Jerusalem, Jerusalem!

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JAIME J. YAMBAO

IN his by now established self-congratulatory style, US President Trump praised his recent recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as an act of courage his predecessors had been too cowardly to do. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, of course, was no less lavish in his adulation, naming a subway station after Trump, to start with.

But it must not have been for lack of balls that past US presidents considered their common promise to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem as nothing more than a campaign ritual. The US Senate had long before succumbed to the demand of Zionists in America and passed a resolution recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Every year, the US President had consequently to sign a waiver to implementing the Senate resolution. They thus must have had truly strong reasons to refrain from what Trump did. They could have realized the outrage and fury that such an announcement could and did unleash around the world. More importantly, most US presidents before Trump must have known their international law, given that among them was a former editor of the Harvard Law Review, a Rhodes scholar, and a former ambassador to the United Nations. As brought out in the last election campaign, Trump even lacked knowledge of his own country’s Constitution!

The UN General Assembly by an overwhelming majority passed a resolution declaring Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel null and void, being contrary to international law. The UN Charter proscribes the occupation of territory by force and Jerusalem is disputed territory. Moreover, Trump’s action violated a number of Security Council resolutions all mandatory in character and all passed with the approval of the United States. Among them is Resolution 478 condemning the adoption by Israel of its basic law-making Jerusalem the “complete and united” capital of Israel. Another resolution provides that in the peace process between Israel and the PLO, the status of Jerusalem is the final issue to be resolved by negotiations.

Why the PH abstention?
The Department of Foreign Affairs has not as of this writing explained why it abstained from voting for the resolution. Of course, UN members are not compelled to explain however they vote. But because of the speech of the US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Nicky Haley threatening the cutting of foreign aid from its recipients and the reduction of the US contribution to UN operations if the resolution “disrespecting” the US passed, the reason for the Philippine abstention is suspect and throws some confusion to one’s understanding of current Philippine foreign policy. The response of the developing countries, including the principal recipients of US foreign aid, to Haley’s speech of historic and unprecedented arrogance was a resounding rebuke and defiance. By contrast, the Philippine position appeared transactional, mendacious and unprincipled. President Duterte’s tilting towards China notwithstanding, Philippine foreign policy seems to be still dependent on the United States, particularly on US foreign military and economic assistance. One can only hope that what the Philippines got in exchange was more substantive than an invitation to a reception by Ambassador Haley to thank the countries that did not vote for the UNGA resolution or Trump’s charming way of not raising human rights issues during his last visit to the Philippines. Whatever the Philippines got should be proportionate to the merits of the UNGA resolution.


What was at stake in the UNGA resolution was no less than the progress of the rule of law in the international community and the future role of peacekeeping in the United Nations, issues of critical concern to weak, virtually defenseless countries like the Philippines. Unlike before, the abstention can hardly be passed off as a courtesy to a security ally, since members of America’s most important alliance, NATO, voted for the resolution. Furthermore, the position of the Philippines in the vote is inconsistent with its being the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia, with its having an important Muslim minority, and with its being a founding member of Asean which counts among its members the world’s most populous and most progressive Muslim countries.

US not effective mediator
An immediate casualty of Trump’s action, according to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), was the role of the United States as a mediator in the peace process between Israel and the PLO because of its now blatant partiality to Israel. Actually, the United States has not been an effective mediator just counting the fact that the peace process has taken forever. The US is after all Israel’s security ally. As such, the US sees to it that no country or countries threaten Israel’s military superiority in the region by keeping Israel’s arsenals well-stocked and following a wider strategy of destabilizing powerful countries and fanning differences between countries such as the Sunni-Shi’ite divide, And there is the Zionist coalition in America that Israel can always manipulate to promote its views and policies among US policy-makers.

In recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel, Trump wanted to deliver on a promise he made during the election campaign to this Zionist coalition consisting of right-leaning American Jews, and white Evangelical Christians in what has been known as the Bible Belt of the United States, with the Evangelical Christians estimated today to far outnumber the American Jews. Lagging behind in the polls, Trump recalled how in the 1940s Truman narrowly won the presidential contest that everyone expected him to lose by promising the coalition the approval by the United Nations of the creation of the state of Israel. Trump thus made securing the support of the coalition an important part of his campaign, getting the Reverend Jerry Falwell as principal consultant.

Trump won Zionist support
As with Truman, the support of the Zionist coalition did help to give Trump the margin of victory in the US Electoral College. Eighty-one percent of white Evangelical Christians are reported to have voted for Trump. Immediately after Trump’s victory, Prime Minister Netanyahu followed up on Trump’s promise to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

With the increased influence of the Zionist coalition with the policy establishment in the United States, the rightist party in power in Israel has been emboldened to pursue its idea of a Greater Israel rather than the two-states solution charted by the UN’s Roadmap to Peace. This would be the reason that world leaders, including Pope Francis, in supporting the UNGA resolution, stressed the two-states solution as the only way to bring peace to Palestine.

Cabinet members of the rightist party in Israel advocating the Greater Israel idea have been mouthing the shibboleths of the Zionist coalition based on a highly selective and exclusivist interpretation of the Old Testament. These are to the effect that modern Israelis are the Chosen People and modern Israel is the Promised Land. Bible scholars question these claims. The Chosen People were the specific Jews led by Moses out of captivity in Egypt and with whom God first made His Covenant. Bible scholars also point out that the Promised Land was not given by God to Abraham but to his descendants who, considering the amount of traveling they made through the centuries, must have spread widely, covering numerous nationalities, including Palestinian. In any event, the Chosen People and Promised Land were not unconditional grants. Leafing through the Old Testament, one gets the impression that the Jews were rather chosen to be punished for their failing to serve as a shining example to humanity.

At one point, all of them were pointedly drowned along with the rest of humanity except for the righteous few on board Noah’s Ark.

Who are the Chosen People?
It is paradoxical that the greater part of this Zionist coalition is made up of people who describe themselves as Christians. The Bible of the Christians consists of the Old Testament and the New Testament which tell one continuing story of a prophecy of a Messiah coming to earth to save humanity. Taken together, they teach us that the Chosen People are all the righteous that follow God’s Commandments and the teachings of Christ.

This belief is so basic to Christianity. In an earlier period, Ambassador Haley, the gift of South Carolina and the Bible Belt to UN diplomacy, could be burned at the stake as a witch. Donald Trump might be considered the Demon’s disciple, if not the Demon himself. As one commentator has noted on CNN, the effect of Trump on his country and the world has been but disruptive and divisive. Contrary to Trump’s tweets, the three Abramic religions, including Islam, have Peace for their common vocation. They should be brought together to settle the conflicts of mankind according to the Commandments of God .. Thou shall not kill…Thou shall not steal… Blessed are the weak and vulnerable…

All Christians should take to heart two incidents in their Bible. In the Old Testament, the Prophet Nathan prophesies to King David that the kingdom that he has expanded to its utmost extent and united will be eternal. But right after the death of his son Solomon, Israel splits into two. Each side is later captured by the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, and Israel disappears from the map. In the New Testament, Jesus, a descendant of King David, is asked if he is the King of the Jews. He answers that His Kingdom is eternal but is not of this earth

Included in the 1947 proposal for the partition of Palestine and the creation of Israel was the treatment of Jerusalem as a corpus separatum to be administered by the United Nations in view of its being sacred to all the Abramic religions. For Christians, Jerusalem is sacred not only because of the presence of sites that mark the highlights of Jesus’ life. It was where he taught and fulfilled his mission on earth. Jerusalem has indeed become a metaphor for that mission: the salvation of men and women who want to be saved at the Final Judgment. This is conveyed beautifully and movingly in a song beloved of Catholics and Protestants, “The Holy City/Jerusalem”:

“I saw the Holy City beside the tideless sea
The light of God was on its streets,
The gates were open wide,
And all who would might enter,
And no one was denied,
No need of moon or stars by night,
Or sun to shine by day,
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away,
Jerusalem, Jerusalem!
Sing for the night is o’er
Hosanna in the Highest
Hosanna forevermore!”

The author is a retired career diplomat who was accredited as Ambassador to Laos and Pakistan and earlier served as Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva and as Foreign Service Officer in Washington, D.C., Jeddah and Paris.

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