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.”
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.
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.”
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: