A grand event took place in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018 when, with extreme fanfare, the U.S. Embassy in Israel was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The city was recognized by the U.S. government for the first time as the capital of the state of Israel, putting aside decades of U.S. and international policy that the status of the city should be finalized through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, who also claim the right to Arab East Jerusalem as capital of their future state.
While this celebration was going on, attended by leaders and luminaries from the U.S. and Israel, a grotesque spectacle was taking place less than 50 miles away, on the border between Israel and the occupied Gaza Strip. Palestinians were protesting the embassy move and trying to charge the border fence. Most of them were unarmed; some threw stones; others used slingshots. Israeli soldiers fired at the demonstrators with live ammunition, killing about 60 and injuring more than one thousand. All of them killed and injured within the bounds of Gaza.
Little surprise that there is vast pent-up frustration among the residents of Gaza. The Israeli army withdrew from Gaza years ago, but nothing can enter or leave the territory without the approval of the Government of Israel. In effect Gaza is occupied territory, and designated as such by the UN. It is the largest open-air prison in the world, with almost 2 million residents.
As usual, the U.S. government defended Israel’s right to defend its borders. Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, claimed the government of Israel had acted “with restraint.” One has to wonder how threatened Israeli soldiers really were,, if not one of them received a single scratch from the acts of the demonstrators.
Almost nobody outside the Trump administration thought that Israel had acted with restraint. Ms. Haley is quite unique in seeing things that aren’t visible to anyone else. A true representative of her boss, the president. Adding to the incredulity were statements by the president himself that the U.S. was moving the embassy to advance the cause of peace.
In discussions about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the word “peace” has been used quite often over the last several decades – “We are pursuing peace in the Middle East,” “the Peace Process,” etcetera. As if peace were a thing in and of itself that could be achieved, if only everyone wanted it enough. So it may be useful to state that peace is the outcome of a just settlement to a conflict.
The so-called peace process itself, at least under the Netanyahu government, has been a sham, mostly designed to run out the clock on any Palestinian aspirations to an independent homeland. While the process had been ongoing, Jewish settlements continued to expand in the occupied West Bank, making the creation of a Palestinian state near impossible. As a Palestinian negotiator once said, “You can’t negotiate how to split a pizza with someone who insists on eating it while the negotiations are ongoing.”
Regarding the U.S. embassy move, many wondered why the Trump administration would do something so provocative at this time. We started to get some answers as the media reported on the event: it was the fulfillment of a campaign promise by candidate Trump. But to achieve what And finally the real answer: President Trump’s evangelical base sees this as a step toward bringing about the biblical prophecy of a homeland for the Jews on the banks of the Jordan River. So there we have it. The U.S. government is working in sync with the rightwing Netanyahu government to bring about a religious prophecy, pursuing a belief that religious scriptures can take the place of real estate contracts.
And therefore, the Palestinians who were shot dead and injured by the thousands were just collateral damage in a holy war. The Jews of Israel claim a God-given right to this land, while the Palestinians’ only claim is that their ancestors have lived here for millennia. Some of them still have keys to the homes they owned, from which they were driven out at the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.
What is the rest of the world to do as we see the chance of a just resolution to the longstanding Palestinian-Israeli conflict slip away? Wait for the Messiah to come back.
S. Qaisar Shareef concluded a career of nearly 30 years with Procter & Gamble Company in 2011. He is the author of When Tribesmen Came Calling: Building an Enduring American Business in Pakistan, published in August 2017 by Blue Ear Books. He lives outside Washington, D.C.