A protester holds a Palestinian flag as he runs during clashes with Israeli troops as Palestinians call for a "day of rage" in response to US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
(photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)
It’s not news to anyone that Jerusalem is a contentious place – always has been. But when examining the costs of US President Donald Trump’s policy change, we must not take the hysterical responses of the Arab world into consideration in the decision-making process, especially when they are motivated by rejection of Jewish rights and history. Extreme responses ought only to be taken for what they are: antisemitism.
There is a reasonable argument against the US administration’s decision to announce this Jerusalem policy now. Some say it might have been preferable to wait until final-status negotiations occur to make calls on Jerusalem, despite the fact that peace seems more and more elusive – but that’s not what’s behind the rage against the recognition of Jerusalem, Israel, for much of the Arab public. Look no further than Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to see a prime example.
Abbas stated, “President Trump’s decision tonight will not change the reality of the city of Jerusalem, nor will it give any legitimacy to Israel in this regard, because it is an Arab Christian and Arab Muslim city....”
Abbas rejects completely the undeniable Jewish ties and history of Jerusalem, demonstrating that the foundation of his opposition to the action of the US is based on a denial of Jewish rights and history, not a vision for justice and peace between the two parties.
Unsurprisingly and sadly, Abbas’s sentiments have been echoed across social media by the Arabic-speaking world. When the education organization that I work for, StandWithUs, asked if the US embassy should move to Jerusalem in a Twitter poll, we received over 38,000 responses thanks to a coordinated effort by the Arabic-speaking community on Twitter. The poll result was 96% No, 4% Yes.
While this mobilization is impressive, the responses were hardly motivated by nuanced thought. There were no pleas for peace or compromise, or concerns about the effect of such actions on the non-existent peace process.
The responses were pure rejection of a Jewish state – including dozens of pictures of Hitler.
While many of these tweets were likely automated, from fake (automated) accounts, the attitude of rejectionism was present in accounts clearly not bots, and not in response to the original poll.
One response read, “No, because there is nothing called Israel!” Another, “Doesn’t matter Israel won’t be around in 100 years anyway.”
These were not isolated responses. Hundreds of thousands of hateful tweets were sent out following the announcement by the US, filled with antisemitic vitriol against the Jewish people and Jewish state. Hashtags such as “#HandsOffJerusalem” were commonplace.
On Facebook, thousands used profile filters to add to their existing photos statements such as “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” and other similar phrases. When StandWithUs created a filter stating “Jerusalem, Capital of Israel,” the responses on the page were riddled with violent threats, photos of Hitler, and antisemitic declarations rejecting Jewish history and ties.
One comment read, “**** you from Morocco quds [Jerusalem] is capital of Palestine We Will gonna burnning all Israeli [sic].” Another commenter, Muhammad Shahid Sultan, wrote, “Since yesterday I have an great respect for Hitler [sic]” Bilal Ashraf, an Arab from London, wrote, “We stand with Jerusalem... Hate Jews.”
The Western world goes to great lengths to attempt to differentiate Zionism from Judaism, or Israel from “Jews,” but in the Arab world the words are used interchangeably. International bodies and NGOs have no problem warning of the consequences for Jews around the world from those who oppose actions such as the US embassy move, and yet they squirm at the mention of the fact that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are indeed the same thing.
It is a pretense that they are different, and it’s high time this was universally accepted. It is precisely for this reason that within 24 hours of the US announcement, we saw a man screaming “Allahu Akbar” and smashing the windows of a kosher restaurant in Amsterdam.
Whether or not a foreign country recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has absolutely no practical effect on either the peace process or a future Palestinian state – but the fact that these sorts of sentiments are commonplace is appalling and a true testament to the level of incitement against Jews and the State of Israel within the Arab world. Israel, the United States, and all the European Union cannot and should not surrender to this type of purposeful miseducation.
Abbas has an opportunity here to demonstrate true leadership by quelling the masses and finally negotiating for an independent Palestine, but instead he has yet again chosen the path of incitement, a path which is paved with the blood of Israelis and Palestinians alike. What kind of peace do we hope to achieve with the Palestinians and all the Arab world if this blatant antisemitism we see online is the product of what the general Arabic public is continuously taught? While there are many advocates for peace who disagree with the US administration’s decision for one reason or another, the mentality of the “mob,” and seemingly of Abbas himself, shows continued, decades-old rejectionism and antisemitism.The author is the digital director of Israel education organization StandWithUs.