|Follow-up to my Byzantine Alliance scenario or how Europe's deceitfulness towards Arabs might further wreak havoc on the Middle East...|
Jerusalem Quarterly File
Double Issue 11-12, 2001
Time to Change: The European Role in Jerusalem
This article was written prior to the passing of Mr. Faisal Abdel Qader al-Husseini. The staff at the Orient House vow to continue the legacy of Mr. Husseini and to maintain the Orient House as the PLO Headquarters in East Jerusalem.
Europe's policy towards Palestinians in Jerusalem can be characterized as following the line of least resistance. Over the past three years, Europe has slowly regressed in its willingness to meet Palestinian officials in Jerusalem during diplomatic visits and to maintain a balanced position vis-à-vis the Israelis and Palestinians. European financial contributions to Jerusalem and its institutions have also been largely symbolic. This lack of support comes in spite of the letter from Shimon Peres to the former Norwegian Foreign Minister Johan Holst, dated October 11, 1993, in which the Israeli Foreign Minister stated that support for East Jerusalem institutions should be "encouraged." Financial assistance to East Jerusalem has also dropped off despite the growing needs in the city after Israel imposed the military closure in 1993.
Europe's unwillingness to implement policies that might effectively deter Israel from consolidating its status quo on Jerusalem's final status and to support Palestinian institutions only contributed to the unequal power balance. Such inequality created the setting for Camp David where the Palestinians were forced into a lose-lose position: the Israeli stand on Jerusalem, based on 34 years of creating facts on the ground, was presented to the Palestinian side in a "take it or leave it" manner. As the Israeli ideas only allowed for the creation of distinct Bantustans and did not satisfy the Palestinians' minimal strategic demands for developing East Jerusalem, the Palestinians naturally expressed their reservations. While the Palestinians did not wholly reject the Israeli ideas, they were subsequently condemned for not accepting the proposal in its entirety.
Europe has erred in interpreting the past flexibility of the Palestinians, particularly in regards to Jerusalem, as a willingness to make concessions on the city; this has become a costly misinterpretation. On paper, Europe continuously calls for the adherence to international law and UN resolutions on Jerusalem; yet in practice international laws are not enforced. Israel thereby is given the leeway to issue inflammatory statements, such as the recent one issued by the Israeli Security Minister Uzi Landau calling for the shutting down of a dozen Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, including the Orient House. The ability of Israel to make such provocative declarations with no recrimination from the international community only encourages the Israeli right wing.
Europe must reconsider its passive policy towards Palestine and Jerusalem in particular. Its failure to play a strong role in the Middle East has contributed to today's destabilized environment. Europe cannot afford to remain locked into a cycle of having to compensate the Jews for its role in their past suffering; instead it must recognize today's requirements and set out to curb injustice where injustice thrives. Not doing so will diminish Europe's stature in Palestine and the entire Middle East. As Faisal Husseini would always reiterate, "If the Palestinian secular and moderate leadership loses the flag of Jerusalem and the Palestinian state; if it is unable to fulfill the promises made at Madrid, then other radical nationalist movements will pick up the flag." If this occurs and Europe cannot curb Israeli violations in the occupied territories then extremism will spread, destabilizing not only the Middle East but also possibly Europe itself. Europe has reached another crossroads in its history with the Middle East and now has the opportunity to right the wrongs of the past.
Indeed we're in for the worst-case scenario: as the US retreats on the diplomatic sidelines, Europe trades off its long-standing pro-Arab/Palestinian inclination against a higher-profile role in the region --on Israel's terms...