Why Palestinian Christians reject Trump’s Jerusalem move
London- US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel generated angry and despairing reactions in the Palestinian territories and from global leaders who warned it destroys the prospect of peace and places the United States squarely on the side of lawlessness and illegality.
Trump defied global opposition with his announcement the United States would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.
“I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.”
President of the National Christian Coalition in the Holy Land Dimitri Diliani said Trump’s announcement looms large during Christmas this year in the Palestinian territories where Christmas lights have been taken down, parties have been cancelled and Christmas markets closed.
“All the festivities will be limited to religious ones,” Diliani said. “People are not in a festive mood at all. If you walk in Jerusalem tonight, you will find that many people have taken down their decorations. There was no official decision, people made that decision.”
Trump’s move is a disaster for Palestinians — Muslims and Christians alike, Diliani noted.
“Trump’s decision is a tremendous blow to the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Here in [the Palestinian territories], there is no such thing as a Christian community and a separate Muslim community. We are Palestinians and we responded to Trump’s decision as Palestinians,” said Diliani.
Palestinian Christian leaders said they would not receive US Vice-President Mike Pence, a staunch evangelical who called Jerusalem “the eternal, undivided capital of the Jewish people,” on a visit that has since been postponed.
Others called for protests.
“We call for angry protests at the entrances to Jerusalem and in its Old City to coincide with the visit of US President Mike Pence and to protest against Trump’s decision,” Fatah said in a statement.
“We will not receive Mr Pence here,” said Saleh Bandak, a Bethlehem-born Christian politician, at a sit-in outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Christmas tree lights outside the historic church were switched off shortly after Trump’s announcement.
“Trump’s move has prompted us to connect with churches and political parties around the world to explain to them the catastrophe that Donald Trump has caused,” Diliani said.
“Now Israel feels that it has the support of the United States in all its illegal settlement building in occupied Jerusalem in addition to the process of Judaisation of Jerusalem which includes ethnic cleansing as part of it.”
“Our oppressors have decided to deprive us of the joy of Christmas,” Patriarch Michel Sabbah told a crowd at Beit Sahour in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “Mr Trump told us clearly Jerusalem is not yours.”
In a recent interview, senior member of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) Hanan Ashrawi said the United States has made any peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians “irrelevant and superfluous.”
“The US administration has totally ripped apart the very legal foundation for peace in the region with their latest recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” she said.
Palestinian Christians are not swayed by the attitude of evangelical Trump supporters who despite the backlash have expressed praise for the decision.
“We and the millions of Christians we represent will never forget your courageous act,” Christians United for Israel said in a full-page ad in the Washington Post, praising Trump’s decision.
In a widely circulated video, Ashrawi responded to Pence’s biblical defence of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“Mike Pence has been talking about God’s will, he’s not talking politics. He’s talking biblical dogma and exegesis. God did not tell me what his God tells him. I belong to the oldest Christian tradition in the world, and I don’t believe that God ordained that the world has to be unjust to the Palestinians,” she said.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said at least eight Palestinians had died in protests and violence and arrests continue since Trump’s Jerusalem announcement.
“The situation is extremely tense in Jerusalem,” said Diliani. “There has been a deployment of occupation forces around almost every Palestinian neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, there have been restrictions on movement in many places, there have been even more restrictions in other parts of the West Bank inbound Jerusalem.”
The international and Arab backlash against Trump’s decision has been strong.
Diliani said: “The reaction around the world and in the Arab world specifically has given the Palestinian people a push and has given us hope that people still hold the Palestinian cause dear to their hearts and this is what has driven many people to go out to the streets — something people stopped doing many years ago.”