Sermon – East Jerusalem: A capital provocation

by Courtenay Barnett

Dear beloved, we are gathered here today to hear words of truth, as straight as an arrow, spoken from the Altar of The Almighty Truth.

This truth is directed against the twin-headed dragon of lies and deception US Foreign Policy is aimed at.

Thus, such policy in relation to the wisdom – or – lack thereof in siting the US Embassy in East Jerusalem is the bane of our discourse.

No better way than to have informed proponents directly state their positions and then consider where next we go.

Nikki Haley – present ( US Ambassador Haley – permanent representative to the UN)

Noura Erakat – present (Palestinian- American human rights attorney and assistant professor at George Mason University)

So there we have two competing points of view. One sees absolutely no fault, no error, not even an iota of miscalculation in US Foreign Policy in placing the US Embassy in East Jerusalem: it is all the fault of the Palestinians and Hamas.

Another perspective takes account of the history, the political context, the reality of being corralled in Gaza indefinitely with no right of return for the refugees, which the Palestinians actually are under international law.

These competing thoughts and positions take me back almost 40 years to a time at University. It was one of those bulletin board announcement moments. A Palestinian Professor and a Jewish Professor agreed to have a round-table discussion on the question of Palestine/Israel and students and staff alike were duly informed of the venue for discussion.

There were about 15 people in attendance and I was one of them. It was not merely the erudition of the two scholars which impressed me – but – as a good lesson in debating skills – their civility.

After the papers were delivered and discussions took place, questions followed and conclusions were drawn. Although many years now have passed since that discussion, I still recall it as being as relevant now as it was then.

From one viewpoint, there was the pressing need for a homeland for the Palestinian people in relation to the settler- colony РIsrael; from the other side, there was an expressed need to continue with a home for Jewish ̩migr̩s to the state of Israel. There at its simplest was where the divide between these two erudite scholars existed. So, within this context of dual land claims, now let us exercise our minds with the aid of historical facts.

A. The historical context

B. The twentieth century twin catalysts of the demise of the Ottoman Empire – and the Nazi onslaught on the Jewish people leading to a UN response in establishing the state of Israel; and

C. The catastrophic situation facing the Palestinian people post- US Embassy location in East Jerusalem and immediate implications arising therefrom.

First, A: The historical context

Jews had lived in the land called Palestine for about a thousand years, side by side with the Arabs, as mainly pastoral people – Jews and Arabs lived peacefully- so – what changed?

Second, B (i): The end of World War 1

This saw the end of the Ottoman Empire and the formation of The League of Nations [Belgium, Britain, France, Greece, Italy, and Japan] that divided territories that had been formerly under Ottoman rule. Entities were created called “mandates”. Under the mandate system territories would be administered by such powers as Britain and France with accountability to the League and the mandate would remain until the territories were determined by the League to be at a level of readiness for independence.

Syria and Lebanon were awarded to France. Iraq went to Britain along with the entity termed Palestine, so defined in modern history at San Remo, and at the time included the lands on both sides of the Jordan River and the present-day countries of Israel and Jordan. Boundary changes were made over time. July 1922 witnessed the League of Nations ratifying the mandate arrangements and changing the map which had been established in 1920. A picture is worth a thousand words – so – for broad historical reference do see the map below. A picture saves my use of a thousand words, which this troublesome international problem indubitably invites use of:

A map of the british mandate in palestine and israel.

Second, B (ii): The end of World War 1 and inter-war years

Witness the Nazi onslaught on European Jewry.

The conscience of the world is struck by the Holocaust.

Then C (i), The immediate pre and post World War 11 periods

Establishment of the state of Israel

Zionists find a basis to advance a convincing case to establish a national homeland for the Jewish people. Only problem is that with Palestinians living in Palestine there is mass expulsion to accommodate the new Jewish settlers and therein commences the lasting problem to this day with some 700,000 Palestinians initially being left stateless as refugees. The consequential conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is an outgrowth of this historical reality.

Then C (ii), The immediate pre and post World War 11 periods

The contemporary conflict

The 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, adopted as UN Resolution 181 (11) is an important reference point relative to the ongoing conflict. There was to be an Arab section; a Jewish section; and Jerusalem would reflect that reality with there being designated areas for both peoples and an international zone for all ( having regard for the importance of the city of Jerusalem for major world religions). That in essence was the plan.

Fast forward to 2018 with President Trump placing the US Embassy in East Jerusalem and question what this does. Note that the vast majority of nations treated Tel Aviv as the proper location for placement of their Embassies in Israel. Why? Because they noted and acknowledged the reality which the UN from the 1947 Plan had tried fairly to address. Now, the prospect, any prospect for a two state solution has had hopes dashed by the US making unilateral and lopsided embraces of Israel; for East Jerusalem was designated to be the Palestinian capital. So, full circle we go back to the perspectives of US Ambassador Nikki Haley and the Palestinian scholar Noura Erakat. Haley sees absolutely only Palestinian fault: Ekarat places fault at the doors she sees it necessary to be placed.

And geographical facts versus expressed differences of opinion on the Palestine/Israel conflict is again subject to the saving of many words by way of simply viewing maps:-

A map of the british mandate in palestine and israel.


There has been talk of a two state versus one state solution to the Palestine/Israel conflict. I do not see any realistic chance of a two state solution for a number of reasons:-

1. The expulsion of Palestinians to make space for Jewish arrivees in Israel and the confinement in Gaza and permanent exile of Palestinian refugees do not demographically permit establishment of a Palestinian state for reasons stated below as 2, 3 ,4, 5 and 6. How can the Palestinian population’s demographics and geographical locations proffer any hope for a two state solution?

2. Israel, aided and abetted by the US, permits encroachment, capturing and expansions by Jews into Palestinian lands beyond the 1967 borders. Those settlements are intended to be permanent. So, given the US Foreign Policy stance ( as was the case when President Reagan supported and cossetted the White regime in South Africa along with his friend UK Prime Minister Margret Thatcher) – so yet again the US finds itself on the wrong side of history – doesn’t it?

3. There is a deliberate policy by Israel of making contiguous land space non-existent for the establishment of a state, which logically and of necessity would need contiguous land space if at all it is to be – or can ever be established. Apartheid walls separate and crisscross Palestinian territories. What is termed the ‘West Bank’ ( see Map #4 entitled “Now”) creates the new reality for Palestinians’ divided land which makes a two-state solution impossible. Hasn’t Israel willfully done this and concomitantly corralled the Palestinian people in open air prisons?

4. Within Israel there is Apartheid discrimination against Arabs and so the twin evils of prejudice and denial of the sovereignty of the Palestinian people makes this two state solution an impossibility. Did the state of Israel not discriminate against the darker skinned Ethiopian Jews; ostracize African migrants; reserve exclusivity based on ‘race’, religion and skin colour ( lack thereof) to the select ones ( chosen people) who are the only ones who have any real voice in the Knesset, despite having a 25% non-Jewish population as citizens in Israel? Doesn’t the state of Israel do all of this? With absolutely no principled and/or moral leadership coming from the US to address and ultimately resolve the Palestinian/Israel conflict – does President Trump’s unilateral move of the US Embassy present any hope to the Palestinian people in their fight for freedom, justice and a homeland?

5. How can the embrace by the Trump Administration of the mantra that Jerusalem is the “united” city and the eternal capital of Israel permit any religious acknowledgement for legitimate Arab interests or politically permit the claim of Palestinian rights being addressed?

5a. In April 2017 Russia was the first country in the world to have recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Implicitly then, if not expressly stated by Russia, East Jerusalem would be the Palestinian capital. What then for the US position in not embracing West Jerusalem for the geographical space as Jewish capital, as declared by Russia, but instead effecting a provocation regarding the Jewish “united” city of Jerusalem? Doesn’t the Russian recognition of only the Western part of Jerusalem, say to the world that it denied Israel’s claims to the eastern part, including the Old City, which then leads to the conflict exaccerbations created by the Trump administration under now officially declared US policy – doesn’t the US decision do just that – present an already intractable problem with an irreconcilable decision?

Note: the majority position in the international community, does not go as far as Russia did in its decision, but rather is consistent in holding the position that the status of the entire city of Jerusalem has to be determined in peace negotiations.

6. Since Jerusalem is advanced by Netanyahu and Trump as being the “united” city ( i.e. for Jews) and a solution for the Israel/Palestine conflict is contingent on a solution to the question of Jerusalem, then it would seem Netanyahu’s and Trump’s decisions would naturally lead to escalation, more conflict, and likely war.

The 1967 Middle East war resulted in Israel capturing land from Jordan and annexing it, which is not a right arising under international law and which move has not been recognized by the international community. Now that the captured land is declared as Israel’s “united” city and President Trump has taken sides 100% with Israel, there is simply no hope for a two state solution, given, at the very least, the religious and political significance of Jerusalem, and more particularly, East Jerusalem, as was intended for the Palestinian capital.

Come 1999 and the publication of The New York Times article by Professor Edward Said, the only solution, as I see it ( as was the case with the White South African problem), is a one state solution with all religions and ethnic groups being guaranteed legal rights of equality. Anything short of this only spells conflict, confrontation and war until that day arrives. Ultimately, the South African experience proves that while Nelson Mandela, as a lawyer, could have won his case in court by arguing, it isn’t arguments that won his battles for self-determination and sovereignty. It was not the rightness of the ANC’s case that defeated Apartheid. The Africans had to fight with weapons because Apartheid South Africa, fully aided and abetted by the West ( inclusive of Israel which assisted the White regime in acquiring nuclear weapons), was armed to the teeth, supported by these nations replete with double-standards. Power respected violence and force in South Africa. Israel is fully prepared to be unrelentingly and unrepentantly brutal. President Trump, as did President Reagan in cosseting Apartheid, has even gone further and not covertly – overtly picking a side. The Palestinians in these circumstances have exhausted their peaceful options and appear to have no choice but to confront politically and most likely militarily in varying ways. They seem not to have been given any further option. Whether the Palestinians are prepared to take alternate steps to those advanced in the past is a central question for them to answer – what must we do to achieve justice? They now may not see any other solution near, far or maybe somewhere over the horizon but that of increased conflict. I am swayed by the sagacity of Professor Said’s analysis, so present it here in its entirety:-

Interestingly, Netanyahu is referenced by Professor Said ( deceased) in his article and so again in 2018 we find Netanyahu as Israel’s Prime Minister proceeding along a path which guarantees further Palestinian suffering while employing brute force oppression to maintain the status quo – but – nothing lasts forever. Apartheid South Africa could not and did not and neither shall the current status quo in Israel, even with all the assistance of the ‘great again’ President Donald Trump. History teaches that lesson.

Once circumstances dictate that a challenge has to be placed to obtain justice, the issue for the Palestinian people then seems not to be if they fight – but rather how they fight. What other choice now exists in all the circumstances now that the last hope that the intended preservation of East Jerusalem as a place for the capital of Palestine has been dashed? What choice? What other options?

An Arab commentator made this observation:-

“None of the usual media suspects has taken it upon themselves to explain how it is that the term “clash” can possibly apply to a situation in which Palestinian men, women, children, and old people – all of them trapped on a sliver of land with no escape – are attacked by an Israeli military with a monopoly on violence and a penchant for utilising the Gaza Strip as its own personal shooting range.”


For one set of people – a celebration of ‘independence day’ ( 14th May); for the other, the dejection ( ejection as a people and rejection as refugees) of the ‘Nabka Day’ ( 15th May).

Just about all Western journalists seem either unable or afraid to ask the logical question: Why must Israel, as the only such nation on earth, exist as an ethnicractic state and be preserved as such a construct ( see below the footnote referenced book by Shlomo Sands), while Palestinians, upon a false premise of a ‘two state solution’, are to be left living in open air concentration camps?
In 2015 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this, “I am asked if we will forever live by the sword – yes.”

The die has been cast as PM Netanyahu has proclaimed. However, the Palestinians can choose. The choices are actually quite stark for it is either that of subservience in perpetuity or fighting over rights and ‘sovereign state freedom’. The circumstances on the ground as unequivocally confirmed by President Trump’s decision has erased any choice of two states and now leaves but one state as ‘the final solution’. There now seems to be no middle ground between that single state solution and the alternative of permanently stateless Palestinians living on Israel’s borders. Axiomatically, the prevailing circumstances dictate that justice is a potentially belligerent precursor for peace.
Justice – Peace – then: AMEN!


Those interested in having a deeper understanding of the issues might care to read a book by a Jewish scholar, who wrote a best seller in Israel and then wrote a sequel:-

Shlomo Sand – “The invention of the land of Israel”
For a review – visit –

Just how far reaching is Trump’s decision to site the US Embassy in East Jerusalem?


Courtenay Barnett is a graduate of London University. His areas of study were economics, political science and international law. He has been a practising lawyer for over thirty years, has been arrested for defending his views, and has argued public interest and human rights cases. He lives and works in the Caribbean.

Please share, forward, or otherwise disseminate this article as widely as possible. Richard John Stapleton, Editor & Publisher, Effective Learning Report, May 21, 2018

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