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First Annual International Conference 2018 "Palestine Where To?" - Fourth Session

Sunday, June 24, 2018


Prof. Salim Tamari

The hegemonic discourse that permeates the American Administration position in Jerusalem is that of real estate. This is exemplified by a combination of a messianic zeal which comes from ideological currents adopted by vice president Pence on the one hand and the whole team associated with American administration including Jason Greenblatt, Ambassador David Friedman, Jared Kushner and Trump himself. All of whom had made their career through various positions on real estate business, which permeates their vision how to deal with Arab-Israeli conflict in general, and Jerusalem and the Palestinian issue in Particular (a combination between a messianic position on Arab-Israeli conflict and the long experience of treating the holy places as part of real estate transactions).

This position has created a cabal of destructive rupture with the international consensus, that it helped to remove the American administration’s interventionous abilities in the future from any resolution of the issue of Jerusalem and the Arab-Israeli conflict. And this has revived the concept of corpus separatum.

There is a contradiction between the contours of the ultimate deal and the sudden decision of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. There is a long history of treating Jerusalem as a real estate in the mind of the segments of American administration and certainly Trump himself. Trumps move on Jerusalem brings a full history of Israel’s Progressive Encirclement of the city since 1967 and its aftermath.

The heart of this strategy was demography. After Oslo, Israel established rules of exclusion. A major strategic shift in the status of Jerusalem occurred, when a regime of physical segregation of the city from its Palestinian hinterland in the West Bank was consolidated. The seam points of contact between the Palestinian civilians and the Israeli military was insulated by pass roads, checkpoints, pass systems and finally the Wall. The West Bank was divided into areas A, B and C.

The contestation now is over the fate of the Arab neighborhoods not the status of the city. The negotiation collapsed because the whole territories features collapsed, and the refugee and Jerusalem issues became bilateral issues and no longer part of the occupied territories. The Ultimate Deal is based on the realignment of an American alliance with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Israel against Iran.

Trump’s decision has three major consequences. First, it has refocused the attention on the status of Jerusalem. Second, it has undermined the possibility for the US to act in a mediating role. Third, it has raised new possibilities for new regional actors.

The presentation was held by Professor Salim Tamari at the 2018 Annual Conference “Where to go from here? Palestine between the Local, Regional and the Global”, June 22-25. Prof. Salim Tamari is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies and Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Birzeit University.

Prof. Issam Nassar

The naming of places is associated to certain experiences and concepts. Although these cities have certain meanings of collective experiences and collective memories, they are essentially residential spaces, which have economic, social, and cultural infrastructure that developed over time in specific historical and cultural paths associated with it being inhabited social areas.

The right to a city is the right to reach its facilities and places. The right to change ourselves through our experience in the city. Benjamin has more individualistic opinion about cities, he wrote about cities he visited, and proposed his own maps in his writings (his movements, visits, and conception) of the different places of the cities. The city in its essence according to Benjamin is its architectural features, such as museums, libraries, etc. For Benjamin, the city is connected to its daily social and cultural life.

There are special concepts that connect religious groups, which are intercontinental groups, with Jerusalem. And this connection is spiritual, moral and religious. For the City of Jerusalem, it has a long history of being a residential area. Studies show that the city was populated before 5000 year ago. The modern history of Jerusalem after its submission of Ottoman rule in the 16th Century, there was a special interest in Jerusalem by Sultan Suleiman Al-Qanuny who repaired and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and ordered to construct several institutions in the city. Connecting the religious idea with the political project is an essential part of the Zionist ideology.

Since the 1980s, the Palestinian speech has adopted the idea that the importance of Jerusalem is due to its holy religious status, by the influence of the religious movements. Thus, limited Jerusalem to Al-Aqsa Mosque. The City of Jerusalem most not be limited to a certain Mosque or Church or Wall. If it remains a religious issue we will lose, we cannot negotiate based on Holy books.

The presentation was held by Professor Issam Nassar at the 2018 Annual Conference “Where to go from here? Palestine between the Local, Regional and the Global”, June 22-25. Prof. Issam Nassar is an historian of the Modern Middle East at Illinois State University.

Dr. Mohanad Mustafa

There is no contradiction between religious freedom and Political control in Jerusalem. Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Zionist discourse during the late years is a part of a Zionist strategy to integrate the national issue with the religious issue which leads to an essential shift of the Zionist project that began in 1967 and enhanced through the recent years, which transfers the Zionist project to a Colonial settlement project based on national religious identity. The National identity that is formed today in Israel is a religious identity. Zionism can only be a religious movement, because Judaism is a religious definition. Therefore, the rise of the religious identity is not connected to any social or political changes in the Israeli society, but rather linked to the Zionist project itself.

Al-Aqsa Mosque, known as Haram al-Shari, is an overall of 140 square meters, not only the mosque. The three Israeli trends, the secular Jewish stream, Orthodox Jewish stream and religious Zionist stream, did not give importance to the issue of the Al-Aqsa. The secular Zionist stream treated Jerusalem politically only. The Orthodox Jewish stream treated it politically and ideologically, because the entry to Al-Aqsa Mosque space is religiously prohibited. The third stream didn’t mention the Aqsa issue but proposed the controlling idea because its ideology is based on a triangle: The Land of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the people of Israel. So the imposition of controlling over the land was the core of the Zionist project.

But since the mid-nineties, we are seeing a large shift in the Zionist discourse towards the Aqsa Mosque. Efforts have shifted to enhancing the control concept from an individual movement to a formal cooperation movement supported by the state. The state has become a part of the support process for the Judaism control on the Aqsa mosque, such as supporting the religious association in their archaeological excavations. 

In recent years, the Knesset has held various committees under the name of the freedom for religious Jews in Al-Aqsa to facilitate the entry of Jewish settlers to Al-Aqsa Mosque under the label of religious freedom. Therefore, we can’t tolerate the worship issue because the religious freedom is a political issue. In the case of the Jerusalem situation, we cannot separate worship from sovereignty.

The presentation was held by Dr. Mohanad Mustafa at the 2018 Annual Conference “Where to go from here? Palestine between the Local, Regional and the Global”, June 22-25. Dr. Mohanad Mustafa is the Director General at the Mada Al Carmel Center for Applied Social Sciences in Haifa.

Mr. Jonathan Kuttab

Corpus separatum has a legal significance, because any serious attempt to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over Jerusalem must recognize that Jerusalem is important to people of all three religions. There are different formulae for sharing Jerusalem. Once the concept of exclusivity is ameliorated we can find a practical solution.

Under the international law the question is very clear. The situation of Jerusalem today with a myriad of resolutions recognizes east Jerusalem as a part of the West Bank.

What Israel is counting on is that creating facts on the ground will eventually make the Palestinians agree on what has been done. With the Palestinian acceptance the whole issue of illegality will become moot.

There are two major features that distinguish Evangelicals from other Christian denominations. First, Evangelicals take the text of the Bible seriously, they text literally. Second, unlike almost all Christian denominations, they are not hierarchical.

We have also to understand the phenomenon of Christian Zionism which is a set of believes that actually preceded Jewish Zionism. With the beginning of modern Zionism, there was a mushrooming of Christian Zionism.

We have to engage with the Christian Evangelicals in US. They have money and influence and if we dismiss them we will suffer the consequences. The best way to do that is understand their discourse and use it to address them. We can address the implications of what they do politically.

The presentation was held by Mr. Jonathan Kuttab at the 2018 Annual Conference “Where to go from here? Palestine between the Local, Regional and the Global”, June 22-25. Mr. Jonathan Kuttab is an International Lawyer, specialized in cross cultural and transnational dispute resolution including arbitration and mediation.