The opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem unleashed Israel’s violence, and states like the UK standing idly by are complicit.
On May 14, newspapers around the world contrasted the seeming calm of self-asserting peace as the US opened its new embassy along the Armistice Line that divides East and West Jerusalem with the news of deadly protests in Gaza as Israeli soldiers fired on unarmed Palestinians. The dramatic irony makes headlines. But make no mistake — this image is perhaps the most chilling in our world’s current history. It is as if the leader of the so-called free world raised the gate and unleashed Israel’s force on its occupied victims.
So far, some reports say as many as 61 Palestinians have been killed and up to 2,000 injured in what appears to be one of the most bloody days since the 2014 Israeli Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. Despite clever political and media language suggesting “both sides” are to blame and that Hamas had sent the Palestinian protesters to their death, the action is the most audacious that Israel has attempted in a long time. And the United States is protecting its ally: It has blocked calls for a UN investigation, and its UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, walked out of a UN Security Council meeting just as the Palestinian envoy was beginning to speak. Israel’s bullish bodyguard is trying to shut it all down.
What’s more, all of Israel’s major allies are standing by idly. Of course floods of condemnation came in from around the world, but the words are cheap and lacking conviction. UK Prime Minister Theresa May might have called for a UN investigation, which has already proved itself an easily dismissed notion. The UK Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt’s statement says nothing that will have any sway over the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has come out in staunch defense of the action. He said:
“It is deplorable that extremist elements may have been seeking to exploit these protests for their own violent purposes. We will not waver from our support for Israel’s right to defend its borders. But the large volume of live fire is extremely concerning. We continue to implore Israel to show greater restraint.
The UK remains committed to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital. All sides now need to show real leadership and courage, promote calm, refrain from inflaming tensions further, and show with renewed urgency that the path to a two-state solution is through negotiation and peace.”
Gaza’s governing party, Hamas, and its involvement in the protests have been a leading line in the news coverage. But to suggest that it is Hamas alone that is forcing men, women and minors to turn up in resistance shows no real understanding of either the desperation and danger Gazans live with under Israel’s decade-long blockade or the sustained attacks on their livelihoods.
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) May 14, 2018
Burt has repeated the UK’s standard position that supports a two-state solution “through negotiation and peace.” In the face of this horrific violence, such blind statements simply make Britain complicit in it all. The path to peace through such tired rhetoric has long eroded. It’s time for action and for states like the UK to show Israel that there is a red line it cannot cross. Several countries, including Turkey, South Africa, Ireland and Belgium, have either recalled or summoned their Israeli ambassadors. Perhaps the UK could be “implored” to do the same.
The UK should also suspend export licenses to Israel, as UK-manufactured components could very well be those used in the weapons that are killing Palestinians.
The events of 14 May represent the most violent act in a stream of violent acts across Gaza over the past month, linked to the Great Return March that has seen consistent protests met with disproportionate use of force. Such violence puts even more pressure on Gaza’s already crippled health sector. This brings home the third key effort the UK could put in place that may just prevent further violence: pressure Israel to end the siege of Gaza — a situation that more likely triggered Palestinians to turn up in mass protest than did Hamas’ instigation.
The bloody events that took place in collision with the US embassy move overshadowed the Palestinians’ own annual commemoration of the Nakba — Arabic for “catastrophe” — after hundreds of thousands were expelled from Palestine in 1948. Now, 70 years later, peace is ever further away, and states like the US and the UK could ask themselves why. The truth is, they must already know the answer. Israel’s allies are tolerating and propping up a brutal occupier, which has left the blood of 61 people drying on their hands.
*[Updated: May 17, 2018, at 15:40 GMT.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.