Why Palestinian Christians reject Trump’s Jerusalem move

'I belong to the oldest Christian tradition in the world, and I don’t believe that God ordained that the world has to be unjust to the Palestinians,' leading PLO member Hanan Ashrawi.

2017/12/24 Issue: 137 Page: 8

The Arab Weekly
Razan Shamallakh

London- US President Donald Trump’s decision to rec­ognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel generated angry and despairing re­actions in the Palestinian territories and from global leaders who warned it destroys the prospect of peace and places the United States squarely on the side of lawlessness and illegality.

Trump defied global opposition with his announcement the United States would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Em­bassy to the city from Tel Aviv.

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.”

President of the National Christian Coalition in the Holy Land Dimi­tri Diliani said Trump’s announce­ment looms large during Christ­mas this year in the Palestinian territories where Christmas lights have been taken down, parties have been cancelled and Christmas mar­kets closed.

“All the festivities will be lim­ited to religious ones,” Diliani said. “People are not in a festive mood at all. If you walk in Jerusalem tonight, you will find that many people have taken down their decorations. There was no official decision, people made that decision.”

Trump’s move is a disaster for Pal­estinians — Muslims and Christians alike, Diliani noted.

“Trump’s decision is a tremendous blow to the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Here in [the Palestinian territories], there is no such thing as a Christian com­munity and a separate Muslim com­munity. We are Palestinians and we responded to Trump’s decision as Palestinians,” said Diliani.

Palestinian Christian leaders said they would not receive US Vice-Presi­dent Mike Pence, a staunch evangeli­cal who called Jerusalem “the eter­nal, undivided capital of the Jewish people,” on a visit that has since been postponed.

Others called for protests.

“We call for angry protests at the entrances to Jerusalem and in its Old City to coincide with the visit of US President Mike Pence and to protest against Trump’s decision,” Fatah said in a statement.

“We will not receive Mr Pence here,” said Saleh Bandak, a Bethle­hem-born Christian politician, at a sit-in outside the Church of the Na­tivity in Bethlehem. Christmas tree lights outside the historic church were switched off shortly after Trump’s announcement.

“Trump’s move has prompted us to connect with churches and political parties around the world to explain to them the catastrophe that Donald Trump has caused,” Diliani said.

“Now Israel feels that it has the support of the United States in all its illegal settlement building in oc­cupied Jerusalem in addition to the process of Judaisation of Jerusalem which includes ethnic cleansing as part of it.”

“Our oppressors have decided to deprive us of the joy of Christ­mas,” Patriarch Michel Sabbah told a crowd at Beit Sahour in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “Mr Trump told us clearly Jerusalem is not yours.”

In a recent interview, senior mem­ber of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) Hanan Ashrawi said the United States has made any peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians “irrelevant and superfluous.”

“The US administration has totally ripped apart the very legal founda­tion for peace in the region with their latest recognition of Jerusalem as Is­rael’s capital,” she said.

Palestinian Christians are not swayed by the attitude of evangelical Trump supporters who despite the backlash have expressed praise for the decision.

“We and the millions of Christians we represent will never forget your courageous act,” Christians United for Israel said in a full-page ad in the Washington Post, praising Trump’s decision.

In a widely circulated video, Ashrawi responded to Pence’s bibli­cal defence of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Mike Pence has been talking about God’s will, he’s not talking pol­itics. He’s talking biblical dogma and exegesis. God did not tell me what his God tells him. I belong to the old­est Christian tradition in the world, and I don’t believe that God ordained that the world has to be unjust to the Palestinians,” she said.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said at least eight Palestinians had died in protests and violence and ar­rests continue since Trump’s Jerusa­lem announcement.

“The situation is extremely tense in Jerusalem,” said Diliani. “There has been a deployment of occupation forces around almost every Palestin­ian neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, there have been restric­tions on movement in many places, there have been even more restric­tions in other parts of the West Bank inbound Jerusalem.”

The international and Arab back­lash against Trump’s decision has been strong.

Diliani said: “The reaction around the world and in the Arab world spe­cifically has given the Palestinian people a push and has given us hope that people still hold the Palestinian cause dear to their hearts and this is what has driven many people to go out to the streets — something peo­ple stopped doing many years ago.”

Razan Shamallakh is a master’s degree candidate in Conflict Resolution in Divided Societies at King’s College London.

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