Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Garnett Roper | Jamaica's stance on Jerusalem disappointing

Published:Sunday | December 31, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Garnett Roper
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United States (US) President Donald Trump made a declaration that America regards Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is ironic that this has been the position of the US government since 1995 and that Trump made his declaration on the same day that he signed a waiver postponing the move of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Every US President since the 1995 declaration has signed the waiver, yet Trump's declaration has set the cat among the pigeons. It has had a disruptive effect.

The United Nations (UN) passed a non-binding resolution by 128 to nine with 35 abstentions. The resolution rejected the unilateral declaration by the US and restated the UN commitment to a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jamaica's abstention on that resolution is ominous. On the face of it, Jamaica appears to have abandoned foreign policy based on principle, to have resiled from its long-standing support for the two-state solution, or, as it did in the Organisation of American States vote on Venezuela, appeared to be reading the tea leaves as it pertains to the return of US gunboat diplomacy.

The US has indicated that in response to the UN vote, it will further defund the UN by withdrawing U$285 million of pledged funding support for the organisation.

In the light of all of this, where ought thinking people to take their stand on this matter of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? What principles ought to govern Jamaica's foreign policy on the Middle East? How ought Jamaica to navigate the new environment of might rather than right, which is appearing as the basis of the forays in the international environment by the US?

To begin with, Jerusalem is both myth and metaphor and the flash point of imperial hegemonic manoeuvres. There is a Palestinian map that locates Palestine with its centre in Jerusalem as the central bridge that links the continents of Africa to the South, Asia to the East, and Europe to the North.

Jerusalem is a metaphor used in the Bible of the new creation and of the ultimate renewal of human society: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband".

For the last century and a half, the imperial rulers of the world, Britain first and now the USA, have recruited sections of the emerging faith community (Christian Brethren, Seventh-Day Adventist, and Pentecostalism, among others of the new line of churches founded in the 19th century) to develop a reading strategy called Dispensationalism that, in turn, supports millenarianism. It is a way of reading the Bible that privileges Israel and gives legitimacy to the imperial narrative that connects the fate of the ancient city of Jerusalem to the end of history. This is what is called imperial theology. In this way, both Britain and America have found cover for the injustices done to the people of Palestine, while they control the wealth and resources (especially oil) of the world it calls the Middle East. Middle East is a name that arises out of a Euro-centric view of the world. It is middle of where and east of what?

There can be no doubt that the instability in the Palestinian and Arab world furthers the hegemonic interest of the North Atlantic. In the meantime, there are five million Palestinian living as refugees, and the 360 square miles that constitutes Gaza is the world's largest open-air prison. There are 552 Israeli check-points in the West Bank. Israel controls 80 per cent of the water of Palestine. A Palestinian in Gaza cannot visit a relative in the West Bank, though they live in the same country.

Historically, particularly because of the United Nations, the search for peace in the Middle East has concluded that the most sustainable option that seeks to do justice both to Israel and the Palestinian people has been what is called the two-states solution. This solution allows the Palestinians to occupy East Jerusalem and would see an end to the Israelis building new settlements in Gaza and in the West Bank. Jamaica, up to now, has been consistently a reliable player where this international doctrine is concerned. One has even been forced to wonder, based on certain actions recently, if Jamaica is locating itself alongside reactionary forces in the international arena. Does Jamaica retain the right to make up its own mind on foreign affairs matters, or will we allow fear of or alignment with the position of the United States of America (USA) on matters as the basis of our action. Is there such a thing as non-alignment in international affairs?

 

LOYALTY REQUIRED

 

There is no doubt that any reading of the USA under Donald Trump indicates that loyalty is required by the USA even in the exercise of one's sovereign freedom. Niki Haley has tweeted and Donald Trump has obliged by inviting both those who voted against the UN resolution and those who abstained to be the guests of the president at the White House. This US President has been more willing to issue threats to dissenting voices and shout the praise of those who are deemed loyal than any other president since the second half of the 20th century.

Jamaica has taken a pragmatic and expedient approach on the matter of Jerusalem nothing to do with principle. Rest assured that that is not a safe position to take. Jamaica is a small sovereign state. Its best hope is in a world where all voices contend at the table, not one in which the big metropoles have their say and the rest of us toe the line. When the US policy turned against Venezuela we said nothing. When, as a consequence, it was against

St Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica said nothing. Now that the US has acted against the interest of the Palestinian people, we had nothing to say. Who will speak up when the US or others like them act against us?

- Garnett Roper is president of the Jamaica Theological Seminary. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com