The world saw two starkly opposed moral cultures on May 14.
On one side on May 14 were unarmed Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip calling for the right of Palestinians to return to the homes and lands they were driven out of by the creation of Israel 70 years ago. Palestinians call that al-Nakba (“The Catastrophe”).
On the other side were Israeli snipers lined along one side of the Israeli-enforced “open air prison” with two million Palestinian inmates. The other side of this prison known as Gaza is the Mediterranean Sea.
A small part of the border is the crossing from Gaza to Egypt. Egypt’s dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a traitor to all the Arab people, keeps that virtually closed, under orders from Israel.
On this one day, Israeli snipers shot unarmed civilians, leaving 62 Palestinians dead and wounding more than 2000 others, many severely. The bullets the sharpshooters used to pick off demonstrators fracture inside the body, tearing more tissue and creating fist-sized exit wounds.
There were no casualties among the Israelis. It was a massacre — an evil criminal action by an oppressor nation against its oppressed people. That day, as the United States’ Embassy in Israel was officially opened in Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their capital, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Big day for Israel. Congratulations!”
The May 14 protest was the largest of the demonstrations in Gaza that started on March 30 to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba. Each day since March 30, the Great March of Return involved protesters gathering near the barbed wire fence to shout their demands and be met with deadly sniper fire. The total murdered is at least 109, with 12,000 wounded.
The mainstream US media characterise this situation as “violence” or “clashes” — giving the false impression that there were two opposed armed forces in battle. Only slowly has some of the truth dribbled out, but the right of return — the key demand — has hardly been mentioned, if at all.
To find out the truth, it is necessary to turn to small, progressive outlets, such as Democracy Now!, which had a reporter, Sharif Kouddous, in Gaza on May 14.
That day, Kouddous reported: “There’s a simply massive protest all along the eastern [barbed wire fence] of Gaza, throughout the entire length of the Strip, from the north in Beit Hanoun, to the south in Rafah…
“There are thousands of people converging on the site – men, women and children. And it’s a really surreal scene. There are people gathering, mostly young men and boys, up near the [fence] of three sets of barbed wire.
“And you can see, just a couple of hundred yards away, Israeli soldiers, under canopies, on mounds of sand, sometimes in jeeps, and they are picking people off. I’ve seen people who weren’t even close to the fence being shot…
“No one is carrying weapons here. There are no bullets being fired by Palestinians on Israeli soldiers … People insist that this is peaceful … There are no weapons allowed. Despite the fact that there are very heavily armed groups in Gaza, this was a decision made by the committees that are running this movement…
“Hamas is involved, but so is Fateh, so is [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], so is Islamic Jihad, all those political parties. But more than that, there are women’s committees, civil society committees, legal advocates. All of them are taking part and making these decisions…
“There are no party flags allowed. Only the Palestinian flag. And in the back of the protest just a couple hundred yards away, there’s a festive atmosphere. There’s art. There’s music. There’s celebrations of Palestinian heritage. So, this is really a broad-based, grassroots movement. I don’t think even if Hamas wanted this to stop, it could stop it.”
Kouddous said that while some people threw rocks and improvised Molotov cocktails, and tried to fly kites with burning rags over the fence, most people were “just walking to the fence. Some people place the Palestinian flag on the barbed wire. Some cut the wire and try to cross, saying they are implementing the right of return themselves.
“We have to remember that people are trapped in Gaza. There is really no way out. Most have never left the Strip. So this is a way of pushing their bodies up against their confinement.
“This is happening in a buffer zone. Israel imposed a buffer zone a couple of hundred metres inside Gaza from the fence. And so, over the years, farmers and people living on that side of the Gaza Strip have been regularly shot at by Israeli troops. And so, even reclaiming this space in Gaza itself is an achievement.”
Living conditions are becoming unbearable in Gaza. Israel has laid siege to Gaza since 1991. Last year, the United Nations reported that Gaza was becoming unlivable.
Nothing can go in or out — including food, water and electricity — without Israeli approval. Israel is slowly squeezing Gaza to death while intermittently invading, inflicting huge casualties and destruction.
As Israel’s massacre was going on, 64 kilometres away in Jerusalem, Israelis were celebrating the creation of Israel. It should be recalled that it was Britain and the US that enabled its creation, supported by the other imperialist powers. The US is the head of the pro-Israel coalition today.
Western powers supported Israel’s creation on the backs of dispossessing Palestinians to establish a pro-imperialist beachhead in the Arab world. Such support has maintained Israel as an apartheid state, and allowed it to extend its territory with military occupation and illegal settlements since.
So it was fitting that the centre of the celebration in Jerusalem was the symbolic opening of the US Embassy (the building is still under construction). The move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was itself a provocation against the Palestinians, who view the city as their capital.
It also made it blatantly clear that the “two state solution” is dead. In fact, it was stillborn from its inception, but this reality is now undeniable.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the embassy opening and heaped praise on Trump for making the move. Netanyahu declared that Jerusalem has been “the capital of the Jewish people for millennia, and the capital of our state from its inception”.
Among the dignitaries present from the White House were Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka Trump, who both heaped praise on Netanyahu. Kushner is supposed to release the White House’s new plan for “peace” in the region, which is reported to reject the right of return for Palestinians and back Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Prayers were also said at the event by two extreme right-wing US preachers, John Hagee and Robert Jeffress. Hagee is a prominent “end of times” Christian, who once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to what became Israel.
The ideology of Jeffress and Hagee includes the belief that Jews had to return to the ancient land of Israel for Armageddon to occur. But if they do not convert to Christianity, Jeffress once infamously declared, then they will burn in Hell.
That anti-Semites can be pro-Israel is nothing new. Both positions are held by many in the “alt-right” in the US and the rightist movements gaining strength in Europe.
Jeffress has also targeted other religions and competing strands of Christianity, declaring, among other things: “Here is the deep, dark secret of Islam. It is a religion that promotes paedophilia, sex with children.” He once said: “Islam is wrong. It is heresy from the pit of hell. Mormonism is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of Hell. Judaism, you know, can’t be saved.” Catholicism, for this preacher, “represents the genius of Satan”.
He has equally nice things to say about Buddhists, Hindus, LGBTI people, among others.
Blaming the victims
Trump and Netanyahu both blame the Palestinian deaths and injuries on May 14 on … the Palestinians. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley repeated the same justification for Israeli killings at a meeting of the UN Security Council — that Palestinians were the aggressors and Israel is defending itself.
Much of the mainstream press in the US follow suit. As African American revolutionary Malcolm X said, the oppressors turn the criminals into the victims and the victims into the criminals.
One exception was Michelle Goldberg’s May 14 op-ed in the New York Times, titled “A Grotesque Spectacle in Jerusalem”. She wrote: “The juxtaposition of images of dead and wounded Palestinians and Ivanka Trump smiling in Jerusalem like a Zionist Marie Antoinette tells us a lot about America’s relationship to Israel right now.”