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Condemning Trump’s Jerusalem decision is not enough. We must recognise Palestine

The international community must respond to America's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by recognising the Palestinian state immediately

US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has rightly been met with condemnation across the world.

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Indeed, it is difficult to recall a US foreign policy intervention being received with such uniform antipathy from the international community.

Illegal gains

Much of this condemnation has focused on the potential of this move to inflame tensions in the region and on President Trump's political ineptitude. True though these points are, they fail to address the root causes of the conflict and therefore constitute little more than cosmetic concern.

For those who desire a political solution in Israel-Palestine, it is not enough to condemn President Trump as irresponsible and decry the damage to the "Middle East peace-process".

Abhorrent as the decision is, there is a degree of truth to Trump's claim that he simply recognised the fact that Israel already treats Jerusalem as its capital. However, in doing so he has emboldened the Israeli right with a reassurance that the world will eventually recognise its illegal gains.

For Palestinians, warnings that the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will endanger the "Middle East peace process" must seem a cruel joke

Under international law, East Jerusalem remains illegally occupied and the UN continues to recognise that Jerusalem is a "final status" issue.

The outrage of the international community ought to be directed at the fact that the future capital of a Palestinian state has been tightly controlled and systematically strangled as part of Israel's de-facto capital, in defiance of the city's indigenous inhabitants who have been stripped of their political and human rights.

The legitimisation of this is scandalous, but the true outrage is the decades-long failure to prevent these crimes rather than Trump's symbolic support. 

Managing injustice 

Increased violence is an inevitable result of the decision, and it is right that we should be concerned: Palestinians experience constant Israeli violence, and any violent acts perpetrated by Palestinians as a result of tensions and frustrations will be met with a brutal response from Israel's security forces.

Dozens or hundreds of lives might be needlessly lost. That the overriding concern of many is to prevent tensions from reaching boiling point, whilst saying or doing nothing of substance to address the cruel and dehumanising oppression experienced by Palestinians on a daily basis, suggests an interest only in managing injustice rather than seeking to end it through upholding international law.

For Palestinians, warnings that the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital will endanger the "Middle East peace process" must seem a cruel joke. The "Middle East peace process" is to all intents and purposes dead in the water and has been for a long time.

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It exists as a convenient cover, allowing establishment politicians around the world to sit idly by and pay lip service to supporting peace whilst maintaining a status quo that allows Israel’s flouting of international law and human rights, its settlement expansion and its war crimes to continue without consequence.

Each transgression is met with statements of mealy-mouthed concern over the impact on the non-existent peace process that lack insight into why peace-building efforts have failed, or plans for what can be done.

Israeli border guards detain a Palestinian youth during a demonstration outside the Lions Gate, a main entrance to Al-Aqsa mosque compound 17 July 2017 (AFP)

The root causes

Any response that stops short of addressing the root causes of the conflict – namely the illegal occupation of Palestine, the 600,000 Israeli settlers and the ongoing denial of basic human rights – is little more than gesture politics.

A lack of accountability and justice for these crimes is why peace-building efforts continue to have little impact or fail entirely.

A combination of the power imbalance between the occupied Palestinian population and their Israeli gaolers, along with the inaction of the international community, has resulted in a climate wherein Israel is free to achieve its illegal aims – the prevention of a Palestinian state and the colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem – through brute force.

People across the world who wish to see a just peace should continue to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign directed against the illegal settlements 

Both through its actions and its words, the Israeli government has made it clear that it has no intention of ending its theft of Palestinian land and its oppression of the Palestinians. 

This is because there is no incentive for Israel to comply with international law and genuinely engage in meaningful actions to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

The decades of impunity afforded by the international community and a failure to recognise, let alone protect, the rights of Palestinians is what is truly scandalous and irresponsible, and this shameful record cannot be pinned on Donald Trump.

Collective failures

Decades of tolerance of Israeli policies of home demolitions, military detention of minors and collective punishment are the context in which this recent announcement must be understood.

The global community should certainly continue to call out Trump as the foolish demagogue that he is, but we should not allow self-satisfied finger-wagging to distract from our more substantial collective failures. Denunciation of the US president is not a substitute for upholding international law and protecting human rights.

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The appropriate response to this latest rejection of international law and United Nations resolutions is a renewed commitment to an international order based on justice, respect for the rule of law and protecting human rights.  

The international community must respond to America's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by strengthening the diplomatic hand of the Palestinians, by recognising the Palestinian state immediately – something the British Parliament has already voted in support of.

We should also use our power to hold Israel accountable in accordance with international law via the imposition of both diplomatic and economic sanctions.

People across the world who wish to see a just peace should continue to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign directed against the illegal settlements and their products at the request of and in solidarity with the Palestinian people. 

- Grahame Morris has been the Labour Member of Parliament for Easington since 2010. He led the vote for the UK Parliament to recognise Palestine and is Chair of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Palestinians scuffle with Israeli occupation army at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on 8 December 2017 (AFP)

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