The Crisis in Jerusalem Cannot Hide the Growing Movement of Non-Violent Resistance

On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, as Palestinians in Gaza continue to protest for their rights for over six weeks in mass demonstrations, and as the U.S. is opening its embassy in Jerusalem, JVP shares a collection of opinion pieces and commentaries by its members and leaders. This post is by JVP Board Member Seth Morrison.


When Congress gave into AIPAC and passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, it was clear that they never expected a U.S. President to actually move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem without a comprehensive peace agreement. That is why they gave the President the right to issue six-month waivers with no time limit – to use the act as leverage in negotiations. Members of Congress are very smart, they found a way to kowtow to AIPAC and Israel without endangering the hope for peace between Israel and Palestine.

A very short history lesson:

  • The 1947 UN partition resolution that established Israel called for Jerusalem to be administered by the UN under a special regime to ensure access for both Israelis and Palestinians and for all three major religions.
  • In the “War of Independence” Israel captured West Jerusalem while Jordan and other Arab countries held East Jerusalem.
  • In 1967 Israel captured all of Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights. From shortly after the 6 Day War the UN called for negotiations and an end to the occupation.
  • In 1980 Israel annexed East Jerusalem in a move that was internationally condemned and not recognized by any nation, including the US.
  • All of the various peace plans that came and went since 1980 envisioned some form of Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem although details varied

Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama consistently extended the waivers keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv. At the same time they used the potential to move the embassy as a carrot and stick to keep Israel and Palestine at the negotiating table.

As is often the case in presidential politics, during campaigns Clinton, Bush and Obama – and their opponents – claimed to know how to solve the Israel/Palestine issue and said that they would move the embassy, but of course it never happened.

With the election of Donald Trump everything changed. Trump named David Friedman as the Ambassador to Israel. Friedman was his bankruptcy lawyer and a far-right wing supporter of Israel’s illegal settlements. He also assigned son-in-law Jared Kushner, who also has no foreign policy experience and who is also a strong supporter of Israel settlements, to lead the administration’s efforts in Israel/Palestine. These appointments showed Palestinians that the U.S. has clearly abandoned any claim to serving as an unbiased mediator.

To fully understand this situation, it is important to listen to the Palestinian perspective. For two thousand years Jerusalem was a Palestinian city that peacefully housed holy places of three major religions. Yes, a small number of Jews always lived in Jerusalem, but they did so under Ottoman rule. During the British Mandate Jerusalem grew as more Jews moved in. As tensions throughout the area grew, so did tensions in Jerusalem. It was very clear from the beginning that the Zionist government had no intention of allowing Jerusalem to remain as an international city.

Just how deep is Palestinian attachment to Jerusalem? On April 12, 2018 the 9th International Conference on the Holy City of Jerusalem, attended by Palestinian Authority President Abbas and numbers delegations from the Arab, Muslim and Christian world, convened in Ramallah. Munib Masri, Chairman of the Jerusalem Endowment, spoke for all of the attendees when he said, “The world must understand that there can never be peace until the Jerusalem file is satisfactorily resolved.” He added: “Jerusalem requires practical initiatives and financial support with a view to strengthening the resolve of its people.”

The bottom line is that Palestinians, whether Muslim or Christian, are as deeply attached to Jerusalem as many Jews are. By denying Palestinian aspirations to a capital in Jerusalem Trump sent a clear message – there is no hope for Palestinians.

People with no hope lose their inhibitions, people with no hope are not afraid of massive protests and civil disobedience. We are already seeing that in Gaza, where 100 Israeli military snipers with orders to use live ammunition against unarmed protesters have not stopped the protests.

As an American, as a Jew, as someone committed to Palestinian human rights, I am worried about many things that the Trump Administration is doing – ending the Iran deal, opening the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, and openly supporting Israel’s murderous violence against unarmed protesters in Gaza. By opening the embassy on May 14, the day before Palestinians observe Nakba Day, commemorating Israel’s ethnic cleansing of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and turning them into stateless refugees, the administration is bullying Palestinians on their saddest day.

But there is also some good news. While I am very concerned about the Trump administration, I am reassured that non-violent resistance is growing, both here in the U.S. and in Israel and Palestine. When I read polls in the U.S. showing declining support for Israel, when I see JVP and other organizations strongly protesting Israel’s crimes in Gaza, when I see 21 Members of Congress so far criticizing Israel’s Gaza violence, I know that U.S. public opinion is going in the right direction, thanks to JVP and our allies.

On my last visit to Palestine and Israel 18 months ago, I had the privilege of meeting many Palestinian and Israeli activists working to build Palestinian non-violent resistance. I also visited with Palestinian and Israeli friends from previous trips who are motivated by the madness of Netanyahu to ramp up their activism. The March of Return demonstrates both Palestinian commitment to non-violence and their willingness to stand up to Israel’s occupation – even at the risk of violent response.

As I write this in early May I have no idea what will happen in Israel and Palestine on May 14 and 15. In the short term, I am very worried that there will be more Palestinians shot and still further Israel over-reaction. But I also know that history is on our side. Support for the BDS movement is growing, JVP is growing, and whatever happens we will continue the struggle for Palestinian rights, an end to the occupation and for an America that we can be proud of.



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