The sin of provocation, Turkish President Erdogan helpfully explained in January 2015, was when mischief-makers fomented ‘hatred and enmity’ in the world.
President Trump, according to Erdogan’s spokesman, has now assumed the post of Provocateur-in-Chief: ‘Declaring Jerusalem a capital is disregarding history and the truths in the region, it is a big injustice/cruelty, short-sightedness, foolishness/madness, it is plunging the world into a fire with no end in sight.’
Islamic firebrands like Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is busy refashioning Atatürk’s republic as an Islamic republic, always get the best lines.
In the original Islamic Republic itself, Iranian President Rouhani evoked the Big Satan-Little Satan metaphor: ‘The declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of the Zionist entity is a new conspiracy facing the Islamic world these days. We have to be aware and ready in the face of the US, the Zionist entity, and their tails.’
Nice one. Ismail Haniyah, a leading Hamas official in Gaza, was no less apoplectic: ‘I hereby call for terrorism and armed struggle… We want the uprising to last and continue to let Trump and the occupation regret this decision.’
Western politicians, diplomats, academics, journalists and religious leaders have been mostly clueless about the nature of Islamic revivalism, which has its genesis in the defeat and dissolution of the last Caliphate (the Ottoman Empire) in 1922 and the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt eight years later.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which is known in the USA as the Council for American-Islamic Relations and in Gaza as Hamas, has made the ‘liberation’ of Jerusalem a top priority. This has nothing to do with establishing Jerusalem (or a part thereof) as the capital of a mini-Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and everything to do with wiping the Jewish state off the map.
In the eschatology of apocalyptical Islam, which defines the character of the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist spawn, Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis et al, Jerusalem will be the epicentre of a chiliastic Global Caliphate.
From the perspective of Islamic revivalism, the proprietorship of the territory previously known as Mandatory Palestine – that is, Gaza, Israel proper and the so-called West Bank – is not negotiable.
Ismail Haniyah said as much in his response to Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem instead of Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel: ‘Our position remains as it is, Palestine from the sea to the Jordan river. We will not agree to two states and not to the division of Jerusalem.’ It is, as always, Jerusalem that is at the heart of Islamic millennialism. The sticking point, to be specific, is not the modern-day city of Jerusalem, with its population of some 880,000 people, but the Old City, no more than 0.9 square kilometres in area. Old Jerusalem, consisting of less than a twentieth of the population of new Jerusalem, is divided into four different quarters – Armenian, Muslim, Jewish and Christian.
Here is where the Jewish people built Solomon’s Temple almost three thousand years ago, only to see it destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC. The Second Temple was completed in 516 BC before being destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Old Jerusalem, moreover, is the site of the crucifixion (and resurrection) of Jesus Christ. Here, at Temple Mount, is where the Islamic prophet Muhammed flew from Mecca on his winged horse Barack before ascending to the Seventh Heaven. The actual conquest of Jerusalem, however, had to await some thirty years after the demise of Muhammed when the armed forces of Caliph Omar defeated the local legions of the Byzantium Empire.
The Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas, in a similar vein to President Erdogan, insists that only Islamic sovereignty can guarantee people ‘of all religions perform their religious rituals with comfort in Jerusalem, our eternal capital’. This happens to be nonsense on a number of fronts. Firstly, to misappropriate the idiom of Zionism and speak of Jerusalem as the ‘eternal capital’ of the State of Palestine is risible. There has never been a state called Palestine. Furthermore, during the time of the Ottoman Empire Jerusalem was a small, southern town in the province of Syria. The last time the Old City experienced Islamic governance, between 1949 and 1967, all but one of the Jewish Quarter’s 35 synagogues were demolished while ancient Jewish cemeteries were emptied of their dead.
Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Islam informs not only the ideology of Hamas and Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party but also the supposedly ‘secular’ Palestinian Authority. Their Islam, unlike the Islam of the Ottoman Empire, is infected with a strain of annihilationist anti-Semitism. In the year 2000, for instance, even President Clinton must have guessed the Camp David Summit negotiations were doomed when Chairman Yasser Arafat coolly informed him that Solomon’s Temple was not in Jerusalem but in Nabulus. To gift the Old City to fantasists in the grip of a millennialist psychosis, as President Obama did last Christmas with UN Resolution 2334, was an act of folly dressed up as statesmanship.
By contrast, President Trump’s pledge to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could well be an act of statesmanship arrayed by the mainstream media, and everyone from Angela Merkel to Pope Francis, as folly: the sin of provocation, if you will. But there is an obverse side to provocation, and that takes the form of cowardice and civilisational suicide. After all, the case of provocation Erdogan referred to in January 2015 was the Charlie Hebdo massacre – not, I should clarify, the belligerence of the radical Islamic terrorists but the incitement of the slaughtered cartoonists.
As long ago as 1995, the US Congress in its wisdom passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which declared that Jerusalem should remain an undivided city, that Jerusalem should be recognised as the capital of Israel, and that the US Embassy should be moved to Jerusalem.
Every president since then, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, has promised to implement the law but choked when the moment of decision arrived. Time will tell if Donald Trump’s announcement turns out to be ‘foolishness/madness’ and plunges ‘the world into a fire with no end in sight.’
More likely, I would think, a world on fire with no end in sight is our destiny if US presidents were to continue committing the sin of appeasement.
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