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St. Louisans denounce Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital

Palestinians and others in St. Louis are dismayed that President Donald Trump is recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. On Sunday, Palestinians and their allies gathered along the Delmar Loop for the "Rise for Jerusalem Rally Against Trump’s Embassy Decision."

Members from the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations were also unhappy about the president's announcement last week of his intention to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Faizan Syed, executive director for CAIR-MO, led chanting protesters down Delmar Boulevard, as they waved Palestinian and American flags. They carried signs that read "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine," and "Trump, Jerusalem is not yours to offer."

Syed said now is the time for people of all faiths to speak up.

“Jerusalem is one of the holiest sites in the world for the three Abrahamic faiths,” Syed said. “And if anything happens in that part of the world, it’s going to impact everywhere in the world … Religious leaders, faith leaders, community leaders need to come out and stand strongly against Trump’s unilateral decision and condemn it for what it is, which is perhaps a deliberate instigation to promote violence.”

The decision has sparked an international backlash from political leaders who say moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem threatens the ongoing peace process between Palestinians and Israelis. People who oppose the move say the president’s decision also will disrupt a long-established U.S. foreign policy on the issue.

“We believe it’s an immoral, wrong decision,” Syed said. “And we stand in solidarity with not only Palestinians and Muslims around the world, but also world leaders in the Middle East, even in Europe, and even the pope, who’s called out the president’s really weird decision to do this.”

Historically, the city has been a place of contention for Israelis and Palestinians.

Palestinians who live in Jerusalem have long complained of discrimination. Sandra Tamari, an organizer with the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, said that when she tried to visit Palestine in 2012, she was banned from traveling there, because Israel considered her a “security threat.”

“I was taken at the airport into an interrogation room, questioned for over 8 hours and then put in prison and put on the next plan back to the U.S.,” said Tamari, a Christian Palestinian who  was born in the United States.

Tamari said she has family members who live north of Jerusalem and have not been able to enter the city because they are Palestinian. Those who live there also face hardships, she said.

“We have people who live in the city, Palestinian family,” Tamari said. “When they come to study in the U.S. they have to go back to Jerusalem every year to prove to try and keep their residency. So Palestinians have to show that Jerusalem is the center of their life. So if you’re in the states, it’s very difficult to say that Jerusalem is the center of your life, because you’re living in St. Louis studying.”

Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that focuses on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, has condemned the president’s decision.

Michael Berg, a member of the group, said the president’s move was unprecedented and benefits a small segment of the population that want a predominant “Jewish Jerusalem.” He said Palestinians in Jerusalem are experiencing an “intense ethnic cleansing.”

“The Palestinian people in Jerusalem are being forcibly pushed out of their homes,” Berg said. “The money that goes from tax dollars does not go to the services at anywhere close to the same level for the Palestinian neighborhoods as the Jewish neighborhoods. A wall was built around what Israel recognizes as ‘Greater Jerusalem,’ creating an entity pushing as many Palestinians as possible on the other side in order to create a Jewish city where historically it was a very diverse population.”

Berg said Palestinians face wide-ranging discrimination, and he believes they should have equal rights.

“This is not the idea that Jews are wrong and Palestinians are right as far as individuals or that anyone is better or worse than the other,” Berg said. “This is a matter of until everybody has equal rights there’s not going to be any peace or any stability. And justice is paramount.”

Although it’s unlikely that the U.S. Embassy’s residency will change during the current presidency, Syed encouraged people to use ask their representatives in Congress not to fund a new embassy.

Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @Marissanne2011.

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.