A female Palestinian protester waves a Palestinian flag as she throws a stone during clashes with Israeli security forces near the Huwara checkpoint south of Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. AFP
Pardon me for visiting you with another article on Jerusalem. This is because I believe Jerusalem is more dangerous a flashpoint than the North Korean missile issue.
More than 100 years ago, a series of events loaded with skullduggery and backstabbing laid the foundation for the violence that the Middle East has been witnessing ever since. Of great historic significance were British spy T.E. Lawrence’s (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) secret meetings with Arab tribal leaders and Britain’s pledge to offer the Arabs a kingdom extending from the Mediterranean coast to the borders of Iran – an area covering what is today Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and the large parts of the Arabian Gulf region, including what is today’s Saudi Arabia. In return, the Arabs were asked to rebel against their Ottoman caliph, a Turk and Muslim, during World War I.
The promise of a mega Arab kingdom was also made in a series of letters in 1915 between Britain’s Cairo envoy Henry McMahon and Makkah’s governor Sherif Hussein, a great-grandparent of the present day ruler of Jordan.
But when the Arabs launched their revolt in June, 1916 and joined in their hordes the British army in what was condemned by Ottoman Islamic scholars as a breach of Quranic injunctions, the Brits had already stabbed the gullible Arabs in the back. A month before the Arab revolt, unknown to the dimwitted Arab tribal sheikhs, Britain and France signed the so-called Sykes-Picot agreement – named after British diplomat Mark Sykes and French diplomat Georges Picot. They threw Lawrence’s pledge and McMahon’s letters into the dustbin of history. In terms of this agreement, the two European powers carved up the Arab territory of the Ottoman regime which allied with Germany and faced defeat in World War 1.
In another knife-in-the-back move, in December 1917, Britain made the outrageous Balfour declaration that allowed European Jews to set up a state in Arab Palestine. A month after this declaration, General Edmund Allenby and his Egyptian Expeditionary Force entered Palestine to formally begin the British colonial rule. But they encountered tough resistance from the Ottoman army in what is known as the Battle of Jerusalem. When Jerusalem fell to Allenby’s forces, the then pro-Zionist British Prime Minister David Lloyd George called it “a Christmas present for the British people”. Call it treachery, betrayal, rebellion, Arabism, or whatever derisive or dignified word, the Arabs are paying a bloody price – the Ottoman scholars would call it divine punishment -- for their support to the Brits. Instead of the ‘promised’ united Arabia including Palestine, the Arab world was divided into ‘dependent’ nation states incapable of standing on their own feet – incapable of defending themselves without the help of the Western powers.
What an irony, 100 years after the British double crossing and 70 years after the Arabs lost East Jerusalem in the 1967 war with Israel, it took another Ottoman Sultan in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to come to the aid of the Arabs and Palestinians.
To the Palestinians’ relief, the Organisation of Islamic Countries is headed by Turkey, instead of a pro-American Arab nation like Saudi Arabia or Egypt. Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt sent only third level representation to the emergency OIC summit in Istanbul last week. Moreover, the Egyptian-sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution on Monday did not even mention the United States by name. Egypt may call it diplomacy, but some may see it as subjugation to the United States, the only sponsor of Israel’s oppression of Palestinian people in occupied territories.
For Saudi Arabia and its allies such as the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, the bigger worry than Jerusalem is Iran’s rise as a regional power. Instead of talking peace with Iran and working out a regional peace arrangement, Saudi Arabia and its allies have thrown their collective weight behind the enemies of the Palestinian cause – the United States and Israel, countries which seem to relish on the Arabs’ fear of Iran.
In their sectarian-driven vengeful campaign against Iran, the Saudis would not even mind friendship with Israel. Israeli media reports point to regular contacts between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
It is also alleged that the United States’ President Donald Trump had obtained the nod of Saudi Arabia well ahead of his Jerusalem declaration and that there was a behind-the-scenes deal for Saudis to promote Trump’s new peace plan without East Jerusalem. A December 3 New York Times report said the Saudis had summoned Palestinian Authority President Abbas to force him to accept Trump’s peace plan, where, instead of Jerusalem, the neighbouring town of Abu Dis that overlooks the Dome of the Rock mosque was offered as the Palestinian capital. Independent Palestine would be a collection of small territories with no contiguity.
The Saudis have denied the New York Times reports. On Wednesday, they reiterated their position asserting East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Incidentally, the statement came after a meeting between King Salman and Abbas. It was Abbas’ second or third visit to the Saudi capital in two months and it came ahead of yesterday’s crucial United Nations General Assembly vote on a resolution supporting East Jerusalem as the capital of future Palestinian state. Is Abbas, who has rejected the US as a peace broker, being browbeaten to accept the truncated peace plan of Trump or face a Saudi aid cut?
For Palestinians, it is East Jerusalem or death. But Trump also has taken the Jerusalem issue personally and stepped up his offensive.
The US, isolated on Monday at the UN Security Council where it used its veto power to kill yet another attempt aimed at resolving the Palestinian issue in a peaceful manner through the UN mechanism, took to political thuggery in a depraved bid to stop a UN General Assembly resolution that calls on the world body to denounce Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Ahead of the resolution which was expected to be passed with a huge majority last night, Nikki Haley, Trump’s hit woman at the UN, warned nations that she would report back to the US president with the names of those who support the resolution.
Hailing her highhandedness and forgetting the Christmas spirit, Trump -- perhaps acting like a King Harod and his massacre of the innocents during Christmas -- threatened to cut funding to countries which opposed the US stand. “All these nations take our money and then vote against us at the Security Council and they vote against us potentially at the Assembly… Well, we’re watching those votes,” he said at the White House.
Will the American people take notice of the voting pattern and ask why the United States is isolated? Why is the US hell bent on upholding injustice whereas the rest of the world cries for peace and justice?
It is not North Korea that befits the description ‘the most dangerous country’. Rather it is Trump’s United States. If the eccentric president can ignore world opinion with regard to climate change and Jerusalem, what guarantees do we have that he would not use nuclear weapons?