Yesterday, Monday 14 May 2018, was the deadliest day in the Gaza Strip since 2014. At the time of writing, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza - which is officiated by Hamas - reports that 59 Palestinians have been killed, and more than 2,400 have been wounded.
The situation on the border is very complex; here is an FZY factsheet (with sources underneath) to help you understand what is happening.
BBC Newsbeat on Radio 1 - amongst a lot of other sources like The Sun Newspaper - are suggesting that the protests are a direct response to the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem. In reality, though, the situation is much more complex than that...For a start, US Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama all referred to Jerusalem as the ‘Capital of Israel’. The ‘new’ Trump Embassy refers just to a new room in a building that the USA has used for many years.
So why the protests?
Protesters in Gaza have been assembling along the fence that separates the Gaza strip from Israel throughout April and May as part of the ‘Great March of Return’. According to the New York Times, the protest had been organised by activists as a ‘peaceful’ endeavour, but Hamas ‘endorsed’ the peaceful protest to combat the deep unpopularity that the terrorist group had been facing in Gaza.Tareq Baconi, who has written ‘Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance’ (to be published next month), wrote:
Though most Gazans would blame Israel fundamentally, and Egypt indirectly, a lot of Palestinians would just do away with Hamas to have a better life.
This sort of sentiment can also be seen in videos of Hamas leadership in Gaza, who say that ‘this is not peaceful resistance. It is supported by our weapons’. Senior Hamas Official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar goes on to say:
When we talk about ‘peaceful resistance’, we are deceiving the public. [...] This is supported by a military force.
The spokesperson of Israel’s Defence Forces (the IDF) has claimed that at least 24 of the Palestinians who were killed on Monday were ‘terrorists with documented terror backgrounds’. ‘Most’ of these 24 identified terrorists were active operatives for the armed wing of Hamas - considered a terrorist group by the US, EU, UK, and other powers - and ‘some’ were active operatives of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. According to Hamas, ten members of their own interior ministry were amongst those killed:
Today, footage shared by protesters from Gaza show masked young men crawling through gaps in the border fence between Gaza and Israel, celebrating. One man in the video (which can be found at the bottom of this page, alongside a list of other sources for this report) holds a large meat cleaver and chants: “Jews, we’re coming to slaughter you.”Footage across all major news platforms show the widespread use of slingshots to fire projectiles at Israelis. There have also been reports of kites flown over the border with bombs attached. In 2016 alone, Israel foiled 1,226 smuggling attempts at one Gaza crossing.
Accordingly, lots of organisations, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the White House, and Theresa May have all acknowledged Israel’s right to defend its borders.
Nikki Haley, who is the American representative at the United Nations, has said that ‘no country would act with more restraint than Israel’ (who dropped leaflets this week warning Gazans not to protest at the fence).
Why people might be angry:
A lot of people are also criticising Israel and the IDF for its response to these challenges along the border. As part of Theresa May’s statement, she also calls Israel’s ‘use of live fire and the resulting loss of life deeply troubling’. Amongst the fatalities was an eight-month old infant, Laila al-Ghandour, who is said to have died from inhaling tear gas that was sent to disperse protesters (though Ha’Aretz journalists spoke to a medical doctor in Gaza who claimed that she may have died from pre-existing medical conditions). Certainly, many of the people who have been killed have not yet been identified by official Israeli sources, and Hamas-sources claim that at least eight of those were under sixteen years of age.
Even if the European Parliament recently admitted that Hamas uses human shields, the loss of life is deeply troubling.
Alex Sobel, the Jewish Labour MP for Leeds North West accused Israel of acting ‘well outside how progressive democracies act’.
What this means for Zionism:
Theodor Herzl called Zionism an ‘ideal that never ends’. In a very personal article today in the Jewish Chronicle, Daniel Sugarman wrote that he is criticising Israel out of love for the country:
I am a Zionist. I believe that the Jewish people have a right to a State in their historic homeland, Eretz Yisrael. I believe that the Palestinians have passed up a number of opportunities for peace, from 1948 right up until the present day. But I cannot defend Israel’s actions yesterday and today.
For many Zionists, Israel should reflect the last lines of Herzl’s pamphlet, ‘The Jewish State’:
Let me repeat once more my opening words: The Jews who wish for a State will have it.We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and die peacefully in our own homes.The world will be freed by our liberty, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there to accomplish for our own welfare, will react powerfully and beneficially for the good of humanity.
A lot of the discussion today revolves around how Jewish people value the right of the Jewish State to defend its Jewish citizens from terror, and about how the Jewish state can continue to be an or l’goyim: ‘a light unto the nations’.