Fake News of the Week: The Three Days of Rage Are All About Jerusalem

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably heard the news about President Trump making history by publicly recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel and committing to moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv at some point in his tenure. That news was important for many people, but was largely overhyped because

First, the law recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been on the books for over twenty years.

Second, the Democratic platform has called Jerusalem the capital for a number of years.

Third, Russia recognized West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel back in May, with little to no reaction from the international community.

Four, President Trump did not commit to recognizing any particular borders, which means he merely acknowledged the political reality of Jerusalem containing most of Israel’s government and the right of Israel as a sovereign nation to place its capital where its government is locating and expecting other governments to place embassies near its Parliament and agencies.

Fifth, President Trump immediately signed the waiver, postponing the embassy move, something done by every president since Bill Clinton signed the original law recognizing Jerusalem as capital in 1995. Whether the reasons for this postponement are the technical difficulties of building an appropriate building or entirely political can be discussed at great length. There is a colorable argument to be made that President Trump fully intents to wait until 2020 elections to ensure that funders and relevant segments of populations vote for him rather than any primary opponent that may emerge, but still wants to be seen as someone who is trying to keep his election promises. Regardless, for the moment there is no actual change in status quo as to the embassy; however, this pronouncement MAY affect the passport issue with the State Department finally having to print “Jerusalem, Israel” on the passports of US citizens born in that city. This, so far has not yet happened, but it may happen in the near future due to the pressure from Congress.

Sixth, and final, although it is certainly true that it’s important to lead by example, and that now that US announced its intentions to make the move, other countries, such as Philippines and the Czech Republic, are also talking about doing the same, the reality is that Israel needs no such recognition. US itself has a number of embassies for various countries which are not even located in the same country, and yet business goes on as usual. The meaning of this international acknowledgment is important as a symbol and for clear ideological reasons, but perhaps it’s time to stop caring quite as much as what the world things and “recognize” and for Israel to continue to utilize its growing economic leverage to achieve important diplomatic victories – and by that, getting what it wants without having to depend on the United States or anyone else, for intervention.

Regardless, to consider this event the greatest thing to happen to the Jewish nation since the Balfour Declaration, is quite a bit of an overstatement by both sides of the debate. Half the people spent the day cheering and celebrating, as if we just achieved world peace, while the other half spent it shuddering in mourning and fear over what would happen.

As I predicted, and as the events proved true, not much actually happened. Palestinians announced three days of rage, caused problems mostly on their own territory. There were some rockets thrown, unfortunately people were injured; there was a terrorist stabbing attack – tragic and horrible events indeed, but nothing that Israel does not already deal with on a regular basis without any announcements from the US, and as a matter of fact, far lesser than the level of aggression and violence Israel faced immediately upon her creation.

There were fairly civil mass demonstrations in some countries, and more disorderly ones bordering in riots in other countries.

Demonstrations in Europe were no less potent than mass gatherings in Muslim-majority countries, and actually, anti-Jewish violence was reported in European countries, with a window-smashing attack on a kosher restaurant in Amsterdam, and a fire-bombing of a synagogue in Sweden. Anti-Israel activists gathered in Times Square in New York urged violence against the Jews.

Interestingly, governments in the countries where there are massive protests going on, as well as physical attacks on Jewish sites (here’s looking at you, Sweden), have not issued any statements calling for peace and dialogue. That’s because such protests against an uncontrollable course of events related to people they have absolutely nothing to do with and living far away, is in the interests of those governments. Rather than refocusing on the needs of their people, they are far happier having the attention diverted elsewhere = as has been the case for decades. Same people who are now protesting over the alleged violation of rights for Palestinians by the mere statement of recognition of an already Jewish portion of Jerusalem with Israeli government in it would not grant Palestinians full citizenship in their own land. (AHEM, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, etc.) So let’s see what’s really going on:

1. Either this is not about Trump’s statement (because Trump did not explicitly recognize any particular Jerusalem borders), and it’s all about Israel not having a right to exist, even including specifically Jewish sites)

or

2. No one actually cares about it just as no one cares about the Palestinians, and people just want to let out their generalized rage at life, but they don’t have the freedom to protest their own government, so to make themselves feel better, they pretend to be outraged about some distant cause to which they have little connection. Also, when was the last time Palestinians stood up for their rights to anything? Have Palestinians picked up the human rights issue in Egypt? Have they protested against al-Assad in Syria? Taken an issue with Hizbullah’s corruption and control in Lebanon? No? And yet all these people are rioting on their behalf.

More interesting, however, is that the anger and hatred in non-Muslim countries is not any less than in those countries where at least one can blame such reactions on ignorance, mass propaganda, deliberate incitement by radicals, or any other contributing factors of the difficult life in the Middle East. In Europe, such excuses no longer exist. European countries are imperfect, but free, with far greater access to information, easier paths out of poverty, stronger social networks, and ability to form a diversity of political parties and gatherings without getting arrested, dragged away to prison, and tortured for criticizing the government. Nevertheless, open conflation of Jew-hatred with Israel and a political decision made by the US (not by Israel), thrives and blossoms.

Some of this reaction can be explained simply: organized incitement by Islamists, including Hamas and its various affiliate groups, as well as Islamist leaders such as Erdogan, openly calling towards not just his own citizens, but Turks living in great numbers in Europe with anti-Israel and anti-US rhetoric. That European leaders who have condemned a sovereign move related only to its own diplomatic interests by a sovereign country that is not part of the European Union, and thus have aligned themselves openly with Hamas and Erdogan is certainly a fascinating study in cognitive dissonance and cowardice. I suppose these leaders are so afraid of their own constituents (no longer the Gulf States, which signed off to a general letter and made some appropriate diplomatic comments at the UN, but otherwise focused on other matters, such as who did or did not buy a particular painting) that they feel the need to vocalize what is otherwise entirely none of their business. Same leaders feel deeply offended whenever President Trump criticizes their handling of their own internal security situations, which has an unfortunate tendency to get out of hand and affect countries beyond their borders.

In reality, however, this mixture of traditional Jew-hatred among Europeans finally coming to the surface, the Stockholm syndrome among some, and the need to deflect from internal problems and poor handling of the refugee crisis by others supports the underlying thesis here: it’s not really about Jerusalem, or for that matter, Palestinians.  Such sentiments barely need justification, and can be frequently heard  through pernicious anti-Israel resolutions at UNESCO, the siccing of anti-Israel peacemongering NGOs funded by European states (which have finally been forced to register as foreign agents), everyday attacks on Jews by brainwashed Arab citizens in France, the atmosphere of fear where Jews are afraid to worship in peace or wear any indicia of their culture and religion in Belgium, Germany, and even London, the open anti-Jewish propaganda at the top levels of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom…. and so on and so forth. This latest development was merely a trigger for the host of symptoms caused by the malignant cancer of deep-rooted prejudices, systemic dehumanization, and small-minded fixation on the Jews, and by proxy, Israel. You ask half of these people w hether they’ve ever been to Israel, to the Occupied Territories, or frankly, even anywhere in the Middle East, and much of the time the answer may be surprisingly negative. Yet they are filled with the strongest of sentiments – utter hatred – without having ever visited the places they are taking the front line for in Europe. It’s far easier to fight someone else’s battles than to clean up your own backyard.

There will come a point when the United States will be forced into a choice: lose whatever alliance it still has with the European Union, or make the future relationship conditional on some basic rules of civilized behavior, such as not trusting sensitive defense and intelligence relationships to countries that are openly aligning themselves with our enemies (such as designated terrorist organizations), becoming their mouthpieces, and potentially becoming completely untrustworthy. How will we ever survive? By building stronger bonds with those countries that recognize the mutual threats that we share, and that that treat those threats accordingly. Those countries may not be very much  like what we are used to – but then again, increasingly, the European states are becoming like what they themselves seem to admire…. and increasingly moving away from the values we once shared, from the liberties we all once prided ourselves upon defending together, from the shared vision of a stable, peaceful, prosperous, and free world, where we can all be different and still be friends.

About the Author
Irina Tsukerman graduated with a JD from Fordham University School of Law in 2009 and received her BA in International/Intercultural Studies and Middle East Studies from Fordham University in 2006. Her legal and advocacy work focuses on human rights and security issue, mostly in Muslim countries. She is also involved in diplomatic outreach and relationship-building among different communities.
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