In Dearborn, protesters oppose Trump Jerusalem decision

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Dearborn — Speaker after speaker who spoke out at a rally in Dearborn on Tuesday to protest President Donald Trump’s plan to declare Jerusalem Israel’s capital asked a similar question: Why now and what about the peace process?

“What urgency was there?" said Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr., referring to Trump’s unilateral decision to recognize bitterly contested Jerusalem as the capital.

People protest the Trump administration’s recent declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in Dearborn on Tuesday.

“Previous presidents on both parties said this was not something that needed to be done. We, as a city, are deeply impacted by this and there are consequences to every decision. We expect our leaders to listen to our communities and no one was consulted.”

Trump’s pivot Dec. 6 and his announcement that he would move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, as required by a 1995 U.S. law, triggered condemnation and scorn from America’s friends and foes alike that he was needlessly stirring more conflict. But Trump has said his recognition acknowledged the “obvious” — that Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s government despite its disputed status that’s one of the key elements in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump also has said he would insist that issues of sovereignty and borders must be negotiated by Israel and the Palestinians.

Imam Mohammad Mardini of the American Muslim Center on West Outer Drive in Dearborn spoke Tuesday about the history and religious views of the people of Jerusalem.

“The issue in Palestine is not a Palestinian issue,” he said. “It’s an issue of peace. Mr. President, our president, my president ... this is wrong on all levels.”.

Among the estimated 300 people gathered at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center were those who chanted “Free, free Palestine.” Signs carried messages such as “Palestine will be free” and “Ending apartheid, ending racism.” Participants were asked to tweet @realdonaldtrump to make their voices heard.

In addition to O’Reilly, community leaders included Dearborn City Council President Susan Dibaja, councilman Mike Sareini and the Committee for Jerusalem, which hosted the event. Other speakers included Michigan Council on American-Islamic Relations director Dawud Walid.

“When there is conflict, one can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution,” said Imad Hamad, American Human Rights Council’s executive director, in a release. “The U.S. always presented itself as an integral part of the solution. President Trump’s provocation on Jerusalem has made many countries in the world, regrettably, perceive the U.S. as a big part of the problem.”

Rula Aoun, executive director of the Arab American Civil Rights League, said an impassioned community turned out for the rally.

“I came to show my support and to give the community a stronger backbone in this time of need,” she said.

Dearborn is home to a large concentration of Arab-Americans. The U.S. Census in 2000 in a special report put the number of Arab-Americans living in the city at 29,000, about 30 percent of the population. According to a 2013 Census Bureau report that examined those who told the Census from 2006 to 2010 that they trace their heritage to 17 countries in the Middle East and Africa, there were some 150,000 Arabs in Michigan.

Sarah Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Michigan GOP, said the department has not taken a position on Trump’s decision.

“It is something our state committee would have to address at a future meeting,” she said Tuesday. “We understand that it is a hot button issue and that passions run deep on both sides.”

Anderson referred questions about Trump’s move to Ellie Hockenbury, regional communications director for the Republican National Committee, who restated RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel’s statement from Dec. 6.

“Today, President Trump fulfilled his promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which reflects America’s steadfast commitment to its closest ally in the Middle East,” said McDaniel then. “This decision follows legislation passed by Congress in 1995, which also directed relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Twitter: @SarahRahal_