What deal of the century?

At the start of the coming week, on July 1, 2020, President Trump’s “deal of the century”, relating to Israel’s annexation of the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, is scheduled to take effect. This deal, announced by President Trump in January 2020, is an uncloaked leap towards realising the Zionist dream of ‘greater Israel’ in the heart of the Middle East. Masqueraded as a plan that will ensure that “Israel will get the security it needs; Palestinians will get the State they crave”, this deal, in essence, belies the promises of freedom made to the Palestinian people, and rolls back the clock on decades of American diplomacy.

Let us put this in perspective.

Jerusalem (read: Israel) has been at the heart of Abrahamic religions, since the dawn of history in holy scriptures. All divine Abrahamic books – the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran – have references concerning Jerusalem and the children of Israel (though the Quran never mentions the name ‘Jerusalem’, and only talks about it in reference to its surroundings and people). Numerous wars have been fought over Jerusalem. Countless people have died in pursuit of Jerusalem. And Jerusalem features in all apocalyptic prophecies of monotheistic faiths. The people of Moses (A.S.) were ‘promised’ Jerusalem. Jesus (A.S.) was crucified in Jerusalem. And our Prophet Muhammad (SAWW) was carried to Jerusalem on a night (described in Surah Bani Israel), and from there ascended to Heaven.

Consequently, for more than 4 billion people today – those who prescribe to some form of Abrahamic tradition – Jerusalem and Israel continue to occupy a central place in faith, history, and prophecy.

Islam’s transaction with Jerusalem started almost immediately after establishment of a Muslim State in Medina. In fact, as far back as 636 A.D., the Rashidun Caliphate, under the command of Hazrat Umar (R.A.) laid siege to the city of Jerusalem (which was under the command of Patriarch Sophronius of the Byzantine Empire). The following year, in 637 A.D., the Byzantine surrendered to the Muslims, establishing Islam’s control over the city of Jerusalem and the land of Palestine.

This Muslim control over the territory that is Israel today would not be challenged for almost 450 years – till the First Crusade in 1099, when Roman Catholic Crusaders from Europe conquered Jerusalem, killing (almost all) Muslim and Jewish residents of the Promised Land.

Christians ruled over this land for less than a hundred years; in 1187, the mythic Salah-ud-Din Ayyubi laid siege to Jerusalem, forcing Balian of Ibelin to surrender the city to Muslim conquerors. Importantly, no blood was shed during this conquest, as all Jewish and Christian residents were granted amnesty or safe passage by the Muslim ruler. And thus started Islam’s almost 800-year-long control of this area, under different dynasties from time to time. And with it, the name of Salah-ud-Din (read: Saladin) was etched in the Judeo-Christian memory forever.

Fast-forward to the modern age; specifically, defeat of the Muslim Caliphate in WWI, and creation of State of Israel, after WWII, in 1948.

The modern arrangement, through which most of the present-day Middle-Eastern States were carved, was done at the arbitrary whims of West Allied powers – victors of the two World Wars. Emaciated Muslim States, with tainted rulers, grappled to come to terms with the new world order; feeble attempts were made to reclaim Jerusalem – but all in vain. And the people of this area were forced to flee their land, finding abode in foreign territories and refugee camps, while dreaming to return to the olive trees of modern-day Israel. This apartheid gave way to Arab-Isaeli wars, and repeated intifadas by Palestinian youth, best captured in images of young Palestinian children throwing stones at Israeli Armoured Vehicles.

Throughout this agonising period, despite pressure from successive US administrations, the international community has never fully recognised Israel’s claim over the entire city of Jerusalem and its surrounding areas. Israel took control of West Jerusalem almost immediately after creation of the State, in 1948. Later, Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the six-day war of 1967, and annexed the eastern portion of the city in 1980 – a move that remains unrecognised by most of the international community. And in recognition of the volatile nature of this issue, and in deference to international law as well as repeated UN Resolutions endorsing the same, no country (of note) has recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That is, until Trump.

In 2017, the Trump administration announced its plans for initiating the process of shifting Israel’s U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Trump’s 2017 announcement was met with a resounding condemnation from the international community. However, the Muslim community – including its 41-country military alliance – remained largely impotent in causing any ripples of consequence.

Emboldened by a feeble response from the Muslim world, the Trump administration followed up with their announcement of this (sham) deal of the century at the start of this year. Except that, for reasons that can only be called divine intervention, the world has changed tectonically over the past few months. And the United States finds itself in the weakest (international) position it has been since the Second World War. And consequently, the Muslim world is starting to distance itself from the Trump administration. It started with strong opposition to this deal, by Jordan. Followed thereafter by the UAE. Then Qatar. Then Syria. And Egypt. And now, suddenly, the Zionist hopes of taking the first step towards ‘greater Israel’ seem to be teetering. Even within the Trump administration, there are those who have voiced their desire to scrap (or at least delay) the implementation of this deal.

Pakistan must play its part in resisting this monstrosity of annexation in Israel. It is moments like these that echo across the sands of history. And anyone caught silent or neutral, in the midst of exigency, for centuries to come.

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has a Masters in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. He can be contacted at saad@post.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter

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