by Stanley L Cohen*
US President Donald Trump is a great impersonator. Not a day goes by without his desperate effort to masquerade as human. Surrounded by faux gold and fawning fools from his earliest days, Trump has stumbled from scam to scam, bank to bank, grope to grope, as he reached the absolute pinnacle of moral failure. His is a world of cheap thrills, empty rhetoric and intimidating context.
Few of knowledge would stop to challenge Trump’s unprecedented scorecard of international failure. Indeed, ad hoc chaos has become very much the executive order of his day.
Whether it’s a Muslim ban that targets states from which not a single national has engaged in an act of terrorism that has cost the life of a US citizen, to his retweets of videos posted by a British far-right activist, to a pointless border wall styled on hateful votes and little else, to a proposal to seize Iraqi oil as “spoils of war”, his is a hustler’s hustle. It’s the penultimate Ponzi scheme, a boiler-room operation based in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The life of Donald Trump is a full-time campaign to disguise incompetence to the roar of the inept. While the spectre of nuclear holocaust on the Korean Peninsula, military threats to Iran, and attacks on the domestic political aspirations and independence of Venezuela and Cuba may empower those who draw vigour from the echo of empty words, they do little but confound a world built on fragile relations and nuanced exchange. To be sure, they present a clear and real danger to us all.
Those foolish enough to believe the arrival of the Romanovs of Fifth Avenue would herald a tempering of US imperial ambitions were soon disappointed.
Thus, in Yemen, having been empowered to act on its own, the Pentagon unleashed drone slaughters of mostly civilians at an unprecedented pace. From offshore, the US fired dozens of Tomahawk missiles into Syria as an offset to a suspected chemical weapons attack. In Afghanistan, we saw the detonation of the world’s largest non-nuclear bomb as very much a herald to more US troops and to permanent US warfare.
With reckless abandon, Trump has fled from international agreements designed to give hope to the prospect of life for us all long after the debacle of his imperial design comes to its well-deserved end.
The Paris Climate Agreement became the first victim, with the US departing as the only country in the world indifferent to a global call for adoption of clean energy and the phase-out of fossil fuels. With damning nationalist praise, Trump announced to the world he “was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris”.
Not long after his coronation, he withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, distancing the US from what were its Asian economic allies. Later, citing its alleged anti-Israel bias, he withdrew from UNESCO, which the US helped found in the shadow of World War II. Can it be long before the US abandons a nuclear arms-control agreement that has long been, verifiably, working?
Unsurprisingly, Trump’s global “no confidence” rate soared to 74 percent.
Cast in the light of a presidency certain to soon enter its second year of crude dysfunction, why is anyone, at all, surprised by Trump’s empty, lawless announcementthat the US will hereinafter recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?
Like the wall for which Mexico will pay, at day’s end, Trump’s apostolic blessing was little more than a “sham show in waiting”, to offer up to a powerful Zionist lobby and ignorant evangelical political base when needed.
Indeed, having shown no understanding of the history or complexity of today’s world, let alone core values of international law, Trump’s gratuitous toss of “legitimacy” to the illegitimate journey of Israel was as predictable as it was desperate.
Jerusalem is not Israeli, by law
Any discussion of Trump’s mindless recent croon about a world-defining moment of 70-plus years, reduced to presidential fiat, alone, must necessarily begin from the reality of international law. To bestow upon an occupation force lawful annexation of land not theirs for the taking is, ultimately, to do little more than insist that the world is flat.
In 1948, when the United Nations recognised Israel as a state, it called for a demilitarisedJerusalem as a separate entity under the protection of its exclusive aegis.
Not long thereafter, pursuant to Resolution 194 (III), the General Assembly declared Jerusalem to be an open city subject to the well-recognised legal principle of internationalisation.
Predictably, not long thereafter, Israel declared Jerusalem to be its capital as it established various government agencies in the western part of the city.
Meanwhile, Jordan continued to exercise formal control of Jerusalem’s eastern section, including, most importantly, the Old City, leaving open its ultimate status to a final settlement of the unresolved “question” of Palestinian statehood.
All was to radically change as Israel seized and occupied the entire West Bank of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, during the war of 1967, thus rendering it subject to the various protections of the Geneva Convention.
In relevant part, the convention holds it unlawful for an occupying power to transfer its own population into the territory it occupies. In addition, it prohibits the establishment of settlements and the confiscation and annexation of occupied land.
Time and time again, the United Nations, as a toothless organisation, has ordered Israel to cease its expansion of illegal settlements and annexation of occupied Palestinian land.
Time and time again, Israel, as a rogue state, has scoffed at the notion that it owes any obligation whatsoever to well-settled international law.
Indeed, between 1967 and 1989, the UN Security Council adopted 131 resolutions directly addressing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Israel held itself out as beyond the reach of these resolutions.
In 1980, and again in 1990, pursuant to Resolutions 478 and 672, the UN demanded that Israel abide by the Geneva Convention and end the construction of illegal settlements. In doing so, it emphasised the “independence” of the City of Jerusalem and the protection of its “unique spiritual and religious dimension”. Israel ignored this demand.
In February 1999, the Security Council again rebuked Israel’s effort as an occupying power “… to alter the character, legal status and demographic composition of Jerusalem”.Israel ignored this demand.
In point of fact, as of 2015, Israel had been condemned in, and had ignored, some 45 resolutions by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Anyone with even a modicum of historical context, let alone intellectual capacity or interest, would understand that a now seven-decade-old, deadly standoff betweenPalestine and Israel will not go away by wishful thinking or inane talismanic chant.
Yet that is precisely what Donald Trump did when, with typical denial, he preached on a faux resolution, took credit, and then, with alarming ease, said, “Problem solved … next”.
Ultimately, in a strange sort of way, and in more ways than one, Trump’s unearned arrogance and dramatic disconnect from the crossroads of history and reality may have produced results clearly unintended, yet, necessary.
Oslo is dead
For decades, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has toiled under the well-financed illusion that the Israelis who sat across the negotiation table, and their enablers in Washington, brought more than just the appearance of goodwill to the effort.
Time after time, outrage after outrage, the PA has always returned with hat in hand to the folly of talks which accomplished little, but provided an irrelevant political vent as more and more land was annexed, and lives stolen, to the hum of bombs or the slam of prison doors.
Palestinian technocrats who started out in their prime with Oslo have now aged beyond hope, along with any illusion of relevance. So, too, the march of time leaves no doubt that Oslo has represented nothing but a palpable pretext for Israel to carry out systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, be it by force of arms or by law.
In the years since Yasser Arafat posed with Yitzhak Rabin and renounced armed struggle,three US presidents have come and gone. Each has sold a perverse balance that the US could, somehow, play objective arbiter in the midst of a one-sided slaughter supported, all the while, by US politics and money.
However, do give Donald Trump credit where credit is due. With one, short, slurred speech, he
peeled away, forever more, the veneer of any US integrity or independence when it comes to facilitating a just and equitable resolution, respecting the rights and aspirations of Palestinians.
Oslo is a failed, futile fantasy that has filled the coffers of the few while the many have suffered from an economic strangle-hold dressed up in institutional benevolence that, in reality, has been used primarily by the PA to buy and control political winds and opposition.
Any reasonable read must lead to the conclusion that the long terminally-ill Oslo has died, along with its whimsical two-state solution, when Trump, essentially, told the PA to shut its doors and walk away.
Hopefully, 82-year-old Mahmoud Abbas got the message loud and clear.
The one state solution
It is well past reality’s reach that a two-state solution can, at this late date, provide a viable vehicle for meaningful Palestinian sovereignty or for overall peace.
The notion that a series of disconnected Bantustans – stripped of a traditional land base, natural resources, and the unique centre of religious and faith-based history – can suddenly become a feasible independent state for millions of stateless Palestinians is fool’s gold.
Ultimately, no matter what its form or shape, the essence of statehood is the ability to develop and maintain political and economic institutions and security and to control borders, including air rights and, where applicable, seaports.
To suggest that Israel would cede any degree of meaningful self-determination, in these all-defining cornerstones of sovereignty, to a Palestinian state is simply laughable, in light of its decades-long practices.
Indeed, at this late date, there is but one solution acceptable to the millions of Palestinian living as refugees abroad or suffering under apartheid, occupation and ethnic cleansing fueled by supremacist hate: one state for all from the river to the sea.
It matters not whether this state becomes a system of independent, but connected, cantons – as in Switzerland. What is important is that the single state embraces no official state religion, ensures equal protection and rights for all, guarantees “one person, one vote”, and opens all jobs, roads and communities. What is also important is that it is based not on race, religion or politics but on the willingness to struggle for a collective good that will at long last serve the united interest of one people.
While some will surely scoff at this notion and, perhaps, find little hope for its success, unification provides the sole means by which Palestinians and Jews, Muslims and Christians can begin to heal the wounds that have long divided people that, left to their own unimpeded devices, would find much more that unites them than divides.
Lest there be any claim of naivete, the road to a one-state resolution is, of course, littered with more than mere encumbrances of communities, schools and highways long segregated by barricades and barbed wire.
Seventy years of forced displacement, death and destruction have left, for many, the scars born of tears and hate. Only time and unification can begin to heal those wounds and end the nightmare. All else is just sheer destructive folly.
For Israelis, who see delay as their ally, it’s a false hope born of little more than convenient denial. “Out of sight, out of mind” does not solve a crisis but simply puts off its reckoning to another day – one which grows more difficult and demanding with the passage of time.
All occupations, large and small, ultimately awaken one day to find themselves captive to a “graveyard of empires”. Here, it will be no different.
The eternal capital of Palestine
Today, in Palestine and in Israel, there are more than 5 million Palestinians with the median age of 19 years. They will not go away or surrender to the silence of the night.
For years, the young women and men of Palestine have been in the vanguard of an unbroken national effort to reclaim their freedom and rebuild their state.
For them, the price has been dear. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Information, since 2000, alone, Israel has killed more than 3,000 Palestinian minors. During the same period, Israeli forces have injured another 13,000 youth and arrested more than 12,000 others. Today, Israel holds about 300 children in its prisons.
Despite an awful price exacted for their courage and resistance, for the young women and men of Palestine, the future holds no truth but one, built on a determined struggle to confront and end a criminal occupation and apartheid by any means necessary, including armed struggle.
For Palestinians, history is, indeed, a guidepost of what is yet to come. For Palestinians, history is an unbroken saga, handed down from the elderly in refugee camps throughout the Middle East to their very young who find comfort in the cultural breath of dabke.
Mr Trump: Were you an informed observer of history, you would know well that this is not the first time the US has tried to designate a city as the capital of a state against the political and historical will of its people.
In Vietnam, such an attempt did not end well, as Saigon eventually gave way to the legitimate, national aspirations and rights of millions who refused to be held captive by the imperial design of a foreign occupation force.
Yes, Mr President, history does, and will indeed, repeat itself.
Capitals are much more than cold, sculpted monuments to those that have come before, or warehouses of political ideals and rights beyond the reach of all but the chosen few. Nor can they inspire from behind barricaded buildings in which petty despots dole out rights and benefits based upon one’s mere name or faith.
Capitals are homes to collective freedom and will, with open doors that know no artificial boundaries or lawful segregation. To be honest, to empower, they must represent the collective will and aspirations of all those who look to them for justice and opportunity.
For millions of Palestinians, that capital is Jerusalem. It weaves with the rock of the ages and hums to the tune of history. To walk down the ancient pathways of the Old City, to hear the call to prayer, to look out in all directions from Al-Aqsa plaza across the open and free expanse beyond its age-old walls is a journey that is Jerusalem.
Nothing that you, Donald Trump, can say or do will undo the magic and majesty that is Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Palestine.
*Stanley L Cohen is a US-based attorney and human rights activist who has done extensive work in the Middle East and Africa. He has handled prominent international cases including that of Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook. He has served as a consultant to Middle East governments and movements including Hamas and Hezbollah and NGOs and foundations in Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy. In Al Jazeera News, 12,12, 2017
Israel turns West Bank into a ‘garbage dump’
by Jaclynn Ashly – Al Jazeera News
Israeli rights group B’Tselem has released a scathing new report detailing Israel’s transferral of waste to treatment facilities in the occupied West Bank, in violation of international law.
According to the report, released on Tuesday, Israelhas established at least 15 waste treatment facilities in the West Bank to recycle waste largely produced inside Israel.
Six of the facilities process hazardous waste that poses serious health and environmental risks for surrounding Palestinian communities, the group stated.
The report details five Israeli facilities in the West Bank treating waste from Israel, four of which handle hazardous waste, including biological and medical waste, solvent waste from the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, oil waste and electronic and metal waste.
“Israel has turned the West Bank into a garbage dump,” Adam Aloni, a B’Tselem researcher and author of the report, told reporters at a news conference.
Israel produces some 350,000 metric tonnes of hazardous waste each year, according to B’Tselem.
Environmental regulations inside Israel can make the operating costs of waste treatment facilities high, encouraging Israel “to seek sacrifice zones” – areas “irrevocably impaired by environmental damage or neglect” – to absorb the costs and risks of managing hazardous waste, the report noted.
Israel found what it needed in the occupied West Bank and has been “abusing its status as an occupying power” in a territory where Palestinians have no rights to oppose Israeli policies that directly affect them, B’Tselem said.
“While Israel increases the amount of waste it creates, it diverts the risks and pollutants onto the Palestinian environment and land,” Aloni said.
In the West Bank, which has been ruled by Israeli military law since 1967, Israel can loosen its environmental policies to allow waste facilities to operate more cheaply.
“Since these plants are exempt from recording or reporting their external impact, no information is collected at all regarding the type and quantity of pollutants, how they are treated, the destination of wastewater pumping, or the quantity and destination of hazardous by-products,” the report stated.
At the same time, Israel has largely prohibited Palestinian communities from developing essential infrastructure, including waste treatment facilities.
“Israel uses the territory as if it was their own. It’s de facto annexation,” Aloni told Al Jazeera, noting that Palestinian development has simultaneously been “paralysed” by the Israeli occupation.
Karem Jubaren, the head of field research at B’Tselem, told Al Jazeera that nearby Palestinian communities have not been told what kind of waste is being treated in these industrial zones.
Palestinians residing near the industrial zones have complained of a perpetual bad smell and respiratory illnesses, Jubaren said, although he acknowledged that further research was needed to directly connect these issues with Israel’s waste treatment plants.
A resident of one of these communities told Al Jazeera that he was “too scared to talk” about the alleged effects.
Israel’s diversion of the environmental and health risks of treating its own hazardous waste to Palestinian communities “is part and parcel of the policy of dispossession and annexation it has practiced in the West Bank for the past fifty years,” the report stated.
“Israel is exploiting the West Bank for its own benefit, ignoring the needs of the Palestinians almost entirely, and harming both them and their environment.”