Columnists
O Jerusalem! For how many millennia have distant powers manipulated you?
By Henry H. Bucher, Jr., Faculty in Humanities, Austin College
Dec 13, 2017
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Several of my op-eds have commented on the ancient history of Jerusalem and its meaning for today. After the 1967 war, the USA voted with all other members of the UN Security Council for Resolution 242 which called for Israel to return to the pre-1967 borders, which would leave west Jerusalem in Israel (which occupied it in the 1948 war). For Israelis, west Jerusalem has been their capital since 1948. The United Nations has proposed that Jerusalem have an international status.

Thanks to pressure from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a 1995 US law requires the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to “be moved to Jerusalem” unless the president issues a waiver every six months affirming that doing so would be against the national security interests of the US. This week, (Monday, 12/11) President Trump was able to have his chocolate cake (and big macs) and eat them too. He had quietly signed the waiver on December 6, after having very loudly recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. By signing the waiver, the US Embassy remains in Tel Aviv along with almost every other embassy in the world. Some embassies that had been in West Jerusalem joined the move to Tel Aviv after Israel unilaterally proclaimed in 1980 its “Jerusalem Law” which announced a “complete and united” Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Native US Americans would say that our president is speaking with a “forked tongue.” By proclaiming that he recognizes Jerusalem as capital of Israel; however, he accomplishes four objectives.

 First, the president thinks he has “kept” a campaign pledge he made to cater to his many Christian Zionist supporters and to wealthy backers whose multi-million dollars enriched his campaign.

 Second, he has kept the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, which softens the criticisms of those who are concerned that the US minimize breaking commitments to international law.

 Third, he has accomplished so well globally what he excels at nationally: spreading confusion, chaos, anger and increasing already bitter divisions. This keeps Trump in the headlines and diverts attention from the Russia investigation, and a long list of pending issues, including the growing strength of the #MeToo movement. Many are still confused over his not having said “West Jerusalem,” which has always been Israel’s capital since 1948. East Jerusalem is the old city at the heart of the dispute.

 Partial or half-truths have been long used to manipulate public opinion. One US news agency interviewed the late esteemed Middle East scholar, Bernard Lewis, asking if Jerusalem was mentioned in the Qur’an. He replied, no, in the Qur’an, Jerusalem is in Arabic called “al Quds” meaning the “Holy.” The news agency reported that Dr. Lewis had confirmed that Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Qur’an!

 Fourth, the president suddenly recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital the week before the senatorial elections in Alabama on Tuesday, December 12, knowing that the USA’s “Bible belt” has always been the “security belt” of Israel’s Zionists. We may never know if this had any impact on Alabama’s senate race. 

Since 1948, Palestinians have put much hope in international law. When that has failed, violence often erupts and Israel uses its superior military might to restore “normality.” Non-violent actions and working through international organizations has strengthened Palestinian positions in recent years and drawn more international support. After two violent Intifadas, a third one would set back Palestinian diplomatic wins. 

Since 1967, the USA’s role as an “even-handed arbiter” in the Israeli/Palestinian impasse has been declining. President Trump’s impulsive and ambiguous statements about Jerusalem have convinced billions of Muslims of what they have suspected since 1967: the USA can no longer pretend to be “even-handed.”