by Qasim Rashid
President Trump has taken an unjust decision that risks war escalation. In particular, his decision to ignore seven decades of bi-partisan policy and formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital violates every tenet of democratic governance, collaboration, and progress.
To be sure, this is not a religious matter, and it is critical we resist urges to paint it as such. Muslims and Jews have lived in peace and accord with one another since the time of Prophet Muhammad, through the rightly guided Caliphs, through the reign of General Salahuddin, and throughout Moorish Spain.
After Mecca and Medina, Jerusalem is Islam’s third holiest site. Muslims first conquered Jerusalem in 637 during the reign of Khalifa Umar. Upon accepting Jerusalem’s surrender in a bloodless transition, Khalifa Umar was invited to pray inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He declined—citing his concern that future generations of Muslims might overtake a holy Christian site and turn it into a mosque. He instead prayed on the footsteps of the church, where upon a mosque was later built. Muslims ruled Jerusalem for the next 462 years and the city thrived as a beacon of interfaith harmony for Muslims, Jews, and Christians.
Throughout the centuries Jerusalem has fallen under rule of various empires and nations. History records, however, that Muslim leadership always protected the rights of Jews in Jerusalem. Palestinians deserve that reciprocity today as a matter of justice and law.
The conflicts in Israel and Palestine today have little to do with religion, and much to do with politics, unjust foreign policy, and a lack of justice in domestic affairs. This is a matter of injustice against an oppressed Palestinian people. But none of this is unforeseen or unpredictable.
In 1947, President of the UN General Assembly and Pakistan’s first foreign Minister Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan lamented on the question of Palestine—how could the U.N. “insist upon the breaking up of a homeland or shatter the political, geographical and economic unity of a country without the consent and against the wishes of the majority?” But Khan, a devout Ahmadi Muslim and world leading Islamic scholar, was simply biased in his views, right? Quite the contrary, so eloquent was Khan’s prose and argumentation that, “Israelis recall him as, ‘undoubtedly one of the ablest and most impressive delegates present from any country” [and his] “legal sophistry in those years (1947-54) impressed not a few, especially less lettered Arabs, who could not bless or adulate him enough for his yeoman’s service to Islam and Arabism.”
Republican and democratic administrations agree that Palestinians have lived under unjust occupation since. Meanwhile, Jared Kushner, though tasked with establishing peace in Israel, was simultaneously investing in unauthorized and illegal settlements. This continued settlement encroachment on East Jerusalem is a violation of international law, human rights, justice, and basic common sense. How can two parties be expected to reconcile disputes while one party persists in advancing the action that harms the other party?
This President’s decision subverts the notion that America is a just arbiter. Justice would dictate that Israel remove its forces prior to September 2000, stop all settlement activity, release frozen Palestinian assets, and ensure Palestinians have freedom of movement to live about their lives.
No, this is not some liberal left wing demand. This is literally what President Bush presented as the solution on June 25, 2002:
As we make progress towards security, Israel forces need to withdraw fully to positions they held prior to September 28, 2000. And consistent with the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee, Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop. The Palestinian economy must be allowed to develop. As violence subsides, freedom of movement should be restored, permitting innocent Palestinians to resume work and normal life. Palestinian legislators and officials, humanitarian and international workers, must be allowed to go about the business of building a better future. And Israel should release frozen Palestinian revenues into honest, accountable hands.
Six years later in January, 2008 President Bush added, “There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. An agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people.”
Regarding Israel and Palestine, the Khalifa of Islam, Mirza Masroor Ahmad admonished,
…Israel is continuing to viciously kill innocent Palestinians. The Palestinians have no power against Israel. If it is said that Hamas also perpetrates cruelty against Israel, then the Muslim countries should stop Hamas from it. However, the aggression shown by the two can be likened to one person fighting with a stick and the other an army fighting with artillery. The western powers are also not playing their role. What was needed was that both sides should have been strictly stopped from perpetrating aggression. We can only pray that may Allah save the victims and the innocents and peace is established.”
Until and unless we re-establish mutual justice from Muslim leadership and western leadership, Palestinians will continue to suffer. The President’s decision, meanwhile, ignores centuries of history to provoke an even more uncertain future.