No End in Sight for Violence in Gaza

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Views from the Region

May 21, 2018

The ongoing violence and daily killing of Palestinian civilians has renewed the attention of the world on the suffering of civilians in Gaza and elsewhere in the Occupied Territories. On the day of the unveiling of the plaque signaling the official relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, more than 50 Palestinians were killed at the border with Israel. The scene along the fence provided a dramatic juxtaposition to the beaming smiles of the dignitaries in Jerusalem, the latter seeming far removed and unconcerned with the plight of the Palestinian people 70 years on.

Reeling from news of further bloodshed and suffering, the Gulf News editorial team calls for international unity and a message of “no more”: “Few words can describe the barbarity of Israel’s occupation forces who unleashed live fire on protesting civilians. Children, a man in a wheelchair and women were among the more than 50 shot dead and hundreds more injured by snipers and soldiers. In these past six weeks, more than 100 Palestinians have been murdered by Israeli occupation forces. And not a single charge has been brought against a soldier…. There is no path to peace at the end of a barrel on unarmed demonstrators, there is no peace to be won by the massacre of many, and there is no peace deal that can conveniently mop up the blood of so many. This is a pivotal moment. It is one where the world must unite in condemnation and action against Israel. One hundred dead Palestinians is too many. And 70 years is too long a time.”

The indiscriminate killing of civilians in Gaza was also the main theme of an editorial by the Khaleej Times, which condemns the West’s “disregard for human rights” as a major “blot on the world’s conscience”: “On Monday, scores of Palestinians were killed in clashes in Gaza as the U.S. Embassy shifted from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is Palestinian land by history and right…. Palestinians only want justice and dignity. Is it too much to ask? What happened to the great western virtues of human rights and individual freedoms when Zionists ran amok and indulged in ethnic cleansing on a scale never witnessed before? Numbers do not lie. Palestine was overwhelmingly Palestinian at 94 per cent in 1946 before the purge, now only 15 per cent live there. Close to seven million of them live in foreign refugee camps today. The Palestinian issue must be treated as a crime against humanity, and the more we delay finding a solution, the bigger the blot will be on the world’s conscience.”

Writing for the Jordan Times, Ramzy Baroud takes a similarly critical stance toward the West and those calling for peaceful protests instead of an armed resistance, noting that the former has failed to actualize Palestinian demands: “[A] s the casualty count keeps climbing… the deafening silence also continues. Tellingly, many of those who long chastised Palestinians for using armed resistance against the Israeli occupation are nowhere to be found, while children, journalists, women and men are all targeted by hundreds of Israeli snipers who dot the Gaza border…. The Palestinian people should have no expectations of those who have constantly failed them. Chastising Palestinians for failing at this or that is an old habit, meant to simply hold Palestinians responsible for their own suffering and to absolve Israel from any wrongdoing. Not even Israel’s ‘incremental genocide’ in Gaza will change that paradigm.”

The Hurriyet Daily News’s Murat Yetkin gives “credit” to President Trump for the violence, but does not absolve the big Arab powers: “The tragedy of yesterday is on Trump. The tragedy… will be on Trump’s aggressive policy of showing his ‘swagger’, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo frankly put it when he assumed office on May 1…. It is also not possible to ignore the stances of three Muslim-majority Arab countries in the latest Palestinian tragedy. If Saudi Arabia (as well as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates) used their leverage on the U.S. and Israel in favor of the basic rights of the Palestinians — rather than backing their policies based on rivalry with Iran — then developments could have unfolded in a different, possibly not so violent way.”

A recent Al Ahram editorial also accuses the U.S. president of misunderstanding and underestimating the importance of Jerusalem and of its holy sites for the Palestinian people: “With little experience in politics or the Middle East region, the U.S. president is committing a major mistake by thinking that he could use his business skills to force a deal on Palestinians short of their demands. Perhaps one of the experienced U.S. Middle East advisors should remind Trump how the second Palestinian Intifada started in 2000 after late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon insisted on storming Al-Aqsa Mosque while heavily guarded by Israeli occupation troops…. Palestinian national rights are not up for sale and the brave Palestinian people who resisted occupation for 70 years are not going to give up their legitimate demands due to pressure or threats coming from Washington, or brutal violence used by Israeli occupation troops.”

Meanwhile, Saudi Gazette’s Tariq A. Al-Maeena decries the loss of any credibility the United States had as an honest mediator: “The United States has proven that it cannot play the part of an honest broker of peace in the Middle East. The last vestiges of a just and honorable policy expected from the U.S. administration have all but evaporated. On Monday, 55 protesting Palestinians were murdered by the Israelis in cold blood, and the U.S. quickly blocked the adoption of a United Nations Security Council statement that would have called for an independent probe into the violence and the massacre. By opening the newly relocated U.S. embassy in the divided city of Jerusalem, and thus adding weight to Israel’s illegal occupation of that city, President Donald Trump has removed layers and layers of smooth talk about reaching a consensual agreement between Palestinian and Israeli factions and has awarded a plum to the land-hungry Israelis.”

However, Ron Ben-Yishai, in an op-ed for the Yedioth Ahronoth, pins the responsibility for the violence and the killing on Palestinian people and their leadership, rather than Israel’s policies: “Hamas failed to provide the population in Gaza what it needs, and it failed because it doesn’t have an ‘exit plan’ that would allow it to take advantage of the situation it created to benefit both itself and the population…. The Palestinians and their supporters are talking about a ‘massacre’. They’re using this term to get international support, and in that too they failed because European Union politicians know the difference between a massacre and legitimate fire in self-defense. A massacre is a situation in which the helpless victims are completely under the mercy of the stronger side, as it kills them while they are unable to change their fate. But when it comes to the events in the strip, it’s a spectacle in which the casualties were cast for this role by Hamas.”

Despite the ongoing violence and the daily killing of Palestinian civilians, there are some, including Arab News’s Faisal Abbas, who continue to put stock on the idea that perhaps Mr. Trump may be committed to a peace deal between Israel and Palestine: “So, 70 years later — is there still hope for peace? As remote as it sounds, the answer could possibly be yes…. Despite the embassy move, the Trump administration has made it clear that it would do all it can to negotiate a deal. And the good news here is that there is already an Arab Peace Plan on the table, which remains the best deal both parties will get… There is also a dynamic and young leadership in Saudi Arabia, the country that initiated the peace plan and has the sway to push it forward across both the Arab and Muslim worlds.”

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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