The president of the United States' intention to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has stirred profound concern in official and unofficial quarters. There would be serious ramifications should the American administration in fact embark on this step.
Recognition of occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel undermines all the principles of international law and represents an explicit violation of the latter.
It is, indeed, a step that may be considered a legislative enactment permitting the acquisition of territory by force, and hence will constitute a precedent sanctioning future contravention of international security and order, which the UN Charter emerged to crystalize and defend.
We should recall not just the UN resolutions concerning Jerusalem, whether those adopted by the General Assembly or the Security Council, which in their totality emphasize the juridical status of Jerusalem and consider it as "occupied territory."
Hence it is inadmissible to alter its status by unilateral acts. This status was emphasized by the International Court of Justice in the legal ruling it issued concerning the Separation Wall on in July 2004. It stated (Paragraph 78) that the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 are "occupied territories where Israel’s status was that of an occupying state...and all those territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories."
It is necessary to remind ourselves that Jerusalem has a religious and heritage status encompassing the three religions. Jerusalem is, of course, also a temporal city, inhabited by real human beings, whose basic human dignity has already been eroded by politics. That is not new and the situation has been deteriorating steadily, particularly for Jerusalem’s Christian and Muslim Arab/Palestinian residents.
Yet Eternal Jerusalem, the holy basin in all its ecumenical effervescence, should not be subjected to political conflict. Politics eat away at its symbolic status, causing irreparable damage.
The American president’s proposed changes to the status of Jerusalem, while they will impact largely on the lives of Jerusalemites and others in the region, could possibly be meant for a domestic American audience. Any fallout will take place in a faraway land where the politics of polarity negate reason.
The UN’s partition plan in 1947 had Jerusalem as a "corpus separatum", an entity removed from the states of Palestine and Israel.
Let us remember as we approach Christmas, the Pope said, "The Holy Land is for us Christians the land par excellence of dialogue between God and mankind."
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This should be intuitive. As David E. Guinn has noted: "Many holy sites are claimed by multiple parties. While some have been shared successfully, the conflicts in Jerusalem, particularly over Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif illustrate the depths and dangers of conflict over access," which can only be exacerbated by political misappropriation.
His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, like his late father King Hussein, has been relentless in defending the rights of all believers to be able to worship freely in Jerusalem at their respective holy places, as has been the case for centuries.
We should seek to wage peace through greater receptivity: ‘I became myself by what I am given by the other’.
A sense of deep cultural ‘at homeness’ has to be the guiding light for our shared humanity to survive.
I concur wholly with the Rev Kenneth Cragg when he quotes George Elliott, emphasizing her conviction that faith should be a moral emotion, a commitment to humanity, unconfined by dogma:
"I have too profound a conviction of the efficacy that lies in all sincere faith to have any negative propagandism in me. I have lost all interest in mere antagonism to religious doctrines. I care only to know, if possible, the lasting meaning that lies in all religious doctrine."
Islam teaches haq el hurriya and haq el karama, the right to freedom and the right to human dignity. In Judaism, pikuach nefesh is the command that the preservation of human life takes precedence over all other commandments.
The future of Jerusalem can only be resolved through peace negotiations, and not unilateral acts that risk lives.
Prince El Hassan bin Talal is Chairman of the Royal Institute of Interfaith Studies
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