The Hobo Guide to WTF is Going On in Israel and Palestine Right Now
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve more than likely seen reports coming out of the Middle East showing violence and bloodshed from the holy land. While there’s nothing particularly new about this, 2018 is set to be one of the deadliest years in history for Palestinians for a plethora – and ever-expanding – number of reasons.
The Nakba Nightmare
The Nakba, otherwise known as “catastrophe”, marks the formation of the current Israeli state in 1948, which saw more than 700,000 Palestinians displaced from their land by force. It’s the most poignant day in the Palestinian calendar, and is more colloquially known as the Day of Rage. It is held on May 15, but in a break from tradition, Palestinian leaders called for two days of rage this year, in protest of the relocation of the U.S. embassy and subsequent recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Early estimates tell a tale of 55 dead and 2700 injured in a single day of protests in the Gaza Strip: the deadliest single day of cross-border violence since 2014. The official day of Nakba begins today, May 15, which acts as a call to protest for many Palestinians who feel anger toward the Israelis for their current state of occupation, and the living conditions of their brothers and sisters in the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza strip is a small but densely populated hermit city, currently under Israeli blockade since the withdrawal of its military in 2005. When you read of deaths in this region, they will almost certainly be on the southern Gaza-Israel border.
Gaza is governed not by the Palestinian Authority – which oversees the remainder of what is known as Palestine – but by Hamas, an Islamist militant group, who took political power in a 2006 election. Since March 30, residents of the Gaza Strip have congregated along the southern Gaza-Israel border for protests known as the Great March of the Return.
Since the Great March of the Return began, around 50 have been killed by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, who were protecting Israel’s sovereignty from protesters they allege were attempting to breach the border fence. Israel has clearly stated to Gaza residents that there is an invisible line 300 metres from the border fence, and if they step over it, they’re risking their lives. This death toll was overtaken in a single day of protests yesterday in the first of two days of rage for the Nakba. This bloodshed seen on the Gaza Strip was largely citizens of Gaza showing solidarity with their brothers and sisters in the occupied West Bank, and was aimed at protesting the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Problem
While the Nakba has been commemorated each year since 1948, this year, it has been particularly bad. This is largely due to the complex political ramifications of the USA’s choice to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In doing this, President Donald Trump’s administration has recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is problematic because Jerusalem, which straddles the border between Israel and the occupied West Bank, is home to some of the holiest sites in not just Judaism, but also Christianity and Islam. For two decades since Israel’s formation in 1948, Jerusalem remained divided between Israel and Jordan. In 1967, Israel took control over the remainder of East Jerusalem.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is receiving more support from the current US administration than he had received from Obama’s. President Trump’s December 2017 announcement of relocating the US embassy, and his subsequent recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, was particularly inflammatory for not only Muslims living in the West Bank, but also the international community. Until that point, no country had made this move, largely due to the hesitance of the international community to contravene UN Security Council Resolution 478, which condemns Israel’s annexing of East Jerusalem as a violation of international law.
Following the announcement, the United Nations passed a resolution for the US to withdraw its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Trump administration ignored the vote.
While Judaism has undeniable roots in the holy city of Jerusalem, the USA’s move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is in essence a nod to Israel, which will not benefit long-term peace negotiations between Israel and occupied territories. The Palestinian Authority has since boycotted the Trump administration, no longer deeming it an honest broker in peace negotiations, and called for its people to protest against the US’ biased stance.
This month is set be one of the bloodiest seen in modern history, with the combined death toll over the past seven weeks of protests along the Gaza-Israel border for the Great March of the Return with the two days of declared rage commemorating the Nakba. While the international community levels critiques toward Israel for its heavy-handed approach in protecting its borders, Israel’s greatest ally – which just so happens to be the greatest military superpower on Earth – is seemingly more supportive of Israel than ever before. The US’ relocation of the embassy, and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has cemented both the US’ favouring of Israel, and Palestinian’s contempt toward the United States.
Following yesterday’s deaths in Gaza, the White House pointed its finger at Hamas rather than Israel, labelling it “a gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt”. Make no mistake, Hamas has a shady track record – most Islamist militant groups do – but America’s response to the scores dead in Gaza will do little more than fuel the anger of Palestinians, who feel their struggle is not being taken seriously by the international community. The United Nations remains largely against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, as well as the constant flood of settlements popping up in occupied territories, but due to the US’ veto power, they are often unable to pass resolutions aimed at brokering peace deals and holding Israel accountable. Just yesterday, the US blocked calls for an independent probe into the deadly violence that occurred on the Israel-Gaza border during Monday’s protests.
Today, March 15, is the official day of the Nakba, where thousands of Palestinians are preparing to march in the name of national pride in protest of their treatment by Israel, facilitated by weapons sold by the United States. As they launch volleys of rocks toward armoured trucks and soldiers, they will surely be met by tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets, and sadly in the case of those protesting in Gaza, live ammunition.
Photos by the author