Jerusalem, Israel’s Capital: Watch the Masks Fall by Najat AlSaied

When the actual announcement came, nothing happened. Those who were exploiting sensitivities related to Jerusalem — especially political Islamists, such as Hamas and Hezbollah — come mainly from the axis of resistance, led by Iran.

  • While mainstream media shows the oppressor to be Israel and the oppressed to be the Palestinians, the polls tell a different story.
  • The US Department of State is no less culpable than the mainstream media in failing to play a more vital role in revealing these realities, which could also mitigate the anger and hatred felt towards the US. This Department needs to be reformed from top to bottom to ensure that all diplomats are truly working for US interests. I am sure that it is the Department of State itself that will be the most reluctant to move its embassy to Jerusalem. It is not an exaggeration to say that moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem is the best decision that has been taken by any American President because it lays bare a rotten reality.

Many analysts say that US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a campaign promise to evangelical Christian and right-wing Jewish voters, but there is another way of looking at it. Trump’s recognition might be a golden opportunity for two-faced opportunists to be unmasked — a shot of reality that might eventually help the peace process and solve this long-lasting conflict.

Since the declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, many Arab observers, intellectuals and academics have started to question the veracity of those jihadists who claim they are sacrificing themselves to defend Jerusalem, because when the actual announcement came — nothing happened. Those who were exploiting sensitivities related to Jerusalem — especially political Islamists, such as Hamas and Hezbollah — come mainly from the axis of resistance, led by Iran.

Other opportunists are the two-faced countries in the region, such as Qatar and Turkey. While publicly hostile towards Israel, behind closed doors they support it. Further opportunists are the Western and Arab media, who for decades have been promoting the idea that the problem is the Israeli occupation, but never mention the Palestinian Authority corruption.

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has also revealed the shortcomings of the US Department of State. It has not played any role in clarifying the above-mentioned points and, by this negativity and bureaucracy, only generated further hatred towards the US.

Trump’s recognition has exposed the hypocrisy of the armed militia Hezbollah which always claims it will never disarm because of its fight against Israel. Now after the recognition of Jerusalem, many Arabs are questioning Hezbollah’s motivations regarding Israel. Lebanese and other Arabs are questioning why Hezbollah has not sent its armed militia to fight in Israel as it did in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Dr. Hadi El Amine, a Lebanese researcher in political science and governmental studies, tweeted, “The axis of resistance’s words are aimed against Israel, but their missiles are pointed at the Arabs.”

Adhwan Alahmari, a Saudi journalist based in London for Asharq al-Awsat also tweeted:

“The soldiers, rockets and suicide bombers of Hezbollah are at Israel’s borders yet they did not support Jerusalem after Trump’s declaration, instead supporting the Wilayat al-Faqih [Iranian Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist] to fight in Syria to displace and annihilate its people to protect the shrine.”

Yet another opportunist is Hamas and its supporters who have succeeded in turning Arabs against the Palestinians. This time, the Palestinians’ anger was not turned only towards Israel and the US, but mainly at Saudi Arabia. Hamas and its followers attacked the Saudi flag and insulted King Salman of Saudi Arabia. These Palestinians seem to think that Trump did not make this announcement without a wink of approval from Saudi Arabia. Their reaction has angered countless Saudis, who consider this attack a demonstration of ingratitude from the unappreciative Palestinians, to whom they have given billions of dollars.

In response, the Saudis started several hashtags on Twitter such as #hellwithyouand your issue, and #Saudis are angry for their king. Many Saudis behind these hashtags regret every penny that has been given to defend the Palestinians, especially after they saw these Palestinian traitors, as they put it, insulting Saudi Arabia, which has enriched them and channeled exorbitant financing into Palestinian development projects. Salman Al-Ansari, a Saudi writer and political commentator based in Washington DC, tweeted:

“We want to make everyone aware that the salaries of Palestinian diplomats around the world come from Riyadh-Saudi Arabia; salaries which are 30% higher than that of Saudi diplomats. What did Doha and Ankara do for them other than offer empty slogans and stab Jerusalem in the back?”

If you now ask the Saudis, the one of their main supporters and funders, about this conflict, the majority will say, “It is none of our business”. The Saudis would rather, it seems, focus on their own internal affairs and save their money rather than pay ungrateful Palestinians.

A large numbers of Saudis additionally seem surprised by the attitude of Palestinians, who support Qatar and Turkey, countries which have diplomatic relationships with Israel. As a result, many Saudis think the Palestinians are not serious about defending their cause.

The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, after Trump’s declaration, tweeted that he will turn the whole Muslim world against Washington. This kind of posturing does not influence the Arab public or intellectuals any more. As Yousef Al Kowaileet, a Saudi deputy editor-in-chief of the newspaper Al Riyadh put it in a tweet, “Most Muslim countries have ties with Israel. People are not stupid and they know that these interests supersede any creed.”

Arab people cannot even believe Erdoğan’s tweets, when they see that the day after his outburst on Twitter, Turkey, amid political turmoil, signed a deal worth 18.6 million euros with Israel.

Arabs also shared pictures of Turkish Cultural Day celebrations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Several Saudi intellectuals responded to Erdoğan’s rhetoric against Israel by saying, “If you are honest, the Muslim world wants you to cut diplomatic relations and stop military cooperation with Israel.”

Qatar is playing the same two-faced role as the Turks, but with more of a focus on attacking Saudi Arabia. Qatar, through its news outlet Al Jazeera, apparently now wants to galvanize the Muslim world into embarrassing Saudi Arabia because of its relationship with Trump since his announcement.

Ostensibly this response is to defend the Palestinian cause, but its real objective seems rather to pressure Saudi Arabia into ending its relationship with the US administration. Qatar will never stop dreaming of Trump’s impeachment; the rulers doubtless think that a Democratic President, like Obama, would again support Qatar in its Muslim Brotherhood project. Mohamed Krishan, a news anchor on Al Jazeera, tweeted:

“Jerusalem is the first of the two Qibla [the direction faced during salah prayers] and the third of the two Holy Mosques that is given to the Israelis as their capital by Trump after he got billions from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.”

Ahmad Al-Faraj, a Saudi academic and researcher, tweeted back to him:

“If you leave your television channel of intelligence #Al Jazeera and go to your house in Doha, you will see on your right the Israeli representative building 600 meters from your house. People there… will tell you about the role of your channel in the betrayals and conspiracies that destroyed the Arab world and they will tell you who sold Jerusalem.”

Saudis have also started to tweet interviews with Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, the former foreign minister of Qatar, and Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the former Emir of Qatar, about supporting Israel, to reveal their hypocrisy to the wider public. In the interview with Hamad bin Jassim on Qatar’s Al Jazeera television on October 25, 2017, he mentioned that close Qatari-Israeli relations were to get closer to America so that Israel could open doors for Qatar in America.

Qatar is also trying to gain favor in the US through Saudi dissidents, such as Jamal Khashoggi. He previously held a number of positions in several newspapers in Saudi Arabia, served as a political adviser, and now, entirely backed by Qatar, is a columnist for The New York Times and based in Washington DC. Nowadays, Khashoggi takes every opportunity to attack Saudi Arabia in different US and European newspapers.

Anyone who can read Arabic can tell you Twitter account of Jamal Khashoggi is full of anti-Semitic tweets and retweets; it looks as if the New York Times allows him to write in its newspaper only because he attacks Saudi Arabia.

Khashoggi tweeted:

“Feel angry and shout out even if you do so among your own people and inside your frightened houses, it’s #Jerusalem. Allah suffices me, for He is the best disposer of affairs. I feel distressed.”

Saudis recognize that his real intention was not to defend Jerusalem or the Palestinians, but to galvanize people on the streets of Saudi Arabia to rise up against their own government. Ahmad Al-Faraj tweeted:

“If you feel that angry, why do you not leave this damned country of America, whose President is moving its embassy to Jerusalem?”

Other Saudi writers and others simply ridiculed him. “Go and drink a glass of wine to calm down”, wrote Hani Al Dahri, a Saudi journalist, inserting Kashoggi’s tweet above along a photograph of him celebrating Thanksgiving in the US with bottles of wine on the table:

Even with all this controversy and a complete change in Arab attitudes on social media towards the Palestinian cause, both Western and traditional Arab media still keep regurgitating the same anti-Israel slogans and rhetoric, and pumping out the same Palestinian propaganda. Most comments on social media have come from intellectuals, assuring the general public that the main reason for this never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a corrupt Palestinian Authority, run by Fatah and Hamas. The Palestinian Authority, they seem to believe, has traded on the Palestinian cause, which has garnered them millions, but none of that is ever discussed in the mainstream media.

While the mainstream media still shows the oppressor to be Israel and the oppressed to be the Palestinians, Palestinian polls tell a different story[1]:

  • In a June 2015 poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (based in Beit Sahour, the West Bank), 52% of Palestinians living in Israeli-ruled East Jerusalem said they would prefer to be citizens of Israel with equal rights, compared to just 42% who would choose to be citizens of a Palestinian state.
  • More Palestinians in Jerusalem seek Israeli citizenship.
  • According to polls conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between 14 and 16 September, 2017, the majority of Palestinians are unhappy with President Mahmoud Abbas’s performance. 67% of the public want him to resign while 27% want him to remain in office. The demand for Abbas’s resignation stands at 60% in the West Bank and 80% in the Gaza Strip.
  • If new legislative elections were held today, 63% of the Palestinians surveyed said they would vote. Of those who would participate, 29% said they would vote for Hamas; 36% said they would vote for Fatah; 10% would vote for all other parties combined, and 25% were undecided.
  • Only 38% of the Palestinian public polled said West Bankers could criticize the Palestinian Authority (PA) without fear of reprisal; 59% said that people could not freely criticize the PA. Half of the public (50%) viewed the PA as a burden on the Palestinians. 77% perceived the PA as corrupt.
  • Most of Hamas leaders, who portray themselves as jihadists against Israel, are millionaires. A senior official in Hamas, for example, Khaled Mashaal, who is worth US $2.6 billion according to global estimates, while Arab commentators put his worth at between US $2 and $5 billion, saying he “invested in Egyptian banks and Gulf countries, some in real estate projects.” Next on the list is Ismail Haniyeh, who, until the recent signing of a unity deal between Hamas and Fatah, was the Prime Minister of Gaza. “His fortune is estimated at US $4 million, and most of his assets in the Strip are registered in the name of his son-in-law Nabil, and a dozen children of his and other less well-known Hamas officials. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank appears no less corrupt than leaders in Gaza. Abbas and other leaders in the PLO have stolen millions of dollars from international funding meant for the Palestinian people. This corruption is the mistake of international donors who never hold these leaders to account.

Why is all this data absent from the mainstream media, which shows images of burning flags and other displays of anger only from the point of view of the Palestinian Authority and its supporters?

The US Department of State is no less culpable than the mainstream media in failing to play a more vital role in revealing these realities. Exposing this corruption would go a long way to mitigating the anger and hatred felt towards the US. The Department of State is always passive and bureaucratic, functioning mostly like a third-world country governmental body.

The Harry S Truman Building in Washington, DC, headquarters of the US Department of State. (Image source: Loren/Wikimedia Commons)

During my time working in the US Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, I met some diplomats who do not hold the US Government’s views. On the contrary, some of them held political views that were totally different to those of their administration, and some were even anti-Semitic. In addition, the expertise of the diplomats was not of the high standard that you would expect from a powerful country such as the US. A lot of these diplomats are sent to Arab countries like Saudi Arabia with no knowledge of the Arabic language and not much more of the region — in sharp contrast to diplomats in the British Embassy. I was surprised to work with a diplomat who, instead of supporting his country in liberating Iraq from the most brutal dictatorship in history, was calling it “an invasion” to Saudi intellectuals and academics. He was also against the peace process. He insisted on calling Israel an “occupier” and complained that I was reading “right-wing websites” such as the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). The organization mainly translates material meticulously from the Arabic, but the diplomat calls it pro-Israel.

So, I was hoping that after Trump became President, the Department of State might be reformed to avoid the same mistakes made under George Bush – mainly that he did not confront the US Department of State about its incompetence. President Trump should be firm and alert avoid the same mistake. Currently, it is ineffective.

This Department needs to be reformed from top to bottom to ensure that all diplomats are truly working for US interests. I am sure that it is the Department of State itself that will be the most reluctant to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

The world has followed a course that has gotten this peace process nowhere. The fact that this conflict has been ongoing for 70 years demonstrates that there is something at fault. The main reasons for this stalled progress are a lack of transparency, hypocritical opportunists with hidden personal agendas, a biased mainstream media and ineffective diplomatic missions. It is not an exaggeration to say that moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem is the best decision that has been taken by any American President because it lays bare a rotten reality. This is exactly what is needed to galvanize the peace process toward a two-state solution. It will also put pressure on the corrupt Palestinian Authority either to reform or change its leadership. Who knows, it might even stop opportunists from perpetuating this conflict for their own ends.

Najat AlSaied is a Saudi American academic and the author of “Screens of Influence: Arab Satellite Television & Social Development”. She is an Assistant Professor at Zayed University in the College of Communication and Media Sciences in Dubai-UAE.

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