Dozens killed in Gaza clashes as new embassy opens
Israeli soldiers killed at least 60 Palestinians near the border fence with Gaza this week, overshadowing a ceremony formally relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. About 40,000 mostly unarmed Gazans had gathered along the border as part of a Hamas-backed protest that began seven weeks ago but expanded because of anger over the U.S. Embassy decision. Egged on by organizers, some protesters tried to breach the fence, while others used slingshots to propel rocks over the border and flew burning kites into Israeli fields. When tear gas failed to disperse the crowds rushing the fence, Israeli snipers began picking people off. The Gazan health ministry claimed 1,350 were injured by gunfire; Israel, whose troops suffered no injuries, questioned those figures, and noted that Hamas had admitted that 50 of the dead were its own operatives. The killings attracted widespread international condemnation, with the U.N. declaring that those responsible “must be held to account.” But the Trump administration fully backed the Netanyahu government’s actions. “Israel has the right to self-defense,” said White House spokesman Raj Shah. “Hamas is responsible for these tragic deaths.”
In Jerusalem, Israeli and U.S. officials hailed President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy as a symbolically important move. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a “glorious day.” Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who along with his wife, Ivanka, led the U.S. delegation, said peace was “within reach.” The Gazan protesters, Kushner said, were “part of the problem and not part of the solution.”
What the editorials said
These weren’t protests, said The Weekly Standard, they were “suicide riots.” Knowing that Palestinian bodies elicit Western sympathy, Hamas encouraged young men to “storm the fence” and kill Israelis—leaving the Israeli snipers with no choice but to “fire back” at the invaders. It’s disingenuous to claim these protests were about the transfer of the U.S. Embassy, said The Wall Street Journal. Hamas is ultimately driven by its “eternal war against the existence of the Jewish state”—not by “where America puts its diplomats.”
“Israel has every right to defend its borders,” said The New York Times, and Gazans are “undermining their own cause by resorting to violence.” But given that the overwhelming majority of protesters were unarmed, could Israeli soldiers not have used tear gas, water cannon, and other nonlethal measures rather than live ammunition? As for Trump’s decision to transfer the U.S. Embassy, that puts an end to “70 years of American neutrality” on the Israel-Palestine issue. The U.S. has lost all credibility as a fair broker in any peace process.
What the columnists said
The Left’s double standard on Israel really is breathtaking, said David French in NationalReview.com. No military force in history has been able to “control hostile armed mobs with exclusively nonlethal means,” and hidden among the crowds of Gazan protesters were Hamas terrorists hoping to breach the border and “shoot or stab Israeli civilians.” Israel had no choice but to defend its citizens.
But look at this from the Gaza side of the fence, said Nathan Feldman in The Baltimore Sun. Thanks in large part to Israel’s de facto occupation, Gaza has long been “unlivable,” with 60 percent youth unemployment, limited water and electricity, and widespread poverty and desperation. Gazans have “nothing to lose and no way to leave.” No wonder they run into Israeli bullets. Given the simultaneous carnage at the border, the happy mood at the ceremony in Jerusalem was bizarre, said Kathleen Parker in The Washington Post. And while “moving the embassy may have been the right thing to do,” Trump did it for self-serving political reasons—to solidify his support from right-wing Jews and evangelicals. He even invited two extremist evangelical preachers who say Muslims, Catholics, Mormons, and Jews are all going to hell.
By relocating the embassy, Trump has stripped America’s Israel-Palestinian policy of “all nuance,” said Paul Waldman in WashingtonPost.com. He has made it clear “we care only about Israel’s interests.” What this means is grimly obvious: The U.S. is no longer working toward “the eventual creation of a Palestinian state,” Netanyahu can do whatever he likes without fear of U.S. objection, and the Palestinians have no reason for hope.
Illustration by Howard McWilliam.
On the cover: Sen. John McCain.
Cover photos from Newscom, AP, Newscom
Heidi Levine/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock, Newscom ■