Today, amid great official fanfare, the Trump administration will move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the city where I was born, began my medical career, and which, like millions of other Palestinians, I am barred from entering today.
When he announced the move last November, President Trump broke with the international community and 70 years of official United States policy, which was to hold off recognizing the sovereignty of any country over any part of Jerusalem prior to a peace agreement. In effect, he gave Israel a green light to continue deepening its control over occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem and accelerate its efforts to drive Palestinian Jerusalemites from their homes so that Jewish illegal settlers can live in their place.
To add insult to injury, the embassy will be inaugurated the day before Palestinians commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic), when some three-quarters of a million Palestinians were expelled from their homes during Israel’s establishment. In a fitting bit of symbolism, it will be located partly on private Palestinian land that was confiscated by Israel in violation of international law.
I was born in the Old City of East Jerusalem in 1954, when it was under Jordanian control. When I was an infant, my family lived in Ramallah for my father’s work, but I returned to Jerusalem following my studies to do my postgraduate medical training and begin my career at Maqased Hospital, where I spent 15 years working in internal medicine.
As an activist involved in politics and human-rights work, I often faced repression at the hands of Israel’s occupying army in Jerusalem. In 2002, I organized a press conference for members of the European Union parliament to draw attention to Israel’s abuses of Palestinian rights in the city. For my trouble, I was arrested, beaten, and had my knee broken with a rifle butt. When I ran for president of the Palestinian Authority in 2005, I was arrested several times as I tried to campaign in Jerusalem. Since 2005, Israel has forbidden me from entering and I can only access the city of my birth by sneaking in.
Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will worsen the plight of Palestinians in the city and beyond. More Palestinian families will be evicted from their homes, more Palestinian Jerusalemites will have their residency rights revoked, illegal Jewish-only settlements will continue to expand on Palestinian land, and the majority of Palestinians will continue to be denied entry to Jerusalem, which plays such a central role in Palestinian culture, history, and identity.