By Jeremy Salt*
Holding hands, the US and Israel have decided to walk out of UNESCO. Nothing could be more appropriate. Two rogue states run by two dangerous buffoons. Two states that have wreaked immense violence across the Middle East ever since ‘Israel’ was implanted in Palestine. In addition to Palestine, the US has launched genocidal wars against three countries just since 1990, Iraq (twice), Libya and Syria and continues to back Saudi Arabia in its equally genocidal war on Yemen.
As for Israel, living permanently outside international law is a necessary condition of its existence. It should have been tossed out of the UN long ago, or at least suspended, until it mended its ways. After all, what club continues the membership of someone who does not obey the rules, is warned once, once, twice, thrice, even 50 times, but still refuses to obey the rules? But Israel does not have to mend its ways and remains a member of the ‘international community’ because another state that does not obey the rules, and shows no respect for international law either, the US, protects it at every level and in every way, fomenting even more violence.
UNESCO has done its best to protect the cultural heritage of Palestine. Nothing that is not Jewish matters to the Zionists and so little of it is Jewish that Muslim and Christian Palestine has been ravaged, not just once (1948) or twice (1967) but continuously. The destruction of Palestine is the necessary condition for the creation of Netanyahu’s ‘Jewish state.’ It is all or nothing: there can be no compromise, no either/or. The Palestinians have set forth options, one secular state, two states living side by side, but the only option acceptable to Israel is all Palestine for us and none for you.
The elimination of the Palestinian human presence in 1948 was accompanied by the destruction of close to 500 of Palestinian villages or hamlets, irrespective of their historical and cultural worth. More destruction followed after 1967, beginning with the demolition of the Magharibah quarter in 1967 to make way for a ‘plaza’ around the Haram al Sharif and continuing in the years that followed. The war also created the opportunity for more Palestinians to be driven out of their homeland, this time from the West Bank, where many had taken refuge during the Zionist onslaught in 1948.
The war was another opportunity to drive Palestine further into history, towards the point where the physical evidence had all been destroyed and the Zionists could say ‘What Palestine? There was never a Palestine here.’ In fact this is what they have been saying all along, anyway, convincing no-one outside their own ranks because the Palestinians have not gone away, because their numbers are increasing (possibly there are now more Palestinians between the Mediterranean sea and the Jordan River than the Zionist settler population) and because too much of their history can still be seen on the landscape. This is why the danger to Al Aqsa, glowing above Jerusalem, is so great because it is the living symbol of the lies being told by the Zionists.
On this subject how intriguing it is, and how frustrating for the Zionists, that in the half century they have been burrowing under and around the Haram al Sharif they have not found one object proving that the temple was ever there. There are far older structures whose ruins can be seen today. Turkey is full of them: the excavated temple at Gobeklitepe in south-eastern Turkey is 12,000 years old so how can it be that nothing is left of the grandiose structure said to have been built by Solomon where Al Aqsa now stands? The Bible speaks of a building more than 60 meters high, built from wood (the cedars of Lebanon) and huge blocks of stone. Similar material is said to have been used in the building of the second temple, completed in 515 BC and destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. It is said to have been of the same massive dimensions yet nothing has been found, no remnants of fallen stone pillars, no votive bowls, absolutely nothing, suggesting that if the temple did stand on this site the biblical descriptions were fantastically exaggerated (no surprise in a book full of fantastic exaggerations).
Furthermore, the modern day Zionists are connected to ancient Israel only by their religion. Their first colonists had no living connection with the land and no ethnic connection with the people who lived on it. Zionists continue to play on the living Jewish connection in Palestine over the centuries but do not mention that the Jews who were there when their forefathers arrived regarded Zionism as a heresy. Netanyahu’s claim that Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital for 3000 years could convince only idiots, seeing that Israel is only seven decades old and that the last Jewish state in Palestine collapsed in the sixth century BC.
In any case, irrespective of these questions, the ancient Jewish presence in Palestine cannot be accepted as justification for the destruction of what was there until the arrival of Zionist colonists in the late 19th century.
The Zionists share with the Crusaders the unsavory distinction of bringing to Palestine the greatest destruction known in its modern history. After conquering Palestine in the late 11th century the Crusaders massacred or drove all Muslims and Jews out of Jerusalem. The restitution of Muslim rule was followed from the early 16th century by four centuries of a long Ottoman peace until the British capture of Jerusalem in December, 1917. From that time onwards, Palestine has not known a day of peace. Violence and repression by the British occupiers was followed by massive violence, repression and dispossession by the Zionists, continuing down to the present day.
Jerusalem was always a prime target. Massacres and the seizure of Palestinian property in 1948 were repeated after the seizure of the eastern half of the city in 1967, followed by a continuing racist demographic war launched in complete breach of international law and the laws of any country claiming to be called civilized. What this underlines is that at heart Israel is not a modern state but a tribal, atavistic community that lives by its own brutal standards, certainly insofar as the Palestinians are concerned, and is indifferent to what the rest of the world thinks, when not actually contemptuous of what it thinks. For the Zionists to think that they can get away with this endlessly is a sure indication of the madness and delusions in their minds.
The US has now gone so far as to ‘recognize’ Jerusalem as Israel’s capital when in international law, Jerusalem is an occupied city, all of it, not just the eastern half, captured by force of arms and settled in direct violation of the laws or war. Commenting on the UN General Assembly vote rejecting the Trump declaration, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador, openly threatened those who had voted in its favor. Names had been taken and punishment would be inflicted at the appropriate time. By voting for the resolution UN members had shown a lack of respect for the US, according to Haley: where, one might ask, is US respect for international law and the right of UN members to take independent decisions on the basis of that law?
The Trump declaration on Jerusalem has had an incendiary effect across the Middle East and amongst Muslims everywhere. It should be welcomed because it rips the last veil from the deceit known as the peace process. Mahmoud Abbas has had his nose rubbed in the dirt. The Saudi and Qatari governments, dealing with the Zionists behind the thinnest of veils, have had to fall into line on the question of Jerusalem. The Trump declaration has united Muslims across all divides.
By themselves, as brave as they are, as much fortitude and steadfastness as they have always shown, the Palestinians were never going to be able to defeat their enemies on their own. They were far too powerful. The road back to Palestine was always going to lead through the Arab world, as George Habash wrote in the 1950s, now to be extended, given the rise of Iran, to the Islamic world. Nasser fired up the Arab people in the 1950s and together, Hizbollah and Iran have again set an example of defiance of the US and Israel, so successfully that Israel is now well into preparations for the war intended to destroy them once and for all.
This will be an existential war for survival, an extremely violent war for which Israel has been making intensive preparations. It is warning of total destruction and Hasan Nasrallah is warning back that Hizbollah is ready with missiles that can reach any part of occupied Palestine. The stakes in Middle Eastern wars have never been higher, the possible consequences never graver and even potentially cataclysmic. The consequences of Trump’s declaration would have been so well known beforehand that it seems insufficient to call it stupid. Perhaps it was intended to bring on the war with Iran that Israel and the US have wanted for a long time.
*Jeremy Salt taught at the University of Melbourne, at Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara for many years, specializing in the modern history of the Middle East. Among his recent publications is his 2008 book, The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.