December 17, 2017

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U.S. move lauded,rejected by groups

Jews, Palestinians in city react to controversial act

President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)</p>

President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump ignored worldwide warnings Wednesday by officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, sparking polarized responses internationally and in Winnipeg.

Jerusalem, a sacrosanct site for the religious traditions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, is claimed by both the Israelis and the Palestinians as their capital. The ancient city lies at the centre of the long-standing territorial conflict between the two groups.

In Winnipeg, Trump’s announcement was lauded by Jewish organizations and denounced by the Palestinian-Canadian community.

“I think it goes to reinforce the fact that Israel has the upper hand. The U.S. just affirmed its support for one of the longest standing military occupations in the world and the subjugation of one people by another,” said Idris Elbakri, a Palestinian-Canadian.

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President Donald Trump ignored worldwide warnings Wednesday by officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, sparking polarized responses internationally and in Winnipeg.

Jerusalem, a sacrosanct site for the religious traditions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, is claimed by both the Israelis and the Palestinians as their capital. The ancient city lies at the centre of the long-standing territorial conflict between the two groups.

In Winnipeg, Trump’s announcement was lauded by Jewish organizations and denounced by the Palestinian-Canadian community.

"I think it goes to reinforce the fact that Israel has the upper hand. The U.S. just affirmed its support for one of the longest standing military occupations in the world and the subjugation of one people by another," said Idris Elbakri, a Palestinian-Canadian.

Elbakri, a Winnipeg doctor, is the past president of the Manitoba Islamic Association, but made clear he was speaking only for himself.

He feels the decision was a disappointment for the Palestinian people and all who hope for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

"What it will do is embolden the Israeli authority in their subjugation of the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, who by international law are under military occupation. Their suffering will increase."

However, for Joel Lazer, chair of the community relations committee for the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, the announcement was not only welcome, but a potential step towards Canada following suit.

"It’s third party validation for what Israel and the Jewish community have maintained for a long, long time. It’s recognition of fact, as Trump said in his speech," Lazer said.

"It was King David who made Jerusalem the capital of Israel. This is not new. It is the home of the government. It is the home of the parliament. My preference would be that Canada recognizes it as well."

Critics say the decision will heighten tension between the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as stir up resentment throughout the region – with some fearing renewed violence in the long-standing conflict. Three "days of rage" — called for by Palestinian factions — have been declared, beginning Wednesday.

For Elbakri, it is inevitable people will die over the announcement.

"Palestinians will take to the streets to express their rejection of this step. This will lead to clashes and people will die," he said.

"The occupation will continue to do harm to the Palestinian community. The reality is that the Israeli authority has absolute control over the lives of the Palestinians."

Lazer said it’s "unsettling" the announcement could spark increased violence, adding he hopes it will not be used by Palestinian leadership to incite young people into senseless acts.

When asked if he was concerned the news could lead to anti-Semitic attacks in Canada, he said, "I suppose that’s certainly a possibility, although it’s something that hadn’t crossed my mind."

"We have a climate of increased anti-Semitism and increased hate, period. This just might assist those with that tendency to be a bit more bold."

He went on to say he hopes the announcement is a precursor to a meaningful and lasting peace settlement that will provide protection and safety for all.

Elbakri is far more pessimistic about what this means for the conflict, admitting that while people pay lip service to a peace process, none actually exists.

"Sadly, I don’t think there is a peace process. It’s been dead, perhaps now it’s officially so. I don’t think there have been any genuine efforts for a peace process in years," he said, adding any talks would necessitate the status of Jerusalem being negotiated.

"If we really want to see peace, and I hope we do, then the rights of all people must be upheld. I don’t see that happening now or in the near future, I’m sad to say," he continued.

"Today I feel the bane of my people. But I will ensure my children will grow up to love and enjoy the city and understand the injustices committed against their people. Our narrative will live on."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 12:40 PM CST: Adds photo, changes headline

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