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For whom the Doomsday Clock tolls

Published: 
Tuesday, January 9, 2018

In 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, an academic journal published by former Manhattan Project physicists, presented a concept called the Doomsday Clock. It’s a metaphor, represented as a 15-minute countdown to midnight, of the possibility that global destruction could occur. When the Clock began “ticking”, it was set at seven minutes to midnight as the greatest danger to humanity came from a nuclear war. Since then it has been reset 22 times, factoring in other man-made threats from economic to environmental.

As of January 2017, the “time” reads two and a half minutes to midnight—the result of President Trump’s bellicose comments aimed at North Korea. Considering his penchant for verbal tit-for-tats, it’s a certainty that he’ll be the cause of another Clock reset in the near future; it’s only a question of “what” and “when”.

A month has passed since the president’s controversial announcement to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While it drew almost universal condemnation from the international community, especially from Arab and Muslim countries, the Clock did not move—we are thankfully no closer to Doomsday than before. But even the non-binding resolution passed in the UN General Assembly on December 21, failed to have any substantial repercussions, making the vote nothing more than conciliatory lip service.

This could be an indication of two new developments regarding the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first being that the world has grown weary of the cycle of violence and the repeated failure of their diplomatic efforts. And the other being that with no meaningful solution in sight, the adversarial relationship is now entering a new phase of intractability—one that sees the Israelis moving on and the Palestinians being left behind.

It is debatable whether the peace process is truly dead. But it has indeed stalled… and with seemingly little chance that it can be restarted. However, to lay the blame solely on this one event, or on one side, is not only inaccurate but grossly ignorant as well.

America’s foreign policy pertaining to the Middle East is unapologetically pro-Israel; this is no secret. But the Trump administration’s recent declaration, as politically shallow as it was, only confirms what’s been the status quo for the last 70 years—Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

Anti-Zionist propaganda has sought to delegitimise the Jewish state by denying their historical claim to the region and the city. But if the same reasoning were applied to the Palestinians, then their own claim is non-existent, for they have never exercised any territorial sovereignty, historical or otherwise. And unless their leadership adopts a reasonable position—they never will.

Putting aside the blame game of who started what, the reality is that the Israelis have the upper hand; the Palestinians, in contrast, are in no position to make demands because they have nothing to negotiate with. For too long they have relied on their suffering to seduce the world into supporting them. But the righteousness of their cause is being undermined by their continued resorting to the use of violence. They may call it “resistance” but the civilised world labels it as “terrorism”. This not only equates their struggle with the likes of ISIS but validates the draconian security measures used by the Israelis in retaliation.

In predicating any future negotiations on the condition that East Jerusalem be made their capital, the Palestinian authority is asking for something they know the Israelis will never accede to. It therefore begs the question of how serious they are about reaching a peaceful resolution for statehood. The city is already firmly under the control of Israel and, more importantly, is not essential to the creation of a future state. But in this ultimate act of spite, the refusal to compromise is only hurting one side, and it’s not the Israelis. In the end, the Doomsday Clock for the Palestinian people isn’t counting down to the end of the world, but to the end of any hope for a state to call their own.

Ryan Hadeed