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Angry protests across Muslim world over Trump decision on Jerusalem

Palestinian protesters take cover behind a metal plate during clashes with Israeli troops following protests against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Large crowds of worshippers across the Muslim world staged anti-U.S. marches Friday, some stomping on posters of Donald Trump or burning American flags in the largest outpouring of anger yet at the U.S. president’s recognition of bitterly contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In the holy city itself, prayers at Islam’s third-holiest site dispersed largely without incident, but Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops in several dozen West Bank hotspots and on the border with the Gaza Strip.

Israeli warplanes struck Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip Friday in response to a rocket fired from the zone that Israel’s military said was intercepted by its Iron Dome missile-defense system.

The Palestinian health ministry said at least 15 people were injured in Friday’s air strikes.

Earlier, a 30-year-old Gaza man was killed by Israeli gunfire, the first death of a protester since Trump’s dramatic midweek announcement. Two Palestinians were seriously wounded, health officials said.

Dozens of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were hit by live rounds or rubber-coated steel or inhaled tear gas, the officials said.

Trump’s pivot on Jerusalem triggered warnings from America’s friends and foes alike that he is needlessly stirring more conflict in an already volatile region.

The religious and political dispute over Jerusalem forms the emotional core of the Israeli-Arab conflict. The ancient city is home to major Muslim, Jewish and Christian shrines and looms large in the competing national narratives of Israelis and Palestinians.

Trump’s decision on Jerusalem is widely seen in the region as a blatant expression of pro-Israel bias, but it was unclear if protests and confrontations would maintain momentum after Friday. More extensive violence has erupted in the Palestinian areas in the past, including deadly bloodshed triggered by disputes over Jerusalem.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement and other groups had called for three “days of rage” this week. However, Abbas remains an opponent of violence, saying it’s counterproductive and that he might at some point order his security forces to contain protests.

Separately, Fatah’s rival, the Gaza-based Islamic militant Hamas, called this week for a third uprising against Israel, but such appeals have fizzled as Palestinians become more disillusioned with their leaders.

On Friday, demonstrators in the West Bank torched heaps of tires, sending columns of thick black smoke rising over the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem. Palestinian stone-throwers traded volleys in the streets with soldiers firing tear gas and rubber bullets. Along the Gaza-Israel border fence, Israeli troops fired at stone-throwers.

Across the region — from Asia’s Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan to North Africa’s Algeria and Lebanon in the Levant — thousands of worshippers poured into the streets after midday prayers to voice their anger. Some protesters burned U.S. and Israeli flags or stomped Trump posters that showed the president alongside a Nazi swastika.

In Jordan’s capital of Amman, thousands marched through the center of town, chanting “America is the head of the snake.”

Pro-Western Jordan is a crucial U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic extremists, but King Abdullah II cannot afford to be seen as soft on Jerusalem. His Hashemite dynasty derives its legitimacy from its role as guardian of the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third-holiest site.

Trump’s decision has also strained U.S. foreign relations.

U.N. Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov told an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council on Friday that Trump’s announcement created a “serious risk” of a chain of unilateral actions that would push the goal of peace further away.

Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour warned of the danger of “a never-ending religious war that will only be exploited by extremists, fueling more radicalism, violence and strife in the region and elsewhere.”

Even traditional U.S. allies sharply criticized Trump’s decision.

Sweden’s U.N. Ambassador Olof Skoog said the U.S. action “contradicts international law and Security Council resolutions.” Britain’s Ambassador Matthew Rycroft called the U.S. decision “unhelpful to peace,” the French envoy expressed regret and Italy’s Sebastiano Cardi warned of “the risk of unrest and tensions in the region.”

The U.S. ambassador, Nikki Haley, told the council that the Trump administration is more committed to peace “than we’ve ever been before — and we believe we might be closer to that goal than ever before.” Haley did not explain.

In Europe, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday played down the impact of Trump’s policy shift, which also included a pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Tillerson said it will likely take years for the U.S. to open an embassy in Jerusalem.

In a news conference with the French foreign minister, Tillerson said Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital “did not indicate any final status for Jerusalem.”

The United States is making clear that Jerusalem’s borders will be left to Israelis and Palestinians to “negotiate and decide,” he said.

Most countries around the world have not recognized Israel’s 1967 annexation of east Jerusalem and maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. Under a longstanding international consensus, the fate of the city is to be determined in negotiations.

Trump’s announcement delivered a blow to Abbas, a supporter of the idea of reaching Palestinian statehood through U.S.-led negotiations with Israel. In siding with Israel on Jerusalem, he has said, the Trump administration effectively disqualified itself as a mediator.

However, Abbas has not decided how to move forward, including whether he will rule out future U.S.-brokered negotiations. Trump has said he still intends to propose a Mideast peace deal.

More than two decades of intermittent Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have failed to bring the Palestinians closer to statehood. Some in Abbas’ inner circle say the old paradigm, with the U.S. serving as mediator, is no longer relevant.

On Thursday, a senior Fatah official said the Palestinians would not receive Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the West Bank later this month, but it was not immediately clear if the official spoke for Abbas.

The Arab League, an umbrella group of close to two dozen states, is to meet Saturday to try to forge a joint position, followed next week by a gathering in Turkey of the 57-state Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Turkish officials said Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to Turkey next week for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Jerusalem’s status and other issues.

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Laub reported from Jericho, West Bank. Associated Press writers Fares Akram in Gaza City, Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, Alice Su in Amman, Jordan, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations also contributed to this report.

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18 Comments

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  • My argument is that there are 22 Arab Capitals in the Middle East flying over 22 Arab States, all members of the League of Arab Nations, and all members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, therefore, using a balanced scale, the Jews of Israel should not be told where their Capital should be. Israel is not going to destroy Muslim or Christian holy sites.

    Just for balance, Islamists claim Jerusalem is Islam’s third most holy City. The first two, Mecca and Medina do not allow Jews, Christians, or any other non-Muslims to enter. Could you imagine the outrage if Jews played that game with their holiest City of Jerusalem? The banner of Islam already flies over the West Bank–the biblical birthplace of David, Solomon, and Jesus. Does anyone have a balanced scale?

  • Countries around the world need to step in and promote peace, or this war is going to go to new heights. Unacceptable. Muslim countries shouldn’t be damaging more property through protests, but rather be trying to solve the problem.

  • This whole situation was manufactured by Trump.

    In his effort to throw his diminishing Evangelical support a bone he made a decision which suits neither American or Israeli interests.

    Having the embassy in Tel Aviv was not a cause of friction between the US and Israel. Jerusalem’s status as the capital of Israel is not endangered by it.

    As noted last week, Evangelical Christians seem to support their interests to the last Israeli life.

    This does suit Russian and Arab interests. Palestinian factions are using this as a way to regain relevance in the Arab world. They are largely being forgotten in the Saudi/Iran cold war.

  • 1)Technically Gaza and the West Bank are only de facto countries. Actual countries are taking advantage of America’s diplomatic blunder here.

    2)This problem was created by our president acting in a boneheaded fashion. There is no legitimate interest served by the decision to move the embassy.

    3)Trump has been actively destroying our capacity to act through diplomatic channels. The State department was decimated by his administration’s laziness and hostility to expertise.

  • You make some good points, but it has been Israel’s declared capital for decades and the Islamic world does does not get to decide where the independent Country of Israel has it capital.

  • True, but none of that is in any danger of happening here. Jerusalem is the Israel capital. Arab actions don’t change that.

    East Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital has always been a fake poison pill provision in Arab peace plans. To give the appearance of a legitimate plan, but not the reality of one. To pretend Israel stands in the way of peace.

    Ultimately this is still about the location of an American embassy and a president hurting the interests of his nation and allies for no conceivable benefit.

  • There you have another interesting situation where some of the oldest Jewish holy sites remain in East Jerusalem, where Palestinian Arabs want the banner of Islam to fly over a 23rd Arab Capital, also flying the Pan-Arab colors of the former Caliphates, like they do over the birthplace of Jesus. And I say all this as an atheist and without any religious ambitions or passions. Just looking for a balanced scale anywhere in the Middle East.

  • If the cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran tells us anything, it’s there is no banner of Islam to speak of.

    Jerusalem isn’t going anywhere. Pan Arabism is a joke. But Trumps decision here is both symbolic and incredibly stupid. It just gave the Palestinian factions relevance again after being largely neglected for Saudi and Iranian proxies in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

  • “There is no banner of Islam to speak of”?????? They may be still fighting over the 1500 years old argument of who is the rightful successor to Muhammad, but they are all signatories to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights:

    Article 19: “There shall be NO crime or punishment EXCEPT as provided for in the Sharia.”

    Article 24: “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Sharia.”

    Article 25: “The Islamic Sharia is the ONLY source of reference for the explanation or clarification of ANY of the articles of this Declaration.”

    Only Israel is free of the obligation in the Middle East and North Africa.

  • “They” at this point is a hodgepodge of various interests, nationalities and animosities that people just chalk up to “Islam” out of laziness or lack of interest in the big picture.

    They are fighting for something a little more important and direct than differences of sect. Its about political influence, access to oil, access to power, statehood, ethnic conflict and a host of other mundane causes for war.

    Iran and Saudi Arabia are not fighting over whose version of Islam is dominant, they are fighting over who has the most control in the ME. The Syrian and Yemeni civil wars are a microcosm of this conflict. Concern being more about access to major ports and oil transportation than ideology.

    “but they are all signatories to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights:”

    You realize that NONE of the signatories of the Cairo Declaration ever bother to follow it. All of them being dictatorships, they hold no meaning to international treaties or even the statements of their own leaders.

    It also states “All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity” and forbids “discrimination on the basis of race, colour, language, belief, gender, religion, political affiliation, social status or other considerations”.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairo_Declaration_on_Human_Rights_in_Islam

    So I will take such quotations with a heavy dose of salt given how widely ignored such concepts are.

  • “It also states “All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity” and forbids “discrimination on the basis of race, colour, language, belief, gender, religion, political affiliation, social status or other considerations”. ” The problem with that statement is that that is not true, and the Declaration contradicts itself with the following articles, some of which I mentioned above. Don’t be so quick to buy into the BS before you read and study it carefully.

  • The problem with taking the Declaration at face value is none of its signatories bother to do so.
    They are all dictatorships. Even their own citizens do not take the words of their leaders at face value. No treaty or declaration signed by a dictatorship is worth the paper its printed on.

  • In a joint written statement submitted by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), a non-governmental organization in special consultative status, the Association for World Education (AWE) and the Association of World Citizens (AWC): a number of concerns were raised, that the CAIRO DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS limits Human Rights, Religious Freedom and Freedom of Expression. It concludes: “The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam is clearly an attempt to limit the rights enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants. It can in no sense be seen as complementary to the UN Universal Declaration.”

    The Centre for Inquiry in September 2008 in an article to the United Nations writes that the CAIRO DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS: “undermines the equality of persons and freedom of expression and religion by imposing restrictions on nearly every human right based on Islamic Sharia law.”

    We read about it all the time in cases where a women is raped or the harsh punishments imposed for apostasy and blasphemy.

  • No surprises in what you posted whatsoever. The signatories to the Cairo Declaration are all dictatorships, as I mentioned. Dictatorships are not countries which recognize rule of law be it internally or internationally. A written declaration/treaty/etc from one isn’t worth the paper its printed on.

  • Which begs the question– Why are they all allowed to ignore the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and still be equal members of the UN? Some of these dictatorships and totalitarian governments are on the UN Human Rights Council.

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