Monday, May 14, was a day of terrible bloodshed as well as near farcical theatre in the Israeli and Palestinian region. The day saw the opening of the relocated U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, amid much pomp and ceremony and self-congratulation from the tight circle of Trump-Netanyahu-allied attendees. The speeches claimed, among other things, that the highly controversial decision to move the embassy represented a step towards peace.

Meanwhile, thousands of Gazans massed along the border with Israel and, in some cases, tried to breach or damage the border fence, which drew live fire from Israeli snipers, resulting in about 60 deaths and thousands of injuries. Though the Gaza demonstrations were about much more than the embassy relocation, this provocative event, signalling American approval for Israeli hegemony over all of Jerusalem, certainly threw oil on the fire. May 14 became the bloodiest day for Gazans since 2014.

Predictably, Israeli and Hamas sources dispute whether the people shot were terrorists or unarmed civilians. It appears likely that many, if not most, were unarmed, while others threw rocks, incendiaries, laid a few ineffective pipe bombs and may have fired shots. No Israelis were harmed in the clash. The border fence remained intact. The enmity between the two sides is deeper than ever.

On March 15, Peace Now/Shalom Achshav joined other left-wing organizations in a protest against Israeli government policies towards Gaza. The Peace Now statement said:

“As the right-wing governing coalition fails yet again to prevent the latest round of violence in Gaza, we must stand up and demand a comprehensive political settlement that will ensure the restoration of Gaza and an end to the bloodshed.

This latest round of violence has long been predicted, yet our government has for years chosen not to adopt a proactive approach to alleviate Gaza’s humanitarian disaster in the short run and to seek a path toward a political solution in the long run.

To state clearly, Hamas bears great responsibility for the miserable situation of the residents of Gaza, due among other reasons to its poor governance and strategy of sending the Strip’s young out into the line of fire in order to draw international pressure on Israel after the IDF retaliates.

It should be just as clear, however, that despite Hamas’ role, Israel’s obligation to protect its citizens must not come at the cost of shooting protesters that do not pose a lethal threat to IDF soldiers. Israel has one of the most technologically capable and dynamic militaries in the world, and as security experts can attest, has within its ability the tools to employ non-lethal methods of crowd control against individuals who do not present a lethal threat.

Indeed, if Hamas’ strategy is to provoke a heavy Israeli military response, then Israel should be doing everything in its power to avoid being entrapped in another round of violence….

When there is no hope, when people are choked in a blockade for years, despair leads people to take extreme measures. We must not remain indifferent to the distress, frustration and despair of people who have nothing to lose, and who demonstrate in front of the fence.”
Peace Now has also responded forcefully to the U.S. embassy move with an ad campaign, demonstrations and news releases. One of the statements says, in part:

“This [embassy] move, taken unilaterally and without any recognition of Palestinians’ attachment to Jerusalem and their national aspirations for sovereignty over the Palestinian-inhabited parts of the city, is a boon to extremists on both sides. Israeli Jewish extremists, who view the conflict and its resolution as a zero-sum game and reject any future Palestinian sovereignty in East Jerusalem, interpret Trump’s move as an endorsement of their worldview. Palestinian extremists, particularly those who see the conflict as a religious war, interpret Trump’s move as an affirmation of the widespread view that the ‘Crusader west’ is colluding with Zionism to deny Muslims’ attachment to the third holiest site to Islam and thus to challenge their faith.

Playing into the hands of the extremists and framing the conflict as religious strife, even if inadvertently, weakens the pragmatists who should be emboldened as interlocutors for peace negotiations. Recognizing Israeli political claims to Jerusalem without any recognition of Palestinian aspirations in this holy city wrecks America’s role as an honest, effective broker….”
Do we long for the day when the United States, together with the rest of the world, recognizes that Israel’s capital is in Jerusalem? Absolutely. But not like this. It must happen in the context of a serious and earnest attempt to resolve – not exacerbate – the conflict.”