West Asia politics

What Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel means for West Asia

The city is key to both Israeli and Palestinian identity.

Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and start preparations for the US to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city, has the potential to further inflame tensions across West Asia.

Although this is not an unexpected move – Trump expressed his intention to do so during his electoral campaign – the decision breaks with years of precedent.

Trump’s decision to move the embassy means he will not follow his predecessors by renewing a waiver on the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which required the embassy to eventually be moved from Tel Aviv.

Since then, there has been a cross-party consensus in the US that any act which recognises the annexation of East Jerusalem by Israel and its designation as the country’s capital would affect the fragile balance of power in West Asia – and the ability of the US to promote its interests in the region. US diplomats have sought to tread carefully on this issue in one of the world’s most treacherous political landscapes.

The Palestinian leadership condemned the move before Trump spoke, as did leaders from the Arab world and beyond. The announcement of the embassy move is likely to cause a wave of resentment among Palestinians in the occupied territories and the city itself, especially after two decades of stalemate in the peace process and deteriorating conditions throughout the Palestinian territories. Ahead of the speech, US citizens and government employees were told to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank until further notice.

Central to the peace process

Jerusalem is not just a city of historical importance to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, but also a site key to both Israeli and Palestinian identity. Add to this the centrality of the status of Jerusalem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, often described as one of the world’s most intractable disputes, and it’s clear why the decision to move the US embassy there has been described as tantamount to political arson.

At the political level, most Israelis and Palestinians insist that Jerusalem must be the capital of their states, present and future, and that this is non-negotiable. This is why the final status of Jerusalem was deemed to be one of the thorniest issues in the Oslo peace process in the 1990s. It was envisaged to be circumnavigated, dealt with only at the stage of “permanent status negotiations”, once all other issues between the state of Israel and the Palestinians were resolved.

As there has not been any progress in less important, yet substantive issues since Oslo, the issue of Jerusalem has acquired a symbolic importance among Palestinians.

Jerusalem is a city dense in symbolism in the Palestinian national imagination. Particularly so as other, more material anchors of identity such as territory, governance and self-determination are continually being eroded by the harsh realities of Israeli occupation, the blockade of Gaza and deteriorating cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

The response to Trump’s announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and most of his government was muted. But its symbolic value among nationalist circles in Israel, and also among many ordinary Israelis, should not be underestimated.

The Israeli government has been active in strengthening Israeli claims to the entire city since its annexation in 1980. Settlement building around Jerusalem has aimed to ring-fence the city and integrate it more into Israel. Meanwhile, there were building restrictions in East Jerusalem, and a series of restrictions to Palestinian access to the Al-Aqsa mosque, built on the remnants of the last Jewish Temple. Both sets of restrictions were lifted.

Equally important in terms of symbolic politics has been Israel’s archaeological intervention around Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as an attempt to strengthen Israel’s historical connection with the city.

Wider significance

Trump’s decision seems oblivious to the fragility of coexistence in the city between its Israeli and Palestinian inhabitants. It also ignores the significance of Jerusalem in Palestinian national identity and national aspirations, and the devastating impact on the future of a moribund peace process.

It has the potential of not only affecting the political ecology of a place where history is a matter of life and death, but could also cause a ripple effect much further afield. It can destabilise a Palestinian authority already deprived of legitimacy and an array of fragile Arab regimes. And it is likely to accentuate the enmity between Israel and Iran. Iran perceives such a move as a “violation of Islamic sanctities” and, together with Trump’s revitalised alliance with Saudi Arabia, a clear sign of the US president’s anti-Iranian stance.

Last but not least, it could further stoke the flames of anti-Western Islamic movements in the Muslim world and the West alike, which have always put Jerusalem and the Palestinian issue in a central position.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.

Play

So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.