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viewpoint

Jerusalem for all

| Tuesday, January 23, 2018

President Donald Trump announced Dec. 6 his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and to move the U.S. Embassy from its current location in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This act marks a decisive break with decades of U.S. policy on the status of Jerusalem, specifically not recognizing exclusive Israeli control over the city. The United State’s official position historically reflected the unanimous consensus of the broader international community. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Israel occupied East Jerusalem. Since 1967, the UN has repeatedly demanded that Israel withdraw from East Jerusalem, as well as the rest of the land Israel illegally occupies. However, Israel has continuously attempted to exert full control over the entire city of Jerusalem through the illegal expansion of settlements, the seizure and destruction of Palestinian owned homes and policies that make it challenging for Palestinians to remain in the city. According to Haaretz, a predominant Israeli newspaper, Israel has revoked more than 14,000 residential permits of Palestinians living in in East Jerusalem. Until now, the international community has been united in refusing to recognize Israel’s jurisdiction over the city.
Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel effectively ignores that the Palestinian people, too, have a claim to Jerusalem both historically and today. There are 208,000 Palestinians currently residing in Jerusalem. Contrary to what Trump’s speech suggested, Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem do not live in democratic freedom, nor in equality with their Jewish counterparts. Myriads of laws and discriminatory practices deem them as second-class citizens in the State of Israel, an ethnocratic Jewish democracy. Declaring the city as the capital of Israel legitimizes Israel’s discriminatory laws and human rights violations against Palestinians living in Jerusalem and exonerates Israel from its construction of Jewish settlements in Palestinian East Jerusalem, a practice that is illegal under international law. In fact, even the United Nations Resolution 478 have deemed Israel’s claim that Jerusalem is the “complete and united” capital of Israel to be in violation of international law.
This has grave implications for future peace talks. The U.S. has called Palestinians to negotiate. Historically, peace talks have come with the commitment that the final status of Jerusalem would be negotiable, and now the U.S. has reneged on this basic prerequisite. While the two state solution, as many have noted, has been untenable for many years due to ongoing illegal settlement expansion in the Palestinian territories, the U.S., in unilaterally declaring Jerusalem Israel’s capital, has effectively made this option obsolete. This is one of the reasons why Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas declared earlier this year that if Trump were to proceed with his plan, it would have a “disastrous impact on the peace process, on the two-state solution and on the stability and security of the entire region.”
Many members of our group have spent time visiting or living in Jerusalem. We have witnessed first-hand the multinational character of the city — the deep attachments Palestinians, Israelis and others have to this city on religious, cultural or historical grounds. The city is a rich mosaic in which holy sites from all three Abrahamic traditions reside in close proximity to each other and where Muslims, Jews and Christians all have historic roots. A city with such a unique religious dimension, contentious history, and complicated status cannot be understood as the exclusive capital of one modern nation, particularly when such a recognition puts vulnerable communities at risk. Jerusalem must be viewed, in its contemporary context, as a dynamic, “international” city which people of many ethnicities and religions call home, and to which many peoples have lasting historical claims.
Our statement is not a stance for an ethnic group or against another. It is a stance for justice-based peace, and against unjust occupation and oppression. We believe that Trump’s recent decisions regarding Jerusalem are an act against the principles of human rights that the United States have always claimed to value. As students in a Catholic institution, we echo Pope Francis’ urge for all nations to respect the status quo of Jerusalem. Any act that claims Jerusalem for the one people group alone is an act against justice and peace for all peoples — especially those who are most marginalized — that call this holy city home.

In peace,

Student Voices for Palestine Club

Kyra Blas
senior

Daniel Esparza
senior

Marie-Claire Klassen
graduate student

Kathleen Kollman
graduate student

Flora Tang
senior

Anna Volk
senior

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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