The grotesque spectacle that took place on May 14, 2018 will be impossible to forget. As Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner smiled and celebrated the new U.S. embassy in occupied Jerusalem alongside Israeli and American dignitaries, Israeli snipers gunned down Palestinians in Gaza with high-powered U.S.-made rifles.
Those two images were beamed around the world, highlighting a tone-deaf U.S. administration paying little mind to the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza, only 40 miles away. Those side-by-side pictures will live on as a symbol of what will be Donald Trump’s shameful legacy: giving Israel whatever it wants, and thus emboldening the state to take the gloves off and unleash the full weight of its repression on Palestinians.
Since March 30, the beginning of Palestinian protests in Gaza, Israel has killed more than 100 people and wounded over 12,000.
The far-right in Israel and the United States have long sought the moving of the U.S. embassy from the beachfront of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. For Israeli Jews, the move is a recognition that the holy city is fully theirs, despite the Palestinians that live in the eastern part of the occupied city. For Christian evangelicals in the United States, it fulfills what they see as a Biblical duty to give full-throated support for the Jewish state. For some of those evangelicals, it is one more step in an apocalyptic vision that will end with a final war, the conversion of Jews to Christianity and the return of Jesus to earth. Meanwhile, this coalition of right-wing American Christians and Israelis is simultaneously ramping up the pressure on Iran, hoping to take the one challenger to Israeli-U.S. hegemony in the region down a notch — even if that means another war in the Middle East.
Trump has delivered for right-wing American and Israeli Jews and Christian Zionists, and in the process signaled to Israel that it could entrench its occupation — and all the human rights abuses that go alongside that occupation — without the United States uttering a word of condemnation. And on May 14, the world bore witness to the human consequences of Trump’s policy.
Thousands of Palestinians rallied near the militarized fence that separates Gaza from Israel to demand their right to return to lands Israel expelled them from in 1948, and for an end to Israel’s devastating air, land and sea blockade of the coastal enclave. Israeli snipers unleashed tear gas and live ammunition, killing 60 people. Since March 30, the beginning of Palestinian protests in Gaza, Israel has killed more than 100 people and wounded over 12,000.
The purpose of the protests is to pressure Israel to let the people of Gaza live a normal life — with electricity, clean water and working hospitals, which Israel denies to them — and ultimately, for the refugees of Gaza to return to the homes they were forced from in 1948. But the Trump administration’s policy of giving Israel whatever it wants with no concessions in return portends a dark future for Palestinians, as long as Trump remains in the White House.
Trump administration officials did not utter a word of criticism of Israel for its indiscriminate use of live-fire on Palestinians, many of whom were children. Instead, they blamed Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza. White House spokesman Raj Shah said the bloodshed in Gaza was “a gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt,” as if it was Hamas that forced Palestinians in front of Israeli bullets, rather than Israeli snipers pulling the trigger on unarmed people. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Israel practiced “restraint” in its response to the protests.
These protests are not about to end. As long as Israel’s blockade continues to immiserate Gaza — and make it “unlivable,” as the UN has said — Palestinians will continue to demonstrate. But Israel feels emboldened to keep spraying Palestinian civilians with bullets.
Israel’s occupation and blockade will be allowed to grind on as long as the United States gives it carte blanche to kill Palestinians with impunity. It’s a reality that will only be changed when American citizens, whose taxes pay for Israel’s weapons, and the rest of the world wake up, sanction Israel and force the U.S. to abandon its role as protector of a state that can’t quit occupying and besieging the Palestinian people.
Photo credit (top): Ahmed Abu Hameeda.