The forgotten Jerusalem and the lonely Palestinians



Jerusalem has become a sensitive issue ever since the early 20th Century when waves of Jews emigrated from Europe to Palestine (Israel).

Many Jews established their settlements around the Old City and the increasing Jewish presence and population in Palestine provoked the enmity between Jews and Palestinians. Massive protests and conflicts occurred in early 1930s and the British authority heavily blew the Palestinian militants.

After the Second World War, Britain decided to withdraw their governance in Palestine and an independent Jewish state and an independent Palestine state should be established according to the UN resolution No. 181.

However, conflicts, rather than peace, followed and the establishment of modern Israel state in 1948 accompanied with the demise of Palestinians’ dream of independence.

Photo taken on Dec. 21, 2017 shows the general view of a rare emergency special session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New york. The General Assembly on Thursday adopted a resolution on the status of Jerusalem that will make US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital have no legal effect.

The Jerusalem, although attaches too many religious (Jewish, Christian and Islam) meaning and political values (Israeli nationalism and Palestinian nationalism) itself, has become the core of debate of “who has the right to stay”.

According to Israel, especially the right-wing political camp, Jerusalem should be recognized as the “capital of Israel” and the whole land from Mediterranean in the West to the Jordan River in the East should be recognized as the “legal territory” of Jewish state, largely because of Jewish archaeology presence in this area. Many Israelis claim that their ancestors lived here more than 3000 years ago and this land should be returned back to Jewish people to establish their own modern Jewish state.

Opposite to Jewish claim, the Arab and Palestinians believed Jerusalem and other lands from the Mediterranean in the West to the Jordan River in the East are “stolen” by Israel. They believe this land has been conquered by Arab ever since 7th century and the Jewish are just immigrants from Europe and US. It is their legal rights that recognized by international society to establish an independent Palestine state in West Bank and Gaza with the East Jerusalem as their capital for their future state.

The different discourse and descriptions lead to the increasing communication rift between Israel and Palestine. Moreover, the competitions inside both Israel and Palestine political camp aggravate the hostility between Israelis and Palestinians. Any Israeli political leader and cabinet should consider the significant pressure from the right-wing political forces inside Israel when a decision was being made, while the international recognized Palestine authority in Ramallah led by President Mahmoud Abbas also has to consider the pressure from other competing powers inside West Bank and Gaza, such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Therefore, any concession made by either Israel or Palestine might arouse intensive political criticism inside their own country.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech at a press conference after the extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation(OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, on December 13, 2017.

Jerusalem issue, combined with Palestine issue, has become too sensitive for any political leader in Arab world. When Israeli forces conquered the Eastern Jerusalem from Jordan in June of 1967, many analysts criticized Jordan King Hussein for his “irrational decision” of joining the war against Israel given the weak Jordan army and vulnerability of Jordanian presence in East Jerusalem and West Bank. However, King Hussein had to make the decision to stand with Egypt and Syria and had to act in accordance with the national sentiments of its own people, even given the fact that King Hussein himself knew exactly that his army was not able to resist the offensive from Israeli military forces.

In early 1967, when the secular “Nasserism” led by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser was sweeping the whole Arab world and, and when the Palestinians across the Jordan River were highly motivated by the claims of “united Arab world” to defeat Israel and to “restore” their lost land occupied by Israel, the King Hussein had to do something to show his solidarity with his own people to safeguard his regime’s legitimacy. It was against this backdrop that King Hussein made the decision of joining the war against Israel, and the war finally resulted to the fall of Jerusalem.

The military failures against Israel also threatened the political legitimacy inside different Arab states. Syrian president Hafez al-Assad’s seizure of power in 1970 could be partly attributed to the failure of Syria’s war against Israel in 1967. The charm of the “Arab world leader” Nasser faded after the military failure in 1967. Therefore, any political leader in Arab world are interested in “talking the talking, but not walking the walking”.

Although the Jerusalem and Palestine issue is “dangerous” for any Arab leader, we could not ignore the morality of Jerusalem in Arab world. Most Arab view it as their “religious duty” to safeguard the Jerusalem and many Islamic leaders are interested in mobilizing its people by with shibboleth of “retaking Jerusalem” or “eliminating Israel”. Even Saddam Hussein insisted withdrawing Iraqi military presence in Kuwait in exchange for the establishment of independent Palestine state with capital of East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem issue has actually become a jetton for many political leaders in Arab world.

After US president Donald Trump’s announcement of “recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” in December 6, the world watches the Muslim world leaders through a camera lens, shaking their heads and insisting that Palestinians not resort to violence but rather remain committed to the “two-state solution”. Meanwhile, Israel continues to enjoy normal diplomatic relations with most countries. This is the spectacle of Palestinians’ loneliness, and this is the reality of the forgotten Jerusalem.