The focus on Guatemala obscures international damage to Palestine

Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales has become the first to follow US President Donald Trump in planning to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem. The announcement by Morales was a swift manifestation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s prediction that other countries will follow suit.

Considering the historical ties between Guatemala and Israel, the move is not surprising. “[This is] coherent with our foreign policy and the ally we have been for Israel,” explained Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel. Her country has also been backed by Washington for decades.

According to the Times of Israel, Netanyahu insisted: “Other countries will recognise Jerusalem and announce the relocation of their embassies. A second country did it and I repeat it: there will be others, it’s just the start and it’s important.”

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One word in Netanyahu’s statement – “repeat” – triggers an understanding of the dynamics which are leaving Palestine stranded with only hypothetical international support. Palestinian Authority representatives, as well as the international community, have also based their lack of action upon the repetition of obsolete yet convenient rhetoric.

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Al-Maliki described the Guatemalan President’s move as “dragging his country on the wrong side of history.” It was, he insisted, “a blatant violation of international law, Security Council resolutions and General Assembly resolutions, including the most recent resolution [condemning the US move].”

The international rejection of Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem can be interpreted in several ways. However, it continues to reinforce the repetition and dissociation that we have come to expect from the UN. Failure to back the resolution with action once again emphasises the fact that the international community voted symbolically and so another pause will follow until the next resonating violation in what are now decades of normalised Israeli violence. The UN has also largely failed to acknowledge that away from the new resolution and rhetorical triumph, Palestinians are fighting for their land as they have done since before the creation of Israel on their land in 1948, and are facing detention without trial, settler-colonial violence and death.

People attend a demonstration against US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, at the Times Square in New York City, United States on December 09, 2017 [Atılgan Özdil / Anadolu Agency]

People attend a demonstration against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, at the Times Square in New York City, United States on 9 December 2017 [Atılgan Özdil / Anadolu Agency]

Making the resolution about the status of Jerusalem is the easiest stance that the international community could take. It means that the UN can still dictate to the Palestinians the intention to stick to the two-state compromise as the “only solution” which lends power to the PA. However, it does not take into consideration the Palestinian struggle against Israel’s relentless colonisation, which is another repetitive aspect of betrayal by the international diplomatic corps, while Netanyahu charters plans that are the product of sequential decisions.

Moreover, the international community’s refusal to stand unequivocally with Palestine is another form of repetition which has cost land and lives. Professing support for Palestine while insisting upon the two-state paradigm (which effectively condones Israel’s ethnic cleansing since 1948) is an assertion which has damaged Palestine, perhaps irreparably. With countries casting a symbolic vote at the UN while simultaneously discussing bilateral relations with Israel – Malta provided an example of such diplomacy after voting in favour of the UN resolution – it is clear that obligations to fight injustice only reach as far as non-meaningful engagement in the issue in favour of profit.

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As such, while Guatemala’s move is damaging for Palestinians, there is a greater network of forces at work which are contributing to the total destruction of Palestine, by insisting upon prioritising means of support. Even if no other countries move their embassies to Jerusalem at a time when international opinion has largely expressed itself against the decision, the refusal to reject the two-state paradigm in favour of the total decolonisation of Palestine does not rule out a future acquiescence to what Trump has initiated.

These countries are perhaps playing a more decisive game for Israel than Guatemala. Maintaining the status quo for Israel at the expense of Palestinians, despite the vote at the UN, is an affirmation of their support for the colonial process.