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Opinion - World
Wednesday Dec 13 2017

Jerusalem and the concept of a nation-state

Jerusalem - Getty Images

The idea of a nation-state, like many other ideologies, has been coined by Western thinkers. A modern nation-state is an independent state with a written constitution that derives its right to rule by combining politics with the cultural entity of a state. In the 18th and 19th century such nation-states proliferated. When the Great Britain, France and other European countries set out to colonise Asian and African countries, they were met with stiff resistance from a population that saw itself as a cohesive unit.

In 1948, the idea was given further prominence to bring the state of Israel into existence. For a religious group to lay claim to a piece of land where Palestinians had been living for thousands of years, only because they too were now living in that area would have been considered preposterous under normal circumstances. It is important to remember that the Jews arrived in the then British-controlled Palestine between 1896 and 1948, after leaving Europe, voluntarily or after being forced out during the Holocaust. Yet, the United Nations in 1947 passed a resolution that partitioned the country between the Arabs and the Jews.

From its birth till date, Israel continues to face an existential crisis. One reason is that it is not a natural country but an ideological one. Despite repeatedly violent attacks by the Israelis, the Palestinians resistance has only increased, not decreased.

Now, in line with its eight-decade-old policy of favoring Israel, the United States has decided to accept the divided city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The announcement was met by outrage from the Middle East as well as European countries. No good will come out of such bias pandering. The right wing Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will only be further emboldened to take over more Palestinian land, forcefully evicting Palestinians who have been living there for many centuries.

For US President Donald Trump the proclamation was his way of making good on his campaign pledge. While making the announcement, he said: “Previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, but they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”

Trump used the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which was approved by the American Congress in 1995 to give legal cover to his decision. The law, passed when Clinton was the president, required the US to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by a set deadline.

It seems pretty clear what Trump’s aim is. He wants to revive his popularity amongst the pro-Israel, right-wing base, including evangelical Christians in America.

Sheldon Gary Adelson, a Jewish-American casino mogul, had donated over $ 20 million to the Trump campaign.

This decision is in violation of international laws. As per the Geneva Convention, if a country grabs a chunk of or forcefully occupies another country through war, then those occupied areas hold no legal value. Many parts of Jerusalem are under Israel’s control after forceful occupation during the Arab Israel war of 1967. The voices being raised against the American president’s decision by the dictatorial rulers of the Middle East are nothing but lip service. Most of these countries depend on America for their economic and political benefits, so it should not be expected for them to go beyond verbal protests.

The biggest danger Israel will face will be from Hamas, the largest of several Palestinian militant Islamist groups. It has requested Palestinians and Arab nations to oppose the decision. Which is why Israel is determined to go after the group, which became its biggest headache after winning the elections in Gaza in 2006. Surprisingly, their democratic win was viewed suspiciously by the pro-democracy countries.

No doubt, however, that Hamas has a militant past. It is, as a whole or some of its wings, designated as a terrorist group by Israel, the US, EU and the UK.

But that seems to be the trajectory political forces follow that rise out of resistance until they are stable enough to mainstream themselves. Once it won the elections, Hamas softened its previous stance. It invited Israel and the United States many times to the negotiating table, only to be rejected each time.

The Palestinians’ desire for freedom is recognised the world over. No Muslim country witnessed protests against Israeli aggression on the scale that European citizens put up. Resistances the world over take inspiration from the Palestinian spirit. It will be impossible to suppress this spirit of opposition and this battle for freedom.

-Javaid is a senior researcher at Geo News

Note: The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geo News, The News or the Jang Group