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PLO slams joint US-Israel event celebrating 50th year of Israeli occupation

May 31, 2017 6:05 P.M. (Updated: May 31, 2017 10:36 P.M.)
Israelis participate in the Flag March in the Old City of Jerusalem to celebrate the Israeli occupation in June 2016. (MaanImages/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- After reports emerged that the US Congress and the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, would celebrate the 50 years of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory during a joint video event on June 6, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement on Wednesday that the event represented the deepening of American “complicity in Israel’s criminality.”

Israeli media reported that the event would be broadcast live between Congress and the Knesset next week, when Israel celebrates the “reunification of Jerusalem,” referring to the 1967 Israeli military annexation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Either US President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence is expected to attend the event on Capitol Hill.

Following Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, the Israeli government formally annexed the territory in 1980, in a move never recognized by the international community.

“No member of the international community, including the United States, recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or condones Israel’s illegal expropriation of Palestinian land and its unlawful settlement enterprise,” Ashrawi said in the statement.

Ashrawi added that the move was “unprecedented” and “provocative” and that the US Congress was “singularly contravening longstanding American policy and becoming party to Israel’s egregious violation of international law and international humanitarian law.”

Up until Trump’s presidency, US foreign policy has stood with the rest of the international community in support of a two-state solution as the most favorable avenue for solving the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, in February , Trump said that he could “live with either” a one- or two-state solution.

Trump has also raised controversy over his campaign promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would legitimize Israel’s annexation of the territory and Israeli policies in the city aimed at displacing its Palestinian residents. However, the decision has remained at a standstill since Trump’s inauguration, even as Wednesday marked the last day before a deadline for Trump to take the decision.

Ashrawi added that the event showed Congress was “becoming complicit in Israel’s criminality.”

Activists and rights groups have long accused the US government of supporting the Israeli occupation, most notably through inflated military aid packages.

Earlier this year the US House of Representatives passed a resolution confirming US commitment as a diplomatic ally to the Israeli government, and demanded that the US government dismiss any future UN resolutions they deemed “anti-Israel,” following the passage of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s illegal settlement building.

Trump’s pick of David Friedman for US Ambassador to Israel has also raised concerns among Palestinians and rights groups, as the former bankruptcy lawyer has been vocal in his support for Israeli settlements -- which has included direct financial assistance to the illegal Beit El settlement in the central West Bank -- and his unflinching support for the Israeli government.

“What compounds the crime is the fact that lawmakers are supposed to respect the law and legislate in accordance with a global system of justice and human rights,” Ashrawi added. “By going against this consensus (two-state solution), members of the U.S. Congress are jeopardizing American standing, credibility and interests globally.”

“If the US wants to play a constructive role as a peacemaker rather than as a supporter of an illegal occupation, it must demonstrate respect for the law and recognition of equal rights for all peoples, foremost the Palestinian right to self-determination and freedom,” Ashrawi concluded in the statement.

Israelis officially celebrated the occupation of East Jerusalem for “Jerusalem Day” on May 24, of which the “Flag March” through the Old City of East Jerusalem is the centerpiece event, during which thousands of Israeli settlers march through the Muslim Quarter chanting obscene anti-Palestinian slogans and often harassing Palestinian shop owners.

Meanwhile, during Trump’s first international trip as US President, the controversial leader visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory amid widespread protests among Palestinians in the territory.

Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to bring about a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and claimed that coming to a peace agreement is "not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”

While the Palestinian Authority and members of the international community have rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of illegal Israeli settlements and the establishment of a two-state solution, a growing number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace given the existing political context, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.
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