But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24 (NIV)
On December 6, 2017 when President Trump declared that “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel” and announced his plans to move the US embassy there, he mentioned nothing about the contested borders of Jerusalem, the illegal Israeli settlements that ring the city, or where the embassy would be located. This ambiguity was intentional. The fact that the Israeli Prime Minister was the only world leader celebrating Trump’s decision implied that Netanyahu understood that the US president was speaking about a Greater Jerusalem—a broader area formerly approved by the Israeli Knesset which encompasses the following borders: From the north, the edge of the city of Ramallah, from the south, the outskirts of Bethlehem, from the east, the hills overlooking the city of Jericho and from the west to include all of West Jerusalem, East Jerusalem and beyond.
It is a sad day in the history of the United States when our president threatens to retaliate against struggling nations by denying them economic assistance if they vote against his wishes at the United Nations regarding Jerusalem. After all, the UN is the institution that represents international law for all people and nations on this planet. It is the gathering body of nations to foster peace, harmony, and prosperity to all humans. However, by unilaterally declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, President Trump- knowing that Israel’s actions violate international law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention– is guilty of moral violation of his office as president of the United States. According the to the Fourth Geneva Convention “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Both the United States and Israel are signatories of the Geneva Convention; therefore, President Trump disregards international law in favor of political gain from wealthy contributors.
The good news is that the international community has refused to be bullied. On December 15 at the UN Security Council, the vote was 14 to 1 against Trump’s declaration, calling on him to withdraw his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The United States was the only country that vetoed the resolution.
On December 21, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution rejecting the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital with 128 members states voting in favor of the resolution and a mere 9 voting against it, with 35 abstentions.
Now, it is the turn of churches in the United States to send a clear message to Trump that we are not on board with him on this issue. Following the ethical principles in the gospels, the church must stand against bullying tactics when it comes to the future of Jerusalem. Followers of Jesus are called to take a clear position on the side of international legitimacy, human rights, and justice for all. No nation, including Israel, can lay exclusive claim to Jerusalem, as it is a city important to all three Abrahamic faiths- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jerusalem must be fairly shared by all who cherish her sacred history.
At this critical junction in history, the Church cannot afford to be silent. It behooves us to heed Martin Luther King, Jr.’s warning:
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people”.
If there is a time when the church leaders and men and women of conscience should be prophetic and take a stand against government deception and unfair pressure from the US president and his enablers, the time is now.
Churches in the United States need to add their voices to the calls coming from the heads of Palestinian churches in the Holy Land who are urging the global Christian community to reject Trump’s dictates and stand with international legitimacy and justice.
Rev. Dr. Fahed Abuakel is Past Moderator of the 214th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) 2002-2003, the highest elected office in a major USA Protestant denomination of any Palestinian or Arab American. He was born in the village of Kuffer Yassif in the Holy Land and educated in the USA.