Video: Debunking Trump’s claims about “reality” in Jerusalem

On Wednesday, I appeared on Chicago Tonight, on WTTW public television, to debate President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the “capital of Israel.”

You can watch the video above.

I was paired with Richard Baehr, a Chicago commentator who has for years struck the most extreme positions.

At the blog American Thinker, where much of his writing appears, Baehr has, for instance, promoted the conspiracy theory that French television journalists staged the footage of the killing in September 2000 in Gaza of the Palestinian boy Muhammad al-Durra.

Baehr has also long been fixated on the idea that Barack Obama, who increased US military subsidies to Israel to unprecedented heights, was actually a “third-world president” who had been waging a “war on Israel.”

Whose reality?

Baehr was in classic form, attempting to portray the failure of decades of the American-led so-called “peace process” on Palestinian “rejectionism” and a “rioter’s veto.”

He emphasized the talking point heard often in recent days that Trump’s move was just a logical and natural concession to reality.

In his speech on Wednesday, Trump described his endorsement of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as “nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality.”

Trump added that Jerusalem is “the home of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, as well as the Israeli supreme court” as well as “the location of the official residence of the prime minister and the president. It is the headquarters of many government ministries.”

In the debate I pointed out that this “reality” was the direct consequence of Israel’s military rule and occupation which prevents millions of Palestinian Muslims and Christians from free access to the city.

I posed the question of why Israel, alone, has been able to develop national institutions in the city.

For decades, Israel has been forcibly closing Palestinian institutions in occupied East Jerusalem, including, most famously in 2001 the Orient House.

Since then Israel has closed dozens of organizations and institutions in its effort to erase Jerusalem’s Palestinian identity, including theaters, women’s and educational associations, the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce and the Arab Studies Society.

In 2009, Israel prevented the organization of events celebrating Jerusalem as the “Capital of Arab Culture.”

In the same year, Israeli occupation forces raided and shut down the opening night of the literary festival PalFest at the Palestinian National Theater.

Jerusalem spirit

It is also a reality that the UN Security Council has declared that all such Israeli measures to forcibly change the status, demographics and character of Jerusalem are “null and void” – though the so-called international community has done nothing to enforce its will.

This is all on top of Israel’s revocation of residency rights of Palestinian Jerusalemites, home demolitions, land confiscation, separation walls, arrests and other routine daily violence amid widespread settler-colonization.

At the same time as trying to eliminate the Palestinian presence, Israel has been funding and supporting Jewish extremist groups whose ultimate and apocalyptic goal is to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock and replace them with a Jewish temple.

Yet to its dismay, Israel has so far failed to crush Palestinian solidarity and cohesion in Jerusalem.

This was demonstrated last summer, when weeks of nonviolent civil disobedience by Palestinians in the city forced Israel into a humiliating retreat from its efforts to impose tighter restrictions on entry to the al-Aqsa mosque compound.

The Jerusalem spirit was visible again Friday as enormous numbers of Palestinians took to the streets once again to defend their city:




The only people who spout hasbara like Baehr's have some ulterior motive foreign to real American interests, and it isn't surprising that he is an old white man, a dying breed. I never hear normal people say anything like that!
The truth is, Israel can have its capital anywhere between the river and the sea ONCE IT ALLOWS ALL ITS PEOPLE EQUAL RIGHTS between the river and the sea. That's the normal American Thinking of current generations.
Does the host of "Chicago Tonight" have no idea that Palestinians native to Jerusalem are considered foreigners, or non-people? Does he even know that Israel occupies the entire land with millions of Palestinian natives who are not even given the right to vote? That is where this is headed...


Countries choose where there government offices are located and that is their capitol, Mr. Baehr stated. No, it is not as simple as that. In the Netherlands government is located in The Hague and its capitol is Amsterdam.


It's always a relief to see truth and reason prevail over BS. And the fact that this guy actually tried to pass off Russian recognition of an Israeli WESTERN city as an endorsement, of this illegal declaration, shows how thin the line of bull is getting. He really took a chance going there.
But the question remains why. Why do this now, just as the possibility of a unity government is emerging, with Hamas - as Ali said - taking much more appeasing line? Maybe Trump is just being Trump but certainly the Israeli and pro-Israeli factions that welcomed this move knew it would create havoc and the first victim in the melee would be that budding reconciliation between Hamas and the PA. I'm sorry, maybe I'm just a paranoid, lunatic lefty but this all seems like deja vu all over again. Wasn't a unity government in the works when three teenagers disappeared and then reconciliation disappeared and then 2200 Palestinians disappeared? And hasn't this happened every time the looming cloud of a Hamas, bent on Israel's destruction, disappears? Isn't it the same every time. If there wasn't a Hamas, wouldn't Israel invent one?
Of course and I think the line of plausible deniability of that fact, is hopefully wearing too thin, even for our media.


Excellent exposition by Ali Abunimah- concise, historically grounded, persuasive. Risible hasbara from Richard Baehr- disconnected, distorted, dishonest. It's instructive from time to time to monitor someone like Baehr in his propaganda role, in order to retain a sense of the brazen Zionist position as presented to Americans. Of course, if you live there, it's hard to appreciate the bizarre nature of his approach since that's practically all you've ever heard on the subject of Israel/Palestine. But it's encouraging to see Ali invited to such a forum where he's allowed to calmly eviscerate the Zionist talking points one by one.


"In the debate I pointed out that this “reality” was the direct consequence of Israel’s military rule and occupation which prevents millions of Palestinian Muslims and Christians from free access to the city."

Which would make it an unpleasant reality, but reality all the same.

Washington DC is really the capital of the US of A. I can point out that if the Native Americans hadn't been wiped out and instead the Europeans were driven back home that it wouldn't be, but it is, that's reality. Unpleasant facts about reality don't change reality, so it's really not a compelling argument at all. I'm sure you think bringing up the strawman of inevitability negates this critique but it doesn't. Look at it this way, despite all the other possible outcomes DC inevitably became our capitol. We could have lost the Revolutionary war, but we didn't and DC inevitably became the capitol. The Native Americans might have had a virus that wiped us out, but they didn't and DC inevitably became the capitol. The definition is "certain to happen, or unavoidable". Well it already happened so we know today that it was in fact unavoidable because, despite endless other possibilities it was Not Avoided at all. It was despite all these other possibilities unavoidable after all. That's called reality and reality always exists despite countless other seemingly possible but inevitably impossible outcomes.

Now do I think Trump did any good at all with this move. Nope, it's incredibly stupid but also inevitable that he did it and the proof is that it was inevitable that he would do this is that he "really" did.


I spent 5 years listening to talking heads credit the Bush administration’s disastrous “moves” in Iraq, to stupidity. I spent much of that time vainly trying to persuade others that those moves weren’t stupid if the desired outcome was disaster for Iraq. Now, because of that, I resist the notion the Trump’s moves should just be chalked up to stupidity. And I certainly resist the fatalistic notion that the destruction of Iraq was inevitable. Don’t you remember those last couple of days when the arguments against invasion were overwhelming but Bush gave the go-ahead anyway? Do you really believe he couldn’t have done differently?
That was history in the making, as this is now. I have to question why anyone would want to conclude that making choices on moral and ethical bases is pointless. Honestly, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say but it sounds like you’re recognizing Trump’s doubletalk as a reasonable point. If that’s the case, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree here. Probably everyone reading this believes there could be a better future for Israel/Palestine than there probably will be. This is again history in the making; there are paths to take just as there were in the past. I think Trump may hunger for the drama of those decisive couple of days, Bush experienced before the invasion, and you want to simply give them to him.
That’s what I’m hearing anyway. It’s not only an “unpleasant fact”, it’s alterable, if there’s a freewill.


Well said, John. The notion that what has happened was the only possible- and thus necessary- outcome merely by virtue of its occurrence is plainly preposterous. The only inevitability in this instance was that someone was bound to come up with a version of predestination to defend the crimes of Israel and the United States. At this point, none of the other hasbara talking points are gaining credence.


fact is, many more people on this planet are not white and not rich. oh, and guess what - wealthy whites are not better than anyone else! but they sure do kill a lot of other people just because they think they are.


What a lot of nonsense.


I presume this decision of Trump is the introduction and part of the "peace"plan which will soon be presented. It is not a coincidence that this so called "peace"plan is arriving now. US, SA and Israel realising that the break up plan of Syria failed, they are exploring other possibillities to tear up the ME. One of the necessities for this is to appease the Palestinians although they don't realise themselves that the Palesinians never wil agree with an upgraded bantustan. After the problem of Palestine is "solved" US, SA and Israel will turn to Lebanon and after that to Iran.


It's not Trump’s claims about “reality” in Jerusalem that is the problem.
It's his claims about reality full stop.