Friedman and Greenblatt are dismantling Palestine, one brick at a time

Friedman and Greenblatt are dismantling Palestine, one brick at a time
Comment: Greenblatt and Friedman's criminal tunnel antics show us that international law will not suffice for the protection of Palestinian rights, writes Ramona Wadi.
5 min read
02 Jul, 2019
US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman and US envoy Jason Greenblatt in East Jerusalem [Getty]
The Trump administration's penchant for exposing its dogeddly pro-Israel agenda knows no limits. 

On Sunday, US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman and US envoy Jason Greenblatt participated in the inauguration of what has been described as the "pilgrimage road" in Silwan, East Jerusalem. 

Footage of Friedman wielding a hammer and gleefully breaking down a wall in an excavated tunnel is making the rounds on social media, amid utter incredulity of the unfolding spectacle.

The ceremony was organised by the
City of David Foundation - an organisation with ties to the settler movement defended wholeheartedly by Friedman and Greenblatt. 

In 2018, the foundation described history and archaeology as important for settlement expansion. 

Both Friedman and Greenblatt defended their participation in Sunday's ceremony. Friedman took to Twitter to lambast news reports as "fake news", describing the wall as "ceremonial cardboard".

Backing Friedman's tweet, a spokeswoman for the City of David Foundation said it would be best if media focused on the inauguration's significance, instead of "marginal matters such as hammers and walls". 

Greenblatt, who only a few days prior to the ceremony said he prefers to call settlements "neighbourhoods and cities", declared, "Not dealing with history, or in some cases falsifying history, has never helped the peace process."

His comments accurately described the US involvement in Israel's fabricated colonial narratives, which are dependent on appropriating Palestine's history to lay forged claims to the land. 

At the very least, diplomats are expected to act with a dignity befitting of their position

At the very least, diplomats are expected to act with a dignity befitting of their position. Yet the antics in the tunnel have repercussions that go beyond the gloating of select, privileged individuals who deemed it fitting to break down walls - ceremonial or otherwise - in occupied East Jerusalem. 

Trump is following up his rhetoric with actions, and his chosen advisers, envoys and diplomats are seeing the job through.

Palestine Liberation Organisation Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi has rightly described Friedman and Greenblatt as participating in "criminal collusion" and called upon the international community to protect Jerusalem. 

Yet, the constant reactions to US and Israeli provocation are getting Palestinians nowhere. International law, already biased in favour of protecting entities involved in human rights violations, will not suffice for the protection of Palestinian rights. 

The international community has already favoured settler-colonialism over the rights of the indigenous Palestinian people.

Trump is acting on the groundwork laid down since the 1947 Partition Plan and boosting the settler movement by choosing pro-settler envoys and politically acting to benefit Israel's colonial expansion.

Friedman and Greenblatt, therefore, are responsible for more than the breaking down of a wall, even though this brief clip from the ceremony garnered more attention than the diplomacy employed so far, the latest manifestation being the "Peace to Prosperity" workshop in Bahrain.

Trump's earlier unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital is supported by actions which, although not befitting diplomacy, highlight the aims to collude as much as possible with Israel and the settler movement, upon which the colonial project is dependent.

Besides being an advocate for settlement expansion, Friedman is also a donor to settlement ventures. His comments last month legitimising the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, saying Israel is "entitled" to act in this way, elicited condemnation from PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat, who declared that US promotion of annexation signifies "complicity with Israel's colonial plans". 

Last Sunday, in line with what Israel and Trump wish to achieve, Friedman and Greenblatt imparted that Jerusalem is a site that will accommodate US-Israeli plans for unification and Judaisation; through the appropriation of historical artefacts and discoveries.

Friedman and Greenblatt are responsible for more than the breaking down of a wall

Unification, however, is a process that requires the dismantling of the current consensus on East Jerusalem, as well as the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians in the city. 

According to UN resolutions, East Jerusalem would form the capital of a future Palestinian state under the two-state compromise. This remains one of the prevailing contentious issues, even more so than Israel's existence, which has been normalised to cultivate impunity over the human rights violations committed against the Palestinians. 

In reality, the two-state compromise is obsolete, despite remaining a point of reference for diplomats in the international community.

Under Trump, the US broke away from international consensus and is now seeking practical ways to promote the unification of Jerusalem from a colonial perspective. The US knows full well it has no formidable opposition to its schemes, there is no one calling for the unification of Jerusalem from a Palestinian historical memory framework.

Read more: Israeli settlement tunnel in Jerusalem 'damages 80 Palestinian homes'

With the two-state compromise being the only point of reference which establishes ties between the Palestinian Authority and the international community, it is highly likely, despite US actions being in blatant violation of international law, that Jerusalem's status will be determined by Israel and the US. 

Two days before the spectacle in the tunnels under the town of Silwan, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CERIPP) held a two-day conference themed, "Preserving the cultural and religious character of Jerusalem."

Among the issues discussed, ensuring that "Palestinian inhabitants enjoy their inalienable rights" was on the agenda. 

This stagnant approach is what the Trump administration requires

This underreported event speaks volumes on how the international community and its institutions are placing themselves as subordinate to the US-Israeli partnership.

It is also proof that while the international community is wasting time discussing Israel's complete impunity, the US and Israel are devising ways to bring the international community to normalise their human rights violations and colonial ventures. 

Friedman and Greenblatt have indeed acted abhorrently, perhaps even exceeding expectations as regards how far the US will go to show its overt support for Israel and complete disregard for Palestinian rights, history and memory.

Yet, going beyond the hammer-wielding scenes in the tunnel is necessary, in order to prevent promoting the notorious spectacle that served to show the widespread dissociation from the Palestinian plight. 

Decades after the Nakba, international institutions are still discussing how Palestinians can be assured of their "inalienable rights".

This stagnant approach is what the Trump administration requires to help the colonial enterprise succeed in its expansion for "greater Israel".

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law.

Follow her on Twitter: @walzerscent

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.