required when addressing the Palestinian/Israeli issue. This has been largely absent during innumerable media, academic and political discourses, and any dissenting voice has the charge of anti-Semitism or religious extremism levelled against them.  Such accusations are likely to ensue following this particular elucidation; however, they will simply reinforce the example provided above.

Only one question remains following the tragic events that unfolded: President Trump; was relocating the embassy to Jerusalem worth 1, let alone 58, lives with more than 2,700 injured?

 

 

[1]Greenwood, M: ‘Trump on removing Confederate Statues: ‘They’re trying to take away our culture,’ The Hill, 22ndAugust 2017: http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/347589-trump-on-removing-confederate-statues-theyre-trying-to-take-away-our

[2]Heim, J; Silverman, E; Shapiro, T. R & Brown, E: ‘One dead as car strikes crowds amid protests of white nationalist gathering in Charlottesville; two police die in helicopter crash,’ The Washington Post, 13thAugust 2017: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/fights-in-advance-of-saturday-protest-in-charlottesville/2017/08/12/155fb636-7f13-11e7-83c7-5bd5460f0d7e_story.html?utm_term=.b2ad9fafe56d

[3]Politico Staff: ‘Read Trump’s speech on the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem,’ Politico, 14thMay 2018: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/14/text-trump-on-opening-of-us-embassy-in-jerusalem-transcript-584452

[4]Holland, S & Lubell, M: ‘Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing longtime US policy,’ Reuters, 6thDecember 2017: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-israel/defying-warnings-of-unrest-trump-recognizes-jerusalem-as-israels-capital-idUSKBN1E01PS?ref=hvper.com

[5]Agence France-Presse: ‘Al-Qaeda leader calls for jihad on eve of US embassy moving to Jerusalem,’ 14thMay 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/14/al-qaida-leader-jihad-us-embassy-move-jerusalem

[6]‘Surbaya church attacks: One family responsible police say,’ BBC News, 13thMay 2018: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-44100278

[7]Nestel, M.L & El Hammar, A: ‘Paris suspect in knife attack that killed 1 was French citizen born in Chechnya,’ ABC News: 13thMay 2018: https://abcnews.go.com/International/isis-reportedly-claims-responsibility-deadly-paris-stabbing/story?id=55121828

[8]Haas, B: ‘Peace-loving’ North Korea claims credit for thaw with US,’ The Guardian, 21stMarch 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/21/peace-loving-north-korea-claims-credit-for-thaw-with-us

[9]Ibid

[10]‘Trump threatens ‘big problems’ for Iran,’ BBC News, 24thApril 2018: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-43885027

[11]Swaine, J: ‘US threatens European companies with sanctions after Iran deal pullout,’ The Guardian, 13thMay 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/13/us-sanctions-european-countries-iran-deal-donald-trump

[12]Gaouette, N & Kosinski, M: ‘Turkey recalls envoys to US, Israel over embassy move,’ CNN, 14thMay 2018: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/05/14/politics/turkey-ambassador-us-israel/index.html

[13]Ibid

[14]Ibid

[15]Baroud, R: ‘Israel at 70: ‘Why I have to tell the story of the Palestinian struggle to return home,’ The Independent, 13thMay 2018: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/israel-70-nakba-gaza-protests-palestinians-declaration-independence-exile-a8346331.html

[16]Hamad, R: ‘How white women use strategic tears to silence women of colour,’ The Guardian, 7thMay 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/08/how-white-women-use-strategic-tears-to-avoid-accountability

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