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Zuhair al-Shun: Palestinians Will be in Jerusalem Until Doomsday  
Zuhair al-Shun, Palestinian Ambassador to Indonesia. TEMPO/Fakhri Hermansyah
Thursday, 28 December, 2017 | 08:44 WIB
Zuhair al-Shun: Palestinians Will be in Jerusalem Until Doomsday  

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Palestinian Embassy is probably the only nation’s representative office in Indonesia that exhibits photos of tragedies. Aside from the grandeur of Al-Aqsa Mosque, its offices are adorned with several gloomy images: a grandmother weeping over a baby, a toddler staring blankly at a destroyed building, teachers and pupils trying to carry on in a ruined school building. 

Zuhair al-Shun, 58, has his offices in a house borrowed from Pertamina on Jalan Diponegoro, Central Jakarta. Since Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas sent him here on November 23, he has hardly had a day off. The main reason for that is the United States’ acknowledgment of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Al-Shun says Palestine will never accept that Jerusalem is in Israeli hands. "We will hold our ground and continue our struggle in Al-Quds," he said. Al-Quds, or the Holy Place, is what Arabs call Jerusalem, the city sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. He believes the situation in his country will only get worse than already shown in the pictures on his office walls. Four Palestinians died and 172 people were injured in Gaza and the West Bank during the recent protests opposing US President Donald Trump’s decision.

Al-Shun spent his first weeks in Jakarta to garner support. Every day he went to four to five events, though traveling back and forth through Jakarta’s traffic jams has tested his patience. Everyone he met- according to Al Shun- supports Palestine’s struggle. "I never encountered such strong support anywhere else," said the former Palestinian Ambassador to Morocco, Ethiopia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Last Tuesday Al-Shun met Tempo’s Mahardika S. Hadi, Angelina Anjar and Reza Maulana in Jakarta. Speaking in Arabic, he had Murad Halayqah- one of the embassy staff members- translate his responses. 

What was your reaction when you heard President Donald Trump’s statement on Jerusalem?

Anger and disappointment. I watched it on a television broadcast at a hotel in Jakarta. Actually, before he made that statement, there had already been some dialog and consultations with the Arab nations, particularly Jordan. Many predicted Trump would make that decision. For a while, though, we didn’t think he was serious.

How does Palestine cope with this?

We reject Trump’s decision. This decision is meaningless because it is in violation of international law and the resolutions of the United Nations. We view his decision as a repetition of the Balfour Declaration, which was the UK’s support for establishing a place for Jews to live in Palestine in 1917. The UK has no rights over our land, but it gave it to the Jews, who also have no right to it.

Do you think the impact of Trump’s decision on Jerusalem will be significant?

It will disturb stability. Confrontations with the Israeli military are now happening in Palestine all the time. They are killing the Palestinians demonstrating on the West Bank and Gaza following Trump’s decision. They are also imprisoning protestors. Trump does not realize how much this decision will disrupt stability in the Middle East, and even in the world. Proof of this is that demonstrations rejecting the decision are happening everywhere, including in Europe and Indonesia.

What is behind this rejection?

Al-Quds is a sacred site for Muslims and Christians. From the era of our ancestors to the present day, the rights over the city have belonged to the Palestinians. Who gave Trump the right to give a city that belongs to a country to another one as its capital, as if it were a gift? What if I said Washington DC was not the US capital but instead that of Mexico? It makes no sense.

Did you get any particular instructions from Ramallah, Palestine’s center of government?

I was asked to continue to contact and lobby the Indonesian government to continue to offer its support for Palestine. Foreign Affairs Minister Mrs. Retno Marsudi has ongoing communications with our foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki. President Joko Widodo has also contacted Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas. I was also asked to develop contacts with the people of Indonesia as Al-Quds is considered a sacred site for three religions. But Israel wants to make Jerusalem exclusively for one religion.

What about the guarantee that Muslims will remain free to worship at Al-Aqsa, as Christians may also do at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher?

Palestinians will not accept that. As Muslims, we believe, as stated in the Qur’an, that Jews can never be trusted to uphold their promises. We have had lots of experience in dealing with Israel during the peace process. To date, it still does not want to recognize Palestine as its neighboring country. How, then, can we trust them? What guarantee is there? As with Palestine, Israel also claims Jerusalem based on its history and religion. That is all hoax. They also falsified history to replace the Taurat, their own holy book.

Does it include the Wailing Wall?

Yes. What is more, even now they are still digging away under Al-Aqsa to find proof that it is a Jewish legacy. But everything they find is either Islamic or Roman. They have no rights there.

Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine.



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