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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

The Year of Jerusalem is a time to offer a hand of solidarity

Many have turned a blind eye to to Israeli atrocities. But those with a conscience can still make a difference

“If there are no visitors” to Jerusaelm, president Mahmoud Abbas reminded the world, “the occupier can deal with the citizens as they wish and kick them out.”   Khaled Elfiqi / EPA
“If there are no visitors” to Jerusaelm, president Mahmoud Abbas reminded the world, “the occupier can deal with the citizens as they wish and kick them out.” Khaled Elfiqi / EPA

Israel has no right over Jerusalem in international law. But since 1967, asserting its authority with brute force, it has annexed every inch of the ancient city, home to the holy sites of three faiths. It has been able to do this because the world has looked away. US president Donald Trump has not only legitimised the illegal occupation of Jerusalem by conferring unilateral recognition on the city as Israel’s capital; he is now seeking to punish the Palestinians for protesting their own dispossession by cutting aid totalling $65 million to the UN Relief and Works Agency, which has played a vital role in helping Palestinian families displaced by the illegal occupation. The “dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees”, the agency said in a statement, is now in jeopardy.

Those in the international community who have remained silent are complicit in Israel’s actions. But those with a conscience can still make a difference. As Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday at the World Conference in Support of Jerusalem hosted by the Al Azhar university in Cairo: “Visits by Muslims, Arabs and Christians lend support to the city, amount to the protection of its holy sites and give support to its residents.” Israel, he said, must feel the glare of the world. “If there are no visitors,” Mr Abbas reminded the world, “the occupier can deal with the citizens as they wish and kick them out.”

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Palestinians of all ages live in a perpetual state of fear of expulsion or detention. Israeli soldiers are at liberty to burst into the homes of Palestinian families and cart away people at any hour. In December they did just that with Ahed Al Tamimi, the teenager who was filmed slapping an Israeli soldier stationed in her village. For this offence, she has been accorded the kind of treatment ordinarily reserved for terrorists and murderers. The military court at which she was arraigned refused to grant her bail and on Wednesday a judge declared that “the gravity of the offences of which she is accused does not allow an alternative to custody”.

Against the milieu of crimes Israel so routinely perpetrates against the Palestinians, from corralling people into walled-off effective prisons to bombing entire villages and cities, even to categorise Ahed’s action as an offence seems risible – or would seem risible, had Israel been a normal state. Tragically, it is anything but. The commentator Gideon Levy once observed that Israel has gobbled up so much Palestinian land that what’s left is fit for an amusement park, not a state. Al Azhar university has declared 2018 the Year of Jerusalem. Where others have elected to turn a blind eye to Israel's atrocities, choosing to be a witness can be a courageous act of solidarity with the Palestinians.

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