This week Palestinians marked 70 years since the beginning of the Nakba, the catastrophe, the continuous ongoing process of systematically denying Palestinian human and national rights.
What began as the ethnic cleansing of at least 418 Palestinian villages and cities today takes a different shape. The inauguration of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem while a massacre was taking place in Gaza only 40 kilometers away aptly demonstrates the complete U.S. and Israeli denial of the Palestinian history of dispossession.
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What became known as the "Great March of Return," an initiative to demonstrate for the internationally recognized rights of the Palestinian people, was savagely attacked by Israeli forces, under clear instructions from their political and military leadership.
Israel’s official incitement against the Palestinian people, summarized well by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s assertion that there are no innocent people in Gaza, was puppeted by U.S. officials.
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That is why, in the preamble to the massacres committed against unarmed Palestinians in Gaza during the embassy inauguration, people like the U.S. Ambassador David Friedman and envoy Jason Greenblatt became nothing less than spokespeople for the Israeli occupation.
The complicity between the Israel and the U.S. became strikingly clear when, while at least 40 Palestinians had been slaughtered in Gaza during the previous hours, the only reference to the Palestinian people during the embassy inauguration came from President Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner: he blamed the victims for the massacre, in what has become a recurrent talking point used by pro-occupation officials and activists.
This is a morally bankrupt argument fully endorsed by the Trump Administration. A new ethical low for Greenblatt, Friedman and Nikki Haley, who insist in encouraging Israeli apartheid rather than the implementation of the long overdue rights of the Palestinian people, as endorsed by the international community.
U.S. officials decided to conduct the illegal act of moving the American embassy to Jerusalem on the eve of Nakba Day. That showed their support for the occupation and provided recognition for Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem.
This will eventually be part of the implementation of the so-called "ultimate deal." And this, too, is what all the Palestinian people reject - the U.S. attempt to force an Israeli-written agreement that crosses all of our red lines.
We consider this embassy, mainly located in occupied territory, not only to be a violation of UNSC Resolution 478, but also as a natural extension of the Trump administration’s policy of encouraging Israeli violations of international law. We don’t see a difference between this embassy and any Israeli settlement in occupied Palestine.
The Trump administration commemorates the Nakba by upending decades of international consensus. They have done so, according to President Trump, in order to "take Jerusalem off the table." But Palestine, as Patriarch Michel Sabbah explains, "doesn’t belong to Mr. Trump but to its people first, and we are its people, we are Jerusalem."
The modern history of Palestine has shown that no matter the asymmetry of power, the Palestinian people will never settle for anything else than its legitimate rights. Moreover, the U.S. supported the position, during the Madrid Conference and with its sponsorship of the Oslo Accords, that Jerusalem remains a final-status issue that can only be resolved in an agreement between the two parties.
The world community is facing one of the greatest challenges in our modern history. As the Trump Administration and Israel encourage international anarchy by flouting established international norms, both countries seek to deny Palestinian rights indefinitely.
Our people on the ground have made it clear that no Palestinian will accept anything short of what we are entitled to under international law, including a fully sovereign Palestinian state of our own on the 1967 border. Peace is not built upon negating the rights of the other; rather, it must involve justice, accountability and respect for the rights of the other.
Washington’s gross insult and hostile act against the Palestinian people, symbolized in the split-screen reality of the embassy inauguration in Jerusalem while there was an ongoing massacre in Gaza, is not going to prevent us from talking about peace. On the contrary, it should serve as a reminder to the international community of the urgency to achieve a just and lasting peace.
We remain committed to the Palestinian vision of peace presented by President Mahmoud Abbas before the UN Security Council, most recently in February 2018. We have invited the international community to assume its responsibilities in a productive and meaningful way, which require accountability, a clear and limited timeframe, and terms of reference as per international law and relevant UN resolutions.
A fully sovereign and independent state will finally close the dark chapter initiated by the Balfour Declaration and continued by this ongoing Nakba that began with the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.
Every Palestinian has gone through several Nakbas over 70 years of exile and 51 years of occupation. Peace is not going to come through American dictation or Israeli bullets.
As we mourn our martyrs, we would recommend Netanyahu, but also Friedman, Greenblatt and Kushner to remember the words of our national poet, Mahmoud Darwish: "The makers of the Nakba failed to break the will of the Palestinian people and to eradicate their national identity, through diasporization, through massacre, through pretending that the mirage was a reality, through the production of a counterfeit history they have failed to push us into absenting ourselves or to cast us into a state of amnesic dementia."
Dr. Saeb Erekat is the Secretary General of the PLO and its Chief Negotiator.