WASHINGTON — By designating Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, President Donald Trump is telling the world that when it comes to Israel, might makes right.
Washington’s explicit endorsement of Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem strikes a blow to the Palestinians and Israelis nonviolently working to end Israel’s military occupation and push for lasting peace.
Less than two weeks out from this fateful decision, Palestinian and Israeli blood has already been shed, and undoubtedly the death toll will mount as Israel further entrenches its military occupation and violent extremists continue to draw validation.
In the U.S. media, the violence of Israel’s military occupation is largely ignored, while the absence of deadly attacks against Israelis or at U.S. embassies worldwide has been cited as evidence that the impact of Trump’s decision was “merely symbolic.”
It may be merely symbolic for Trump’s billionaire donors, including Trump’s top campaign contributor Sheldon Adelson, who shelled out millions for this policy change.
However, on the ground, Trump’s decision has flesh and blood consequences.
In its aftermath, Israeli attacks have killed at least eight Palestinians, two Israelis were stabbed by Palestinians, and Israeli forces have arrested hundreds and injured more than 800 during protests against Trump’s decision. Israeli airstrikes have pounded the Gaza Strip, and Hamas launched several rockets at Israel.
One of the Palestinians killed was a paraplegic activist named Ibrahim Abu Thuayeh. He joined thousands in protesting on Gaza’s border, and Israeli soldiers shot him in the head.
Following his killing the Israeli army’s spokesperson did not claim it was a mistake, writing “during the violent riots, IDF soldiers fired selectively toward the main instigators.”
After global condemnation, the Israeli army announced that Abu Thuayeh’s killing is now under investigation.
Trump called his Jerusalem decision “a recognition of reality.” Yet he failed to acknowledge the reality of a military occupation that makes it possible for Israel to kill a Palestinian who doesn’t have legs, is blind in one eye, and is trapped behind a fence in the cage of the Gaza Strip, while he was, by all accounts, nonviolently protesting Israel’s continuing theft of Palestinian land.
Trump and most Republicans and Democrats in Congress fail to recognize the reality of Palestinian life in Jerusalem and Israeli violations of international law.
Today, Israel controls all of Jerusalem, and while Israelis there enjoy full citizenship, the vast majority of its Palestinians residents have no political rights and are citizens of nowhere. When I lived in Jerusalem, I met Palestinians dragged out of their homes at gunpoint by Israeli forces to make way for settlers.
By conferring U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump has exposed his “peace plan” as a farce. Prescribing an ever-diminishing Palestinian presence in Jerusalem and ever-intensifying Israeli subjugation of Palestinians is a plan not for peace, but for endless bloodshed.
Just months ago, a more hopeful vision was broadcast in Jerusalem. Tens of thousands of Palestinians — Muslim, Christian and secular East Jerusalemites — took to the streets to pray and non-violently protest Israel’s imposition of a new security arrangement on Palestinians going to pray at Al Aqsa Mosque.
These peaceful protests endured a brutal Israeli crackdown, and ultimately won the day, with Israel reversing its decision to install metal detectors outside the compound.
U.S. citizens, as major funders of Israel’s half-century-old occupation, have a responsibility to support such courageous manifestations of nonviolence.
With taxpayers now asked to fund a fortress-like embassy at Trump’s behest, it is incumbent upon Americans to urge Congress to oppose this funding.
Trump has committed a major foreign policy mistake that legitimizes past and present violence. We must press U.S. policymakers to block Trump’s embassy move, and insist that legitimizing nonviolence should take center stage in U.S. policy toward Israel-Palestine, and in U.S. engagement around the globe.
Kate Gould is the legislative director for Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobby in the public interest. She previously interned for a think tank in Jerusalem and worked in the West Bank city of Hebron. Readers may write her at FCNL, 245 Second Street NE, Washington, DC 20002.