Israel's shame — and America's complicity
Gruesome violence directed against unarmed protesters is becoming a terrifyingly regular occurrence in Gaza, where another huge storm of protests was just inspired by the Trump administration moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Gazans massed near the borders of their open-air prison, with some attempting to break through the fence. The Israeli military responded by spraying live ammunition into the crowd and bombing several targets in Gaza. Scores of Gazans have been killed, including several children. Thousands have been injured.
On the other side, so far no Israelis have been hurt, and not a single rocket has been fired at Israel.
Let us call this what it is: naked tyranny by the Israeli apartheid regime. And America is complicit in the regular murderous violence necessary to maintain it.
Remember, it is not not just the Jerusalem embassy being protested. Monday's protests were part of a series to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, in which about 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were ethnically cleansed, mostly from what is today official Israel, to make room for Israeli settlers. The #GreatReturnMarch hashtag refers to Gazans' demand for a "right of return" to their former villages and homes.
Hundreds of Gazans have already been shot by Israeli snipers in previous protests, dozens fatally, and several at least directly in the back as they were fleeing to safety. They had to know that many were going to be gunned down like dogs today — a previous video showed IDF soldiers whooping and cheering after one sniped a man simply standing on the other side of the fence. (Vicious racism is an undeniable reality in the IDF, and increasingly in Israel itself. It's not a coincidence that it's one of two countries on Earth that prefers Donald Trump to Barack Obama.)
Why would Gazans run into Israeli gunfire? Sheer desperation. Under the Israeli blockade, Gaza is a hellish open-air prison which is every day becoming less inhabitable. As Peter Beinart writes, despite ludicrous Israeli claims that it has "withdrawn" from the territory, Israel maintains absolute control over Gaza "the way a prison guard might control a prison courtyard in which he never actually sets foot." There are only a handful of border crossings, and Israel controls them all, even the one on Egypt's side. One needs a South Africa-style pass to enter or exit. Israel lets almost no imports through, restricts fishing kilometers off the coast (well short of where most fish are), bans access to a large swathe of Gazan territory, and sharply restricts exports.
As a result, the Gazan economy has all but collapsed. Unemployment is nearly 30 percent, over half the population doesn't have enough to eat, fresh water is running out, and all its medical facilities are severely short of supplies. Gazans get only a few hours of electricity a day at most, and famine is staved off only with international aid and a tiny trickle of supplies from Israel. The United Nations predicts that on its current trajectory, by about 2020 Gaza will reach a comprehensive humanitarian crisis.
The original Israeli justification for the blockade was the victory of Hamas in the Gaza elections of 2006. The increasingly obvious reality, as Israel was tightening its grip over Gaza well before 2006, and has contemptuously dismissed hesitant peace overtures since then, is that Hamas is just an excuse. Israel wants to maintain its iron grip over the West Bank and Gaza, and barely even cares anymore about not appearing to enforce an apartheid regime.
In this light, consider the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Palestinians view this as a vile provocation, as they have long regarded Palestinian East Jerusalem as the logical future capital of a Palestinian state. America's action signals tacit acceptance of Greater Israel in the form of a full apartheid state — one which will never renounce political control over the West Bank and Gaza (as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly promised during his last election campaign, though he disingenuously reversed himself after the election victory); one which will continue to gradually steal more and more West Bank land for itself; one which will continue its monstrous collective punishment of Gazans every time they attempt more than a whisper of protest over their nightmarish conditions.
Israel, sitting safe behind a blanket use of the United States' U.N. Security Council veto, currently has more than enough power to maintain its tyrannical occupation of the West Bank and bludgeon Gaza into submission whenever it is deemed necessary. But there may come a time when that veto is withdrawn, or the United States becomes so dysfunctional and isolated itself that it no longer provides any defense. If or when that comes to pass, Israel will regret poisoning its reputation with these vile and indefensible tactics. But the rest of world will surely not forget.