It is surely no coincidence that the US has planned the inauguration of its Israeli embassy in Jerusalem just one day before Palestinians mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (the 1984 Palestinian exodus). US President Donald Trump’s decision to shift the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem makes no sense as anything other than deliberate provocation. As if the billions of dollars it provides in military aid to Israel every year and the unconditional support it gives to every criminal Israeli action isn’t enough, this move is meant to signal yet again that the US will do everything it can to encourage Israeli occupation and expansionism. Nearly every country in the world recognises Jerusalem as disputed territory. Other than the US, no one has shifted their Israeli embassies to Jerusalem because they know the future status of the city can only be decided in eventual peace negotiations. It is the aim of the US and Israel to ensure such negotiations never take place. Trump has implausibly claimed that shifting the embassy furthers the cause of peace since it takes Jerusalem “off the table” but the courageous Palestinian people have fought for seven decades for their homeland. Trump’s incitement is not going to change that.
In fact, the Palestinian people have already shown that they will resist this latest outrage. Currently in the midst of a mass protest to coincide with the Nakba anniversary, Palestinians have been marching from Gaza towards the security barriers that keep them out of Jerusalem. At least 40 protesters have already been killed and, given the tendency of Israeli forces to be trigger-happy, more deaths are expected. At least 10,000 Palestinians are expected to gather at various checkpoints. As brave and inspiring as the Palestinian movement for liberation is, it will need the support of the international community to ultimately defeat the Israelis. That support has not been forthcoming so far. Many other Muslim-majority countries have been muted in their criticism of Trump’s decision with only Turkey willing to speak forthrightly in favour of the Palestinians. Just how flagrantly Israel violates international norms has been seen in the last week after it first pushed the US to back out of the nuclear deal with Iran and then launched dozens of strikes in Syria. Its brutalisation of the Palestinian people continues and has been particularly severe during the latest round of protests. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping the US embassy shift will close down all discussion on the status of Jerusalem. But the Palestinian people have resisted occupation for 70 years and they are not about to stop now.