As expected, reports of U.S. President Donald Trump's intention to announce today, December 6, 2017, that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the U.S. Embassy will be moved there has prompted furious reactions from Palestinians and from the Arab and Muslim world in general. In advance of the announcement, the Palestinian Authority called for a day of rage on this date.
The concluding announcement of a December 5 emergency Arab League meeting referred to the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the "occupation state" and the establishment of any diplomatic representation whatsoever in Jerusalem, or moving one there, as "a shameless attack on the Arab nation and on the rights of the Palestinian people and of all Muslims and Christians... and a grave threat to peace, security, and stability in the region."
Among the reactions was also an uncommon response by Palestinian journalist Bakr Awida, who writes a column for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. He wrote in his December 6 column that he was "swimming upstream" by criticizing the rage and ranting, primarily in the Palestinian street, about the anticipated announcement by President Trump "eliminating the Palestinian cause."
In a column titled "Jerusalem and the Embassy – Do Not Despair," published December 6, Awida called on Palestinian statesmen to act wisely and to refrain from making harsh and useless statements condemning President Trump's move. He said that they should instead find alternatives and propose solutions, such as inviting the U.S. to also open an embassy in Ramallah as well as a consulate in Gaza, in order to maintain Palestinian-U.S. cooperation. Moving the U.S. flag from the embassy building in Tel Aviv to another building in Jerusalem has no impact on the rights of the Palestinians, he added, because these rights would continue to exist as long as the Palestinians themselves existed.
The following are translated excerpts from Awida's column:
"Every intelligent person knows that swimming upstream is a great risk. It can even be idiocy... that can end in drowning. This is [also] true when someone chooses to declare publicly an opinion that is opposed to the prevailing views that comprise most of public opinion...
"I am writing these words Monday evening, after sinking, for hours, in the downpour of the shouting by many in the streets of the Arab and Islamic world, warning America about the likely outcomes if President Donald Trump takes the plunge and announces today his decision to move the Washington [i.e. U.S.] embassy to Jerusalem.
"First of all, it should be said that the warnings about the possible negative ramifications of such a U.S move are necessary. Moreover, the capitals of the Arab and Muslim countries must remind the current American administration that moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem deviates from the custom maintained by U.S. administrations since the establishment of Israel. It can be assumed that this has already been done. Going even further, it can be said that the Arabs' and Muslims' shows of rage and protest following the decision to move the Washington embassy, whether this is announced today or postponed until a later date, will be understood and justified. This is not only due to the shock [at the decision], but also because the decision, particularly if it is actually implemented, will give Israel a writ of U.S. recognition that will legitimize its occupation of East Jerusalem. This is a leap far beyond every UN resolution since 1967.
"Everything noted above is understood, but I am not talking about agreeing with all the shouting heard in recent days.
"I am taking a chance swimming upstream, and I will begin by discussing the despair characterizing most of the Palestinian reactions, that were prepared in advance, at the possibility of an announcement of a decision to move the embassy. By despair, I mean talking about moving the U.S. Embassy building to Jerusalem, or even President Trumps' recognition of Jerusalem as 'the united capital of the State of Israel,' as if this is the final interment of the rights of the Palestinian people. Perhaps it will help at this point to explain the meaning of the terms being endlessly repeated and written.
"For example, what is the meaning of 'the elimination of the Palestinian cause' – [a term] that comes up every time the possibility of Israeli-Palestinian peace appears on the horizon; the [use] of it increased after the Trump plan began to be called the Deal of the Century...
"The recognized meaning of 'eliminating' something is that it no longer exists. This cannot possibly be the end of the Palestinian people, of its history, and of its heritage... that are the foundation for the Palestinians' continued existence on their land, including the Palestinians scattered throughout the world. As long as there is [a single] Palestinian among human beings, Palestinian rights and the Palestinian cause [exist as well]. This is regardless of who makes the UN resolutions and who has the most powerful military force in the world.
"Therefore, what is all this panic, which is mostly Palestinian, about? Is the deep faith in a man's right on the land of his forefathers not enough to reassure those with this right that it will remain strong and will exist as long as they continue to exist? Indeed it does.
"The issue of the embassy of the U.S., or of any other country, in Israel can be summed up [simply by saying that the country is] moving its flag from one building in Tel Aviv to another in Jerusalem. This will not stop the struggle that has gone on for centuries.
"Likewise, the history of 'Ursalim' tells of the tragedy of the recurring wars among the Hebrew tribes, and to this day the Jewish [ultra-Orthodox] Neturei Karta sect refuses to recognize the State of Israel. Will the decision to move the embassy end all this? Hardly.
"The Palestinian statesmen must fortify themselves with greater wisdom and perhaps also greater political acumen. Instead of shouting, which won't change a thing, the challenge must be met calmly. It is better to propose solutions and set out alternatives. For example, Washington can be invited to open an embassy in Ramallah and a consulate in Gaza, in order to emphasize its desire to continue its relationship with the Palestinians.
"Have I taken more of a risk than I should have by swimming upstream? Perhaps, but I, and others who share what appears to be a minority opinion, have on our side the truth: The roots of Palestinian Jerusalem will remain in the hearts [of the Palestinians], no matter how much [those in Jerusalem who oppose this] shout."